Professional Celebrity or Motivational Speaker?

Professional celebrity or motivational speaker?

Contemporary modern society is information-based which is organized under expert systems of scientific and technological knowledge. Hence, it is the whole digitalization of social life with rising of social media which gained influence over a couple of decades and became an effective tool of information dissemination. Along with the rise of travel Vloggers, YouTubers, and social media activists, there is an active group of motivational speakers hyping around social media whose contents are widely listened to and shared by youths – who unquestionably presume their contents as objective truths.

From a review of their contents, I found them, narcissists – in fact, more narcissistic than any other professional group, being manipulative, self-centered, and presenting oneself to be a scholar of modern stature. They speak on numerous themes, ranging from personality and developmental psychology, students’ career and success in business, marriage, and familial affairs to culture, ethics, and morality. They are adroit at speaking effectively which allures their listeners despite their lack of intellectual capability and does not equip them with the knowledge about the relevant field of study. Their peremptory as well rhetoric talks and speeches implore the audiences by believing them that nothing is impossible, an individual can change anything they aspire to, or they become successful if they follow these seven or ten definite principles. For them, social structure and historical realities (which are constraint and coercive) are lesser significant to individual will and commitment.

However, what if I am poor, a minority being persecuted and publicly intimidated, and a female who experiences domestic and public harassment in everyday life, or someone belonging to an ethnic group who do not generally cherish fundamental life changes and a child who is abused and murdered? These are the harsh realities of our times. Will these speakers bother to speak about class, ethnic, and gender intersectionality or unequal distribution of wealth and resources, or prevalence of violence in the society? Can I come from all these junctures by following certain rules of success? Can I still lead a successful life (as far their definition – a decent lifestyle) if my father is unable to afford my school fees and the state is not willing to educate me?

They are professional celebrities who by virtue of their fame, earn a huge amount of money, but also distract the public’s interests from public affairs, while the societal elites run the public affairs. They are specifically invited to university campuses to neutralize what are students’ social conditions and what is happening around them in society. For example, I came across a video of a renowned Pakistani motivational speaker speaking in a government girls college begins his lecture by explaining the importance of teaching as the most privileged profession. He further acclaimed that lower-income students reach better occupational positions than higher-income students because lower-income students have a quest to alter their social and economic conditions. In the broader perspective, his talk subtly demonstrated teaching as a suitable profession for lower-class background children and a feminine profession. I wonder if he gives the same talk to elite college students.

It is needless to say that success in education is greatly determined by cultural capital which includes habits, skills, and precepts that affect students’ future success. There is a strong family-school association in which children reproduce the class status of parents in educational institutions. Children with high social class backgrounds have good quality schooling, higher academic performance, and physical and mental acumen. They also have better social capital, that is their parents are involved in their educational decisions and school activities, and a range of social networks of parents influence their children’s education.  Children with high-income families learn the habitus, values, and disposition of their parents. They are such as reading habits, language skills, working independently, and facilities such as separate study rooms, arranging private tutors, employment-related credentials, and dress code which are judged and graded by their teachers at school. A student wearing a three-piece dress for the first time and learning DAWN vocabulary in a graduate degree cannot be compared with those students who wear the dress, speak English and discuss politics at the dining table since their childhood. These elite students achieve higher accolades, make their way to civil service, and win prestigious foreign scholarships. Thus, cultural and social capital is turned into human capital – better job opportunities, that consequently reproduce social inequality.

Of significant relevance, motivational speakers take a few cases of success stories and generalize them on every individual and infer that if everybody can follow the footsteps of these successful people, can also make headways. Their success stories and principles of success often derive from western values of individualism and rationalism (sometimes colored with religious discourses), which require a cautious, playful, and methodical focus of individuals in everyday life particularly workers for economic productivity. A major ideas and principles of self-management, discipline, and leadership, and communication skills which these speakers largely rely on, come from organizational psychology that aims to construct ‘managerial type personality’, who curves and blends their personality to match the market interests.

The charlatanic speakers are sources of power. Their power is subtle, who brazenly present themselves as a trainer, mind changer, and social vanguard. For example, making individuals (especially students) believe that the problem lies in oneself if they fail in education, job market or experience harassment and discrimination, instead of social structure. Manifestation of such thoughts may motivate young minds temporarily but do not broaden their horizons in long run to understand social and historical realities and engage in progressive activities to seek change. Rather they begin identifying and contemplating problems in themselves instead of questioning the hegemonic authorities. Similarly, they never speak about power distribution, domination and hegemony in the society or engage their audiences to critically evaluate the social circumstances.  Thus, they pose deep hypodermic effects on the passive youths.

Our educational institutions have long discouraged critical discourses including critical public debates and talks, a ban on students’ unions, and circulation of critical literature. Now they are replaced by pseudo talks of motivational speakers.  Instead of exhorting young people toward fallacy-ridden fantasies, young people need critical knowledge from academics and organic intellectuals in public spheres more than the professional celebrities who will genuinely educate them to cope with their real moral and socio-political issues of contemporary Pakistan.