Monday, 10 September 2018

Haloes and holiness

I don't tend to idealise people. I tend to see them just as they are, warts and all, their faults as well as their good points. I'm always surprised by how readily people idealise public figures and turn them into saints who can do no wrong.

When everyone was idealising Barack Obama and saying what an amazing President he would be, I was thinking, he'll probably do a good job but he'll also disappoint a lot of people who're expecting something more revolutionary. Which turned out to be the case.

When everyone was idealising the new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and saying what an amazing Prime Minister he would be, I had similar reservations. I knew he wouldn't be the sweeping reformer everyone's waiting for, he'd fall short in all sorts of ways. Because he's an imperfect human being like all the rest of us.

I've never idealised rock stars, film stars, politicians, authors, gurus or celebrities generally. I never idealised my parents or my teachers. I knew they all had feet of clay - bad habits, weird obsessions, blind spots, fierce prejudices. Behind the respectable public facade there's always a darker side.

But I'm not perfect either. One person I did idealise was John Lennon. I adored his personality - his rebelliousness, his sharp wit, his humour, his crazy stunts, his music. I grew my hair long and grew a beard to look more like John. So I was very upset when he was murdered. I conveniently overlooked his womanising, his misogyny, his egotism and his arrogance until many years later.

And I do tend to idealise women. I often see them as more beautiful, more intelligent, more perceptive and generally nicer than they truly are. I shut out the bitchiness, the self-doubt, the competitiveness, the begrudgery. At my age, I really should know better.

When other people are seeing haloes and holiness, I'm looking for the Achilles Heel.

36 comments:

Bijoux said...

Ouch on the negative generalizations of women.

Always a bad idea to put anyone on a pedestal, as most will disappoint you at some point.

nick said...

Bijoux: Ouch indeed! Yes, putting people on pedestals is bound to end in tears sooner or later.

Rummuser said...

I flatter myself that my standards are very high. I can't find anyone to idealise!

nick said...

Ramana: Good for you. There's so much corruption everywhere nowadays there's hardly anyone left who would even qualify to be idealised!

Liz Hinds said...

Sean, who leads Zac's, is the best person I know but I can see his failings too. He would be the first to tell you that putting someone on a pedestal will lead to disappointment.

nick said...

Liz: Well, there you are! There are too many people put on pedestals that could crumble at any moment....

helen devries said...

I was on a 'plane going to Madrid when some American came whooping down the aisle because Obama had won, first time round...and remember thinking, yes, having a black President is something, but not the be all and end all. What will he actually do?

nick said...

Helen: So many people are beguiled by charisma and headline-catching promises. They don't stop to ask, so he/she wins the election - then what?

Polly said...

Yep, we're all human and no matter how good we are or try to be we all fall off the pedestal now and again.

CheerfulMonk said...

I don't idealize people, but I sometimes use parts of them as role models when they have a way of behaving that I could learn from. And I don't restrict myself to people --- one of my favorites is how Snoopy reacts to Lucy when she tries to put him down. He simply kisses her on the nose and dances off. I don't actually do that, but the image goes through my head as I cheerfully walk away.

nick said...

Polly: I don't think anyone has ever put ME on a pedestal. It would feel very odd if they did.

Jean: Oh yes, I tend to use other people as role models when I admire the way they tackle something. I often take the Snoopy approach with Jenny - a loving kiss will put everything right!

kylie said...

So do you idealise or look for the Achilles?
Your last line is fabulous writing but it directly contradicts the previous paragraph.

I've only idealised a couple of people and only one of those has disappointed.



Danielle L Zecher said...

You're probably much better off not to idealize people, a lot less disappointment that way. Politicians never keep all of their promises. Sometimes that's a bad thing, sometimes that's a good thing.

nick said...

Kylie: I usually look for the Achilles Heel but I tend to look at women through rose-tinted glasses.

Danielle: You're right, a lot less disappointment. If Jeremy Corbyn proves to be a useless Prime Minister, it will simply justify my cynicism.

Wisewebwoman said...

I had to think about this. I found looking back that the more charismatic the leader the more shocking the flaws when revealed so now I haul the old jaundiced eye out, particularly when casting it on politicians.

Obama has the same blood on his hands as Bush did. Our Trudeau is terribly pretty but there is an inherent shallowness to his promises.

I don't idealize celebrities, in fact the opposite. What was that old joke about going to the bathroom like everyone else? :)

I have a few heroes and heroines based only on their actions and try and emulate them in their outlook.

XO
WWW

nick said...

www: Very true that the flaws are more shocking when it's someone especially charismatic.

Celebrities are always flawed. Some of them hide the flaws very successfully, and the truth only comes out after death.

Ms Scarlet said...

Is idealising a celeb, such as Lennon, just about projecting all the 'good' traits that we'd like to have ourselves, on to someone else? I guess doing this can be self motivating? Or self destructive?!!
Anyhow, I'm more of a swooner than an idealiser....i.e. I swoon over Aidan Turner :-)
Sx

nick said...

