Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit
(He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree)
Here is a poser of a question for everyone.
…. “Do you need some qualification to have a valid perspective on what is right versus what is wrong? … and, maybe more importantly, is there some qualification which disqualifies you from having a valid perspective on what is right versus what is wrong?”
Where am I going with this?
I have some friends who are adamantly opposed to anything any celebrity says.
They will disregard their words <no matter what they say> as some out-of-touch person spouting some out-of-touch liberal ramblings.
They believe their livelihood disqualifies them from speaking out on things.
And they are not the only ones.
All you have to do is scan the comments under any online article discussing any celebrity – the section will be strewn with “why listen to anything they say” or “Hollyweird blathering” or “out-of-touch rich elite.”
It all seems kind of nuts to me.
And slightly stupid to sweepingly disregard anything that … well … anyone says.
I am the guy who would sit down with Willie, the guy who delivered the mail at one my past jobs, because I not only was interested in what he thought and said … but actually wondered if he were smarter than maybe half the people I worked with in the office <plus … he was a great guy>.
I am the guy who sat down with a famous musician, one of those creative out-of-touch liberal types, because I was not only interested in what they had to think and say … but actually thought the fact they had duked it out bar gig after bar gig before they made the bigger bucks kind of made them a little more enlightened than half the people I knew.
I am the guy who … well … it would seem to me that the only qualification one needs is to have a ‘well used brain’ with which well-articulated words come forth.
So, no, I don’t disregard what celebrities say.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own opinions or that any celebrity shapes my thinking or that I can think that some of them are really out-of-touch with reality … but … I care about what anyone says.
I care because most people who have had a different life experiences than I <and celebrities certainly qualify in that category> and I like to try to put myself in their shoes and see shit like they do.
And, you know what? A shitload of people have a shitload of good thoughts <and this includes celebrities>.
But getting back to my opening question and how I am supposed to judge qualifications before listening to someone.
Suggesting Ben Affleck and Shia Labeouf/Kim Kardasian’s words & thoughts should be considered equally is … well … absurd.
To think that Nicki Minaj, Dave Grohl, Billie Jo Armstrong or Selena Gomez can’t say smart, thoughtful, insightful things about issues that should matter to us because Kanye West or Justin Bieber act like immature incoherent asshats is … well … absurd.
To think that any celebrity cannot have some meaningful thought to share is … well … absurd.
All of this kind of hit me this morning as I scanned headlines to read that Meryl Streep had slammed Trump in some speech at one of those stupid Hollywood awards things. And that, of course, she had said something that Trump felt compelled to tweet in response that she was ‘overrated.’
<which reminded me of one of my favorite Onion headlines: “Court Rules Meryl Streep Unable To Be Tried By Jury As She Has No Peers” on December 3, 2011>
First of all … she didn’t ‘slam’ Trump … she simply made a valid point for all people in mentor & leadership positions … she just made Trump the example for everyone to think about.
Second of all … Trump is an asshat for not only in his thin-skinned attitude to drive a response to any criticism … but also his inappropriate responding to someone in a non-equal power position in a diminishing way as well as also for suggesting Streep as being overrated <which 97.2% of people would recognize as just being a stupid nontruth>.
Third of all … while maybe her comments were directed at Trump … every leader, every public figure, and certainly everyone in congress who claims to represent people should have paid particular attention to one thought:
“This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
“Disrespect invites disrespect, violence invites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”
Fourth of all … suggesting Meryl Streep only represents a small slice of America, especially said by anyone who has a brain, is absurdly simplistic vapid thinking. If you listen to her words, they represent an idea that IS America:
When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
Disrespect invites disrespect, i.e., when a leader disrespects any of their followers, diminishes the thoughts & words of any one citizen, employee or individual … that invites disrespect in return.
I have written about this before <but I am not as famous as Meryl nor am I as articulate>.
What our leaders do and say and how they act toward each other as well as toward others sets an example for people. Their followers <believers> will parrot aspects and children will start thinking it is the right way to behave — all the time.
The public figures may argue … “oh, that was situational … I was simply trying to make a point and share a belief.”
It doesn’t work that way.
Many times the everyday schmuck, like me, cannot see the entire context … I only view the example and the point made.
And while I may choose to follow one example and dismiss another … everyone will judge their ‘follow or dismiss’ on their own. That means the ‘situational’, the one tweet suggesting someone is dishonest or overrated, or the hyperbole-driven unequivocal stance on some issue … becomes the behavioral example for a shitload of people.
