You Don’t Know What It’s Like

I try to see the 21st century as a formative one when it comes to society. We can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as the saying goes. Despite that, I’m disgusted by the amount of bullies that online anonymity frequently produces, the sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of some people, and the fact we’re still fighting century-old battles that should have been resolved by now. Racism, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, constantly shaming each other because we’re not good enough or whatever.

You don’t truly know someone else’s struggle. You don’t know what demons some people fight every second of every day. And it’s far too easy to resign yourself to ignorance than to learn respect and tact. I write about this constantly in every story I pen, because it’s not something people want to understand. From the darkest and most evil to the saddest of the sad. People commit mass genocide, invade countries, fight long and brutal wars and torture the crap out of each other and themselves for many years.

All to avoid sitting down, listening, and talking. The one human phenomenon that continues to boggle my mind.

Why. Why. Why is it ever so IMPOSSIBLE to sit and talk and try understanding each other? A question for the ages. I know we’ve come a long way, and we’ve longer still to go.

I do have hope.

But I just wanted to illustrate how much this avoidance of natural communication wears on humanity.

Justin Bieber is naked, you say? Thoughts on Privacy and #NotAskingForIt.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Justin Bieber fan, and I likely never will be. I don’t particularly care for him. I may not like his music or his fan base, or the fact that I’ve had to hear about him being young and stupid and acting like a nuisance, just as I was once young and stupid and acted like a nuisance (face it, we all share that in common with him at least).

Maybe he’s a player, or maybe he’s just really misunderstood and has a lot of heart. Or maybe he’s as vapid as they say. The fact is, no matter what you personally think about Justin Bieber, he is still just as much of a human being as you or I. He still has the same right to privacy, to personal autonomy, to feel safe no matter where he is, especially in his own home or back yard or yes, even on his deck in Bora Bora. Those are undeniable, fundamental human rights. We all have them. The UN even has a formal declaration on them.

And so last night when nude photographs of him taken by a paparazzi suddenly surfaced on Twitter and went viral with the snarky hashtag #WhatDoYouPeen (a wordplay on his latest single, “What Do You Mean?”), his human rights were in clear violation. Those were not photos he himself took, nor approved for release (as far as we know), nor was probably even aware of the existence of.

“But heck,” you might say, “who even cares?” This is nothing new, obviously.  It happens all the time to even the most thick-skinned of celebrities, right?

And, well, that right there is precisely the problem.

We in America have deluded ourselves with the misguided belief that just because someone makes a living out of constantly being in the public spotlight, they  must have forfeited all rights to privacy from the moment they signed a recording contract, joined the Screen Actors Guild, or was born an heir or heiress to a large fortune. From the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, these people are treated as nothing more than porn objects by gossip magazines and those who starve for the next juicy detail.

Everyone thinks “oh, they’ll get over it”. Or they’ll just go crazy and people will laugh as if they’re circus animals, because of course it’s always easier to blame the monkey in the cage for wanting to attack us when we get too close than it is to own up to the fact that we put more pressure on them than we ever do on ourselves, and we should probably get a life and do something worthwhile instead of waiting for their next meltdown so we have something interesting to talk about. Celebrity gossip can be an addiction for many people.

What is most disturbing to me about this concept is the pervasive reality that they can and have been photographed literally everywhere they go, largely without their consent, their images consumed en masse by addicts who follow their every move right down to the nanosecond. Now these are known artists and entertainers who are followed for their merits, but imagine for a moment that they were porn stars; does such a fixation really seem natural or healthy? Or if they were your neighbors, just everyday average citizens, there would be no question about it. All that stalking and taking pictures would land you in a jail cell.

So what makes a person’s celebrity status any different? Don’t even get me started on the creep factor when they have kids. There’s something so incredibly disturbing about strangers wanting to take pictures of your children. I don’t care what the reason is behind it, there’s no way in hell it’s justifiable. But it’s good to know that they can at least fight back about that:

Another thing that grinds my gears is that I’ve even heard some say that because of what they do, celebrities are “asking for it”. They’re stars, they like the attention and the best kind is free, and they love having their faces plastered everywhere. Nudity or sex tapes are good publicity. And if they don’t want to be photographed (and they rarely do as they go about their normal day, so god forbid the paparazzi don’t get a paycheck), suddenly they’re prude or horrible or whatever else. I’ve literally seen videos of paparazzi guys acting like that. You know who else uses that argument? Rapists and domestic abusers.

But their status as entertainers is no rationale, and even being naked, as many people seem to think, is not any indication of “asking for it”. That goes for any kind of unwelcome advance, pictorial or otherwise. If you don’t believe me, take a look at nudist colonies and those living the naturist lifestyle around the world. Crimes are practically nonexistent among their communities, yet they’re naked, and none of them are asking for anything, least of all unwelcome sexual advances. Speaking of which, I find it odd, too, that in America we have this view that nudity in and of itself must always be sexual in nature. If someone wants to be naked, heaven forbid they don’t face ridicule, slut-shaming, or an avalanche of inappropriate commentary.

Fans with prurient interests come crawling out of the woodwork whenever this happens.

Looking through the mess on Twitter, I was pretty disappointed.

Look, I get it. People lap up scandal all the time in America, and we’re a bit of a historically prude country who never seems to outrun its Christian influence in everything from politics to interpersonal relationships. People are clamoring to see each other naked, especially celebrities, because we idolize them and I guess the fantasy is a pervasive thing (so much sometimes that many have resorted to creating fake nudes of them).

But it’s when we let that pervasiveness take control and turn a blind eye to the pressure they face that it becomes a dangerous thing. And this has crossed so many boundaries in so many ways, it’s not cool or funny. It never was.

If you truly appreciate the talents and hard work of your favorite entertainers and celebrities, please respect their right to privacy and remember to think twice before jumping on the bandwagon with things like this.

Respect others’ rights to privacy and take care of yourself.

Coming next week will be a post about self-neglect and the perils of American consumerist society 😉 Stay tuned!