348. Let’s Locate Our Power and Use it (Kelly Maddox)

Original video by TheFourQueens. Official website: here, YouTube account: here. The following text in this entry is a transcript.

When the world is a little bit topsy-turvy, I like to begin with a good cup of tea. Don’t you? (Whispers.) I do. (Holds up a mug of tea and sips.) Mmm!

Hey there, kittens. I’m not really sure what this video is going to be. But I do feel compelled to make it. So, I’m just basically going to let my instincts take control. I’m going to flow into it and just see what comes out, what comes along, and spend a bit of time with you guys, you know? ‘Cause it’s been…a crazy few days, and I think–I think that’s fair to say! I think that’s fair, yeah? It’s a fair comment.

I knew that whatever the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election, I was not going to be over the moon in any way. I accurately predicted that with the outcome being Donald Trump, I would definitely feel (laughs) a lot more panicked and, umm, that my response would have probably somewhat of a nihilistic flavor to it, like, well, hey! If Donald Trump’s the President of the U.S.A. then why don’t we all just do what the fuck we like? (Laughs.) Right? Why do we have any rules? Why do we have any laws? Like…Everything is just on its head, you know. And that was definitely my initial reaction. I did feel like I was in the fucking Twilight Zone. A hundred percent.

But I want to be clear: There’s no bone in my body that’s pro-Hillary. I think that part of the reason that Trump is now heading to the White House is that the liberal agenda was to present Hillary as the sane, sensible choice. And actually, there is a hell of a lot wrong with her, too. You know? There’s a hell of a lot wrong with Obama. There’s like, it’s kind of, it was set up like that and I think that was dangerous. I think Hillary was seen as more of the same, and I think Donald Trump was then seen by a lot of people who are…scared, or feel disenfranchised, or don’t know any better…umm…as the only option for change. The only way to shake things up. And I have a lot of opinions. A lot of opinions about that. And about like, you know, Hillary being selected as the candidate over Bernie Sanders, and how things could’ve gone down differently, and I like to look at things [00:02:00 subjunctively].

That’s not what this video is going to be about, but let me just be clear, you know, had Hillary Clinton have gotten into the White House, I definitely wouldn’t have been over the moon, either. I read a comment on Facebook the other day that said something like, ‘I don’t know how to tell my children when they sit down for breakfast in the morning that hatred now holds the highest office in the world.’ And that was a lot of what I felt, you know. A lot of what Donald Trump symbolizes, a lot of his rhetoric, a lot of his comments…umm, they’re insidious. They’re clearly fucking odious. And there may be a very small minority of people who watch my channel regularly who did vote for Trump or are supporters of Trump, and obviously this video is not necessarily designed to cater for you. But I think there’s probably an even smaller minority of people who watch my videos on a regular basis, who would be surprised to learn that, like, I’m not pro-Trump and never was. (Laughs.) You know? So I don’t think this video’s going to come as a surprise to anybody.

There is so much confusion, and bewilderment, and anger, and apathy, and frustration, and alienation in the psycho-spiritual community right now. And it’s been interesting for me to feel the dust settle inside my own psyche and figure out where the [00:02:16 land lies now] you know? And what it is what I really want to do, how I want to choose my response to this. I’m going to start by reading the status update that I put on Facebook about this the other day, which, for a lot of people that read my Facebook page regularly, did seem to be some comfort during a really difficult time. So I’m going to start by reading that.

I know that lots of people out there in the psycho-spiritual community are feeling disjointed, disempowered, confused and overwhelmed at the moment. I know that we’re all going through our own individual ups and downs, and perhaps can’t always be the beacons of strength and empathy to each other that we would like to be, as we grapple with things in our own ways. I know that some people don’t know where to turn, who it’s safe to reach out to or what to say to comfort those who are feeling afraid. I just want to hold a hand out now to anyone who might happen upon this status and chance to read it during an uncertain moment.

The truth is that your response to this outcome is an autonomous zone. No one else gets to vote on what you choose to do next. Your response to this is your sovereignty in action. You CAN and you MUST locate the sources of power within yourself and bring them into consciousness, into beingness, into the light. If you are jarred, scared, confused or angered, it means that you have deeply held ethics, intentions and beliefs. Find them now, and ask them to lead you forward. If you believe in love, freedom, equality, compassion, acceptance and empathy, then those beliefs are now your sacred fuel. No one can stop you from being in the seat of your own power.

What can you do to spread love? What can you do to create positive change? What will you do to stand in solidarity with those who truly need to feel that their place in this world is valid? How will you put your spiritual ideas into action? How will you begin by just doing your seemingly small but incredibly significant part?

I know it’s so hard to feel powerful right now. But you ARE. You can create a ripple in this dark water, and so can I, and so can anyone who is prepared to take the scary, holy step out of their confines of apathy and into the fire of their deepest vision for this planet.

Let this be a rallying cry from the cosmos.

I know where I’ve been slacking. I know where I could be more present. I know where my love is more needed. I know that I want to be a piece of positive change in this place. I am slowly beginning to raise my head and decide that I’m going to let these events drive me out of my hibernation and further into the good that I can do when I set my mind and soul to it.

Let this pain inspire you…

I’ll leave the link to that Facebook post down below if you want to read it again at any point, or share it, you can do.

