Fame from an Unfamous Person’s Viewpoint

I don’t get it.

FAME

I really don’t.

What is it that makes people want to get up close and personal with celebrities? What is it that urges people to collect autographs, or meet, in any way possible, a famous person?

How do they justify interrupting a total stranger’s date-night with their need to tell them what a wonderful, lifelong fan of theirs they are?

Why do they read about these people’s personal habits? Why is it so needful to track every rumour, and devour every paparazzi photo of someone they don’t know’s intimate moments?

It weirds me out.

I mean, I get that you join a Facebook page, and enjoy what an actor, a musician, or a writer says about their work. I even get why when they post about their lives: it’s amusing and heartwarming and fun.

I do actually follow some writers, artists, film-makers, and musicians on Twitter and FB – it’s fun to know what Neil Gaiman thinks about a review of American Gods, or why the writing team of Ilona Andrews’ novels are behind schedule – but those are controlled by the people involved: they tell you as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.

Interviews: sure. The famous person in question can refuse to allow certain kinds of questions, or simply decline to answer.

PR pix – ditto.

Bu think about how you’d feel if someone burst into your room at 6 a.m., snapped a picture of you in your raggedy-ass PJs and messy hair, and then put it up on the public bulletin board at work for everyone to criticize or chuckle over.

Think about going into a performance review and salary negotiation with that as common property, and ask yourself if that isn’t a violation.

People will say that if they didn’t want to live in a media fishbowl, they should have stayed in a dead-end job and out of the public eye – but that’s really the most selfish, obtuse, and unfeeling answer of all.

Would you prefer only self-centred, talentless show-offs to be the creators in this world? Really?

I think it’s really important not to overestimate what people making the art and entertainment you crave actually owe you.

They owe you the very best their talent can provide.

But they don’t owe you one nano-second of their lives outside of that, and expecting more than they are willing to give is unreasonable.

And let’s dig deeper.

What does it say about you, that you want more?

What does it say about you, that you avidly suck up their every action and thought without respect to them as fellow-humans?

What does it say about you, that you are willing to believe the worst of them, that you, in fact, crave visible evidence of their shortcomings splashed across your newsfeed every day?

If a close-up of a zit on Beyonce’s face fills you with ecstatic glee, this says an Encyclopedia Brittanica volume’s worth about you…

And less than nothing about Beyonce.

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Words are not enough.

coffee

I appreciate the meme going around, where people are telling others that their door is open, that they are there for them when depression and other hardships in life seem to be getting to be too much.

I know you mean it. I know your intention is not only to open up the dialogue, but to offer safety and acceptance to people who are at the edge of the abyss.

But one of the problems with this mental state – the one that pushes people who are in pain to that edge, and over it – is the inability to reach out.

And even when they think they are reaching out, it’s usually not as clearly a sign for “I need help” as you or they think it should be.

So I’m asking all of you to not just copy and paste, but to listen. To read between the lines.

And then, get up off the couch and go to them, whether they outright ask or not.

Don’t wait for them to come to your door.

Because by the time they realize how deep into the abyss they are, they probably won’t be able to do that.

Be active. Be physically present in their lives.

Be there for them.

It could be the difference between life and death.

“I’m Sorry” is Not Really That Hard to Say

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https://www.google.ca/search?q=recent+celebrity+statements+deemed+racist&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=oQijWbWvCIv4aoPkurgL

This was the simplest and most casual search I did, because lately there have been a lot – a whole lot – of news stories about perfectly nice public persons saying things that have been seen as racist, or sexist, or just generally clueless and wrongheaded.

I’m not talking about the KKK here. I’m not talking about those weird people over on 4chan.

I’m looking at lists of people who have supported equality, who have gone on record as allying themselves with important causes, who are even members of marginalized groups themselves, who are trying, in big ways and small ones, to level the field, or at least, to not help create more bumps at the opposing end.

And when they fail, even for a nano-second, they feel persecuted and react in ways that compound the problem.

A woman who stands up publicly for other women, then turns around and casually fat-shames some other woman.

A white person marches for BLM, then casually co-opts the language of the marginalized, of PoC, in a throw-away comment that suggests they are faking it.

A self-identifying male “feminist” who tweets a misogynist slur at a conservative female politician to score points for the “progressive cause”.

There have been so many instances of people in the public eye, people who seem like good people, people whose core values seem to be on the side of justice and equity, making statements that get them called out – and called out HARD – for racism and sexism and able-ism etc.

And then they try to excuse it, and we jump all over them for that, too.

 

But here’s the problem.

 

It happens to every one of us, and it’s not precisely all our own fault. Viral culture creeps into our voices, and it is why we unconsciously co-opt minorities/marginalized people. It is why we default to mentioning appearances as if genetic features or extra poundage were a divine signal of unworthiness. It’s why so many of those we admire in music, film, or literature seem to always have feet of clay.

