11 July 2011


The “star” system originated in the 19th century entertainment industry, but it really flourished in Hollywood and became entrenched., In the past the great studios exercised a good measure of control over excess, but they are long gone while the stars, such as they are today, remain. But the star system is no longer confined to Hollywood in America. It is now ubiquitous. That is obvious in professional sports, but it has also spread far afield, i.e. to the business world. Thus CEOs now find themselves on the cover of business magazines and treated like superstars, at least in terms of their pay packages.

This has resulted in a “winner take all” society where those at the top are disproportionately rewarded, deservedly or undeservedly, because they are in a position establish their own terms. The more advantages you have the more advantages you can obtain. This is one consequence of our free enterprise system, which I support, but I find such outcomes troubling given the resulting disparities.There is room for only a few at the top of the pyramid. I don’t subscribe to the “share the wealth” school of thought because it ultimately just makes everyone poorer. What I do find unacceptable is the undue awe and deference given to such people, which is almost entirely based upon money and notoriety.

We would be a far better society if those who possess an admirable degree of honor, integrity, character, and other intangible virtues were more highly regarded. There was a time when this was the case, when a man like George Washington was held in highest esteem by his contemporaries and succeeding generations, but this has been lost. We should hold the virtuous in highest regard, but this will only happen if our educational system emphasizes these characteristics. Instead today the emphasis is on building “self esteem,” which there is far too much of and results in all sorts of selfish behavior.

Too few of the “stars” in society display any sort of virtue that can be separated from ego gratification. They are famous because they want to be, and various public relations people manage their image. Apart from real disasters, most of what you read or hear in the news is placed by such representatives behind the scenes. The star system would collapse if no one paid attention to them, which would require a degree of maturity, as evidenced by the fact that those most impressed by celebrities tend to be teenagers.

True virtue is quiet and steady and is reflected in the way people live their lives. It is the basic decency of unsung heroes that makes life worthwhile. For in truth most of the people you have heard of today aren’t worth knowing about.

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