Former President Barack Obama chides woke-scolds and call-out culture.
“I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people. And that’s enough.”
“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how woke I was? I called you out!”
“That’s not activism.” — former President Barack Obama, at the Obama Foundation’s Chicago Summit. October 29, 2019
Is everyone entitled to their 15-minutes of fame?
And does everyone really get their 15-minutes of fame?
There is no question that billions of human beings have lived and died in relative obscurity since human beings were invented, never lamenting this fact. Even if you believe in past lives, you likely weren’t Cleopatra or Henry the XIII.
You were probably a farmer, a farmer, a farmer, and a farmer.
Virtually unlimited leisure time is a relatively new human invention, as is the very idea that some individuals in a society should farm intensely so that many others can have the leisure time to investigate other, more aspirational human pursuits like math, science, and art.
In Dante’s Inferno, the reader encounters the Greek hero Achilles in one of the many grotesque levels of purgatory and hell. Achilles of course, was once given the choice between a long and peaceful life or a short and glorious life that would be remembered for all eternity.
In legend, possibly in fact as the myths about Troy proved mostly true when modern archeologists began digging up the ancient city of Illiim, Achilles accepts the short and famous life.
But in Dante’s afterlife, Achilles regrets this. “What good is going down in history if you’re dead?” our hero laments in the afterlife.
These days, it seems that everyone wants to be like Achilles- famous, no matter what it costs them. Or the rest of us.
How far will people go to get on television, get a million followers, go viral, build their brand, become an influencer?
The answer, unfortunately, is “All the way.”
People die everyday these days reaching for that unreachable star of fame and glory. They fall from railings, into gorges, off bridges- trying for that perfect selfie that is certain to garner them serious attention.
There are many more ways to get famous these days than there were ten years ago. Ten years ago you had to do something meaningful, or at least interesting, in order for people to know your name or care enough to listen to whatever you’ve got to say.
Once upon a time, you had to write a book, make a movie, or create art important enough to get people talking. Or you could make a difference, like Dr. Jane Goodall or Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepard nee Greenpeace.
Not so in 2019.
Just this week at the World Series, two Instagram models exposed themselves to one of the Houston Astro’s players during the game on live television and were banned by the MLB for life. Ostensibly, this stunt was “for breast cancer”, but you can get the whole story from one of the models herself in the New York Post.
Last week, a pall-bearer at Rep. Elijah Cummings got his chance at 15 minutes of internet fame when he refused to shake the proffered hand of Sen. Mitch McConnell at the funeral. He “breaks his silence” in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Some fame-seekers are lucky enough to find themselves in public with someone loathed by the media complex and the progressive left, which is a real jackpot as it pertains to internet game and fame.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sen. Rand Paul and other Republicans have all found themselves embarrassed in public by people claiming to speak for the downtrodden and the oppressed.
Republicans aren’t alone; a visibly pregnant Chelsea Clinton was angrily confronted at a memorial vigil for the victims of the New Zealand Mosque shooting by critics who blamed Clinton for the violence and for spreading “Islamaphobia”. Read their entire life stories, here, if you care to.
These “disruptors” of the “resistance” may leave the scene feeling much better about themselves, with that sense of moral superiority only to be found in the unexamined, uninhibited judgement of other people. They may get to enjoy 15-minutes of fame and glory.
But what good have they done?
If we can point to a single time that this brand of public histrionics has resulted in a net benefit to any cause, we can believe this rude, self-aggrandizing behavior is anything other than a self-centered bid for attention from a society that loves a good burn.
We cut our teeth watching our favorite television characters snark and sarcasm their way through endless litanies of insults lobbied at their “friends” for the amusement of a studio audience. We love watching someone taken down a peg.
But that somewhat macabre human desire should not be conflated with a commitment to the public good and a sincere desire to make a difference in the world, both of which require much more than the ability to recognize a viral opportunity when it is haplessly seated next to you at a restaurant.
Nor should the desire to stick it to our adversarial contemporaries for kudos from our people be confused with activism.
Besides making the confronter feel good about themselves, such puerile attacks on our fellows, whatever the provocation, only reveal their perpetrator for what they really are:
Attention seekers. Not do-gooders.
People who are really making a difference in this world have little time, or patience, with small and meaningless skirmishes that don’t change a thing or help anybody.
There is too much work to be done to waste time on self-aggrandizing nonsense like chasing internet fame and calling it a good deed.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)