Jonathan Eida | Opinion
It has been known for a long time that many celebrities are out-of-touch ignorami, who add precious little to the public discourse. Clouded by their fame and wealth, their inability to understand the lives of ordinary working people is really very worrying. In their ego-filled eyes, they see themselves as moral and political orators, whose wisdom commands respect and attention. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are coming to realise as a society is that, contrary to their perceptions, they are not in fact great philosophers. Rather, they are more like a raving lunatic who has had a few too many pints, staggering around ranting at anyone who walks by!
Last week’s example of just how out of touch these people are with the rest of the population exposes how hypocritical and devoid of any logic some celebrities have become. In a letter released by French Newspaper Le Monde, two hundred people, including a large host of “top tier” celebrities, have signed a letter demanding, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, that the world not “go back to normal” at the end of the pandemic, calling for an end to unbridled “consumerism” and a radical transformation of economies. They call our current era a chance for humanity to “examine what is essential”.
Celebrities on this list included Madonna, Robert de Niro, Joaquin Phoenix, Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Marion Cotillard and Monica Bellucci. The inclusion of Joaquin Phoenix and Robert de Niro is ironic, considering they were in “The Joker”, in which Phoenix shoots De Niro in the head for being an out-of-touch celebrity who ignored the plight of the working people. It seems neither of them took the message, choosing instead to remain oblivious to the lives of normal people.
The letter can be attacked on two grounds: its contents and those who signed it. I am really not too sure which is worse.
Firstly, the celebrities themselves. For them to call for the end of consumerism makes me genuinely lost for words. The sheer audacity for that statement to come out of their mouths is astounding. Madonna, for one, at the start of this pandemic, released a video talking about Covid, which was shot in a bathtub that looked like it could be worth someone’s annual salary! Not to mention that, over the course of the video, she claimed Covid was the “chief equaliser” because it kills all people and doesn’t discriminate! The cheek of it!
One could go on all day listing the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of every single one of these celebrities: the planes, the cars, the multiple houses and so on. So in this respect, please forgive me for not falling under the weight of their names.
As for the contents of the letter, there wasn’t very much of it. The vast majority of the letter was composed of vague sloganeering and political posturing. They did not include any substantive vision, nor a plan for change. For example, they wrote that we must “end consumerism” – what does that mean? Shut down Nike and any other private businesses? The last paragraph of their letter included lines such as “the radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage” and “it is as much a matter of survival as of dignity and coherence”. Again, no proposal was mentioned, so I guess just being bold, courageous and coherent will have to do!
One of the more generic points made in the letter was that, since we have been learning to live on fewer means under lockdown, we should realise the distinctions between “needs” and “wants”, thereby learning to live on less for the future. Once again, I call that “pots and kettles” when it comes to being preached at by celebrities about this issue, considering how much money they spend on accessorising their own lives. But aside from this, if we take this argument of “needs versus wants” to its furthest conclusion, I guess one could in theory live in a forest without any clothes, eating shrubs for sustenance, but that wouldn’t be at all pleasant and no-one would choose to do it.
Clearly, quality of life counts for something, hence to disqualify it as a factor for one’s existence in the world is foolish. Therefore, although a person can live under these lockdown circumstances or at least on this quality of life, nobody wants to do it and that is a consideration. Many people are really struggling, living as we currently are, but are willing for a short while to endure it. However, over a long period of time, the notion of this would be untenable.
Leading on from this, now comes their attacks on consumerism, which contains multiple layers of objectionable content. Now, I actually agree that overindulgence in materialism is misjudged, not so much for environmental reasons, but simply because it shows a lack of self-control. However, I believe that this is a personal life choice that people make, and should be allowed to continue making so long as they do not rely upon my bank account. Taking away the right to the free exchange of goods is a fundamental attack on personal freedom and decision-making. If the Government were to dictate the choices people made with their wealth, or to confiscate all wealth – which would probably be easier to do – then we might start to look a bit like the USSR or North Korea. As a proponent of markets and freedom, these people’s suggestion of governmental intervention into people’s personal affairs is very worrying.
It is also important to acknowledge the effects that ending the “obsession with productivity” and ushering in radical transformations of the economy would have. Businesses run on the idea of productivity; without productivity, there is no private sector business. Considering that over 75% of UK employment is in the private sector, stopping productivity would mean that all these people were left out of jobs. Needless to say, nobody is going to let that happen. We have seen that this is the case during our Covid lockdown. Workers are the people at the moment who are really putting the pressure on the Government to re-open the economy, since they are the ones feeling the pinch at the moment. But then again, since when did celebrities care about ordinary people’s jobs?
At one point in the letter, it is very interesting to note, they slip in the line: “For these reasons (climate change), along with the urgency of renewing with a politics of social equality…”
This is the most revealing line in the whole letter. The root of all their qualms about climate change and the need to end consumerism stems from their objection to social inequality. This, above all else, is their reason for writing this letter and their general push for governmental intervention in such an extreme way. They want to kill two birds with one stone: solve the climate crisis and social inequality at one stroke. The Right wing has been demeaned for disagreeing with these people’s proposals for change, being labelled as “climate change deniers” and all, but with evidence such as this, it is not hard to see why the Right protests at the suggested solutions, when it is so clearly a veiled attempt to further what is, in essence, Communism.
On the Right, there is a firm belief that the free market, rather than damage the environment, could actually create the grounds for a new sustainable future. We only have to look at the electric car industry to see the progress being made by companies in terms of being environmentally friendly. This would create a sustainable future, as well as maintaining high standards of living and upholding high employment. These celebrities, however, are unwilling to hear this suggestion because it would retain social inequality, which is what they really want to break down.
The fact of the matter is that, if any of these celebrities had any notion of what the rest of society goes through on a daily basis or how they live their day-to-day lives, they would not have signed this letter. Either through ignorance, or contempt for anyone other than their cliché, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant with their radical agenda.