Fanaticism Squared

I was horrified when I found this article about how a 28 year old woman from China drove her family into bankruptcy in order to meet Andy Lau. On her third attempt to meet him in Hong Kong, she actually got it. However, her father was pissed that Lau didn’t spend more private time with his daughter and committed suicide to make a point. The celebrity culture in Hong Kong is pretty intense, but for something like this to happen is still shocking.

Combine this and a week of fielding the question: “what brand do you admire and why?” has caused me think about fanaticism and how it manifests itself. I couldn’t find any solid explanations based on psychology. And if I did, I’m not properly trained to analyze it either. However, the wisdom in famous quotes is often overlooked:

• “Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.”
– Robertson Davies

• “In the long run I certainly hope information is the cure for fanaticism, but I am afraid information is more the cause than the cure.”
– Daniel Dennett

• “The closer a man approaches tragedy, the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.”
– Arthur Miller

Without knowing the family intimately, I can’t really make a solid argument for any of the quotes. However, I think it’s safe to say that both the father and daughter had illusions of grandeur for this event. While one of the articles said that they tried to dissuade her, eventually, it turned into a family affair. I feel like they knew nothing great was going to come from it. But there might have been a sunk-cost mentality where their overcompensating was helping romance the possibilities.

Secondly, I’m not clear on the media situation in China/HK anymore. But as I mentioned earlier, it is pretty intense. And since media is readily available through internet and bootlegs and the wires, I feel like it was enough to feed the daughter’s obsession. But, Dennett has a point in that all these access points should’ve revealed possibly unflattering information about Lau that would’ve killed if the obsession. I think the problem is that there is more good information than bad information out there.

And again, I don’t know these people, but the situation explained in the article certainly mirrors the idea of the Miller quote. It’s as if the people involved had an inverse relationship in their mind about the well being of the family and the emotional (and maybe financial) payoff of the situation.

Needless to say that this is an extreme example of fanaticism, but it makes the milder cases more understandable and opens up insecurities for us to possibly turn those who are just fans into fanatics.

I know, I’m evil.

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