Brief Thoughts on the Foibles of Famous Contributors to Society

Food for thought: Is it wrong to bring up famous artists’ and humanitarians’ foibles? MLK, Jr. and JFK were notorious womanizers. The poet Wallace Stevens and writer Virginia Woolf were racist pro-colonialists. Gandhi tyrannized his wife and children. Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote the masterpiece novel THE MISTS OF AVALON, allowed her husband to sexually abuse their children. Mother Theresa schmoozed with dictators without challenging their committing of cruelties. The list goes ever on. Ultimately, no famous person was truly a saint. For many, they were far from being so. But, sometimes I feel more readily neutral and able to still engage with the contributions of a person more easily than another’s. It all depends, case by case. However, I generally can and do eventually get to a place of appreciating someone’s work regardless of the individual’s shortcomings in their lifetime. That all said, I don’t think any messengers conveying the wrongdoings of a famous contributor to society should be shamed or vilified. It is important to learn from the mistakes of others so as not to repeat them.

3 thoughts on “Brief Thoughts on the Foibles of Famous Contributors to Society

  1. I agree with all you say.
    People get so upset when their favorite celebs’, artists’, spiritual leaders’, philanthropists’, etc. are revealed to have moral and/or ethical failings. Why? It bursts the bubble of the ideal.

    There’s a saying “never meet your heroes…” and for good
    reason—they’re human and live lives fraught with mess-ups just like the rest of us (though some mess up far more catastrophically than others, obviously). I do get disappointed when I find out ugh stuff about people whose work I’ve loved previously (Pablo Picasso and Woody Allen spring to mind and there are many more…) because I can never experience the work in the same way. You can’t “un-know” something. It’s a grief, really, but I would not want to NOT know.

    Ignorance isn’t bliss. Ignorance is just ignorance. Yet people don’t want to know things because it can be scary and painful and cause anxiety and sadness and grief.

    Don’t dare burst my bubble!
    (Argh…no wonder we’re in the state of things we are today…)

    BTW from word/quote nerd: the origin of “never meet your heroes is something of a hot debate, but IMHO, the front runner is Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary (1856): “Il ne faut pas toucher aux idoles: la dorure en reste aux mains.” Translated: “You should never touch your idols: a little of the gold always rubs off.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate all your thoughts here.

      I am in the midst of writing a review of SPARE, the brand new autobiography by the very controversial public figure Prince Harry. It is a fascinating and often heart-rending read, even if it may very well not be true in some places. Prince Harry is no hero, but he’s not a villain either for opening up about the Royal family and their very human problems. The overall themes of the book are important such as healing from relational trauma and discussing the damaging golden child and scapegoat roles that manifest time and again in so many families.

      Some, if not all, sacred cow institutions need to be brought down to humanity and understood as being mixed with positives and negatives.

      Liked by 1 person

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