You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
During the course of careers in entertainment and politics, both of which are centered around high name recognition individuals, I’ve become fascinated by the question of inherent human value, of why some people are treated like they matter more than others.
In a tabloid culture, an inordinate premium is placed on anyone rich or popular, the antics of celebrities and millionaires receiving more attention than the mortal struggles of innocent women and children.
The gap between fame and obscurity, wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness manifests itself most starkly in places like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, where jockeying for ‘importance’ and influence is a round-the-clock endeavor. Being invited to the right party, getting the right seat at the right restaurant, getting name-checked in the right publication or seen with the right person is of paramount significance. Tinted windows and bodyguards and flashing lights are a tip-off that someone "matters."
America is based on the (noble) idea of equality, but principle and practice are two very different things and some people are treated more equally than others, with disproportionate privileges and prestige. This holds true across the planet.
Counterintuitively, the most important people in the world are those who have the least, those who are the most oppressed, those who suffer from preventable hunger and disease, those who are victims of the worst violence.
We are only as strong and powerful and important as the weakest link in the human chain. When a little girl is gang-raped, when a child wastes away from preventable hunger, when a man is silenced for his beliefs, when a woman dies needlessly in childbirth, when a little boy lives in agony from a preventable disease, we are all weakened, our worth diminished.
When the resources of the rich and famous are put to use to help those in need, it is because the highest moral calling is to give to others, to extend a hand to those who need one. It is then that we realize who matters most in this world: the core of moral power lies with those we derive moral power from.
Character is built on compassion and generosity of spirit. The most important person in the world is the one who most needs our compassion, care and generosity, the person who enables us to improve ourselves by helping them, who gives us value because we value them.
So with all the hobnobbing, backslapping, namedropping and idol-worshiping served to us by the media, with the dazzling displays of money and fame and power, let’s never forget who matters most.