A generation of manufactured adolescent bands has produced exactly two “true” stars: Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, and even then think about how hard Timberlake had to work to be treated as a true celebrity. Why? Because as much as we may momentarily embrace the kind of contrived celebrity that comes with a boy band, deep down we don’t trust that kind of fame.
Oh, but love, you say — that’s dangerous, because that’s where we’ve been trained to expect the most. You know, we’ve accepted that we can’t be happy unless we have everything: a soul mate, amazing sex, lots of money, all of it, and forever, for our whole lives.
The real story here — the less controversial one, the more interesting and possibly instructive one — is that historically, immigrant groups tend to experience upward mobility in America until the third generation, and then, for reasons unknown, tend to level off.
They couldn’t have picked a better place to try. San Francisco — at once high-tech and crumbling, ugly and beautiful, sunny but infuriatingly cold — has always struck me as a temporary city. It’s a place people go to find themselves. Once their search is over, they tend to move on.
Our limited working memory means we’re bad at arithmetic, and so no one does long division anymore. Our memories are unreliable, so we have supplemented them with electronic storage. The human brain, compared with a computer, is bad at networking with other brains, so we have invented tools, like Wikipedia and Google search, that aid that kind of interfacing.
The idea of a famous white person embarrassing or tarnishing the reputation of the entire race is a bewildering concept to even consider. But it’s commonplace when an individual from any minority group does something that could be considered “uncouth.” And when that happens, some embrace the individual and others do anything in their power to dissociate. Or to label that person an anomaly.