Is ignorance really bliss? Is it better to be inspired by someone despite them having more than their fair share of skeletons in their closets? Oscar Pistorius was one of the last remaining truly inspirational people, the first ever double amputee to compete in the Olympics and someone who single-handedly began to bridge the gap between the Paralympics and the Olympic games, redefining what it meant to be handicapped or disabled. Charged with pre-meditated murder, this work to inspire a generation is quickly becoming undone as in a matter of moments he’s turned from a poster boy of determination to an infamous icon of public confusion and disgust, and he’s not the only one. From Lance Armstrong to Martin Luther King, anyone you thought was an inspiration isn’t.
As frightening and shocking as the Pistorius case is, it isn’t anything new. This isn’t some revolutionary case, we’ve seen scandal before, the last fifty years of journalism is pretty much based on scandal and trying to shock your readers on a near daily basis. The bigger the scandal, the better the story. Just think about it, who inspires you?
Jimmy Saville inspired millions. Loved by a generation, knighted for raising over £40m for charity. Outed as a sex offender whose offences spread over more than sixty years.Lance Armstrong came back from cancer, had an orchiectomy and went on to win the Tour De France seven years in a row. In 2013 he admitted to doping over the near entirety of his career, and throughout all seven of his landmark Tour De France wins. John Lennon is considered the frontrunner of the 1960s hippy movement, his song Imagine is an anthem for love and tolerance. In reality an adulterous wife beater who beat up his first wife regularly, boasted of cheating on her with thousands of women and had his way of breaking up with her by having her walk on Lennon and Yoko Ono together in their own house.
Martin Luther King Jr. is the untouchable leader of the Civil Rights movement, the only man to have an American public holiday named just for him, Ghandi’s successor as the leader of a peaceful civil rights movement. No-one ever talks about how he used to hire white prostitutes and beat them to a pulp, or how he plagiarised half of his doctorate. We’re living in a world where the leader of the Catholic Church is a former Nazi who helped cover up one of the biggest pedophile scandals in history, whilst doing his best to help spread AIDs in Africa. A world where the man (Steve Jobs) widely considered to be the greatest technological innovator of our time was one who furiously denied fathering an illegitimate child, gave no part of his billions to charity and cheated his ‘friend’ out of thousands of dollars early in their friendship.
If anything though, these cases just show that no-one is squeaky clean and that everyone has skeletons in their closets. That everyone is human, and has their flaws just like you and me. There is the horrible truth, however, that these people that are inspiring billions are doing so behind a veil of exaggeration at least, and at worst deceit and disgrace. Should it matter that people are inspired to make the world a better place by people who couldn’t wholly commit to do the same? Well, do the ends justify the means? I’m inspired by people who are honest above all else, and it makes me sad that a generation of children are growing up in a world where it seems not a lot of people are anymore.