Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Contrary to the sniggering assertions of some of my friends I’m not a Belieber. In truth, I hardly know any of the songs Justin Bieber’s sung. I couldn’t even hum along.

Nevertheless, I did find the story of the ordinary lad who achieved YouTube fame, well – endearing. I was prepared to say ‘Good luck to the lad’ and wish him well. I even played a video of one of his songs during a Sunday sermon once (this one – Pray). It was this that made some label me a belieber – and if that’s all it takes for the cap to fit, I don’t mind wearing it.

But recently the media has turned against young Justin. ‘Justice Bieber’ yelled the headline of the Metro as I passed through the station on my way to work the other morning. The young singer, catapulted too far into realms of fame and fortune he couldn’t handle, has been caught speeding, apparently high and drunk. More scurrilous stories have come out. Strippers. Substance-abuse. You get the picture.

And it made me really sad, not because I’m Justin’s number one fan, but because it seems to me there’s something toxic about a culture that lifts people – in this case a child – to the heights only to smash them down and gloat when they land on the rocks.

We (rightly) excoriate child abuse, but it seems to me that there’s a kind of collective, cultural abuse about this kind of thing. Yes Bieber’s 19 now, but he was only a minor when he started his meteoric rise. I don’t think any young person – indeed any human being, let alone a child – can handle such a flight. (Remember Icarus?)

I think the boy who wrote ‘Pray’ meant well. I think a culture that should know better – that says it knows better – should examine itself before baying for Bieber blood. 

I pray for Justin Bieber. But I also want to take my part in forming an alternative culture; one in which innocence, youth, childhood, idealism, the gifts of a rising generation – such things are nurtured and protected, not squandered and spoiled.

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