A great editorial by (college classmate) Bret Stephens on the wide gap between today’s celebrity culture and the older, more austere values of yesteryear which characterized the brave and humble men of the space program:
That this should seem at all peculiar tells us something about the age. Codes of personal conduct were once what Americans—great ones, at least—were all about. In his superb book “American Heroes,” Yale historian Edmund S. Morgan writes about Benjamin Franklin and George Washington that “both men cared enormously about their reputations, about their honor. Their deliberate refusals to do things, employed to great advantage in serving their country, originated in a personal ambition to gain honor and reputation of a higher order than most people aspired to.”
This is not the way we live now. Modern culture has severed many of the remaining links between merit and celebrity. We make a fetish of uninteresting, detestable, loud or unaccomplished people: Paris Hilton, Princess Di, Keith Olbermann, Michael Jackson. Disgrace can be a ticket for even greater celebrity, particularly when mixed with confession. Stoicism, on the other hand, is regarded as a form of denial, meaning borderline lunacy.