Camera One

For a variety of reasons, I suppose, I am fond of cynical songs about fame and popularity and all of that.  I suppose it is easy to be cynical if one has no expectation of ever being famous, but I have long viewed it as somewhat striking that so many musicians who are famous take such a dim view of the fame that they have [1].  There are a great many reasons for this.  Many people feel it necessary to apologize for having made a great deal of money as an artist, as if it is a bad thing to be wealthy in a business where so many live such hardscrabble existences and are continually fleeced by those with money and power.  At other times, the motives may be more cynical, as those who are famous way wish to curry favor with fans who may be cynical of show business as a whole even if they are fond of a given artist or entertainer.

This somewhat ambivalent view among artists and fans is not too surprising, because both fans and artists are considered as separate from the machine that both interact with.  Creative people are associated with the inputs of the show business machine.  These are the people whose talents and skills provide the spectacle that others enjoy and who may or may not receive the credit and/or pay that they deserve for this task.  Fans are viewed as consumers of the output of the entertainment machine, whether they are purchasing a product, or buying a ticket for a show, or purchasing merchandise for their favorite artists.  As both artists and fans are outside of the machine in a fundamental way, they view the machine from the outside, and even if their behavior contributes to the running of the machine, they often do not view themselves as responsible for the conduct of the machine as a whole.  On the contrary, those who are viewed as being inside the machine are viewed with a great deal of suspicion whether or not they are acting contrary to the interests of those who fans care the most about–namely themselves and celebrities.

It is easy to hate people who are in the middle.  After all, it is inefficiencies that allow there to be sufficiently remunerative places in the middle for people to operate.  A gap in communication between those who have goods and services to offer and those who want such good and services creates a space for people to serve as keepers of markets for a price.  Those who underwrite the costs of production in exchange for a cut of the profits, those who loan money and resources, and those who are involved in sales and marketing are all classic middlemen who make their living in the space provided by imperfect knowledge and communication.  Likewise, those who mediate between disparate sources of information in order to bring information together are classic middlemen as well.  There are, of course, different ways these people in the middle may do their jobs.  We might recognize a translator as a legitimate middleman, so long as they translate faithfully and honestly.  We are likely to be more critical of those people in the middle whose fidelity and loyalty and decency are more in question, even if we are dependent on those skills for our own well-being.

As is often the case, hostility to the machine as a machine is often counterproductive in ensuring that this machine works as well as possible.  To the extent that we understand a given process, we will have a higher degree of empathy for those people involved in it so long as we see them as people as well.  Likewise, knowing how a process works can be an aid in thinking of how that process could work better in a more ideal world, or understanding why it does not work as well as it could in this world.  In understanding processes, though, we may often find that we are part of the process in striking ways, and that may lead us to ponder our own role in processes and systems that we regard as dysfunctional.  As is the case so often in life, it is far easier to point a finger at others than to realize that camera one is on us, and that we are often involved in the processes and systems that we criticize the most.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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