The Tragedy of Fame

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

The group at the bar listens to the news on the radio in shocked silence. They have been admirers of the athlete for a long time, and now find it hard to believe he has done something as horrible as this.

“Wasn’t he involved in a drunken boating accident some time ago? Lots of questions, and then suddenly the whole issue disappeared and nobody reported on it any more?”  Sevaas looks over at Gertruida for help.

“There have been rumours…”. Gertruida holds up a cautionary finger, “..but I don’t think we should go there.”

“There’s the story of the jackal,” Kleinpiet suggests. “Come on, Gertruida, you tell it so well?”

On the day of his birth, the jackal’s mother swore she’d make things right for him. Baby Jackal, you see, was born without a tail. Everybody knows a jackal should have a tail. A tail-less jackal will not get anywhere in life.

So Mama Jackal went to all her family members and begged a few tail hairs from each. She spent hours and hours braiding these hairs into the most beautiful, most stunning jackal tail ever seen. When Baby was old enough, she taught him to put on the tail himself. At night Baby would comb and preen his tail before hitting all the hotspots where the girly Jackals hung out.

Baby became the darling of the jackals. Nobody had a tail quite as magnificent, quite as startlingly beautiful as his. Girl jackals swooned. Boy jackals lowered their eyes when he walked past. Baby only had to swish his tail to attract the attention of all the animals in the forest.

But one day Bragging Baby (as he became known) met the girl-jackal that saw right through him. She said he was all tail and no heart. She told him life is not just a matter of parading around with a beautiful tail; and that being kind was more important than being pretty.

Of course, Baby Jackal didn’t like this, and snarled at her. She complained to the jackal elders, who  agreed Baby did wrong. For his punishment, he had to hand in his tail for a year. Now Baby had to walk around without his tail, he soon discovered life wasn’t so easy. The parties dried up. The girly jackals no longer swooned. The boy jackals sniggered when he walked by. And so Baby, the tail-less jackal, found out his tail had been his life, and his life had been his tail. 

“But that’s an incredibly sad story, Gertruida.” Precilla snifs loudly. “The poor jackal! To think he had to find out he needed his false tail to be somebody. What happened to him?”

“The story of the jackal ends there, Precilla. But there’s another moral: we can’t end up blaming Baby for everything. He only became popular because the other jackals were so impressed by his tail. Sure, it went to his head, but part of the blame rested on the other animals who made such a fuss about him. Without their adoration, he would have learnt to cope with life the hard way – like we all do. All societies need to have heroes. All too often, they have feet of clay. Or no feet at all.”

“Like Lance Armstrong? Or Hansie Cronje?”

“Exactly. But there’s one more factor to consider. As much as we like building up idols and elevating them to be gods – we also have a tendency to be cruel when they make mistakes. The newspapers and the magazines will now dig away furiously to find more fingers to point at the man. It is as if we actually enjoy seeing people fall from grace. As if we can’t wait for them to strike the hard concrete block we call justice, with a sickening thud. It makes us accomplices; primitive, sad cannibals waiting for the feast.”

“Well, all I can say is I feel sorry. Sorry for that poor girl’s family. Sorry for a man who has accomplished so much, and now has to realise that medals are only little pieces of metal in different colours.” Vetfaan sighs heavily. “And I feel sorry for Mama Jackal. She only tried to help, after all.”

“Yes, Vetfaan. But mostly I feel sorry for us because we keep on putting people on the pedestals to make them more than they actually are. We elevate them to fame and then stamp them to trash. And that, my friend, points a very dirty finger at us..”

53 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Fame

  1. newsferret

    Will respond in English this time Amos. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent or is is it the reverse? I will hold my peace until the verdict is there. In the meantime let us do self search before we judge. Excellent post you did there.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Thanks – I think we should all approach it like you do. Whatever happens, let the sensation go and concentrate on the loss and the heartache that should call us all to contemplate the value of respecting others.

  2. My Rite of Passage

    We’re living in a sad world, one we’ve all had a hand in creating as you so rightly point out, Amos. As a life coach, I often exchange stories with my counselor peers who agree that people are hurting right now; they’re scared; they overreact easily – they think one wrong makes another one right. Fight or flight never brings out the best in us. We need to start making our world a better place.

  3. Pingback: Anne Jones « MaanKind

  4. lena de almeida

    The depth and the angles that you weave into your posts are amazing.
    My feeling, when I heard the news this afternoon, was of sadness for the loss of the woman’s life and for the pain this will bring to both of their families. I will stay away from the ‘news’ and public reactions that will no doubt ensue.

  5. Natasha

    Amos, this is a brilliant piece of social commentary, not just regarding Oscar, but regarding all the “celebrity” types. It is as if mankind waits for them to fall and then to pounce on their inequities.

