What is the personal cost of fame? What is the relationship between success and addiction? In ROCK BOTTOM, Adam Riva looks at the rise and fall of Bam Margera, how his life resembles the decline of contemporary culture, and the lessons we can learn from him and his family. Rather than condemning him, ROCK BOTTOM tells the story of a boy raised without discipline and exploited by the social engineers to steer an entire generation into hedonism.
Growing up, my friends and I were spellbound by the cast of Jackass and heavily influenced into creating spectacle through shock and awe. Even though we were straight-edge and never consumed drugs or alcohol, and despite our devout Catholic upbringing, the overwhelming power of culture swayed us towards mindless self-indulgence and reckless disregard. I often wish I could go back to my adolescence and dedicate more time to serving others and less time to juvenile pranks, dangerous stunts, and ridiculous displays of wasteful first-world privilege.
They say the age at which you become famous is the age at which you stop maturing.
Brandon “Bam” Margera got his first skateboard sponsorship as a teenager and turned pro not long after. As an original cast member of Jackass, he quickly became a household name across America, eventually landing him several spin off films and series, all showcasing his wild antics, social experiments, and lewd and lascivious behavior. For many years, the likelihood of turning on MTV and seeing reruns of Viva La Bam was quite high, where episodes would feature Bam destroying valuable things, hurting his friends for laughs, and tormenting his parents and relatives in abject cruelty. This coincided with the dawn of inexpensive video cameras, fueling copycat behavior in millions of teenage boys who wanted to be just like the role models that the television was presenting them with.
We are the amalgamation of our thoughts and actions. Every public action you take in the world affects others. Each conversation, each performance, each work of art, each interaction, and so on, no matter how big or small, leaves an imprint on those around you. You can leave someone happier, angrier, or more inspired. You can hurt others, or you can heal others. The words you choose, the body language you emote, the concepts you promote, the lifestyle you display, all affect those who bear witness to your life.
It is easy to lose track of this concept when you become famous. I believe this is why celebrities generally stop maturing when they score fame. If the feedback we receive from society is positive, then the things we are doing are appraised as valuable. The dopaminergic system creates a positive feedback loop wherein we are given more praise and adulation for what it is that is getting the attention in the first place. This positive feedback is assumed to be proof that our actions are positive. Only a stoic, highly disciplined mind can analyze the situation from a detached, objective perspective to ascertain if the behavior itself is worthy of fame.
Of course, the social engineers understand this principle, which is why celebrities are often the trojan horses for degeneracy, collectivism, and dysgenic ideologies. Everyone has heard the old trope about the musician selling his soul to the devil for fame. In the real world, this Faustian contract does not need to be signed consciously. In fact, it often happens slowly, subtly, and unconsciously. We are all enticed and tempted by luxury, money, access, gluttony, praise, and lust. These are the temporal pleasures that directly plug into our biological circuitry as we have evolved endogenous reward mechanisms that incentivize us to climb the social hierarchy.
However, these biological rewards are short-lived as our baselines reset and we adapt to our new position in the tribe. This is the driver of success, but it is unfortunately the same driver of addiction. We require our higher faculties, chiefly abstract reasoning located in our frontal cortex, to govern over our decisions and behaviors so that we can mediate between selfishness and selflessness, vice and sacrifice. Indeed, we rely on self-discipline to aim at what will bring us lasting fulfillment and transient pleasure. We must ask ourselves, if I take my current behavior to its logical conclusion, will it destroy me and those around me, or will it exalt us towards a better, more peaceful, more truthful, more loving place?
Am I serving truth and justice? Is what I am doing sustainable, beautiful, and ethical?
When I was young, I heard a motivational speaker give the following advice that really stuck with me. “Spend the first half of your life preparing for the second half of your life.”
Of course, a morally vapid person can interpret this in a Machiavellian fashion, where the goal is to acquire resources in a postmodern power struggle to ensure one’s own security down the line. However, I don’t think any serious person interprets it this way.
I interpreted it as solid advice for self-improvement. Focus on preserving your health and well-being, processing and transmuting trauma, gleaning wisdom from your elders, transcending your ego, surrounding yourself with noble allies, imbibing the deep and powerful ideas of philosophers and psychologists, developing skills that will serve you in your career, and refining your character to attract the ideal partner. This advice is a good starting place, but by no means is it a complete list.
Bam Margera’s life is a microcosm for the state of the world, paralleling our decline to rock bottom.
What would Bam Margera’s life look like right now if he had instead dedicated his time and his resources to being the best possible role model for his fans, his partner, and his son? What would your life look like if from this point forward, you lived in service of truth, in service of God? What would society look like if we all tried a little harder to make our imprint on the world worthy of genuine praise? What if we all tried to make the world a safer and more wholesome place for children?
I admit that I haven’t always been the best role model, the best partner, the best version of myself, and when we are honest with our thoughts, I believe most of us have regrets of some kind. It seems like, as a planet, we are experiencing the growth pains of adolescence, struggling in some ways with an identity crisis, and recognizing that the pursuit of responsibility is more noble than the pursuit of juvenile fun. Now that culture is hitting rock bottom, prior to this Great Reset moment in history, it is imperative that we choose wisely the path forward, so that our descendants will thank us for traversing a perilous time with maturity, despite the temptations from the social engineers.