Vanity, Significance and Usefulness

By | 01/06/2015

We need to take a look at how vanity interferes with the way we evaluate people and their importance. In our current cultural environment, people who stand out are considered important. Attracting attention, as we know, brings a much-wanted form of erotic pleasure, and many people find it a source of great bliss, although it condemns them, in truth, to unhappiness, the burn of envy and the endless search of notoriety through any possible means. But the fact is that a person’s true social significance is completely unrelated to the level of attention they attract.

A beautiful woman, who never did anything relevant, stand outs, is admired and highly regarded; the son of a successful businessman, heir to a fortune he earned only by a lucky accident of birth, goes out in a luxury car and is the center of attention – these are the people who are famous and become celebrities nowadays. They attract admiration and the curiosity of “ordinary people,” and become the embodiment of teenagers’ dreams, who emulate their actions and copy their outfits.

This modern proclivity to classify people’s importance by their ability to draw attention to themselves has a very obvious bad side: it sends young people on an endless quest for attention, and drives them away from other, more gratifying, significant and useful pursuits.

These days, it seems like the word “important” is directly related to notoriety – an important person is someone who stands out, is rich, beautiful, thin and recognized by strangers. Under this definition, importance has nothing to do with the social usefulness of a person’s pursuits; it’s implicit that activities essential to life in society are minor and inferior. It’s a complete subversion of values.

In the world we live in, important are the people who show up on newspapers, magazines and blogs.

Some professions draw more attention than others, be it from sectors of the art and beauty industries that attract the interest of large corporations, or, say, famous chefs, trendy doctors and influential architects. It’s not that these pursuits aren’t important, but there are other extremely valuable and useful activities that get no recognition. Sadly, these less prominent, but immensely useful, professions are not as well remunerated. Fame and fortune walk together.

Television actors and renowned plastic surgeons are famous, respected and well paid. Nurses, teachers, cops and secretaries are not, however, and this is appalling, because few professions are more important. The person who teaches our children to read and write makes a pittance, because their job is not properly appreciated by society – yes, because salaries show how a community values certain professions.

It’s hard not to get angry at this injustice.

Let me repeat, I’m not minimizing the importance of high-profile activities, but I am saying we should appreciate more the people who quietly take care of sick people, of children’s education and of the safety of our cities and highways.

What about firefighters, who are called whenever disaster strikes? They might even get a bit of attention from the press for a few days, while the tragedy is still news, but then go straight back to anonymity. It doesn’t bother them, though; firefighters from all over the world seem to have love and pride for their job. These people get a deep-seated satisfaction from their jobs and, as a result, many are much happier than the rich and famous. But they still deserve better treatment.

Tradução: Amanda Morris