I was watching an interview, that a guy from Huff posted, with Gabby Bernstein. It was kind of like a 45-minute, you know, the dust has settled let’s really feel our feelings and anchor into our purpose kind of talk about the election results. In that interview, Gabby Bernstein said that her response to the result of the election…was not a spiritual response. It was not. You know, she didn’t instantly go to Love, and instantly go to Inspired Action, and think about, you know, where she’s better needed and what she can do and how she can be of service and…She was rage-filled. She was fucking angry. As a woman, as a survivor of sexual violence, as somebody who believes in compassion and equality, as somebody who believes in spiritual and religious freedom, umm, you know? She was fucking pissed off.

And to me, that was the most helpful thing that she said, actually. Was that she didn’t have a spiritual response. And that it was a loss, and it’s okay. It’s okay to recognize it as a loss. And like I said, you know, at the beginning of this video — I’m under no illusion about the two-party system in America. I’m under no illusion about what Democrats have been doing overseas, their foreign policy, the things that they’re lying about, the money that they’re embezzling, the corruption that they’re neck-deep in…I’m not under any illusion about that. I do not think Hillary is a paragon of liberal virtue. Not at all!

But when a guy that openly says racist and misogynistic and hateful things, and clearly has no background in politics, no true understanding of how the political system works, is near totally fucking ignorant of things that even I have a decent working knowledge of…when that guy wins over Hillary? You know, it’s…Your instant response is not really going to be a spiritual one! And I think that that’s the first thing that I’d like to say, is that it’s okay for us to hold space for ourselves and each other, to have a response that may not, when you look at it objectively, be described accurately as ‘useful’. You know? The initial response, I guess it’s ‘useful’ to externalize the rage and the bewilderment and the anguish. Long-term, it’s not going to be useful, it’s not going to be useful to ‘drop anchor’ there. But I think it’s really important to recognize that those responses tend to come first, before the dust settles and we think about what it is we can do — and how we can allow ourselves to feel that inner call to action.

For me (sigh) I would say…it probably took me about 48 hours to get my head together enough to think about what I wanted to do next. What was the thing that I wanted to do? How could I really kind of channel — channel the energy, channel the bewilderment?

I’m very fortunate, because I have like a platform online that I’ve built, which is a lot to do with reaching out to people and having dialogue with people, and sharing ideas, and providing comfort, and providing inspiration. And so, for me, that was a big part of what I considered to be my coping strategy, was just thinking…how can I be there for my ‘tribe’: for the people I hang out with online, my audience, my clients? And I did receive e-mails, I have had clients either scheduling extra sessions or rescheduling sessions that they had set in wake of the election results, just dealing with the response that they’re having to the election results…I’ve had people messaging me, asking me to make a video or wondering what my thoughts are. And I’ve definitely experienced, as I’ve been scrolling through Facebook and stuff, and looking at some of the spiritual peeps that I follow, just a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of discussion, a lot of dialogue, about our emotions and what’s happening within us as a result of this. For me, it was definitely nice to have that feeling of, like, I can do something for people. I can put something out into the world that will be useful. So I started to think about that, and that was a big part of where my sense of center came from. It was just basically, how can I be of service to people who are feeling bewildered and overwhelmed, and are kind of looking for things to inspire them or calm them down?

The other thing that I allowed myself to think about quite a lot, that I do tend to encourage myself to think about in times like this, and I did it as well during the whole Brexit situation, and a lot of the very hateful behavior that came up during that time…was I thought about my personal ethics, my beliefs, you know? And the way that I want to walk out into the world every single day. [00:10:00] The vibe that I want to bring to it, the things that I really want to share with people, and the energy, the vibration that I want to hold. And I thought about the fact that that’s where my agency is.

I think a lot of us are just feeling really, really fucking disempowered, like supremely powerless. Powerless to change what is happening, strapped into this rollercoaster of…inexcusable weirdness, at times, I felt. And powerless. And actually, that is an illusion. We all have agency. We all have the power to create a ripple in this dark water. And I just started thinking about that. I started thinking about how I could be of service, you know? I started by texting my friends and making sure they were okay, making sure that I was creating a vibe of openness and availability in my friendship group.

Giving to the food bank. Thinking about organizations that I could get involved with or join or learn more about. Reading articles, and reading think pieces, and opening up my mind up to different things, you know? Taking the time to really sit with myself and nurture myself and care for myself in the process of all of this. And get my brain oiled in a different way.

I’ve tried to look for the positive things. I’ve thought about how many cultural commentators and writers and things like that I’ve either overlooked or never discovered before, and as a result of being very interested in this election, and now reeling from the result, I’ve actually engaged with a lot of people’s work, and got a few new books on my book list and that’s been cool just from a personal perspective.

And just really thinking about how I can carry the energy of helpfulness and acceptance and my belief in equality. Just making people feel comfortable, making people feel included — in any way I can possibly can. And just trying to be kinder, you know? Even just while I’m out in the street, just making sure that I engage with people, and I give them eye contact, and I just make everybody feel seen and heard and loved. And just try and put that energy out into the world. And all of this has come as a direct result of me sitting down and thinking, what is my little piece of agency in this world right now? Where’s my power? Where’s my power at?

(Laughs.) I need to focus on that! You know? And I’ve been focusing on that, and my hope is that more and more of you, as the days are going on, are being able to focus on that as well, to focus on what you can do for your community, what kind of energy you want to carry with you out into the world, and how you’re not going to allow some of the incredibly potent fear that is clearly infiltrating all different areas of society right now…turn you into somebody who’s fearful, into somebody who rejects others, into somebody who is suspicious of others, and insecure about others, and wanting to snatch power and civil liberties from others.

