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The price of fame

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

In 1968, pop artist and culture guru Andy Warhol – most famous for his wallpaper-style paintings of Marilyn Monroe and cans of Campbell’s Soup – stated that ‘in the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes’.   This ’15-minutes of fame’ quotation has passed into our vocabulary, far outliving the artist himself but he could never have known quite how prescient his words were to become.

For any Millennials reading this column and wondering what’s so smart about the observation, let me explain.  In the late ‘60s media was as different to as it today as chalk is to cheese.  Television was limited to a handful of channels which broadcast almost exclusively during the late afternoon till before midnight, at which point they closed down and left you with a blank screen.  There were no news channels per se so news was  a couple of specific broadcasts at proscribed times, though radio channels would offer hourly updates. 

There were no mobile phones, much less any internet so viewing anything was from a single television set usually placed in a corner of the sitting room, meaning that whole families sat together and watched together.  No YouTube, no Snapchat, no Facebook and if you were rich enough to own a home film camera there was no way to share your family movies, apart from home showings.   Fame had to be earned by a combination of talent and luck and was only for the professionals – no room for enthusiastic amateurs.

Given all that, it’s astonishing that Warhol said what he did when he did – it’s as though he had a crystal ball!

Today’s world is so utterly different it is hard to contemplate.  Mobile phones complete with still and video cameras are affordable for everyone and picture quality is astonishingly good.  Accordingly anyone and everyone can shoot a short piece of film, recording the everyday and the interesting.  Cars have dash-cam cameras, offering up footage of all sorts of road accidents and incidents. 

And with the ease of the internet all this can be uploaded and shared in a matter of minutes, then re-shared around the world.  Anyone with a computer or mobile device can become a blogger or vlogger, instant exerts without requiring a single qualification or even any authentication.  And then we come to those who are famous for being famous…….

I refer here to the ubiquitous television reality shows, of which probably Big Brother was the precursor.  A few people locked in a house with cameras on them 24-7, even when they took a shower – once upon a time watching such footage would have been called voyeurism and regarded by others as rather peculiar and not very nice.  In the 15 or so years since BB launched we have been bombarded by a plethora of such ‘shows’, amateurishly acted and acted out in front of the cameras by talentless individuals happy to do or say anything for their 15 minutes of fame and a chunk of money, believing utterly that this now makes them ‘celebrities’, unaware that a celebrity is someone who is celebrated for an achievement of note, not  for conducting a humiliating task for vulgar entertainment of the style of old-time circus freak shows. 

There are ‘Housewives’ of almost any and every town in the UK, the USA and Australia, for which read a bunch of  women married to wealthy husbands whose sole occupation is spending their money.  There are shows about famous families, most members of whom are only famous because someone gave one of them a series deal to act up in front of the cameras, indulge in internecine slanging matches and flaunt their indulgent lifestyles which apparently are now considered a career choice.   The message is that money buys plastic surgery for beautiful bodies and beauty in return buys the good life and instant fame.

There are ubiquitous talent shows which promise glittering prizes for the winners.  Their talent is groomed during the run of he shows and some do make the grade but hundreds of thousands of other hopefuls simply fall by the wayside.

There’s even a show on television about people watching what’s on television – I kid you not – it’s a British programme called ‘Goggle Box’ an old expression for a television set and consists of yet more nobodies purporting to be Everyman (or Everywoman) and uttering their inane critiques of the current crop of popular programmes.

For some time many have worried about the cumulative effect all these nothing shows peopled with extroverts with IQs so low they’re off the scale and their surgically-sculpted bodies, would have on the young generation. Plastic surgeons themselves have reported an alarming increase in the number of young people presenting with needless requests for breast and penile enlargements because what they see online has given them unrealistic expectations of what a ‘normal’ body should look like. Internet ‘fame’ is viewed as a career choice, easier and quicker than studying for a profession or grafting at more down-to-earth occupations.  One study on the psychology of these adverse effects concludes

‘For the past decade, reality television programming has dominated the television market while inherently giving the impression that what occurs on the screen is in fact reality. Although mature audiences may be savvy about the differences between reality and reality television, for children and adolescents, these differences can be less clear. It is important to know what values youth are ascertaining from reality television, as studies have suggested that these media images may have a negative impact on adolescent values’

And what of the ‘stars’ of such shows themselves?  This issue has come to a head this week with the suicide hanging death of Mike Thalassitis, a participant on a show called Love Island.  The show throws together a group of young people, all with beautiful toned and tanned  bodies, in a villa on a tropical island where they are expected to hook up to mate and date (for ‘Love’ read ‘Sex’!).  His death follows that of former contestant Sophie Gradon, found dead in her home last year. 

This second death caused media commentators to call for support services for contestants and the show’s producers have responded by promising counselling for future cast members.  This may be laudable but it misses the main point which is that young people who think it’s okay to strip and have sex in front of the cameras for the delectation of the audience may not be the most well-adjusted of their generation in the first instance.

The real irony here is the label that has been given to such programmes, ‘reality shows’.  Every single one of them is so far removed from real life as to be laughable, if they weren’t so tragic.  Their ‘stars’ may glow bright for a brief spell while their show is top of the ratings but the public is fickle and prone to grow cold quite quickly. 

True talent will always out but in all seriousness, what would the next career move be for any former Love Island contestant when their series comes to an end and what on earth will they put on their CV when they comes to update it?  More importantly, will the experience really stand them in good stead when are flipping burgers in McDonalds?  Now that’s a real reality show!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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