What do Bono, Chris Martin, Sir Bob Geldof, Russell Brand, and Jamie Oliver have in common? They are all very successful and famous; they are all extremely active in bringing about positive change, and ….. many of us find them more irritating than rubbing ceiling insulation directly onto your eyeball.
But what came first? Were they always annoying, or did they appear to become so through the act of doing good? And if it is the latter, why?
Surely if a person has earned respect (and become very wealthy) being excellent in their chosen field, and instead of kicking back on a throne made from unicorn skin, drinking virgin’s tears from a goblet fashioned by faberge’s exhumed corpse, at a party in the Palace of Versailles, fueled by a tonne of Bolivia’s finest served on the backs of a thousand supermodels; rather than do all that stuff (or perhaps as well as doing all that stuff, who knows), they choose to work tirelessly to make sure Africa eats more and America eats less, donating huge amounts of their own time, money, and energy for the betterment of the planet – we ought to love them more.
And yet we despise them. And the more good they do, the more we hate them. But why?
Perhaps we imagine them to be a bit smug, a bit holier-than-thou? Certainly the Bonos, Martins, and Brands of this world can appear on occasion to be suffering from a messiah complex. Maybe we feel that they are too shiny to be really good. Perhaps a person can only be truly altruistic if they hail from Southern Asia and have a penchant for brown robes.
There also appears to be a level of mistrust. That they are ‘just doing it for tax reasons’ is a big one. To conceive that a person might be genuinely attempting to change the world with no selfish motive is far harder for us to get our heads around than the concept of self betterment.
“And ‘oo are they any way, trying to change the world? No one asked us if we wanted it changed! ‘Oo does he think he is, God?” – Insert quasi cockney Monty Python accent here.
Another factor could be that we have just grown weary of having the plights of the world thrust into our collective faces every five minutes.
I can attest to feeling this way myself at gigs. I can understand why Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers chose the stage to spread his message of hate of the big pharma companies who would rather see African people die from AIDS than make their treatments affordable. I can appreciate why Flava Flav of Public Enemy fame decided to go on an anti-war rant at the end of their show. Thing is, there’s a time and a place, and on both occasions I could have done without the lecture. I just wanted to hear some good live music and get sloshed.
That sounds very harsh and uncaring in the cold light of day, but believe me when I tell you that Mr Flav finished their set shouting his message to an empty field that night.
This leads me to the hypothesis that we simply feel that it isn’t their job. Their job is to entertain us, to be twinkly and sparkly and delight us with the reverie of music and film and food. We turn to these people when we desire an escape from the relentless torments of the real world. Being preached to in the middle of a gig is rather akin to being woken up from a lovely dream by being dunked into a bath of ice cold water by two angry Hungarian wrestlers.
But on the flip side, it’s totally understandable. After all, what kind of decent human being could accrue an obscene level of wealth and not want to help people with it?
If you have a requirement for authenticity in your life and find yourself spending that life in the vapid, egocentricity of fame, it’s logical that you’d seek to use your prominence trying to educate your adoring masses about the not-so-pleasant realities of life beyond the tube.
Surely that should not only be encouraged, but celebrated?
Sadly, a ‘backlash‘ is an inevitability that cannot be escaped with celebrity, and this fate usually strikes at the peak of greatness. As does the need and/or means to make a difference.
Therefore, I proffer that it is not only the annoying celebrities who wish to become philanthropists. Nor is it the very act of charity or activism which defines these individuals as irritants…
It’s just piss poor timing.