It’s about knowing where your center is, and where you’re coming from, and not letting those things influence you to be other than what you know you are to be in your soul. There’s so much work to do now, and that’s something that can actually help you bring your A-game to every new day. And another thing that I was thinking about in the last sort of like 48 hours or so, is Shadow Work, and self-love as a daily practice, and digging deep and really anchoring in to self-discovery and self-awareness and self-mastery.

These things that we do, that we talk about with each other, you know, the courses that we pay for, the videos and the audio files that we listen to, the books that we read, these concepts that we have dialogue about…all of that isn’t for nothing. All of that isn’t for vanity! It’s not a fucking caprice! You do that…as training…for this bullshit! (Laughs.) This is what you’ve been training for, you know? And I know some of you watching this video have been training for a hell of a lot longer than me, you know? I know people watch me that have been meditating for upwards of 30 years. I know people watch me that have done upwards of 30 Ayuhuasca ceremonies deep in the jungle with a really experienced shaman. I know people have done all kinds of incredible things, you know, people have been forging their own paths, weaving their own practices, learning so much about themselves and about transpersonal experience and how to plug themselves in and how to turn this shit up! Now! On planet! In this lifetime! I know activists watch me, people that literally have thrown their bodies over Mother Nature in the service of Her greatness.

I know that there’s amazing people out there that watch me, people that have overcome all kinds of mental health difficulties, and triumphed over dark, dark nights of the fucking soul. You’ve done your work! You’re doing your work! You’re coming to your work. And this. Is what. It’s for. This is where the training wheels come off.

Because really, we’re looking at Shadow. We’re looking at Shadow unfolding now. That’s what I truly believe, you know? I truly believe that. The way that Jung was watching the rise of Hitler, and being like (side-eye) “Yeah, ahem, guys? We need to look within!” ‘Cause what we don’t want to see within ourselves is manifesting outwardly…and it’s not great! (Squeezes eyes shut.) It’s not good!

Umm. (Laughs.) That’s how I feel right now. And I feel like that’s the perfect time, then. That’s the perfect time to come at this with everything that I’ve tried to learn. (Nods.) All the strength that I’ve tried to develop. Now’s the time for you to show yourself what you can do. Show your loved ones what you can do. This is the challenge. This is the challenge almost that you’ve been training for, that you’ve been preparing for…If you feel bewildered, if you feel uncertain, if you feel like you don’t know where to start? Start with that realization.

You know, I really feel like…obviously, I run a YouTube channel. It’s not an invite-only situation. Anybody can show up and watch my videos, and there are lots of different kinds of people that do watch my videos. I’m really grateful for that, but I feel like the vast majority of people that watch my videos are people who’ve been doing some fucking work on themselves, you know? For some length of time or another. And if you’re watching this and you know you’ve been doing that work, and you’ve been showing up, you’ve been trying to love yourself more and really just dive into your darkness and bring it into integration, if you have been reading about how to live life on a deeper level, how to experience things with more meaning, how to let go of your fear, how to overcome depression…If you’ve been doing any of that shit, if you’ve been meditating, if you’ve been learning tarot, if you’ve been in the process of learning any spiritual discipline, just know that you’ve been training, you know? You’ve been preparing for this. You’ve been getting in shape for this. And that’s a really good starting point, I think. That’s somewhere that I was happy to start, and something that I’ve thought about a lot. And you know, that initial reaction, like Gabby Bernstein said, you know, we’ve got to have room for that shit, of course. You’ve got to have a meltdown. You’ve got to go and hit a punching bag. You’ve got to get that extra session with a therapist. You’ve got to let it go! You’ve got to let it out. But, I really feel like after that, come home to this sense that you’ve got this. You’ve got this.

Your agency is somewhere, it’s somewhere within your grasp, it’s somewhere within your reach. You do not have the agency to turn this around and go back, but you do have the agency to make a difference now that it’s happening. You do have that agency. You do have that power. You can make somebody feel better. You can switch up the vibration in a room. You can teach somebody a chant or a mantra or a prayer that you use that helps you. You can pass one of your loved ones a crystal, and say, “You know what? I know you don’t believe in this shit, but I want you to have this. It’s a master communication stone, and it will help you to express what you want to express or, you know, it’s a stone for creativity and I think it wants to belong to you.” You can take someone a coffee. You can ask if somebody if they want to go for a walk. You can deliver some warm clothes to a homeless shelter. You can offer to walk someone’s dog if they’re feeling a bit frail or sad or under the weather.

Figure out where you can put a bit of your time, where you can give a bit of your money, figure out what’s going on that you agree with that you think is good and positive that you want to get involved in. Think about those things that you were planning on doing for ages that you thought would be a really good idea that you kind of wanted to do but you always convinced yourself you didn’t have time or you weren’t good enough or there’d be a better moment to do it. I’d say the moment is now, wouldn’t you? Because after being slapped on one cheek with Brexit and now being slapped on the other one with this, I’d say the time is definitely fucking now, you know? Anything, anything you want to do to bring that positivity and make that change? Do it now.

The beautiful thing is that that is such a good use of our energy. (Sighs.) We have to have that ungraceful, unmanageable reaction where we do feel rage, and we do feel bewilderment, and we do feel frustration. But that incredible ball of holy electric life force, you know, that comes out of us in that display of rage or that externalization of fear and anguish? That is raw! That is key! That is off the fucking chain! We can do something with that! We can take that. We can harness it. We can redirect it into an avenue where it actually will do something. It will be planted like a seed, and it will grow. It will make other things happen. It will be a catalyst. It will be a part of the alchemy that we need to celebrate and bring into beingness now. So, hold space for your anger. Hold space for your raw terror. And then know that that stuff is power, and you can shape that power according to your beliefs and according to the needs of your self and those around you.

