Humility is a funny thing. Those who know me may be wondering if someone has bought me a new dictionary,
but I assure you I have heard of this word before. It’s like haemorrhoids or varicose veins - something other people suffer from. A nicer analogy might be that humility is similar to getting to Heaven – definitely to be aimed at, but just not yet.
The reason I bring this up is that after Jimmy Saville died last week I noticed all his obituaries and tributes avoided the use of the word “humble”. Yet normally when someone raises as much money for charity as he did over his lifetime, writers fall over themselves to stress how down to earth and self effacing he was. Not this time.
I met Jimmy several times, the first when I spent a day interviewing him in the morning and then doing a gig with him in the afternoon. As I thanked him after lunch and told him his interview was great, he looked at me and said, without irony, “of course it was”. He really wasn’t kidding, but he didn’t realise I was just being polite as the interview was truly awful and almost unbroadcastable because he insisted we did it whilst out running, for no apparent reason.
Ricky Gervais, whose first TV chat show featured Jimmy as a guest, lacked humility this week by refusing to apologise for upsetting people with Down’s Syndrome by Tweeting horrible remarks about them, using an offensive word, and posting photos of himself screwing up his face in an impression, so he thought, of someone with Down’s. After complaints multiplied he suddenly found the humility shelf in his Press officer’s cupboard after it was pointed out he has a new TV series starting next week and shouldn’t be upsetting the punters. He eventually, grudgingly apologised.
Even good old DLT, a.k.a. former Radio One disc jockey Dave Lee Travis, was a stranger to humility when asked live on air why Jimmy Saville was getting tributes, respect and love even though he had disappeared off the radar for years. The answer should have been something like “Jimmy may have been low profile recently but you don’t know how great something is till it’s gone.” Instead he made it all about himself, saying “people could say the same about me. No one wanted to talk to me until Burmese dissident Aung Sang Suu Kyi said she listened to me on the world service this year.”
I hope it was nerves but if it was meant as a tribute it was “humble” with a capital F.
Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ former golf bag carrier, claims the golfer owes all his success to him and his advice. Having been sacked, he now says his new golf client also owes a recent win solely to him, and he used a private dinner to make a racial slur against Woods. Reporters were so appalled they lifted their voluntary embargo on reporting the dinner and told organisers that Williams arrogance blew the “off the record” event agreement to pieces.
A man who knows reporters well, Rupert Murdoch, had to be seen to be humble when his newspapers were caught hacking in to the ‘phones of celebrities and dead children but he seems to have become bored with that now, shouting down dissenting shareholders at his company’s annual meeting and mocking a priest in the audience. Shareholders tried, in vain, to get Murdoch and his hubris voted off the board.
But it’s not just men who think God created them first and then everything else in an orbit around them. Nancy Dell Olio, who was voted off Strictly Come Dancing, has said this week that the only reason for the show’s high ratings was her presence, that the nation is now bereft, that she’ll sue the judges for criticism caused only by their jealousy as she was too popular for the show, and that she’ll come back as the host one day because everyone loves her. She is such a stranger to humility that she could soon become an adjective, as in “Gaddafi had that Dell Olio thing about him, didn’t he?”. Look her up in a dictionary soon and it will say “Deluded, hubristic, charmless, and complete pain in the bum.”
Whether it’s Saville, Gervais, Travis, Williams, Murdoch, Dell Olio or any of the other dozens of examples I’ve left out because of space, it seems that the world has become a more self obsessed place over the past few weeks. But why? What is happening? Is it because we’re all scared of the daily global news which seems to get worse by the day, therefore we have to make ourselves feel bigger and more important? Has the internet and social networking changed our usual modesty and diffidence making us shout louder to be heard? Does instant global communication mean more "mean"?
Whatever the reason, I’d like to make a plea. Let’s all be a bit nicer to each other. Let’s rediscover humility. Let us all strive to become a bit more down to earth. After all, king or commoner, that’s where we’re all ultimately headed.