Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Open Letter to Losers, or People Who Fear They May Be Losers

     It's happened twice in recent weeks, but it's not really anything new. We hear in the news of some shocking act of violence or depravity, and as the facts emerge we learn that the culprit had Tweeted or posted on Facebook about how soon everyone would be talking about them, or some other such nonsense. It's a little hard for me to fathom, but there are apparently people out there who think that being famous would be some kind of a good thing. Not being famous myself, and thus not having been able to compare fame to non-fame first hand, I may not be an authority, but I can't say I've ever really seen the appeal of fame for its own sake.
     But you may differ. Maybe you do want to be famous. Maybe you want strangers to know your name, to pay attention to you, to turn some portion of their consciousness and memory into a monument to you. In other words, you care what these people think. And so maybe you think they will be impressed if you carry out some notorious crime.

     Well, actually, no. First of all, no one will be impressed if you don't get away with it. And getting away with serious crimes, at least, crimes serious enough to make you famous, is considerably harder than you may think. Take armed robbery, for example. If all you're looking for is fame, this'll likely get you into the headlines for a while, but don't get into it for the money. You see, if you want the money, you have to get away with it, and it takes either a whole lot of brains or a whole lot of luck to do that.

      Now, you may think you're smart enough. But here's a handy test: Can you think of other, easier and safer ways to make more money and fame? If your answer is no, then sorry, you're not smart enough to plan an execute a successful armed robbery.

     Okay, so maybe you think you're lucky enough. But there's also a handy test for that. Have you been lucky enough to possess all the fame and wealth you want? No? Then you're not lucky enough to get away with it. (Also, if you think you can rely on being due for some luck, then you're definitely not smart enough to get away with it.)

     So if that's your plan, to go do an armed robbery or some other wanton act of violence to get famous, well, you're gonna fail. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, you'll get caught because you did something stupid. Chances are, it'll be something you thought was clever and would help you escape, like putting your mother's license plate on your truck to outwit those poor befuddled police. And then, yeah, you'll be famous for a while. You'll make the news.
     But people won't be impressed. They'll be gaping in awe at how incredibly stupid you were. Or they'll be morally outraged at your senseless acts of violence. In any event, they will not be thinking very highly of you.

     Okay, okay, maybe you don't care what they think, so long as it's about you in some way. Maybe you don't mind if they're thinking your an evil monster, if they're hating you and wishing you dead, just so long as they're acknowledging you exist somehow. Maybe you're just so desperate for attention that you're willing to be an object of hatred, if only they'd just please please please pay some attention to you. In other words, maybe you're just that much of a loser.
     Well, that's a harsh word. Unfortunately, it's kind of apt. I don't mean you're a loser just because you want people to pay attention. Everyone needs a little attention once in a while. But someone so desperate for acknowledgment that they're willing to debase themselves with depraved acts of violence and cruelty, just to get people to look at them? That is a loser. Your value as a human being is worth more than that, and throwing it away for fifteen minutes of fame is to lose. And doing something stupid to be famous doesn't make you stop being a loser. It just advertises to the world that you are, in fact, a loser and now you're just famous for being a loser.

     See, here's the other thing. That fifteen minutes of fame? That's pretty much all you're getting. Sure, you may dominate a few news cycles. You may try to milk it for more at your trial. But we're going to get bored of you, and forget, and move on to other things more worthy of our immediate or lasting attention. The families of your victims will remember you, vaguely, with anger and resentment, but mainly they'll remember the loved ones you took from them. Maybe they'll harbour a lasting hatred, but that's just the hatred of a few individuals, and that's not fame. You can get the lasting contempt of a few individuals much more cheaply than spending your life in prison.

     But the masses? Here's how we'll think of you, a few weeks after you fade from the media spotlight. We won't. Once in a while, someone might mention your crime ("Remember a couple of years ago, when that guy shot those people?"), probably without mentioning or even remembering your name. Chances are he'll confuse it with some other crime. ("No, no no, he was that cannibal guy! No, the other one, the guy they caught barking like a dog.")  But as a person, you will be mostly forgotten within your own lifetime. 25 years from now, your parole board will probably never have heard of you before reading the file, but don't think that means they'll let you out.

    Want to be known? Know yourself, and be worth knowing.

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