So for me, it was like saying, okay, this is my time to break down, this is my time to flip out…and believe me, okay, it was 6 o’ clock in the morning, umm, and I was going through Facebook, and I realized things were going the way they were going, and I shit you not, I had a panic attack for the first time in years. [00:20:00] I’m just going to be honest. I did. I had a panic attack. I started to hyperventilate. (Breathes.) Umm, it was, it was, it was…shit got real, you know? It was legit, that’s all I’m going to say. And it was difficult. It was a difficult moment for me. And I let that happen. I rode that out. But there’s a lot of power in that, that raw reaction comes from a place of deep belief, and deep intention, and deep love, and that is some pure, real, potent, grade-A uncut shit. That is beautiful. We need to learn how to use it. We need to channel it, we need to harness it.

And when we harness it, and take it away from screaming judgments and obscenities and feeling resentful, and feeling alienated from our fellow human beings and feeling rageful and shutting down and crying and sobbing and doing things we know that are bad for us because we don’t know what else to do…When we take that power away from that cycle, and we put it into what is the next right action? Who can I help? Where can I put this energy? Who needs me? Where are people mobilizing? What can I do to show somebody that I care that they are heard? That their life is fucking valid, that their life has meaning?

That is Alchemy. That’s spiritual Alchemy! And you can do that! You have the power to do that! Every single moment of the day is another moment to choose Alchemy, to choose to be the master of that change.

I think I’ll come back and do another video later because this is my brand new video camera, and it’s not telling me how long I’ve been filming for, because I didn’t remember to kind of go into the settings and put that capability on.

[caption: I’ve actually had it on the wrong light setting and I messed the audio up a little by keeping autofocus on. But hey ho – you live, you learn!]

So I’m not sure how long I’ve been filming for, I’m not sure how long I’ve got left on the camera, I definitely want to pull some cards, I definitely want to do a Tea and Tarot episode pertaining to using our power, finding our sense of personal agency. So I’ll be back! I’ll be back, I have a lot to say, I want to sit with you guys for a lot longer. I want to feel your presence so much. I want to read your comments so much. And I’m sending so much love to you.

Come and hang out with me on Facebook if you want to. Come and hang out with me on Twitter. If you are looking for journal prompts, if you are big on writing to externalize the emotions that you’re going through, I have just literally published 50 journal prompts which were specifically designed as a response to this complete clusterfuck. And maybe you want to use some of them to help you to explore your feelings and, you know, deal with your fears and come to a point of inspired action, so I’ll leave the link for the 50 journal prompts below, please check that out.

If you want to book a spiritual counseling session with me, if you want to have a chat with me, if you want to have a cup of tea with me, I’m available to clients as always, go to kelly-annmaddox.com and click on the Work With Me tab. I’ll leave the link below for the spiritual counseling sessions specifically. If you’ve never spoken to me before, never worked with me before, and you think now might be a good time? I’m ready. I do hour-long sessons and 90-minute long sessons, so come and see me if that’s something that you want to do, if that’s something you would like o invest in, then I’m here.

I’m going to sing you out with a chant. It’s my fucking favorite. If you don’t chant, and you’re feeling stressed, you should chant. It’s a very good use of time. Very good use of time and energy.

Okay, let’s raise this motherfucker up to the roof. (Chimes.)

Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo
Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo

That means: ‘I bow to the teacher that lives inside me.’ And we have to do that now. That’s the fucking plan, okay? So we’ll reconvene here, sooner rather than later, I’ll be back, you know where to find me if you need me. Much, much love, pickles. And blessed be.

Marcela Speaks

KnightExcerpt from Chapter 14 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Translation by Edith Grossman, transcribed from audio by Recorded Books 2003
(voice by George Guidall)

(As a character, Marcela gave one of the most lucid arguments I’ve ever read against the sexual objectification of women and coerced consent. This book, and by extension this mic-drop worthy monologue, was published in 1605.)

The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

There will be no need to spend much time or waste many words to persuade discerning men of truth…

Heaven made me, as all of you say, so beautiful that you cannot resist my beauty and are compelled to love me. And because of the love you show me, you claim that I am obliged to love you in return. I know, with the natural understanding that God has given me, that everything beautiful is lovable—but I cannot grasp why, simply because it is loved, the thing loved for its beauty is obliged to love the one who loves it.

Further, the lover of the beautiful thing might be ugly, and since ugliness is worthy of being avoided, it is absurd for anyone to say, “I love you because you are beautiful! You must love me, even though I am ugly.” But in the event the two are equally beautiful, it does not mean that their desires are necessarily equal, for not all beauties fall in love. Some are a pleasure to the eye, but do not surrender their will, because if all beauties loved and surrendered, there would be a whirl of confused and misled wills, not knowing where they should stop. For since beautiful subjects are infinite, desires would have to be infinite, too.

According to what I have heard, true love is not divided—and must be voluntary, not forced. If this is true, as I believe it is, why do you want to force me to surrender my will? Obliged to do so, simply because you say you love me? But if this is not true, then tell me: If the Heaven that made me beautiful had made me ugly instead, would it be fair for me to complain that none of you loved me?

