Most Americans scoff at the pagentry and pomp and circumstance afforded the royalty in countries such as Great Britain, but those same people may find themselves weeping at the sight of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Most people cannot name the country’s attorney general, but they can probably give you the name of Britney’s two kids at the sight of Jay Leno walking up to them on the street. People I know, grown men, were talking about the circumstances behind Paris Hilton’s latest incident, but they couldn’t tell you who Tom Daschle was. Who cares right? Daschle’s an idiot right? Does anyone know what Lieberman recently said on John King’s State of the Union program on CNN? How about the circumstances behind Chris Brown beating Rihanna?
I remember when Princess Diana died. I remember how the people lined the streets to watch the funeral procession pass them by. The people were devastated. I’ll never forget a man taking his shaken wife into his arms. He was just as shaken as she, but he was trying to maintain himself to be strong for her. I couldn’t understand this near spiritual attachment these people had to a person who hadn’t really done anything in her life. She was good looking, she married well, then she died. In between, she was uncermoniously cast out of the royal family. In between, she had a personal campaign against land mines. No one is for land mines, they’re a necessary evil, and this purpose is abused by third world ditators who wouldn’t have listened to her anyway. So, the campaign was largely a symbolic, feel good campaign set forth to probably put something on her resume for nay sayers like me. What is she wasn’t good looking? What if she hadn’t exuded strong sex appeal. She died a symbolic figurehead who was mourned symbolically by those who felt symbolically attached to her.
I could say the same thing about Michael Jackson, but Jackson did some things. Jackson did the We are the World thing. Jackson actually brought people together on a basis that was more than symbolic. Still, the mourning was almost as silly. We could’ve mourned the fact that he would no longer grace us with his incredible music, but he stopped putting out incredible music ten years previous to his death.
A friend of mine loved John Ritter. I loved Ritter. I thought the guy was hilarious. When he died, she called me. I said: “Oh shoot, that bites.” She was a broken woman. She picked her daughter up from school that day and told her, “because I wanted you to hear it from me before you heard it from anyone else.”
The Romans had a clever term for this, it was bread and circuses. As long as the bread gets delivered to the people, and the circuses are performed on time, the people will not get angry over the failures of government. They will not rise in anger over the deceit and fraud of government; they will not revolt against tyrannical rule. They will laugh and pat their full tummies and praise the name of the latest Caesar that has provided for them. A less cutesy term for this idea is diversion. Give the people a suitable diversion, and they will incidentally allow you to reap their harvest for the “betterment of mankind,” because they don’t follow politics.