‘Life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.’
I had to think of these sentences when reading this blog’s latest Weekend Read. The words are from the opening paragraph of The Society of the Spectacle, French Situationist Guy Debord’s fundamental critique of our society published in 1968. Why did they occur to my mind?
In the Weekend Reads our Contributing Editor Alex Tepperman enjoyably chronicles instances of celebrity drug scandals. This time he made a very important observation that deserves more attention. ‘The only perspective that Weekend Reads has not yet covered’, Alex wrote, ‘is that of the non-celebrity, the view that should matter most when we try to understand the broadest implications of American drug culture.’ And not only American drug culture, I would add from my Amsterdam study.
Celebrities are nice to read about, but they are a distraction as well. In fact, that is probably their most important function in our societies, American or European. They are the spectacle that we can gape at, but their lives are far removed from that of most of us. I fully agree with Alex’s remark that ‘while profiling [a celebrity] would be fun, however, it wouldn’t get us any closer to knowing the perspectives of those people early social historians referred to as the “inarticulate”.’ He then goes on to deal with instances of non-celebrities that have received media coverage in connection to drugs.
A very worthwhile exercise, let there be no doubt about that. But it only gets us of course to a limited extent to a better understanding of the “inarticulate”.