    The facts are simple at this point.
    There was a man, there was a woman, there was a gun and someone lost their life.
    Whatever the “cause” was, still remains to be seen.

    Thank you for this insightful piece – it really forces one to do introspection and look at people without their tails.

  6. Colleen

    What a brilliant post. I have to say I agree on everything written here. And it is SO very very sad…..and we ARE all to blame….who knows what pressure and difficulty in life a 26 year old, deemed one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, lives under? I cannot and will not be one to cast a stone. My heart aches for him…..and for the young woman who lost her life……and her grieving….and HIS family. So much devastation! Thank you for sharing this. I shall be sharing it on fb and twitter too xx

  7. Karen

    Very heart rending and thought provoking post Amos. I am convinced that qualified guidance is essential for young people thrust into the limelight of fame and accomplishment. I doubt that many of them have the emotional maturity to keep their lives in perspective and the consequences are chilling in so many cases. Heartfelt sympathy for the Steenkamp family as they prepare to bury their loved one.

  8. Rita van der Linde

    Ongelooflike stuk Amos. Dis is ‘n gebeurtenis hierdie met onherstelbare
    pyn, hartseer en seker ook teleurstelling, ne Amos. Maak nie saak wat
    die uitslag mag wees nie dit is iets waarvoor daar geen raad of plan is
    nie. Mag die mense almal genade en
    sterkte kry vir wat vir hulle voorle. En mag die volk ook dalk ‘n
    les leer met die jakkals sonder stert om nie sommer weer dadelik te
    begin sterthare bedel nie, en om nie die stert gedurig blink te streel nie.
    So baie van ons blinkste sterre het al nie kon regop bly op hulle voete van
    klein nie.

  9. SidevieW

    Very true and so sad that we overdo the admiration and the condemnation. We strip away their chance for being normal.

    Of course, at this stage, nothing is really known except that she is dead and died in his home from being shot, and that he seems to have been at home at that time.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Hi Sidie – no, and it’s wrong to point fingers at anybody at this stage. In time, the truth will come out. Until then, both families have been shaken to the core by the tragic events, and deserve our prayers. We should re-evaluate our instinct to idolise celebrities, however. Young people are forced onto pedestals, and the pressure on them is immense. Society should give these people more space to be normal, happy citizens. Thanks for reading and commenting…

      1. SidevieW

        The current idea of fame, that success in one area means perfection in all, is so dangerous. We seem unable to distinguish the real person from the idol. That tends to make some of them believe they are above the rest

        It puts so many stresses on them as well.

        It is so stupid, and the media play a big role here that could be curbed, if society really wanted that

  10. Antjie

    Ek dink dit is so half natuurlik vir die mens om te begin spekuleer in sy soeke na die waarheid. Dit laat net altyd sulke nare sensasionele stories die lug sien. Ek voel veral bitterlik jammer vir albei se ouers.
    Dit is n briljante stukkie skryfwerk en word wyd gelees.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Dankie Antjie – dis vir my verbasend om te sien hoe dit wêreldwyd gelees word. Ek blog nou al vir ‘n jaar of twee, en dis uiters ongewoon vir een van my stukkies om nou al – binne ‘n dag of twee – amper 4000 lesers te getrek het. Dit sê iets van ons mense se soeke, nes jy sê.

  11. aj vosse

    Weer eens wyse woorde!!
    On the side though… I’ve been telling my good lady to read your Rolbos chronicles… now she found your blog via FB… another convert! 😉
    Thanks for again putting things into the correct perspective, sad as it may well be!

  12. Sher Lizz

    it’s up to the “heroes” if they want to step up on the pedestal. There are not many who have become famous who haven’t changed. We don’t make or break heroes and the famous? They buy into the world of superficiality and they end up as windbags. We live in a world where we are too focused on the outside and the looks. Not many can carry the burden of fame.

  13. Riaan

    Ken jou van geen kant af nie, maar jy het baie goed verwoord wat ek oor die jare al voel – Joost, Lance, Michael Vick (en menige ander NFL quarterbacks), Oscar, ag enige gevalle induna – is maar ‘n funksie van ons mensdom se leegheid en soeke na helde in mense met voete van klei. En, as hulle val wys ons die vinger na hulle terwyl ons hulle op die podium gesit het waar die opium van “fame en fortune” hulle almal bedwelm. Hoe hartseer is hierdie geval nie en hoe hartseer dat die mediabase ons toegooi met die een sensasionele storie (sodat hulle dalk ook “fortune” kan bekom) terwyl daar dalk daagliks etlike ander hartseer stories van “no-name” brand mense nie eers die agterblad haal nie. Tyd om in die spieel te kyk reken ek.
    Dankie vir jou blog en jou geverbaliseerde insig.


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