Derek Taylor
Derek Taylor

The price of fame 

Do you want to be famous? A lot of people do and if you don’t fancy yourself another Napoleon or George Washington, you can still avoid anonymity and get your name in the paper.

There are rules though. To begin with you need a crusade. It is seldom good enough to say “I’m Fred Smith and I’m famous”. Nobody is going to believe you. You also haven’t got much chance if you’ve invented a new Glacier Lettuce.

So let’s start from the beginning. Let’s say you’re a minor academic. So why not write a paper in which you accuse your University Colombian Society of working with their government to import cocaine into this country.

No, of course, it doesn’t have to be true. All it needs is enough people who dislike drugs and think they all come from Colombia.

And if you’re a local politician instead of an academic? Say Chair of the Westward Ho Labour party. Alright nobody’s heard of you but you’ll get lots of publicity if you accuse the Israelis of freezing the Jordan. The United Nations will vote for that and you can spread it on social media.

You might get criticised by the Labour leadership but at least somebody has now heard of the Westward Ho Labour Party and you’ll even get an audience. Other ways of getting famous are more dangerous. You can yell racial abuse at football matches but in this country you can get fined a small fortune for that.

It’s equally dangerous to beat up old people in Stamford Hill. That’s guaranteed to get you hunted down by the police.

Well, how about driving through North London and shouting abuse through a megaphone. That will get lots of publicity and you’ll be famous; or at least infamous. For years your one demonstration will be recalled, even if it is roundly condemned by over 90% of the public.

Your problem is that Britain is a country where racialism isn’t cricket. It was once, and statues of slave owners are under threat all over the country.  William Penn of Pennsylvania, for instance whose memorial is on the face of All Hallows by the Tower Church. It’s the oldest church in the City, dating back to William the Conqueror and Domesday Book at least.  Are they going to take down Penn’s memorial?

They’re certainly talking of removing Thomas Guy, who founded one of the finest hospitals in the country. If it hadn’t been such a lousy summer, we could have had our own demonstration, t

What about the Harewood family where the 6th Earl married Princess Mary, the daughter of George V.  Well, if we’re going to have a go at Gladstone because his father was a slave owner, how does the 6th  Earl stay in the royal history books when the first Earl had slaves.

Just how far does all this go? You’ve got to be very careful judging history. Long after we’re gone, the people of the 22nd century might well look back on our moral behaviour with abhorrence. They certainly did in Cromwellian times. But then again Charles II’s court was topless.

You can only live in the world in which you were born. You can criticise the past, but you can’t abolish it or even distort it. The truth will out. It also isn’t likely that the lies we believe will stand later examination. Marie Antoinette didn’t say ”Let them eat cake”.

As Kipling said: “And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame, And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame. But each for the love of the working and each in his separate star, Shall draw the Thing as he sees It, for the God of Things as They are.”

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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