comparisons are malodorous

We seem to be gearing up once again for the Awards season. Get ready for Grammys, Oscars, Baftas, and a host off lesser(?) shindigs all conspiring to make a small number of people feel adored, and a great number of also-rans feel inadequate.

A glance at this morning’s news tells me that last night, in Nashville Tennessee, USA, a certain Taylor Swift was named Entertainer of the Year. No disrespect to Miss Swift, I’m sure she is blessed with many redeeming features, but many of the people I regularly sing to have never heard of her. Which makes her victory a perfect example of the kind of self-congratulatory delusion these extravaganzas perpetuate.

Our appetite for this form of voyeuristic nightmare grows exponentially, and appears to be insatiable. Witness the parade of lengthy TV ‘talent shows’ that seem to kick off one after another. X Factor, Pop Idol, Britain’s got Talent, and so on. And when that all runs out of steam, we will be treated to a series of  ‘The Top 100…blah blahs…Of All Time’.

In the field of sports, be they individual or the team variety, competition is part of the equation. Whether a race, a fight, or a game, within a certain time, someone is expected to win. Sportsmen thus not only train to be as good as they are able in their chosen fields, but they also spend time devising strategies for getting the better of their opponents. Even in the friendliest of matches, there remains a certain desire for victory.

Creative endeavours are surely a little different. True artists never set out to paint a picture, or write a song, intending to establish they are better than anybody. That’s not what motivates them. Justifiably or not, they may feel proud of the fruits of their labour, but that pride relates to what they have done, not in comparison to anything else. If I enjoy a book, or a film, it is for what it is, not for how it compares to other books or films.

Top Tens are compiled based on sales. No 1 is not a better CD than No 3. It has just sold more copies. In the end what stinks about these affairs is that commercial interests lie at the heart of them all. So in fact what is being measured is not talent, or excellence, but salesmanship. Who has persuaded the most people to buy their questionable product.

The saddest aspect of all this, is that an upcoming generation is  buying into the notion that these comparisons are of value, and that if they want to make their way in any of these fields, they must get used to strutting their stuff in front of panels of middle aged, rich people. And they must do anything they can to win their approval.

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