Friday, February 6, 2009

Christian Bale, Tom Daschle, and Michael Phelps - When Idols Fall: Our National Pastime

With the Superbowl still fresh in our minds, you may have been fooled into thinking that football is our national pastime. Or maybe you mistakenly think baseball is THE all-American game.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it seems to me that our national pastime is actually

Schadenfreude -

a German word for "happiness at the misfortune of others."

Why are we so obsessed in our culture with finding fault in those who have some success?

I think it's because we look at Michael Phelps, who is a better swimmer and more dedicated and talented in that one area of his life than ANY ONE of us could ever hope to be, and we're, um... jealous. His Gold Medals. His endorsements. His fame.

So, when he's finally caught red-handed doing something illegal - something that MANY MANY people have done - but that fact that he was CAUGHT doing it - here's one area where we can feel superior to him.

Okay, he swims faster than I can, but the guy's a pothead, and I'm not.


Okay, he's famous, but the guy can't even figure out how to get stoned without having his photo taken! I've never gotten caught smoking pot...

Look at the news this week.

Michael Phelps, hero toppled.

Tom Daschle, politician and presidential appointee, toppled.

Christian Bale, movie star, tantrum broadcast to the whole world...

It is our national pastime - anyone doing well, doing better than "us," we go on a search and destroy mission to find their faults, expose them, publicize them, and somehow we're supposed to feel better because at least THERE, we're SUPERIOR.

It's the same mentality as bullying... the only way bullies feel good about themselves is by putting others down.

It's the same mentality behind gossiping, too.

It's why we love those "worst dressed" celebrity photo roundups.
Okay, she's Oprah, she's famous, and rich, and smart, and amazing... but look at what she's wearing!!! I'd never wear something so... wrong.


Now look, I'm not perfect either. I do the same thing. I look at those internet ads to test your IQ against our previous president Bush's IQ, and I feel superior that I'm "smarter" than he is.
Sure, George W. Bush was the guy in charge for 8 years, and did all these things I think were HUGE mistakes, and I couldn't stop him from doing any of them, but gee, I know how many triangles there are in a 10 dot matrix!

In that way, it (and my having a moral compass that works) made me feel better than him.

We need to come up with some others ways of making ourselves feel good.

Let's let our heroes be human. We can celebrate their successes, and maybe we can learn that we don't have to celebrate their weaknesses, too.

We all have weaknesses.

What we need to learn is that each of us can work towards having one part of our lives where we are HEROIC, where we are the SUCCESS, too.

How can we stand up?

How can we help?

How can we live our beliefs?

How can we inspire?

How can we improve?

Every one of us has the tools, we just need to figure out how we can be our own heroes...

And that's a much better recipe to feel better about ourselves.


ps - You can still get your say in on my Michael Phelps' POT dilemma - can he still be a Hero? survey


Anonymous said...

I really am sorry to stray from the important and well-written topic of your post -


I don't think of Christian Bale as a hero so much as I think of him as eye candy. How much did I /love/ waking up to his name on my Google Reader today? Thanks, Lee!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Interesting update - it's being reported in today's NY Times that Phelps has lost sponsor Kellogg's (His face won't be on the Corn Flakes box after his contract is up in February) and he's been disciplined by USA Swimming to not competing for 3 months (suspended.)

Here's the link to the full article:


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

And another update - Christian Bale apologizes today for his rant: