Email Ken Stallings   Of Wealth and Privilege

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Wealth and privilege is considered something to seek, something desirable.  Or so say many of the popular cultural pressures of our day.  But is it?

The ongoing saga of Paris Hilton provides an object lesson.  Baron and Conrad Hilton many years ago worked very hard and established a series of highly successful hotels and real estate investments.  They earned their fortunes.  But their children were born into this wealth and privilege and with great grand-daughter Paris, we can see the seamier side of a lifetime with the silver spoon.

There are, of course, many children of the rich and famous who grow up normal and well adjusted.  So, is that really the fair yardstick?  No, perhaps not.

The yardstick is the role of the parents to teach responsibility, morality, and accountability.  Now that the re-jailing of Paris has taken place, the media is focusing on the history of this troubled young lady, and that spotlight has focused attention on her mother, Kathy Richards.  Richards married Richard Hilton, grandson of Conrad Hilton.  She also appears more and more to have been a celebrity obsessed mother who pushed her children to seek the limelight.

The issues of Paris' troubles appear centered on her mother's obvious efforts to create an aura of fame and celebrity around  daughters Nicky and Paris at a very young age.  This leads to the clear pattern of child stars, who without careful parental control and nurturing, often allow the youthful celebrity to abridge normal growth.  Spotlights shined by publicity merchants and the adoring attention by legions of fans have had a lamentable record of harming child stars as they go from star to out of work adult.

Once a childhood is lost it is never recaptured, though it seems many such stars have tried!  Combine that with the influences of wealth, drugs, and alcohol, and it's been a mighty tempting siren's song, challenging many child actors to bumpy roads in adulthood.

Paris Hilton's life reads like a checklist of these pernicious influences.  And having been twice caught driving on a suspended license in violation of DUI parole conditions, while DUI again and speeding, has suddenly thrusted Paris onto the stage of hard reality.  One California judge stands singularly unimpressed with the status, wealth, and celebrity of young Paris and her minions.  The predictable avalanche of paid spokespeople and Hollywood writers have sprung to Paris' defense to sully the judge.

But on objective analysis, this judge may be the only person in this affair who cares about Paris the human being and not a bit about Paris the celebrity!  One wonders the outcome if her parents had been so similarly focused!  Beyond all else, this judge seems also concerned about the interests of society.

A Los Angeles Sheriff decided that Paris suffers mental psychosis.  Perhaps she does.  Perhaps her young life has suffered a very real and forceful shock causing legitimate mental anguish.  But jail tends to do that to people.  It cannot be used as an excuse to be released.  Driving drunk has killed many innocent people.  Being caught twice driving on a suspended license in violation of DUI probation, once while DUI again, tends to put people behind bars for times ranging from a few days to a few weeks.  Paris may be made an object lesson in all this, but considering the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith, one can think of more bitter outcomes.

Is it better to be hauled back to jail in tears, or to wind up a post-mortem fodder for social commentators, star-struck fans, and public relations copy hacks?  As painful as it is to watch young Paris scream in tears to her mother as she returns to jail, it seems better than a young woman being embalmed and boxed for the grave!  And there are plenty of candidates for this most cruel outcome of living a young life out of control (can you read this Lindsey Lohan!)

Anna Nicole Smith provides the cruelest object lesson.  Paris Hilton now provides another far preferable one.  But perhaps the brave actions of one resolute California judge will show a more compassionate path of redemption.  Paris Hilton's post jail lifestyle will prove if that is true.  Those who care about people can only hope it will.

Perhaps along the way, society can also ponder the influence of modern culture merchants.  A return to some solid values seems in order, and that includes some pointed rejection of the celebrity market machine and its many followers.  Society may be better off and some young people might enjoy happier and healthier lives.

-- Ken Stallings

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