Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The market for truth

John Cleese was asked in a recent interview why so many people profess a desire to be famous.

"I think it's to have a sense of significance," he said. "Now most people don't want an ordinary life in which they do a job well, earn the respect of their collaborators and competitors, bring up a family and have friends. That's not enough any more, and I think that it's absolutely tragic - and I'm not exaggerating - that people feel like a decent, ordinary, fun life is no longer enough."

"One of the things I've discovered ... as I've got older," he continued, "is that almost nobody knows what they're talking about. Of course, we're still talking and we're having fun but you have to realize that, in terms of truth or reality, most of it is completely valueless."

It's easy to make fun of this sort of celebrity wisdom, but I think Cleese may have a point. Three points, really.

Firstly, the point about people not being satisfied with an ordinary life. This has a lot to do with the decline of a rich culture (customs, religion, etc.) which provided the sense of significance which is now lacking.

The second point is, if not literally and simply true, then only a slight exaggeration: "... almost nobody knows what they're talking about."

And the final point Cleese makes I would put another way, and say that the market for truth and reality is vanishingly small.