And yet we don’t even “hear” it when we do this ourselves.

We – the unwashed masses in the street – differ only in the scope of our audience.

The media, the very fabric of our culture, has woven this all so deeply into our souls that we cannot even recognize what we say.

We can hear it when others say it.

We are deaf to our own voices.

And the root problem is that our own identities and self-images are so bound up in both our culture and our egos, that we literally freak, when we’re told off for what we cannot hear in our own voices.

We need to break this habit. We need to untangle our need to be seen as “good” from our inevitable conditioning to parrot the things we are daily subjected to, and consider our words before we say them.

And we need to learn that instead of that freak-out, our best and most unifying response would be a heartfelt “I am sorry. I spoke without thought. Let me rephrase that in a less harmful way.”

I mean, seriously: we are all dismayed/depressed/incensed at the number of politicians currently unable to admit that their revolting words might cause harm to the entire world, and we publicly excoriate them for not measuring their speech and admitting their faults.

But how are the rest of us any better, when we leap to the barricades against those in the public eye when they offend us, but excuse ourselves and deflect all critique when the words are our own?

In praise of Millenials

It just came to me why and how kids-these-days are the way they are.

avocado toast

Leave aside the economic questions for a moment. Those are huge, and they do form one of the main reasons why they are in the fix they’re in – no doubt about that.

But there’s a deeper reason why their sense of their place in the world is utterly different from my generation’s sense of this.

Most of them were born or came of age in the 90s, right when email and electronic banking really started to take off. Right when MySpace and Facebook and mobile phones began to change the way we communicate.

This is a generation that, through economics, grew up with the understanding that housing prices and recession meant that they might never own their own home…but also that they might not need one.

They don’t need a “real” address: even their bills and shopping requirements don’t generally need a fixed abode.  They need a phone number and an email account: most of their transactions are digital. Amazon will send eBooks directly to your phone or eReader without much more than that. Paypal doesn’t really care where you live.

You can apply for ten jobs over your phone in less time than it took your mom to drive downtown to fill out one lonely application in 1980.

If a millennial is broke and couch-surfing, it doesn’t alter how they receive their meager paychecks – it goes directly to their bank account. They can pay their phone bill on line. They can check in at McDonalds, and swipe their debit card for their meal.

They have grown up with friends all over the world, communicating with them in real time, no matter where the sender or recipient might be at any moment.

They don’t have the stability of a physical, longterm address, and the way things are going, most of them feel they probably won’t ever have that stability: the best they can do is return to their parents’ home, and that isn’t even true for a pretty high percentage of them.

But they don’t *need* that kind of rootedness.

They’re completely comfortable with getting everything by email or Messenger. It’s the way it’s always been for them: money is literally an imaginary construct, because they rarely need to see it in tangible form. It’s just numbers and card-swipes for them. And “friends” are no longer defined simply by “I went to kindergarten with him/her” – their friends are literally everywhere.

It’s been that way for their entire lives.

Pundits are really quick to blame these people for not buying cars or houses, and to deride the young owners of “iPhones”, but who’s the true culprit here?

It was my generation that facilitated the rush to digital/online everything. We invented a lot of it, and we jumped on those bandwagons while those millenials were still in diapers.

To complain now that it’s out of control, and “those kids” don’t value the things we did – aren’t buying big ticket items in the numbers *we* need in order to maintain our retirement investments at the level we would like or to avoid poverty – well, it sure as hell isn’t their fault.

And that new valuation of experience over possessions? That replacement of rootedness with a love of simple things like decent coffee and avocado toast shared with friends? That ability to have some of those friends still in constant reach via those iPhones? That understanding that the millenials in Ecuador and Ethiopia and England are just like them, when you get right down to it?

It makes me feel pretty hopeful, to be honest.

On the Importance of Supporting Creative Work With More than “Exposure”

I wrote a Facebook post last night about supporting creative workers, but it really wasn’t enough.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmorgansmithauthor%2Fposts%2F793046327533884&width=500“>https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmorgansmithauthor%2Fposts%2F793046327533884&width=500

I used David Crosby as an example because he was talking to his followers on Twitter about royalties from places like Youtube and Sirius Radio and Spotify and so on, and pointing out that the returns on a career in music are – well, they aren’t good.

A lot of people think well-known musicians and writers and artists are rolling in dough, and he wanted to point out that this simply wasn’t true. For every Mick Jagger, there’s a David Crosby – and our digitally-induced mania for “free content” is fueling this disparity.

