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The Paris phenomenon

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Tuesday, 9 January 2007

She never says anything interesting. She can’t act. Nor can she dance or sing. She’s only OK looking and has a so and so body - thin, but there’s no hint of any tone or definition. Yet sometimes reluctant porn princess Paris Hilton has got most of the world mesmerised. In 2006 she was the most googled search in the world. Sydneysiders couldn’t get enough of her during her New Year’s visit.

Forget about the shallowness that surrounds Paris. That much of the world is so captivated by the Paris phenomenon says much about the human condition - good and bad.

First the bad news. In the end, we’re a pretty vacuous bunch. We are more concerned with the sometimes naughty adventures of a party girl than anything remotely virtuous. Missing from the google list of most searched items was: how to save a starving African child; stopping animal cruelty; donating to cancer research; the ongoing genocide in Sudan and helping victims of natural disasters.


As a species we like to think we are compassionate, caring and attempt to strive to higher things. Paris teaches us otherwise. And don’t let anyone convince you that Paris is simply a distraction from our core activities and concerns. There are a lot of computers in the world and billions of google searches that are undertaken. You don’t get to be number one by accident. Peripheral concerns and distractions end up somewhere near number 100 on the most searched item list. Number one, on the other hand represents our foremost interest.

Thus, in the New Year do yourself a favour and become a bit more self dependent. The world doesn’t care much about your problems. In the end, the only real assistance or compassion you’re likely to get will come from your family and perhaps a close friend or two. Other than that you are pretty much on your own.

But there are a lot of positive things to be taken from Paris - and this is the reason that most people can’t get enough of her. She represents much of what many people want to be but are too scared to pursue. Paris is herself. She has thrown out the rule book. She doesn’t conform to stereotypical norms. She doesn’t pretend that she wants to make the world a better place or that she has got anything particularly profound to tell us.

Paris teaches us most about the fallacy associated with the search for status and the importance of self-belief.

People want status. Many of us are slaves to it. This drives many of us to unremittingly pursue mainly materialist goals that we think will impress others. Attaining these goals we think will result in other people looking up to us and treating us better. That’s why many people work too many hours, buy luxury cars they can barely afford and live in houses with lovely views that they never get time to appreciate. In the end, it’s misconceived. We don’t enjoy it and others are rarely impressed by the attainment of such conformist goals.

Paradoxically, the best way to obtain acceptance is not by conforming with the mob and aspiring to achieve what others seem to want most. People respect most those who have the courage and commitment to pursue their own passions and goals, even (and in fact especially) if this means bucking contemporary social and economic norms.


It’s not so much Paris’ wealth that people admire - there are plenty of richer people in the world - but her courage in not confirming to the typical celebrity prototype.

The other thing that Paris teaches us about is self-belief. Studies have shown that sometimes belief in a thing can actually make it happen. People who think they are attractive and desirable and project themselves in that manner are actually more appealing to others.

So instead of moping around whingeing about your flaws, be like Paris, always put your best foot forward, beam confidence and be the attractive person that you probably really are.

And if you really want acceptance and success stop striving for it. Define your own goals and project yourself if the most favourable light possible. Who knows, you might up being so successful that Paris might end up googling you.

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First published in the Daily Telegraph on January 3, 2006.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is dean of law at Swinburne University and author of Australian Human Rights Law.

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