What I do know is that disrespect invites disrespect and when the powerful use their position to bully … a shitload of people start thinking that is the way to actually become powerful & a leader.
Which leads me back to the thought that hearing something from someone like Streep and thinking that having an opinion that doesn’t agree with yours is simply the rantings of some ‘self-important’ person is … well … absurd.
Frankly, it implies your own opinions are so weak and shallow that they can’t withstand some well-articulated opinion or thought or criticism <even from some ‘overrated, out-of-touch’ celebrity>.
Al that absurdity aside … I have a bigger concern with disregarding good thoughts & opinions <no matter who they come from>.
I imagine part of my personal concern is … well twofold:
The first is exactly what Streep said … disrespect begets disrespect.
Let’s call this ‘Role modeling.’
I want all adults to be role models for children. I know I pay particular attention to my own words & behavior if I believe a young person will see or hear.
And maybe I do so, and expect other leaders to do so, because I expect role modeling to incorporate showcasing “how you win matters.”
And maybe it is because I expect role modelling to incorporate showcasing “winning without diminishing.”
I believe role models pave the way for showing that getting shit done matters, winning can matter … but how you do the shit and how you get the win is what matters the most.
Do I believe a role model can be clever or crafty with regard to getting that they want done? Sure.
But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the dignity of the win itself or respect for the adversary and situation.
Therefore, while I abhor someone in a power position disrespecting the employee, or the citizen, as an individual I even more abhor disrespecting how the game is played, how the win is achieved or how the discourse is managed.
The second is global perspective.
Like it or not … people in other countries have a variety of perceptions with regard to the United States.
To many people in other countries Donald Trump will become America … and either embody some negative beliefs, perceptions or attitudes or create some beliefs, perceptions and attitude.
Therefore … if he is to be the exemplar … America becomes loud, crass, diminishing, bombastic, blustering, bullying, belligerent, boorish, obnoxious, small-minded, parochial, defiantly egotistical, proudly ignorant and, underneath all the bravado, deeply, deeply insecure and basically scared of losing.
That is how the rest of the world ends up seeing America.
Personally? I hate that.
Someone may suggest it will be about ‘winning’ or ‘being great.’
And, once again, I come back to my main point.
Winning versus how you win.
If I win acting like all those things that I suggested Trump will characterize … that is how my ‘win’ and ‘greatness’ will be defined.
How you win … how you are ‘great‘ … matters.
All that said.
I certainly cannot generalize an entire population but when America voted for this self-obsessed idiot it plays into what Green Day called “the American Idiot” image that many people globally WANT to think America is.
At some point I want my leader to less exhibit idiot behavior and more leader behavior.
Going back to my main question.
Not only what qualifications does someone have to have to have a valid perspective ? … but what qualifications does someone have to have to be listened to?
And … what qualifications disqualify someone from being listened to?
I don’t know Meryl Streep personally nor do I really know anything about the woman nor do I have an opinion on her acting skills.
I really can only judge her by her words and her actions.
I would imagine that is what we should do with all people.
On that point I would also note she said in her short speech … “Tommy Lee Jones said to me, isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor? …Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy.”
I am fine with listening to her even moreso when I hear her say things like that.
And this is a big but.
I didn’t need that.
I can, and will, listen to anyone. I figure even while I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer I am certainly smart enough to discern if someone is saying something useful or not and form my own opinions & thoughts & beliefs.
And I say all of that because … well … on the off chance someone, even a celebrity, can inform my opinions, thoughts & beliefs … you can damn well be sure I am gonna be listening.
Ignore who says the words and think about the words. If they make sense, then maybe the person is making sense. I do not need to see someone’s qualifications to listen nor am I willing to disqualify someone’s opinions & thoughts because of their ‘qualifications’ or what they do for a living.
But, hey, that’s me.
the full transcript of Streep’s speech:
Thank you, Hollywood foreign press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press. But who are we? And, you know, what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.
I was born and raised and created in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola [Davis] was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, and grew up in Central falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Italy. Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Ethiopia, raised in ― no, in Ireland, I do believe. And she’s here nominated for playing a small town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania.
Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick ‘em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts. They gave me three seconds to say this. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work.
There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.
And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we’re going to need them going forward. And they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day whining about something, we were going to work through supper, or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor. Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.