Fame Mistaken for Expertise

By Abel Merawi

Healthcare-EthiopiaMay 4, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- In times of crisis, information and better understanding are indispensable for survival. But it is difficult to have a thorough understanding when your main sources of information are famous people. We are currently dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic, and every time we turn on the TV or other mainstream media, we meet famous personalities rather than experts. We see interviews with musicians, sports personalities, actors, and comedians regarding the spread of the virus. Activists and popular politicians dominate the limelight, ready to show us how to best protect ourselves from the pandemic. Social media is crammed by the posts of idolized personalities from across the world. To make matters worse, we hear the opinion of the majority regarding the regulations. This was clearly seen when American citizens go out and protest the temporary shutdown of businesses in support of President Donald Trump. All these things stand as a barrier between the people and experts.

The dominance of fame coupled with the silencing of real medical experts is sad to witness. For instance, every contribution made by public figures is given recognition while the daily struggle of healthcare workers goes unnoticed. It seems like a sponsored advertisement whenever rich people make donations accompanied by a ceaseless speech on how good they are and trivia on how people should protect themselves. Then, there are discussions by various academicians from all fields except medicine, holding discussions, and giving us lessons on how to behave during such times. The message from the World Health Organization and other official institutes is communicated through famous people. The only ones left out from the scene are the essential medical experts. This makes us question the intention of famous people and more critically examine the mentality of the majority.

The respect for fame is not new; it has been the dominant feature of our modern world ever since the primacy of postmodernism. This ideology stands against anything concrete and it has slowly eaten away our values. In the postmodern world, the opinion of the experts is valued no higher than the opinion of the majority of the famous personality. This misconception led us to disregard concrete facts or truth and view everything subjectively. The mistake was clearly explained by Socrates in ‘Apology’ when he asks whether you should value the opinion of friends or a physician regarding your health. Just because your friends care about you or famous people care about the current situation, it doesn’t mean they have the solutions. In ‘Twilight of the Idols’, Friedrich Nietzsche warns the world by saying, "Never make equal what is unequal." Assuming everyone is right, is truly the wrong sort of equality. Yet, this equality of the unequal is the deal we made in accepting postmodernism.

The consequence of mistaking fame for expertise can be calamitous. Think of a comedian or an artist making a play about the novel coronavirus in a humorous manner and its consequence on the audience. People will begin to downplay the seriousness of the disease. I am not going to name such artists because, for them, every publicity is good publicity. When supermodels and famous artists talk about environmental and gender issues, the result has been negligence and more destruction. I fear the same as the current pandemic. The medical experts who have firsthand experience in fighting against COVID-19, have seen the consequence and are proper authority to inform the people. Anything else is a mockery on the people for it implies that people are ignored unless they are lured by entertainment as children.  

To clearly understand this trend, it is wise to question the intention of these unauthorized opinion leaders. Some of these people crave the attention of the people and seek every opportunity to gain admiration. The same is true of modern intellectuals who walk with an air of knowing everything. It is best to always stick to what one knows because as Nietzsche says, “Wisdom sets limits to knowledge too.” Any person who tries to exploit the current crisis ought to know that this is not the time. The mainstream media should also set the priority right. Sadly, more audience could be gained from interviewing famous people about COVID-19 while losing the purpose of having the interview in the first place. The media has a responsibility to the people, which translates into presenting facts and clear information. As always, such entertainers will try to take over a social problem and make it about them, but the media can stand as a guardian of the people.

The fault is not always on these attention seekers because their existence depends on the reaction of the people. The majority of people love to hear about the life of football players or artists. But no one wants to hear about the life of doctors. Currently, there are many silly programs on the media that show us how a famous artist is ‘coping with the virus’. Yet you hardly see any program showing how a real doctor is dealing with patients in quarantine centers and how it affects personal life. We valued the unimportant because we don’t want someone who is better, we just want to be the same! Nietzsche predicts the coming of our current world in ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ when he said: “No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.” Most people prefer comfort than the truth, they admire the famous because they want to be like them.  

While the famous ones are entertaining the people, healthcare workers are saving lives and losing theirs too. Last week, as published in The New York Times, Dr. Loran M. Breen, who worked in a Manhattan hospital committed suicide because of the stress she faced treating patients of COVID-19. They faced such mental strain to help people, but sadly we prefer the opinion of famous people. These doctors do not seek fame, they seek solutions. Nietzsche remarked, “Around the inventors of new values, the world revolves: invisibly it revolves. But around the actors revolve the people and fame: that is "the way of the world.” Yes, the real change will come from the healthcare workers, but even then the credit is given to entertainers and politicians. Hitherto, this has been the absurd way of the world, but it is not to let to change our ways.


Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.

Other articles by Abel Merawi:

The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers

A Time to Reflect

The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!

History of Pandemics in Ethiopia

Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective

Crisis Profiteers

You Can Make a Difference

Rule of Law for a Free Society


The Origins of Law

Determinants of Market Value: Part II

Determinants of Market Value: Part I

Your life Matters Too

Manifestations of Artistic Expression

Achievements vs Natural Accidents

The Grip of Sacrifice

Injustice is Never Justifiable

Education Demands of the Future

Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future

The Shift From Racism to Culturism

Sacrificing Meaning for Power?

Culture and Market Forces

Intersubjective Reality

Seeking Cosmic Justice

National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations

Are We Truly Free?

Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy

Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group

The Value of Work

The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System

Intellectuals and the People

Where Are Our Pathfinders?

The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders

The Truth Behind Humanity

The Seven Virtues

The Seven Deadly Sins

What is the right thing to do?

Building National Identity

Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change

Mob Violence

Living the Truth as a Human Being

Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others

The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them

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