Moreover, you must consider that I did not choose the beauty I have, and, such as it is, Heaven gave it to me freely, without my requesting or choosing it. And just as the viper does not deserve to be blamed for its venom, although it kills, since it was given the venom by nature, I do not deserve to be reproved for being beautiful; for beauty in the chaste woman is like a distant fire or sharp-edged sword: They do not burn or cut the person who does not approach them.

Honor and virtue are adornments of the soul without which the body is not truly beautiful (even if it seems to be so.) And if chastity is one of the virtues that most adorn and beatify both body and soul…Why should a woman, loved for being beautiful, lose that virtue in order to satisfy the desire of a man who, for the sake of his pleasure, attempts with all of his might and main to have her lose it?

I was born free, and in order to live free, I chose the solitude of the countryside. The trees of these mountains are my companions. The clear waters of these streams, my mirrors. I communicate my thoughts and my beauty to the trees and to the waters. I am a distant fire and a far-off sword. Those whose eyes force them to fall in love with me, I have discouraged with my words. If desires feed on hopes, and since I have given no hope to Gristóstomo or to any other man regarding those desires, it is correct to say that his obstinacy, not my cruelty, is what killed him. And if you claim that his thoughts were virtuous, and for this reason I was obliged to respond to them, I say that when he revealed to me the virtue of his desire, on the very spot where his grave is now being dug, I told him that mine was to live perpetually alone and have only the earth enjoy the fruit of my seclusion and the spoils of my beauty. And if he, despite that discouragement, wished to persist against all hope, and sail into the wind…why be surprised if he drowned in the middle of the gulf of his folly?

If I had kept him by me, I would have been false. If I had gratified him, I would have gone against my own best intentions and purposes. He persisted though I discouraged him. He despaired, though I did not despise him. Tell me now if it is reasonable to blame me for his grief.

Let the one I deceived complain. Let the man despair to whom I did not grant a hope I had promised, or speak if I called to him, or boast if I accepted him! But no man can call me cruel or a murderer if I do not promise, deceive, call to, or accept him.

Until now, Heaven has not ordained that I love. And to think that I shall love of my own accord is to think the impossible. Let this general discouragement serve for each of those who solicit me for his own advantage. Let it be understood from this day forth that if anyone dies because of me, he does not die of jealousy or misfortune, because she who loves no one cannot make anyone jealous, and discouragement should not be taken for disdain.

Let him who calls me ‘savage basilisk’ avoid me as he would something harmful and evil; let him who calls me ‘ungrateful’ not serve me, ‘unapproachable’ not approach me, ‘cruel’ not follow me! Let him not seek me out, serve, approach or follow in any way this savage, ungrateful, cruel, unapproachable basilisk! For if his impatience and rash desire killed Gristóstomo, why should my virtuous behavior and reserve be blamed?

If I preserve my purity in the company of trees, why should a man want me to lose it if he wants me to keep it in the company of men?

As you know, I have wealth of my own and do not desire anyone else’s. I am free and do not care to submit to another. I do not love or despise anyone. I do not deceive this one or solicit that one. I do not mock one or amuse myself with another. The honest conversation of the shepherdesses from these hamlets, and tending to my goats, are my entertainment. The limits of my desires are these mountains, and if they go beyond here, it is to contemplate the beauty of Heaven, and the steps whereby the soul travels to its first home.

Don Quixote by Gustav Dore

Don Quixote by Gustav Dore

Let no person, whatever his circumstance or condition, dare to follow the beautiful Marcela lest he fall victim to my fury and outrage.


It’s such an honor and a privilege to be invited to talk at the Union here, tonight—a society that has heard speak some of my greatest heroes, people like the Dalai Lama, Malcolm X, Albert Einstein, and Peter Andre. Indeed, upon receiving the very humbling invitation from your president to address this very handsome crowd I see before me, it was the prestige of his Union and its past speakers that quickly replaced my sense of joy and pride with one of slight worry and anxiety. What the hell would I talk about? I wondered. I haven’t tried to foster a universal compassion across the globe, or fought oppression in America, or even explored the mysteries of the universe, be them hidden in some theory of quantum mechanics or just a particularly mysterious girl. All I’ve done is act in a TV show and pretend to be mean for money, essentially. If worse comes to worst, I thought to myself, I could at least bring along my trust crossbow and kind of sexually threaten some unsuspecting students with impalement. I thought…But we discussed that, and that didn’t fly with the board.

But from your invitation, it returned my thoughts to a kind of all too similar [00:02:00] event I participated in a few weeks previous, during which 20 minutes into an hour-long Q & A session, both Q’s and A’s respectively dried up very quickly. So, with 40 minutes left of the event and apparently all value sucked from it like a tropical mini Capri Sun, my blood froze as I gazed out at the sea of awkwardly shifting faces.

The silence was finally broken by a strange question about what I’d consumed for breakfast that morning.

It was at that point I realized that after a mere 21 years of a relatively uneventful life, one simply can not expect to talk about oneself for an hour, especially without either sliding into the irrelevant or the babbling. I literally just don’t have enough to talk about for an hour. So, in a bid to avoid the inevitable kind of drought of questions tonight, before we come to the forthcoming Q & A, I thought I would try to waste as much time as possible talking about something that kind of hopefully won’t preemptively answer any questions, because every answer is golden in terms of time, but will perhaps hopefully be kind of interesting and it’ll relevant to my life and kind of Game of Thrones. So, basically since the kind of show has aired, and apologies for the length and boring nature of this. I did it all last night and it’s very rambling and please feel free to switch off at any point during it, but I’m just going to try to read it in an interesting way, because it’s not interesting.

