It seems that lately, North America has been quite enthralled with the flood of juvenile escapades that seem to follow Justin Bieber like that cloud of grime that surrounded Charlie Brown’s buddy, Pigpen. The world is rife with injustice. Our attention seems to be better paid toward some humanitarian cause or coming together to battle inequality. Nope. Bieber. Egging his neighbor’s house, assaulting limousine drivers, and smoking enough pot on his jet that the flight crew has to wear oxygen masks. First of all, these things don’t make him a menace. They make him a teenager-a teenager who happens to have more money than 99.9% of teenagers in the United States and Canada. If he didn’t have access to a Lamborghini, he’d be drag racing his mother’s minivan instead. But why do we care? Yes you do.
Don’t try to argue with me-you care. Maybe it’s not Bieber you care about. Perhaps it’s Eddie Vedder or Bruno Mars. Maybe it’s Richard Sherman or Peyton Manning. Justin Timberlake? Emma Stone? If Americans didn’t care about celebrities who otherwise have no real relevance to our daily lives, shows like TMZ would have been cancelled years ago. We do care about what celebrities do. Often we even obsess; worship. And before you take that step up onto a soap box and rant on about how “that’s the problem with America”, consider first that maybe this isn’t an American problem. Consider that there is a chance that it’s really not a problem at all; that it is perhaps this is just part of being human. It’s in your DNA.
Pause the latest episode of Duck Dynasty and rewind…oh, about eight or nine thousand years to the beginnings of human civilization. Anyone who took a high school world history course, college western civilization class, or just simply watches Spartacus: Blood and Sand knows that every civilization had human figures of importance. They were icons of those cultures, some notable enough to have survived the forgetfulness of history. When we think of the ancient Greeks, Achilles comes to mind. The Chinese have Confucius and Jackie Chan. The French? Pick your Louis. Every society of every era and every generation that has ever lived has had “heroes” they looked to for inspiration, example, or guidance. They are put on a pedestal and in some cases, even come close to deification. Most of us choose one or more, almost like a patron saint of everything me. It could be a musician, actor, or politician. Maybe it’s a reality TV personality. Whether everyone loves you or not, if you are famous or notable in any way, you are at the head of the pack, and that, friends, is the point of my argument.
I know it’s hard for some people to do, but we have to remember that, though we are the most intellectually advanced beings on this planet, we are still organisms. We are animals with the same instincts to survive and procreate as any other on earth. So while, yes, we have traveled to the moon, developed the internet, and finally invented a zero-calorie Coke that tastes like Coke, we are animals. And furthermore, we are pack animals. We are not ecological loners like a mountain lion or a great white shark. If it were you versus the lion, minus any fancy weapon humans have conceived of, guess who would win. The very basis of society is that we are social animals, and it is in our nature to be that way. To be shunned from the group, if this were 20,000 B.C.E., would spell certain death for any one of us. It took a few of us in those days to bring down the mammoth. So it is a part of our innate survival instinct to group together, therefore we all have to have commonality with one another in some way-mutual agreement over some kind of ideal or ideals, hence conformity is born. But another characteristic you see in any species of social animal is the fact that they almost always have a leader or leaders.
They need one to organize them all; to provide direction. With wild canines such as wolves, there is an alpha male, and several males compete for the position. Humans have elections. A herd of wildebeest, before traversing the savannah, first has to have one wildebeest who says, “Hey, let’s move this way”, and then everyone else follows. Humans have celebrities, and we emulate their fashions, views, and lifestyles as best we can. People of notoriety, to civilized humans, represent our values. They are icons that give us direction, and even hope, as times. Love them or hate them, they represent us for our own sake, as well as represent us to the rest of the world. We follow their lead, rally behind them, and when they screw up, we defend the ones we really adore. So it is in our genes to pay attention to the wisdom of Phil Robertson, or care about the cocaine Lindsey Lohan had for breakfast. On second thought, maybe I’m better off getting picked off by the cheetah.