What will you remember about me if I introduced myself to you as a man with green blood, and then mentioned I have interests in music, religion and spirituality, and the history of the Romanov dynasty? Which feature will remain foremost in your mind?
Unless you’re a haematologist, the least relevant aspect of our relationship would be my green blood, but that’s the characteristic you’re most likely to recall because it’s so odd. There are a lot of people who are interested in music, religion, and even the history of the Romanov Dynasty. You will always remember my green blood.
Having made this news public, I’ve not only distinguished myself as unusual, but I’ve made myself a little more difficult to relate to. You can’t relate to ‘green blood,’ but you could find common ground in music. That ‘label’ separates me from the rest of the crowd, and if I really want to be unappreciated (because what use is green blood?), I won’t keep it a secret. A rift begins to develop, which in time can become a chasm.
My reason for bringing this up is that in the media recently, celebrities have drawn attention to themselves for reasons that are no one’s business but theirs, and probably of no real interest to anyone but themselves. What matters is not what religion they’ve turned to, their new diet, or whom they take as lovers—what matters is what they do. There are some people who seem to be famous only for being famous. The differences they announce don’t ‘create awareness’, they simply draw attention, and may earmark them in later years. Someone may write the truly greatest novel of the century, but owing to a previous proclamation of difference, be known primarily for being the fellow who is ‘a gerbil trapped in a hamster’s body’.
Oddly enough, a couple of celebrities had elements of notoriety in their personal or ancestral past that they didn’t want to bring to the public’s attention—they favoured privacy—and that generated almost as much discussion as if they’d followed the examples of the attention-deprived and indiscreet. I’m sure that was not the result they wanted.
Of course, being ordinary is boring. No one will read a news release (in fact there would very likely never be such a release) in which a celebrity announces he is straight, she has not converted to a different religion, they are happily married, or that ancestrally, the family antecedents have always been on the boring side. A bit of difference and even notoriety is welcome, like seasoning in a stew, but as in all things, there must be BALANCE. There is such a thing as too much.
With so much attention given to differences, particularly when those differences are not especially relevant to other facts, it’s much more challenging to find common ground. Every difference drives in the wedge. Some may feel that calling attention to a characteristic is creating awareness, but I believe it is merely the free advertising of something irrelevant that will garner them attention.
We like to think we are in a Global Village, and certainly with technological advancements, the world is effectively smaller than it used to be. As a Global Village, we are often frightened by differences, to which many news items will attest. What might be commonly accepted in one culture is an anathema in another. Social morés change over time, but not globally. What was socially stigmatizing twenty years ago is routinely accepted to-day. Although world religions agree about many things, they also disagree about many other things, and do not soften the view that only they are right.
Perhaps it has been this way always, but we live in a society in which the prurient interests of the pathologically voyeuristic are fed, and good sense is not. Flexibility and acceptance (tolerance, if you like) are necessary, but we should remind ourselves that it is possible to go too far. Even the most flexible branch, if bent too far, will break.
We really need a global village. We need to find, and live on, common ground.
And for anyone who’s interested, my blood is red.
Paul TN Chapman
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