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March 18, 2012


It's hard for me to imagine why fame, without a great deal of glory anyway, would appeal to anyone. I understand why _why wants to be left alone. No privacy for him though.

I suspect that most of us here will share sapient's puzzlement. After all, just being here suggests that we are all a bit introverted -- otherwise we would be out carousing. And many of us are massively introverted.

In contrast, the people who seek fame for its own sake are, I submit, extremely extroverted. They actually like being the center of attention. It's almost a mirror-image mindset/psychology, so it is going to be hard for us to fathom why they do what they do. (Like _why, we are likely to find disappearing more attractive.)

But here's a bit of speculation:

There is only so much attention available in the world. If you are one of the people who not only wants but needs attention, you are in competition -- not only with all the others who need it, but also with those who have other priorities but get fame anyway from what they do. And because the world is ever more interconnected, you are not just in local competition, but world-wide competition.

Unless you have some particular talent (even if it is to be "famous for being famous") you are in trouble. So you have to resort to increasingly extreme behavior in order to get noticed. And because of that world-wide connectedness, if you are bizarre enough, lots of us will hear about it.

I am not convinced of LJ's theory that fame is now the coin of the realm. Rather, it is the coin of the realm of the 24-hour news cycle, which is always in need of something to say to attract attention (and therefore advertising dollars). The rest of the realm has other coinage . . . but the one we hear about is the one of the people who spread "news" most broadly.

My favorite quote from the final link is:

“And that character met the end. Of course, the person behind that character still exists. And we can venerate that character. But _why is over. There is no _why.”

Alrighty then, rising from my chair, passing the gun cabinet:

To bake a pie or not to bake a pie, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the fruits and berries of canned fillings, or to take arms against the store-bought crusts, and by kneading, crimp them.

I'm fascinated by the idea of "infosuicide"
in this age of one's information following one about like some digital doppelganger over whom one has little control.

Then, there is "infomurder":


The man is alive, but for the purposes of moving about in this interconnected web of financial transactions we've cursed ourselves with, he is as dead as a carp. His information, gone rogue and eternal, stumbles about like a zombie, laying waste.

How to convince his rogue information to commit suicide and let him live?

"Sorry, we can't kill your rogue information, sir. Life is sacred.

Well, you killed me! What department does a guy talk to get some mouth-mouth resuscitation.

Sorry, we don't carry on conversations with dead people. That would be crazy!

Maybe I'm just unconscious. Call an ambulance!

Says right here, sir, that you're dead, kaputnik, permanently out to lunch. But I must say, you are an animated corpse. It's amazing the advances in modern embalming. Lucy, come over here and get a load of how natural this guy looks, for a dead guy."

But think of the freedom he has. Think of the mischief. Can someone who is dead be responsible for his actions? Could he collect on his life insurance? Could he transact some awful vengeance against Bank of America without fear of prosecution ..... because he's dead.

"You can't charge me. I'm dead!"

Is there sex after infodeath? But, as Doctor Science, even THAT is now more complicated than we imagined. Unless you're a horse.

When his wife asks him to clean the leaves out of the gutters, does he say: "I'm feelin a little dead today and besides, won't the neighbors be a little alarmed when they see my corpse clumping around on the roof"

It's difficult to kill off Joe Pesci too.

I think the quest for fame began when people realized that physical immortality was not an option. Cf. Gilgamesh where it is the whole point of the epic.
Most infamous example: Herostratos. Lacking talent he tried (successfully in the end) to get this form of immortality by setting fire to one of the 7 wonders of the world. The state tried to sabotage it through damnatio memoriae, i.e. keeping his identity secret, but failed. The guy became proverbial.
For many people there is a strong urge to leave something lasting behind even without the Egyptian belief that a person will die a second time once (s)he is forgotten by the living (and thus getting no sacrificial food anymore). Fifteen minutes are not enough. Belief in an afterlife probably came from that same urge in the first place. On the other hand there is a new trend in Western societies for anonymous burial, people deliberately NOT leaving a memory/memorial to themselves. This meets massive lack of understanding with a lot of people, occasionally even leading to attempts to make that practice illegal.
Personally, given the choice between an afterlife that carries the risk of a hell and simply ceasing to exist, I'd go for the latter without hesitation.
Interestingly Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism) see an ideal in the extinction of the individual (Nirvana) though not necessarily extinction of the essence that instead goes back to the collective.

At lunch this week a young(er) man I know told me that his generation doesn't fear poverty nearly as much as they fear anonymity.

I looked for a smile, a wink, anything to indicate that at least he wasn't completely serious.

I simply had no reply. We went on to discuss how authenticity is the new black.

Why would he be anything other than completely serious? There are many people (a small minority of the U.S., of course, but still tens of thousands) for whom poverty is not a realistic threat. If your father is a hedge fund manager and you go to Brown, why should fear of poverty top fear of anonymity on your list?

Admittedly, I doubt that holds true for his "generation;" that word covers many more people than just those privileged enough to not have to fear poverty. He probably meant people of his SEC or fantasy football league.

Now, if this guy is a short-order cook with no GED, that would be surprising.

I know that some often ridicule celebrities for being political, but I am coming to the opinion that one of the reasons why we want celebrities to do this is that handling attention, being in the spotlight, is something they have basically practiced.

I rather like this point. Watching ordinary punters rise to celebrity and either melt down or fall into the clutches of publicists is unpleasant in the extreme.

Of course, celebrities haven't necessarily got the judgment or the critical evaluation skills to take nuanced, responsible political positions. For every George Clooney you've got a Tom Cruise and a Jim Carrey.

Much better to leave it to the professional...um...politicians? pundits?

I'm finding it difficult to write this without sounding like the Count. I think that's telling.

his generation doesn't fear poverty nearly as much as they fear anonymity.

I find this comment really interesting.

What strikes me is the reference to 'anonymity', which seems (to me) to go way beyond a lack of celebrity. To be anonymous is not just to not be known by everyone, it's to not be known at all.

The normal avenues of mutual human knowing and recognition - family, community, the engagement with life that Freud boiled down to love and work - are how most folks deal with the stresses of both anonymity and celebrity.

I.e., you're not anonymous if some community of people, whose regard you value, knows and values you. And you are less likely to burn out from the distorting shear forces of celebrity if there is a community of people who know and value you for yourself, rather than for the things that make your name well known.

I wonder if the young(er) man in question, and/or the fellow members of his generation, feel themselves plugged in at that normal level.

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