My husband has been away for what feels like an eternity. But one good thing that comes of his trips abroad is that I get to watch a LOT of trash TV, stuff that wouldn't ordinarily be allowed to flicker across our screens.
While watching the X-Factor and Pushy Mums, I kept hearing the same sentence expressed over and over again:
'I want to be somebody'
This line was usually followed with words like:
"I can't go back to my old life of being a nobody."
"Why would anybody want to be a nobody?"
"I want to be special"
"I want to be a somebody like Katie Price" (this last one is particularly worrying!)
I take no issue with people having ambition. But there are two things that sadden and worry me about the sentiment behind these words.
1. Firstly, these people view being famous as 'being somebody'. They don't want to be 'somebody' who can invent a cure for cancer or enable world peace or even simply be a really good singer for singing sake. 'Somebody' means having people recognising you in the street and screaming your name. They want the wealth, luxury, status and ego that goes with being 'somebody'.
Steve Jobs - he was a somebody. He invented products that have changed the way we as a society communicate, work and play. Now that's being somebody. Yet you don't get kids queuing up to be Britain's Best Inventor, bursting into floods of tears when their science experiments get the chop at boot camp (maybe ITV has this reality show in the pipeline - if not, perhaps I'll suggest it).
But would kids today think Steve Jobs was somebody? I asked my boys if they knew who Steve Jobs was. They didn't. I asked if they knew who the company was that made daddy's ipad. They said Apple. So they knew something. Intrigued about how much more they knew, I asked if they knew who the founder of Microsoft was. They asked: 'What's Microsoft?' A sign of the app-based times perhaps?
Isn't it a shame that children can name famous footballers and pop stars and actors but have barely heard of the great innovators in the world? I suppose they'd be ridiculed as geeks if they had posters of Bill Gates and Michael Dell and Steve Jobs and Richard Branson and James Dyson stuck on their walls. But imagine how different the world would be if kids believed that innovating and using your brain was cool instead of being able to warble a tune or kick a ball?
2. Secondly, what really, really saddened me is how so many of the people on these shows believe that without fame, they are nothing. A nobody.
Don't they realise that they are someone's child, someone's mum or dad, someone's brother/sister/teacher/work colleague/congregation member/member of society? Don't they realise that every single person has the potential to be something great and that greatness can be incredibly quiet and unassuming?
I know that secretly I would love to be able to achieve something extraordinary - no matter what that is - so that on my deathbed I could look back and feel proud that I made the most of my life. But it's highly likely that I won't invent the next big thing or become a world famous singer. I'll live an ordinary, unremarkable life. One that the people on those TV shows would describe as 'a nobody'.
But I know the truth. I am a somebody. To the people who matter the most. And that's what counts.