Since the show has aired, I feel I’ve been given an insider look into an ever-pervasive and yet often mysterious [00:04:00] aspect of society, namely, our culture of celebrity. Strangers on the street now call me ‘Jack’ and my public image is democratized by fans and institutions alike on the internet. I’m also given opportunities like this one tonight, which I see as truly once in a lifetime. So, feeling somewhat within but also very much (abstracted/obstructed?) from modern celebrity culture if you want to call it that, that kind of feeling has provoked a lot of reflection within me about the thing, about my position within the thing, so I kind of wanted to take this opportunity perhaps to talk about those reflections. But I do appreciate the irony of talking about celebrity in this context. But I hope that the irony is taken with a pinch of salt. I feel that some of these reflections perhaps are somewhat unique in the sense that I’m in a unique position, kind of straddling the cigarettes and books of a student simultaneously with the cocaine and prostitutes of a celebrity.

Ever since my mother sent me to Saturday morning drama classes when I was 7, I wanted to become a famous actor. I loved the idea of captivating an audience, and moving them truly through performance, but more importantly being recognized and heavily lauded for that talent. Early on, I just performed in some small plays and short films and the like, most notably giving my Joseph in a school nativity at age 8. Critics hailed my Joseph as being raw and entrancing, and having a profound insight into the character that will never be matched by anybody ever again. [0:06:00] It was thrilling. Indeed, I drew a great deal upon my Joseph when I played Little Boy in Batman Begins in 2005. Little Boy had the same passion and drive I had seen in Joseph, the same resilience, but most importantly the same love for his pregnant wife, Mary.

However, despite only being a minute role, my appearance in Batman Begins presented me with my first encounter with celebrity. After the film came out, I was always and forever then ‘the kid from Batman’ amongst my peers, my now-defining feature being brought up as an ice breaker or vaguely memorable tidbit at certain social occasions. The labeling didn’t bother me, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. However, little did I know that a far more concentrated form of that slight societal abstraction was going to be placed in my lap 5 years later, when I would, as a bright-eyed ad bushy-tailed 17-year-old step into an audition (dramatic pause) for some HBO show (dramatic pause) called Game of Thrones. (With ominous intrigue.) Chapter two!

If I’m being honest, upon hearing the joyous news that I received the role of Joffrey, I really did not expect all of the subsidiary things that come with being—oh, are there people up there as well? It just noticed—with being an actor on a successful television program. I had no predictions or expectations of all the attention, invitation to events, and of course all the cocaine and prostitutes that awaited me around every corner. I was just literally just excited to act in a cool show. Perhaps that was naivety, or perhaps [00:08:00] like everyone else involved in the show, I just simply didn’t anticipate the success of it. In any case, whatever the reason was, what it led to was a sharp shock when I realized that I had, unbeknownst to me, signed an invisible contract which required me to enter into a strange new echelon of society. People suddenly wanted to take pictures of me on the street, journalists were interested in what kind of socks I preferred, and among certain groups of my peers my jokes seemed to become a lot funnier—which perhaps was all the comedy books I was reading at the time, or perhaps it was synchophancy. I don’t know. It was an atmosphere from which I instantly wanted to retreat. I detested the superficial elevation and commodification of it all, juxtaposed with the grotesque self-involvement it would sometimes draw out in me.

Being a faceless member of a mob, I soon realized, was far more comforting than teetering on a brittle pedestal one inch off the ground. The exclusion and subtle differentiation that comes with even a rather diluted form of celebrity that I had, embarrasses me. But what shook me as most odd, however, about the whole thing was how odd I indeed found it all. Celebrity seemed by a huge amount of people and certainly by myself for a while, as the pinnacle of society, of success. It is revered almost religiously, both the institution and its quickly-growing member base. Indeed, these days, the apotheosis of celebrity is not just confined to the worship of movie idols, pop stars, sports heroes, or even reality TV stars. We have bloody celebrity chefs, authors, comedians, politicians, intellectuals, scientists, businesspeople, cheese-mongers, milliners maybe…hat-makers, for those of you who didn’t get that…who constantly [00:10:00] stick out their faces at us on advertisements and talk shows, and magazine covers—but this reverence and invasion is often welcomed and indeed fostered by a great percentage of the public. I started to wonder why that was, and whether there was any harm in that reverence. They’re just people, after all.

So, whilst one can trace the origins of celebrity, or whatever you want to call it, back to the Romantic period, and people like Samuel Johnson or even before Beckett, it was truly in the 20th century’s proliferation of photography, radio, television, and finally mass-media that a kind of a fecund ground could be laid for in particular sports stars, movie stars, and singers to be massified as recognizable, influential public figures. This kind of fostered a culture dominated by what Baudrillard called simulacra, which are images that contain no reference to the real world, for, upon being able to for the first time see as well as hear the well-known figures of the time, people like Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, the public began to kind of perhaps unconsciously reduce them down the image alone, leading to perhaps irreparable commodification of these protogenic celebrities. However, this, as Amy Henderson points out, this commodification was clearly less a process of this increasing breadth and influence of media, but rather, of the West’s transition from a producing society to a consuming one. This is so boring. America’s capitalism bore out a commodity-based society in which the actions of the individual [00:12:00] could be equated with acts of consumption. Tabloids, talk shows, and subsequently reality television all became obsessed with the commodification of the celebrity image, making it consumable and then, ultimately, disposable. What’s ironic is that you see celebrities endorsing things like musical tampons and appearing in advertisements for lavender-scented teeth-whitener, you know, wielding goods whose sell-by dates ironically probably outlast theirs.