Scarlet: You could be right about projection. I always envied John Lennon his quick wit and rebelliousness.

Aidan Turner? I dislike men with beards, they always seem a bit silly and pointless. To be honest, I find most men amazingly unattractive.

tammy j said...

I'm having cable problems and late getting here as usual. I don't know why I get notice of your posts a day late! it's EMAIL not SNAIL MAIL!
but have enjoyed all the various comments.
when you fall in love at 18 and marry at 19 and are widowed at 33... you have a tendency to keep your love on that pedestal. and him being 10 years older just added to the mystique. only in the last few years of my life here in discussions with my favorite marine (my brother) have I been able to say things that I wish had been different. and even then it felt disloyal. my own personal flaw I guess! your posts always make me THINK. xo

nick said...

Tammy: Never mind, better late than never! I think it's lovely that you still keep your husband on a pedestal, in the sense that you always think of him positively. Yes, I do like my posts to be thought-provoking!

Anonymous said...

Your subjects start to be a bit boring . You give a list of thoughts and then wait for comments. Is there something interesting to know if you idealise John Lennon, Madonna or who ever. These are subjects for Sun readers.Sorry I think there are a lot of important things going on in our troubled world.
Greta

nick said...

Greta: Why bother to comment if all you want to do is criticise me?

Anonymous said...

I do not criticise I'm normally a silent reader , but suddenly I found that your subjects are always turning around the same ideas. It's a statement nothing more. If you're touchy to criticism well your blog seems to be public, so sometimes we cannot agree.
Greta

nick said...

Greta: I'm very aware of the important things, and so are my blogmates. They're discussed exhaustively in the mainstream media. Perhaps you should be reading the Guardian and not my blog.

chloe said...

Well well so just continue with smart phone freaks, screaming chidren, persons making noise, high heels and and and. Fills a daytime.

Ms Scarlet said...

This is a personal blog, it's not effing Question Time.
Sx

nick said...

Chloe: I assume that you on the other hand are fully engaged fighting global poverty, reversing climate change and ending male supremacy.

Joared said...

This idealization and failure to view others realistically is an important topic in today's world. That's how we in the U.S. ended up with who we have leading our government. Seems much more prevalent today than fifty years ago, with less selectivity. I think the idealism of ideas and how we view other people does tend to lessen as we get older. Perhaps how soon that happens in our lives depends partially on what experiences we have from the time we are children. I can't recall ever idealizing anyone, so have found the U.S. 's increasingly celebrity-worshiping culture rather unfortunate, to say the least. I may appreciate and admire certain aspects of a person's skills, talents, personality, behavior, appearance, but the bottom line is they all pull their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, so what's the big deal? Some of them are jerks or have jerky moments just like us. A few of them with whom I've interacted I've found to be down-to-earth and mostly wanting to be protected from celebrity worshipers -- not wanting them as their new best friends, but walking the fine line to maintain that following.

nick said...

Scarlet: Well said. There are plenty of arenas elsewhere for virtuous political debate.

nick said...

Joared: Celebrity worship is increasing in the UK as well. People with absolutely no claim to fame, people who're totally talentless and gormless, attract wild adulation. Outrageous off-the-cuff remarks are valued more than thoughtful, considerate ones. As you say, we all pull our pants on one leg at a time, nobody is superhuman. And yes, most of the celebrities themselves are sick of the claustrophobic celeb-worship, sick of the paparazzi, sick of being pointed out on the street, and just want to be treated like A N Other.

chloe said...

I answered your answer to Greta. I'm quite engaged that's true. I think everyone can do something even on a small level , no need to have special leaders to show the way.

nick said...

Chloe: I agree.

Secret Agent Woman said...

"the bitchiness, the self-doubt, the competitiveness, the begrudgery." If you feel like you're shutting this out in all women, maybe you don't really idealize women or even think much of us at all? Seems like such a sweeping negative view of what must be overlooked in women.

I don't think I tend to be an idealizer. I think people are flawed but often mostly good.

nick said...

Agent: That's a bit harsh. To say I don't think much of women is ridiculous. It's men I don't think much of (with some honourable exceptions of course). Personally I don't see those attitudes in women very much, it's what women themselves say about other women. I've even heard feminist friends complaining about the attitude of other feminists.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Actually, it a question, not a statement about how you are generalizing (that's why I included a question mark). I'm wondering why the broad perception that you have to shut out all that about women. I don't even think all women talk that way about other women. That sure isn't true in the women I have as friends.

nick said...

Agent: I think you misunderstood what I was saying, or maybe I was expressing myself badly. I wasn't generalising about all women, I was only saying that I tend to overlook their negative qualities - and those were just a few examples of what I glossed over. Of course ALL women don't talk that way about other women. What an alarming possibility!