Thursday, July 16, 2009
Turn off your TV and read: Community and the cult of celebrity
In a feature in Orion titled "The Transition Initiative," Jay Griffiths writes about community and the Transition Initiative to reinstate grassroots action and reclaim community to move people into places of living sustainably and away from dependence on oil. I came across this bit about community and the anti-community that most of us are surrounded by on a daily basis, the cult of celebrity.
What he writes at the end of the paragraph reminds me of what I encounter every time I hear someone's story -- my realization that we all have important stories to share, and the person's relief at telling her story, and of being heard.
"For all of human history, peole have engaged with the world through some form of community, and this is part of our social evolution. Somewhere deep inside us all is an archived treasure, the knowledge of what it is to be part of a community via extended families, locality, village, a shared fidelity to common land, unions, faith communities, language communities, cooperatives, gay communities, even virutal communities, which, for all their unreality, still reflect a yearning for a wider home for the collective soul.
"...that particular social grace which seeks to create what Martin Buber called The Between. What is it, The Between? Fertile, delicious, and powerful, a co-evocation of possibility. The delicate point of meeting between you and him. Between them. Between us. ...
"Celebrity culture is an opposite of community, informing us that these few nonsense-heads matter but that the rest of us do not. Insidiously, the television tells me I am no one. If I was Someone, I'd be on telly. In this way, television dis-esteems its viewers, and celebrity culture is both a cause and a consequence of the low self-esteem that mars so many people's lives. So, the unacknowledged individual is manipulated into a jealousy of acknowledgment, which is why it is so telling that huge numbers of young people insist that when they grow up they want to be a celebrity. They are quite right. (Almost.) That is nothing less than they deserve, for we all need acknowledgment (but not fame). We all need recognition (but not to be 'spotted' out shopping). We all need to be known, we need our selves confirmed by others, fluidly, naturally. A sense of community has always provided these familiar, unshowy acts of ordinary recognition, and the Transition Initiative, like any wise community, offers simple acknowledgment, telling us we are all players."
Read the whole story at orionmagazine.org
(Photo "community orchestra" from Carf, Everyone a Changemaker, flickr)