Whist this form of cannibalistic consumerism doesn’t appear inherently damaging to the consumers themselves, the effect is has on the fodder can sometimes be profound. I myself shy away from interviews and the public eye sometimes for this very reason. Having one’s image and effectively life democratized, dehumanizes and sometimes objectifies it into an entertainment product. What sort of valuation of the ego would one have once you’ve let it be preyed upon in the public eye for years and years? Perhaps it becomes truly just skin and bones.

Jamie Tiranne, from the University of Durham, has an alternative and rather crazy theory of where our fascination of celebrity culture comes from, and believes the answer to lie in evolutionary psychology which does sound a bit crazy, but run with it—it has a bit of value in it.

His theory centers around the anthropological notion of prestige defined in terms of a high social status like admiration or respect that is bestowed upon an individual who possesses a certain adaptive skill, like a superior hunting technique, etcetera.

The prestige is bestowed upon the individual so that the community can then learn the skill from them through imitation, by being put into the public eye so that they can learn the skill; however, in imitating the prestigious individual, [00:14:00] one can also mistakenly imitate some of the non-adaptive skills the person may have. The example Tiranne uses is that men might observe a successful hunter perform some kind of incantation or whatever at the time as he retouches his arrow heads in a skilled way, and the men who observe this adopt both the ritual as well as the arrow-retouching technique when they prepare their tools.

So, basically, Tiranne believes, in our society, because of their fame, celebrities possess prestige and as a result, we have this evolutionary and psychological instinct to imitate them. This tendency, he concludes, explains our interest in what sports stars and singers wear, what car they drive, and all that. Celebrities have become our moral and social role models in some ways, simply due to an evolutionary quirk. However, what if this instinct to imitate leads us to, let’s say, slightly more immoral values of our current modern prestigious individuals? Are we going to find ourselves in a position where we start to imitate the town drunk perhaps simply because he possesses prestige, his original success having faded away long ago? For it is under Tiranne theory that something rather frightening takes place, namely, a self-fulfilling fame that’s kind of come up only in the past decade or so that does not need to base itself in an adaptive skill—or any skill, really, for that matter. Because all it needs is the fuel of more celebrity, and thus more prestige, and thus more celebrity, and so on ad infinatum.

So, I think that’s a good theory of where it comes from, but I think that the most compelling cause of our contemporary celebrity culture, or our fascination with our contemporary celebrity culture, lies with Max Faber. [00:16:00] He, too, bases his theory in one of role models and imitation, but replacing the position taken by Tiranne’s notion of prestige with his notion of charisma. So, Faber believed that for any form of authority, the attribution of legitimacy is fundamental and necessary, making it what he calls “a legitimate domination,” which sounds pretty sexy.

That must pre-suppose some degree of willing acceptance. Furthermore, he regarded the authority of the prophets and magicians and diviners as different from others, since their authority depends on a certain devotion the exceptional character of the individual, a special kind of authority which he termed “charisma.” Basically, people with charisma exist outside, sort of, society, and that’s important to it. He remarks that the truest form of charisma is one that receives these powers as a gift by virtue of a natural endowment so it’s very easy to see how our modern celebrities are perfect manifestations of this Faberian charismatic authority. They may not possess the heroic qualities of a prophet, but as highly visible role models, they have become the object of imitation. Their publicized personality and individual qualities work as a form of “quasi-charisma” as a few academics put it, that gains people’s attention while setting them apart on a different echelon.

So, like classical charismatic figures, celebrities are individuals who provide people with a focus for identification, essential, but unlike the classical charismatics, the celebrity lacks the mysterious transcendent leadership qualities of a leader-prophet, but they are role models. So, [00:18:00] what celebrities also so clearly possess is that kind of willing domination that Faber describes. The other forms of authority that people encounter every day, like the police, or politicians, lecturers and the like—they’re challenged by the public, as often they perhaps sometimes feel oppressive. Conversely, the authority celebrities have over us is accepted and in fact sometimes welcomed because it’s not seen as being self-serving or malevolent. This is why Faber also describes the adoption or the importance of the adoption of charisma by other authorities. Politicians, for instance, sometimes almost seem to require either celebrity endorsement or some kind of celebrity status themselves in order to feel legitimated in the eyes of the public. It’s what Faber calls “gentle charisma” when the political authority combines with the charismatic authority. You can see it everywhere with Obama getting Will I Am and stuff to sing about him. It’s ridiculous! I voted for him.

The danger hidden within Faber’s charismatic celebrity is the same one within Tiranne’s prestigious individual. Having the predisposition to imitate any one individual must always have its negative impact, especially when the role model does not feel a duty or responsibility to substantiate, shall we say, suitable values to adopt.

This bleeds into the kind of fascination that comes with this charisma, which is Celebrity Worship Syndrome. This is actually a real thing that people in the University of Leicester found 36% of a sample of 600 adults were afflicted to some degree by this Celebrity Worship Syndrome and the most extreme sufferers believed that the object of their ardor [00:20:00] knew them and declared themselves ready to die for their hero. It’s not just a kind of a weird societal quirk, I think this is kind of indicative of a kind of complete dissolution of the self in favor of another, which can be seen as almost like a direct translation from a perhaps religious hysteria—I see it as—whether it’s a mob mentality or desire to be controlled by something higher than you, these cases are indicative of how charisma can replace the ego. Dostoyevsky says in The Brothers Karazimov, “So long as man remains free, he strives for nothing so incessantly and painfully as to find someone to worship.”

