As I wade through entertainment news and all the stories about who is progressing in every reality show, I solemnly realize one thing – fame has become a virtue in the 21st century Western world. Everyone seems to desire it in one way or another – from participating in a reality show to divulging secrets of the stars - fame, or at least 15 minutes of it, appears to be a driving force in human lives. People can even become famous for doing virtually nothing, as in the case of dear old Paris Hilton, along with a bevy of reality show “stars” who whore their way around in an effort to be “the last one standing”. To be fair, at least the folks on shows like American Idol must sing for their supper, so their fame is won by their talents.
At first I found this whole idea distasteful. How shallow and superficial are the virtues of fame, how empty, devoid of soul. But then I had to wonder how different is this fame from that of the ancient Greeks, who won their fame by honor and glory in battle, by being strong and resourceful leaders, by building a powerful nation? Is it unfair for me to pass opprobrious judgment on today’s standard of fame while glorifying that of the ancients?
Obviously, today we value different things than what the Greek ancestors valued. We aren’t building civilizations here, hell, we aren’t even maintaining civilizations. We live in a society that seems to value the prettiest over the smartest, we suffer day in and day out in our dour, dull lives, and thus, our entertainment, our pleasure, must be beautiful. Yet we derive enjoyment from seeing people just like us frolicking about on television, we revel in a world where anyone can be famous. We fight wars for dubious reasons, there is no code of ethics there, no honor, no expectation. Yet the virtues of the ancients aren’t necessary to maintain today’s society – or are they? Sure, our world can’t be made up of individual city-states with men who are allied together in the event that someone snubs their honor. If honor is at stake today, well, we just pretty much have to grin and bear it. Sure, there is always a guy somewhere willing to step up for his girl, but our society isn’t based on protecting and maintaining honor. I daresay our society is based on protecting and maintaining dishonor, for as long as you can get away with it.
Of course, I can’t say I want to go back to ancient times, when most women were relegated to motherhood and housekeeping, and wars were deadly and frequent. But I sure would like to live in a world that didn’t admire such a shallow and superficial fame so much. It is ok to be dazzled and interested in fame, but to hold it to the high regard we seem to hold it today is a bit unwarranted. It is sad to think that today’s Pericles earns his fame by winning a talent show – and on that note the tensile thread of civilization snaps and breaks, the remnants blowing away in the Saharan wind.