In one moment of unplanned (but most likely planned) impulse, Nimrod West has validated a point that I have been wanting to emphasize. His idiocy is my exclamation point. For those, who aren’t aware, while Taylor Swift was accepting her award at MTV’s video music awards, a grade A douche bag jumped up on stage and so eloquently said :
Yo Taylor. I’m really happy for you. I’m gonna let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!
With this in its proper perspective, I’m not going to shed any tears for Taylor or be embarrassed for Beyoncé. These people are entertainers and while it was awkward, it certainly is not the end of any of their worlds.
A few days ago in a post entitled overboard, we discussed the idea that unbridled individualism is as bad as free-reigning “socialism” or collectivism. In fact, the basic idea was that extreme anything is not good. As with so much in our daily experience we set up these opposing camps of ideology and we scurry to find cover with those like us. The result is a dichotomy – two distinct points rather than a scale joining one extreme to the other.
It is trivial to find examples of the rampant individualistic tendencies that we exhibit. Whether we look to Bernie Madoff and his ponzi scheming or the number of tables for two that are half empty in any coffee shop or restaurant, we have been told that we can excel with what we have each been given.
Certainly it is politically correct to say that all man and woman kind are created equal. That has been reiterated for years – in schools, and churches, and government. This may be up for debate, but what is certainly not up for debate is that from before the time we are born we begin to be valued quite differently. We are classed by demographics: by age group, and household income, and risk, and ability, and gender, and socioeconomic status, and race. Advertising money gets spent on groups that will allow the greatest returns. Insurance companies assess our value based on risk – and determine which patient groups (i.e. portfolios) are worth saving and which are worth dropping. Our current economic condition will see some folks (with good credit) being treated like kings, and others like riff-raft.
If we’re not careful we begin to internalize these evaluations. I’m subtly aware of the fact that I’m worth less to advertisers now than I once was and as my age and waistline creep upward my “worth” goes down. We begin to figure out ways to increase our value – by dieting and spending and living as if consequences didn’t exist.
And we begin to make these evaluations of others. Many things are framed primarily by “What’s it worth to me?” or “What can you do for me?” Others worth becomes blazingly apparent – by their looks and their choice of vehicle and their neighborhoods.
Finally, as preschoolers often are asked to line themselves up by height from shortest to tallest, we find our place in the line of worthless to emperor of the world. We can look to one side to see the worth that we have to aspire to and to the other side to see those who are much less valuable than ourselves. As preschoolers we often have disputes about who exactly is taller and who is standing on their tippie-toes.
And who’s voice is the loudest.
And who’s opinion most ought to be heard.
And that is where Kanye enters our story. While I don’t want to pigeon-hole him as just another self-aggrandizing “jackass” (The president’s words, not mine!), it is easy to see this as a sign of the larger issues that are often ignored because we often just don’t care. Kanye decided that what he had to say, his thoughts and opinions, were more important than anything else going on at that moment. More important than a seventeen year old entertainer getting recognition for her work was Kanye’s gospel that someone else deserved to win.
And when we cut people off in traffic because our schedule is more important than anyone else’s, or we lose our composure when dealing with customer service representatives on the phone, or we yell our opinions to drown out the all others, or we sit safely in our ideological base camps we put us above all others.
Some would say that is what you have to do to get ahead in this world.
It may be that we need to do something different to move this world ahead.