Conversely, to try to find a kind of positive boon for celebritisation, a guy called Chris Rotia, professor of sociology at Sydney University, has defended the benefits of this communal imitation. He says that celebrities are informal life coaches. By watching them, people learn how to groom their hair, learn what to say, learn what opinions are sexy, learn what’s right on and not what right on—he’s a pretty cool dude. They’re simulating all sorts of life skills, and he says it’s a social adhesive which is positive.

I don’t believe that, I just put that in for a balanced argument.

Up until now, I’ve discussed three theories—economic, psychological, and sociological—that attempt to explain our reverence [00:22:00] for celebrities. But now I’ll talk very briefly about the desire itself to become a celebrity. Obviously, there’s the immediate desire for wealth, desire, and adoration. But is there more than that? And if so, what’s the catch? What are the disadvantages? So, there’s one way to look at this desire to be a celebrity in the form of the perspective of our personality centric culture, one that has strayed inward away from the external character-based one of the 19th and early 20th century. So, personality has become a means to distinguish ourselves from the masses, and as a result celebrity has become the new measure of success. I came across a great article by Georg Simmel, who discusses this phenomenon in his The Metropolis and the Mental Life in which he sheds light on this very modern angst of being unknown that I think affects a lot of people. So, perhaps in a hypotropic Berkleyism, to be is to be perceived, the validation of our existence has become relative to how anonymous or rather unanonymous we are. Truly, it is the clawing for some kind of individual self and self-orientation amidst the clamour and growing competition of the 21st century that attracts people to becoming celebrities. The golden ticket, immortality, is on sale.

Is it not shouted from the rooftops of a New York conservatory, “Fame! I want to live forever!” Sorry I did that.

Secondly, another point on the reasons of wanting to become a celebrity, [00:24:00] what could be more alluring about being a celebrity than having a captive audience kind of willing to trust what you trust and care about what you care about? In many ways, you could see it terms of a kind of manifestation of a master-slave dialectic with immense mobilisation and communicative power. So, what are the dangers, then, involved in being a celebrity? In some ways, there’s the true loss of the self by virtue of being over-democratized, over-saturated, over-loved, perhaps. Without an internally directed compass, an ego can drown in its own fascination, rendering the bearer unable to posit or hang anything actual onto themselves. This, again, is essentially the argument from commodification which prescribes a kind of ravenous ecstatic feast upon a soul, until it becomes defined purely in terms of its external ability to in fact be consumed.

For instance, those who—here’s another weird kind of psychological study—there are those who actually achieve fame are supposedly vulnerable to conditions like Acquired Situational Narcissism, which says this affliction can cause a celebrity to get so used to everyone looking at him that he stops looking back at his perceivers. This may lead to kind of grandiose fantasies and self-aggrandisement, rage, and loss of empathy and all those bad things that we see every day in celebrity meltdowns, you know, if that’s not kind of a crude way to put it.

This bleeds into another point again previously alluded to, basically one of exclusion. Celebrities become excluded from everyday life, kind of an exile in an echelon that’s deemed better anyway, life of a celebrity, all the fame and glamour—however, no matter much we can lust after this exile, wanting to be a celebrity, [00:26:00] it is a manifestation of a dehumanization, essentially.

One becomes easier to fictionalize when removed from any self-likeness of the perceiver and thus easier to judge and also consume. And, lastly, of course, there’s the issue of privacy that comes up a lot. We’ve seen from my points about Tiranne and Faber, why we become fascinated with the banal mundanity of celebrity life, what kind of bananas they like and stuff. They are the prescribed role models of our time, representing some form of ideal in apparently every aspect of life, be it in their professional success, cheese preference, or even drug preference. Perhaps the desire to simultaneously position celebrities on both planes, the ordinary and the abstracted, is a bid to retrieve some of the immortality we have given them. By empathising with them and humanising them to an extent, we for a brief moment share in the ‘glory’ of celebrity life or perhaps at least remind ourselves that if they can do it, I can do it.

In conclusion, it appears celebrities have become vessels of either as I said, an economic, evolutionary, or sociological instinct to consume and imitate certain extraordinary members of society. We see how this reverence can have profound effects on both parties, oftentimes more negative than positive. I believe that communal admiration of individuals is healthy for society. It facilitates a debate about universal standards, morals, but also publicly espouses the virtue of certain practices that are inherently good in some kind of ideas about what the good is. However, this kind of celebritisation is only a positive one if the individual represents values that should be imitated by a reasonable, moral person. [00:28:00] We need to be choosier with our celebrities, or else we may find ourselves again in that situation where we just find ourselves acting out the role of the town drunk constantly. And we also need to temper the concentration with which we love to celebritise, primarily for the sake of the celebrity themselves and their self-evaluation, but also for ourselves.

Just as the object of our attention can become rendered hollow and externally directed with too much worship, so too I feel can the worshippers sacrifice their own individual self and autonomy in favor of giving it up to a higher power.

We need to fight against our human instinct to deify our role models but also fight against the instinct to subjugate our own individuality in the process.

Stargazing is one of the most profoundly human things one can do. But perhaps we must more frequently tear ourselves away from the mystery and beauty of the starry heavens above and rather respect, admire, and foster the moral law within. That’s it.