Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Pecking Order

It seems that writers aren't the only creative folk with a pecking order of respectability. Singers also have one. (Via Russell Kirkpatrick's blog.)

With writers, we have the authors of "literary" works (whatever that may mean) at the top and romance and fantasy somewhere down at the bottom. Some science fiction writers class their works waaaay above that of fantasy. There is one very famous sci fi writer who at cons - when told by an author that they write fantasy - is wont to say "What a waste".

Now it seems that the diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is stepping on a few toes by insulting a young NZ singer who dares to a) be popular and b) use a mike. She describes Hayley Westenra - who sings light classics and sometimes her own songs - as 'a fake who will not last', who is 'not in my world and never will be.'

'I've had a 40-year career,' she said, 'but these people, two or three years and they're gone.'

I find it astonishing how patronising and petty some people at the top can be, in blatant contrast to how helpful and kind others are. Fortunately - the sci fi writer above being an exception - I seem to encounter more of the latter.

3 comments:

jason said...

I find myself wondering how someone learns humility; is it an inherent trait in their personality, perhaps inculcated during childhood? Does it require one or more major events that teach the individual that perhaps no one person is "better" than another?

The examples cited (and we've all encountered individuals like this) appear to have lived their lives without ever being humbled. Perhaps their personalities simply make them immune to such experiences?

I'd hope that their behaviour should be self-correcting: do they really not care how others react? Are there enough people around them who just ignore such behaviour?

Believing one's own publicity does seem like a very, very dangerous path to take...

Glenda Larke said...

Interesting question. A bit of both? We are urged to build self-esteem in our children, yet if we are too successful in that, do we also not perhaps encourage a lack of humility? I dunno.

jason said...

Too much self-esteem appears to have led (at least in the US) to kids who are told they are wonderful at everything they do, and emerge from the school system with a huge amount of self-confidence... which is then shattered when they find out they're really not as good as they've been told.

It seems like it's been taken too far; the best answer (in my humble opinion!) is to give everyone, including kids, honest feedback. Praise them when they do well, but also point out when they've screwed up. Help them to help themselves, so to speak.