Advice to Angelina Jolie (and other politics-aspiring celebrities)

Angelina Jolie says she is open to going into politics. She may have been convinced by the success of her special ambassador role for the UN in ending sexual violence in conflict. Oh wait, she hasn’t ended it yet.  But you know, given how we all love what she has to say, when she’s a politician, it’s certain we’ll obey.

It’s easy to see how celebrities think that politics must be a career move. Celebrities spend their time visiting the disadvantaged, posing for cover photos, and getting views on big issues printed verbatim.

That sort of grandstanding is what politicians do, but celebrities do it so much better. 

The arrogance of celebrities is insulting to politicians, and to politics, and come to think of it, to the complexity of humanity. But politicians have brought it upon themselves by distilling their job to publicity and symbolism, while being so damn charmless at it.

The Guardian treated Angelina’s interest as genuine, and gave limp and agenda-filled warnings about how shallow politics is, and how crap ordinary people are. Given that shallowness and preaching indirectly to dumb folk is Angelina’s stock in trade, it would have encouraged her.

So here’s my advice to discourage Angelina from going into politics:

  1. We will all end up hating you. You simply cannot comprehend this – but put politics into your career and people will dislike and even hate you. At the moment you can do no wrong because you haven’t a hope in hell of making anything happen. When you get into politics and start expounding your ideas, each voter will have a real stake in the risk that you can make your ideas happen. Then we get worried. Political ideas are harmless expressed in Vanity Fair and down at the pub, but the moment our mates or celebrities want to put them into action, we start disagreeing.
  2. We, the little people, have our own ideas. In your celebrity bubble, every opinion, not matter how poorly formed, seems like a great one. Everyone you know needs you to win cause their livelihoods depend on it. So they say yes. Out here, in the real world, we have our own ideas, and they are different to yours. We will ask awkward and annoying questions. There’s plenty of people out here who will say, quite rightly, or at least with the democratic right to do so: STFU.
  3. Ideas need substance, and you don’t have any. Angelina has some lovely humanitarian ideas. Peace, education, rehabilitation, end genocide, end sexual violence, be kind… why hasn’t anyone thought of this stuff before? It’s easy to be for this stuff. But note that despite her prancing the world stage on ending sexual violence in conflicts, Angelina has not advanced a single practical suggestion on how it would be achieved. Here’s the rub; the moment you start making plans, it gets very tough. Hence my next point;
  4. Politics is the art of the possible and practical. All political ideas, and even specific plans, come up against the realities of being human, like people disagreeing. Charm helps overcome objections, but there’s a bunch of other techniques that politicians have to use. Some of this includes compromise – which is precisely why all our lovely ideas never seem to happen as we dream them. Frankly Angelina, you will disappoint people by either failing to fulfill your promise, or compromising to to do. Compromise is the trait most of us have the luxury of disliking about politicians.
  5. Politics is for ordinary-looking people. Attractive people are undoubtedly winners in our society, but we just don’t take them seriously as politicians.

It might seem like success in politics should be easy, because the world has a shed-load of very average politicians at the moment. We don’t need celebrities, we just need decent, people-loving, ideas-driven, selfless, humble, politicians.

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