Vicarious stars in our firmament
From Mr Alexander Boot:
We don’t just need to like, respect and appreciate. We also need to worship.
The traditional object of worship, the Holy Trinity, is now seen as a bit infra dig for our masses yearning to be free. That is, free of traditional faith, commitments, customs, loyalties.
One could describe this quest for liberation as anomie, but let’s not argue about terms. Suffice it to say that abandoning the divine object of worship didn’t get rid of the innate craving to worship something. A vacuum was created, which nature abhors and people try to fill.
Hence our cult of celebrities. In the past, fame was derivative from achievement – the greater and more substantial the latter, the brighter and more durable the former.
Then gradually the link between fame and achievement grew weaker until it snapped. The most trivial of attainments or increasingly none (say, winning the lottery or appearing on a reality TV show) could now provide a springboard to stardom.
In due course, people forget what it was that sprinkled stardust on an otherwise unremarkable person. He, or more often she, will remain famous simply for being famous.
For example, anyone who has opened a newspaper recently knows that Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters are bona fide celebrities. Who are they and what are they celebrated for? I don’t have a clue. By today’s definition, a celebrity is someone I’ve never heard of.
This is all par for the course, as it’s laid down nowadays. But a new phenomenon is in full swing, and it’s even more baffling. People become celebrities simply because they know celebrities, carnally or otherwise.
Such is for example Nancy del’Olio who once cohabited with an unsuccessful manager of the England football team. Upon being dumped by Mr Eriksson, Nancy declared she no longer needed him: “I can be a celebrity in my own right.”
And she was as good as her word – even those who can’t tell a holding midfielder from a hole in the ground accept Nancy’s fame as her due. In the same vein, Coleen Rooney has been able to parlay her marriage to one of Eriksson’s flops into a multi-million income of her own.
By contrast, Rosa Monckton, aka Mrs Dominic Lawson, is an accomplished woman. Yet her achievements fall short of earning her the celebrity status which is these days a sine qua non of success.
Hence Mrs Lawson’s real claim to fame comes from her friendship with Diana, the Princess of Wales, who was herself a celebrity by association only. That makes Mrs Lawson a star at two removes, but hey, who’s counting?
To keep the flame of celebrity at least flickering, if no longer burning bright, Mrs Lawson has delivered herself of yet another lengthy panegyric to Diana in The Mail, this one timed to the birth of the royal baby.
Diana, according to Mrs Lawson, was exceptionally good with children because 'her wicked sense of fun was infectious'. The naysayers among us would agree that Diana’s sense of fun was indeed wicked. It’s largely because of it that she did serious damage not only to the royal family but indeed to the monarchy itself.
“She proved communication is not just about the spoken word,” continues Mrs Lawson, “a look and a caress can be more eloquent than words.” I’m sure Captain Hewitt, Will Carling and many other friends of Diana would vouch for this.
But to keep the vicarious celebrity going, Diana has to morph into ‘Diana and I’ and then eventually into ‘I and Diana’. That’s how the game is played.
Thus, "I had met Diana only the month before I conceived through our mutual friend, the then Brazilian ambassador’s wife, Lucia Flecha de Lima.” Conceiving through a woman sounds like a tall order, but then we know that a celebrity doesn’t need to be good with words. ‘A look and a caress’ can work just as well.
Diana, insists Mrs Lawson, 'would have been the most magnificent grandmother and it makes me ineffably sad she will not be a part of the royal baby’s life'.
Well, call me an unfeeling cynic but, sorry as I am that Diana had to die so early, I’m just as ‘ineffably’ glad that the royal baby will be spared the lessons his grandmother could have taught him.
Petty egoism, ignorance of anything that matters (including the meaning of monarchy), putting a ‘wicked sense of fun’ before duty, insistence on being ‘me’ no matter how puny the ‘me’ is, the conniving ability to manipulate others for personal ends – all these saturate the ambient air anyway.
Our future king will be much better off growing up without being in daily contact with all those fine qualities exhibited by a past master of them.
No doubt Mrs Lawson has warm personal recollections of her friend. She should keep them just that, personal – even at the risk of losing her vicarious stardom.
The rest of us should rejoice at the birth of the royal baby, hoping he’ll benefit from more benign influences as he grows up.
Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes.