Justin Bieber and the Somali Pirates

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Yesterday, I wrote about Somali pirates, and how bad I felt for them because they didn’t have much power, and then the US government showed up.  I wasn’t exactly sad to see them shot, because they were vicious and unrepentant, but sad in the sense that shit, given better options they mighta been better people.
And there’s Justin Bieber in the news, driving drunk and spitting on fans, and I have the exact same reaction.
Okay, Justin’s ridiculously wealthy and well-loved while the Somali pirates are… not.  And Justin’s probably not killed anyone yet, but then again technically neither did the Somali pirates (on that last famous mission, anyway).  Yet I do feel there’s a line to be drawn between them on the Great Graph of Human Experience, because you put people into situations like that and it’s highly unlikely they’re going to turn out different.
Justin’s a teen pop star, and… well, let Mara Wilson, a.k.a. “Matilda,” explain to you how that shapes your whole childhood.  Basically, Justin’s an egomanical dickhead, but a rational egomaniacal dickhead.  Every life’s experience he’s had indicates that millions of teenaged girls will adore him no matter what he does, he’s experienced zero significant fiduciary difficulty from any of his antics, and he’s gotten away with everything.  Worse, he’s surrounded by people who encourage this behavior, as they’re warming their hands by the rich glow of his stardom, and so he literally has no one to tell him “no.”
I remember being at a company meeting where we all took the Meyers-Briggs test and discussed teamwork.  And the slickly-nice lady consultant leading all this said, “Remember, nobody ever died from too much positive feedback!”
“John Belushi did,” I said, and then there was a veeeeery awkward silence.
But seriously.  One of the big problems with life is that you have to prioritize two things: your personal experience, and the experience of others.  For many years, my personal experience at writing consisted entirely of variants of “Nobody wants to publish your story.”  Now, other people told me, “If you keep writing, you’ll eventually get good,” so I believed what others had experienced over my own personal story.
…and that was totally wrong advice.
Yeah, I have become a decent writer, but it took a Clarion to blast the old habits out of me and show me that simply “writing” wasn’t enough.  I had to be merciless about my own prose in a way that I literally didn’t know how to do.  If I’d listened to that advice and not stumbled across a Clarion, I’d still be writing, and I’d still suck.
Sometimes, prioritizing that Other Experience is positive, like when you got beat up by minority kids in school but get told that they’re not all like that.  Sometimes, prioritizing that Other Experience is profoundly negative, like when you get told that gay people are an abomination unto the Lord and fling your own kid into the street.  The problem is that an artist like Justin Bieber is bombarded with Other Experiences – nobody’s ever short of career advice for a musician – and up until now, he’s made millions by shrugging off the advice of other people to do what he wanted to do.
So to a guy like Justin Bieber, fobbing off Other Experiences is his path to success.  It’s like Kanye.  The guy’s instincts have served him well thus far.  He’s probably laughed at more people who told him a track like “Black Skinhead” couldn’t chart.  He’s been told that his ego would kill his career a thousand times over.  So why would he ever listen to anyone who told him no, dude, this will wreck your career?
Likewise, Justin Bieber’s entire life has consisted of him doing what he wanted, and things working out.  That is probably not going to last him forever.  But good luck convincing him of that.
And like the Somali Pirates, I can’t feel bad for the inevitable crash.  He can’t get away with this shit forever.  Eventually, he’s gonna have a bad album and the teenaged girls are going to see him as a vaguely embarrassing remnant of their childhoods and move on, and he’ll get pulled over for drunk driving and Twitter won’t light up with #savejustin hashtags.  And the cops will be right to throw his ass in jail, and Justin will have made his own bed, and if he’s lucky he’ll pull himself out of it and stop being an asshole.
But every thing in his life is shaping him to be an asshole.  A ridiculous handful of people have the wisdom to know when to prioritize that Other Experience and go, “Okay, even if I can get away with spitting over a balcony, it’s wrong,” but most folks take their cue from what people accept.  If their job accepts T-shirts at work, they’ll wear T-shirts.  If their job lets them get away with texting at work, they’ll text at work.  And if their job lets them spit on customers and everyone – including the customers themselves – thinks it’s a hoot, well, you’re gonna spit.
And in that sense, Justin’s a big ol’ Somali pirate.  He’s getting what’s coming to him.  And I’m not going to be sad, but I am going to be a little wistful when I think of how this could have been avoided and I don’t really see a way it could have been avoided.
One’s rich, one’s poor, both are victims of circumstance.  So it goes.


  1. Marc
    Jan 24, 2014

    I understand your point but this way personal responsibility account to nothing.
    Not all Somalians turn to piracy and not all teen stars turns into Justin Bieber.

    • TheFerrett
      Jan 24, 2014

      I understand your point but your way personal responsibility accounts for everything.
      A lot of Somalians turn to piracy and a lot of teen stars turn into Justin Bieber.
      Clearly, if it was just as simple “be a good person,” then everyone would. Circumstances matter.

      • Marc
        Jan 25, 2014

        Touche. 🙂
        I personally tend to feel that in the end personal responsibility is paramount but of course circumstances also matters.
        Indeed some environments really are toxics, the amount of ex Disney teen idols who soured very badly is impressive.

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