Their idols are silver and gold. The work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; They have ears, but they hear not; Noses have they, but they smell not; They have hands, but they handle not; Feet have they, but they walk not; Neither speak they through their throat. They that make them shall be like unto them; Yea, every one that trusteth in them.
– Psalm 115:4-8
A story about Megan Fox's divorce from the "Transformers" movie franchise yesterday led me to write about the entertainment elite's now characteristic indifference to, or rejection of, the feelings and mores of the masses, whose money fuels their success. As I wrote the story, I found myself reflecting on possible explanations for the increasingly arrogant and patronizing mentality now evident not only in the entertainment elite, but universally among those most richly rewarded by America's consumer-driven escalators to success.
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The entertainment industry (of which the news and information media is now a subordinate part) is all about illusion and masquerade. It's dominated by people who spend much of their time fabricating masks; or by the better-known figures, actors and actresses whose professional purpose is to turn themselves into masks. They draw on their bodies, emotions and memories to project the fictional avatars required to people the virtual worlds suggested by the scripts and story boards they are expected to bring to life.
For all the attention we focus on these figures, who are they really? What becomes of them as they devote their lives to a craft that requires pouring body, heart and soul into being the mask held up for audiences to see? The more natural and lifelike it seems, the more complete their mastery of the conjuring art that is their profession, until being the matter and maker of masks becomes their being, their very nature, the activity that defines who they are.
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But as they project themselves, they also empty themselves, until the mask totally consumes their substance, and they are all mask and virtual reality, and nothing more. Conscious of that emptiness, they risk falling into the trap it represents. They feel that when the projector is off, there is nothing there, no substance to validate their worth or give meaning to who and what they are in themselves.
Obviously people would react differently to living on the edge of this abyss. When it comes to the masses, the fans whose response is one measure of the success of their masquerades, gratitude and resentment go hand in hand. Not all their professions of thanks to their public are insincere. But it's likely that few are untinged by memories of the servile self-surrender required to win their adulation. Those memories likely include for some the self-degradation demanded in secret by those with the power to decide whether they would have any opportunity to practice their craft; the ones who expect and demand that they strip down and perform unspeakable acts, off stage as well as on.
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If through and on account of all this self-exploiting abnegation they achieve enough success to become, for a time, idols held up before adoring congregations, the memories of their self-sacrifice may bring self-pitying pride, but also guilt and the sense that if the masses knew who they really are, and what they have done to purchase their success, their worshipful attention would evaporate. Does this thought rouse fear? Does it lead to self-hatred? Does it encourage the self-abuse of drugs and sexual licentiousness? Does it lead to bitter contempt and hate for those so ignorant, so pathetic that they cannot see or do not react against the worthless object of their adulation? Do the idols think, trapped in the mask they have become, "What have I done for these unthinking fools?"
The supposed nobility of humanity's past had the cushion of heritage and lands and titles handed down between them and any sense of their dependency on the ignoble many. Not so the rootless faux aristocrats in America's democratic republic. They must every day feel the sharp edge of their dependency on the masses. They must deal every day with the contradiction of being idols forced to recreate themselves to suit the imagined fantasies of those they only seem to stand above.
I was thinking all this when it occurred to me that these entertainment idols are not so different from today's politicians. Electoral politics these days is all about fabricated images and masks. The difference, of course, is that the illusions fostered by the political dream machine lifts the masks into power. If, like the entertainment idols, they carry within them an abyss, surging with self-pitying pride and fearful contempt for the people who made them as they are, perhaps that is what leads them now to turn against the form of government that makes the superiority of their success in life just another aspect of delusion.
Along with greed and the usual ambition for power, could this also be what impels them to cooperate in destroying the form of government that transforms the masses into the sovereign "we the people of the United States"?