I believe the star system encourages all that is wrong with our society. The exalting of a few while treating others as unworthy creates a division so unbridgeable that wrongs can never be cured while the rich ignore the poor and celebrities are worshipped as gods. The system, more honestly called the caste system, is taught and reinforced from childhood throughout life. Some are paid millions while others work under rules as mean as those during slavery. Richard Avedon’s photographs of coal miners, meatpacking workers and the homeless are so startling as to suggest that he wants to contrast these grim realities with his earlier work with celebrities.
Our deference to celebrities is so much a prime feature of our society that we are rarely allowed to voice criticisms. Thousands demonstrate against war and find themselves mentioned in the back pages. Newspapers deny space to dissenters, as if they are heretics. As a writer who published a book on the Iraq War and another on the Holocaust and watched as neither was reviewed, I realized the star system decided the treatment. Writers are not spared the star system. A few are idolized while the rest are treated as peons. Many editors edit people, rather than manuscripts.
We worship our president even as he has drawn us into a bloody and deceitful war. As if paralyzed, Congress does not stand up to him. Political candidates hold their tongues as he ignores global warming, serves corporations regardless of their harm, overrules medical expertise, and wastes gasoline with Air force One even while preaching conservation. He is even allowed to deny us the right to mourn with sight of flag-covered coffins. Deference to him assures that the Constitutional separation of powers is forgotten. He is so worshipped, indeed, that I would be shocked if this commentary should be broadcast. I should have picked a talent-less movie star as example, not a reigning king comparable to medieval tyrants.
We are all prodded to fight for stardom and suffer discouragement when we do not achieve it. Many commit suicide when they feel they have failed in the quest.
Our caste system, though we do not call it that, encourages sacrifice, loss of health and life for some while giving the best medical care to a lofty elite, including law makers who are servants of gigantic corporations which show their contempt for workers all over the world.
When parents and teachers praise some children and not others, they are breeding an invidious mentality that will last for life. And for every star there are thousands, nay millions, who are impoverished in every way imaginable. We fill prisons and ignore the homeless who use cardboard for blankets.
What can I do to change this system? What can you do? I believe the star system should be fought at all levels, its evils acknowledged. If our voices were loud enough, and allowed to be heard, we might make a difference. Otherwise call us worshippers of “graven images,” who leave the chaos and rubble of war and environmental damage to future generations. It is not a pleasant prospect.
This I believe. And would rather not.
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