The Democratization of Fame
A democratization of fame seems in order, a democratization of the ancient Roman tradition of "monumentum erecti", a monument has been fashioned, hence immortality is guaranteed in the life of the successors, until even these monuments topple. Of course, every grave and every tombstone is already a monument of the dead for the survivors. The names and the dates are engraved in stone or metal to last a few generations longer in sacred burial grounds.
While many strive frantically to achieve the "grand fame" of celebrities and willingly assume the dangers of grandiosity and paranoia -- real persecution by paparazzi, the press and curiosity seekers -- most of us are accorded only "safe fame", small fame, in the memories and discourse of our existential ensemble.
We remember the life of our public leaders in all fields: our culture heroes. But every family and friendship circle has its own leaders which carry on the tradition: the way we do things together, how to organize our time, what we devote our energy to, what values we hold sacred, what life-style we embody, what celebrations we observe, what spirit we adore and serve. Parents and grandparents collaborate in this or come into conflict over these life-form issues. Multi-generational family life is the spiritual life form closest to our existence and calls out for renewed attention and appreciation. We need to move from cultural elitism to cultural personalism rooted in family life, in kinship, friendship, and inspired fellowship. The source and anchor of personal living and personal recognition lies equiprimordially in our love and family life, in our celebrative life, and in our work life (von Eckartsberg, 1988).
Today much of the wisdom of personal life seems to get lost when the person dies. Why do we not take the task of biography writing more seriously in our own families and kinship groups? It seems that most people think that they are not important enough to be considered historical figures. This calls out for revisioning. Everybody is an ancestor and has something to teach (Rosenstock-Hussey, 1970). I shouold think that this was implied in all the current talk about the "value of the family."
In our super competitive modern life the ladder of success is hard to climb. For every person who makes it into public celebrity and culture-hero status hundreds if not thousands of others of equal merit and ability go unrecognized and suffer the agony of defeat in the winner/loser ideology of modernity. The success and publicity market devalues the accomplishments of the unrecognized, their genius goes largely unacknowledged. Yet they also need affirmation, encouragement and immortalization.
All of us are "luminaries" to some others in the however limited circles of our existential cast of characters: the people whom we encounter in our life and with whom we establish a lasting and meaningful personal relationship. In this social circle, which survives the individual, we can all reach limited immortality.
Everybody is a super-star in his or her own ensemble, an irreplaceable valued person. Every person's life can be considered to be a work of art, worthy of appreciation. The way of life which a person fashions out of his or her talents, means, and circumstances, is his or her dynamic work of art which needs to be articulated, preserved, displayed, and celebrated. It calls for ways to express this life in artful and lasting forms beyond the often gossipy and fleeting circulation of stories.
We live in an age of cultural transformation in which, within one generation, high-tech electronic media become available to almost everybody and in which computer literacy becomes as prevalent as knowing how to drive a car. "information navigation" enters our language as a new concept and reality. Using these computer/video skills we can transform from being primarily media consumers to become media producers (Leary, 1987). Celebrity oriented elitist mass culture, already shook up by cable proliferation and constituency-television and culture. The democratization of fame is already under way, as personal knowledge becomes more important than mass media knowledge, and as personal reciprocal and dialogal communication becomes more valued than one-sided, passive, mass media pseudo-communication.
The television habit, not to say the television addiction, is well established on a global scale. Today, according to a conservative estimate the average person watches over five hours of television each day. This amounts to 35-40 hours per week. The same amount of time as "working for a living" is used to "play at living", to watch living, paying others to play-act living for us, selling our attention to entertainment-and news-providers. How much of this bombardment is relevant to your own concrete inter-personal life? How much enters into conversation? Just recovering one hour a day for personal interaction would accomplish much for personal empowerment and for personal culture building.
Fame, of whom, by whom, for whom? Every person authors his or her life; the participants and first-hand witnesses testify to this life; the members of the existential life-community live in genuine reciprocity; they share a fate together and they also cultivate the fame of its members in living discoursing circulation including the fruits of video productions. Thus fame can be democratized.
Continued on next page - Part III