For interest’s sake, Crosby is now 76 years old. He was (for the eight-year-olds reading this) an integral part of not merely a generation that altered music in the Western world so completely as to make almost everything you listen to a direct descendant of his work, but an equally iconic part of a short-lived but immensely influential group usually referred to CSN (and sometimes, Y) – a group whose music changed lives, altered the way we listen, and embodied some of the most important events of the world he lived in.

He’s still making music.

He’s still putting out albums.

He’s still touring…and a large part of that is because all that music that still gets a fairly big slice of airtime? It pays him peanuts. He cannot survive on the pittance that music-streaming nets him. (Roger McGuinn, another seminal figure of those times, estimated once that 300,000 hours of streaming might have earned him slightly over $15 in total.)

I know you think of yourself as a good person.

I know you want the best for everyone.

I know that you are like me – that you imagine that the ease with which linking a thought or feeling to the appropriate Youtube clip is *helping* spread the word about these artists.

It’s not enough.

This isn’t about me, though, as a bottom-feeder in the world of fantasy fiction, I know how this feels. I’ve spent a small eternity honing my work, polishing it, agonizing over every word, only to have even my closest friends balk at the idea of shelling out $2.99USD (for which, after all is said and done, I get less than $1.00USD in return) for an eBook of mine.

Writers, musicians, and artists of all stripes are at the forefront of social change. They always have been.

They visualize and articulate our deepest fears, our most hopeful visions, our best selves.

Think what your world would be without us.

Think of a world with no music.

Consider your daily life without colour.

Imagine a world with nothing to read.

Just one, long, monotonous slog between your cubicle at work and your drably-furnished basement suite, and an endless retread of what has gone before: nicely sanitized and with the experimental, the exciting, the provocative all filtered away, because the people in power don’t need you to start thinking again. The last thing they want is for you to start getting ideas.

 

You would be poorer – we all would be poorer – if people were unable to create.

And if the returns are ever-shrinking, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

 

Unless you – ALL of you – decide to support creative work with more than “exposure”, at least some of us – probably the best of us – will not be able to go on.

Be Here Now: Why Social Media isn’t “faux friendship”

You hear people dissing social media all the time.

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People laugh at people who refer to people they have never actually met as “friends”. They mock the kids (and adults, too) who measure their social self-worth by their Facebook friends count. They speak with contempt about those who mention the number of Twitter followers they have.

They feel that only people you’ve realio-trulio shared meatspace with should be called friends.

They are wrong.

They are wrong because they do not understand the underlying basis to friendship.

It’s intimacy. It’s vulnerability. It’s honesty. It’s trust.

I’m sure that there is not one of you that has not at some point noticed the anonymity that faceless computer interactivity gives. It’s why trolls exist, and who among us have not faced down a cruel and relentless troll or three?

But this is a sword that cuts both ways.

That anonymity, that very separation that lulls a troll into believing that they are free to torment others online has another face – the face of being able to present yourself and your situation in words that you choose: words you can edit and hone and rearrange to say exactly what you need to, before you hit the “Send” button.

It’s the face of a kind of emotional freedom that died in the ’60s when writing letters longhand began to drop out of fashion, not to be revived until the era of email.

Social media is more than that, though.

We find our commonalities, our points of connection by way of memes and lols, by way of sad/happy faces and rows of hearts.

We skip past the giggling and the chit-chat. We start with the things that matter: our fears, our values, our core beliefs. Even in 140 characters, we leap past the superficial and into the real. We talk about the things that matter most.

Through that we find ourselves, and through that, we find our friends.

Real friends.

And we get close within very short time periods, a thing which the dissers seem not to believe in.

I have listened as “strangers” poured out their hearts to me in PMs, knowing that they can express freely to me just how terrified or desolate or – yes – joyous they are at something in their lives, without the fear that face-to-face brings. Some of my FB friends know things about me that no one else in the world does – in a matter of days, we can build a level of trust that a lot of the people in my world at home are not able to share.

I’ve wept with them, I’ve shared their triumphs, and I’ve helped out with cash sent via Paypal when I could and things were dire for them. And they have done the same for me.

It’s not about being able to give actual hugs in person, or the nights spent drunk in seedy bars.

It’s about honesty.

It’s about trust.

It’s about vulnerability.

It’s about intimacy.

Don’t believe me?

There’s some science for it. Check out the link at the end of this.

Granted, the original experiment was done with two strangers meeting in real time, and some of it obviously cannot apply, but the truth is that we very frequently connect via social media on a deeper and truer level BECAUSE we are separate and apart, yet somehow brave enough in our separateness, to be able to share on levels that it might take weeks or months to get to in a more “standard” friendship.

And we can form the bonds of love (all kinds of love) through the accelerated sharing of ourselves through wires and waves and modern miracles of technology.

It’s not a joke.

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