Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Celebrity Special

I tried to resist this post but it irks me too much. Up to 100,000 people lined the streets of Belfast to see George Best's funeral procession go by. People threw flowers as it passed. This is undoubtedly a very sad time for Best's family and friends but why did so many people who'd never met him feel the need to "pay their respects"?

George was a fantastic football player as far as I can tell. When he was sober he appeared to be intellegent and quite funny with it. He was also a massively flawed human being. By all accounts, he wasted the majority of his life. His was not a life to be celebrated. If I ever have a son, one thing I would absolutely not want him to do is emulate the life of George Best. And yet, tens of thousands of strangers felt the need to line the streets of Belfast on a wet December day so they could see him off. Why?

The obvious answer is that it's because of his "celebrity" status. Best was a sporting celebrity pioneer of course. These days, it seems that the value of a person's life is judged primarily on the size of the fame they achieved. I'm fairly certain that every single person who reads this will have attended the funeral of someone who's life was far more worthy of respect. Did the media spend endless hours telling us about their lives? Did 100,000 strangers turn upto wave them off? No.

It is, I think, a sympton of a serious illness in society. We have come to celebrate the superficial above all else. Fame, money and good looks are feted as the pinnacle of human achievement. It is shallow, empty nonsense and it is, ultimately, extremely unhealthy. We are increasingly succumbing to a media driven collective grieving for people we have never met and who have contributed little of value to our society. A sense of perspective has been lost in a sea of glossy magazines. Wake up and smell the real world people; celebrities don't care about you. It seems to be only fair to adopt a similar approach to them.

Best might have been one of the best footballers ever (although that sounds like hyperbole to me) but he was not a hero. There are lots of genuine heros in this world. Let's celebrate them and cast aside this obsession with celebrity.

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