Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 6, 2007
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Robert J. Lewis
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John Lavery
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Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward



Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution;
the rest is but conceit.
Francis Bacon

© Mia Farrow

Mia's drinking water right
Darfur drinking water left

Without the participation of celebrities such as Mia Farrow, Michael Douglas and Trudie Styler (Gordon Sumner's better half), it's highly unlikely that the 2007 Millennium Summit-Montreal, which dedicates itself especially to eliminating child poverty, would be able to concentrate the efforts and financing required to bring, for example, clean water and medicine to the Darfur region that has been systematically 'ravaged and plundered' (code for ethnic cleansing) by Sudan's Janjaweed militia units. Mia Farrow

But despite Mia, Mike and Trudie's dedication to humanitarian causes and the spectacular results they are uniquely able to obtain, there are many in the media who take it upon themselves to question their motivation, thoughtlessly ascribing to their efforts the Vanity Fair mentality. Leon Wieseltier, the eloquent and wonderfully articulate literary editor of The New Republic, has major problems with Brad Pitt, whom he accuses of being more interested in his own shine than shining light on the problems he is allegedly preoccupied with.

Let it be said for all time that as it concerns the starving child for whom $35 a year is the difference between life and death, there is no such thing as wrong reasons -- only wrong-headed journalism for which Wieseltier and his ilk must be held accountable.

Even in the worst case scenario, where celebrities raise money for purely selfish reasons, they must be judged by the effects of their deeds, which is to bring life and hope to the planet's most vulnerable who would otherwise perish. Mike DouglasYes, Mike Dougles talks a lot about his accomplishments as an actor and producer, but for the mother who will preside over her child's graduation instead of funeral, she only has to know that Mike Douglas is the person responsible for getting thousands of guns out of the hands of street kids and kid soldiers in Sierra Leone.

Trudie Styler is taking Texaco to court for its crimes against the environment and the Ecuadorian people. Texaco thought it could get away with dumping billions of gallons of toxic-laden waste water into 1,700 square miles of once-pristine jungle -- now deemed to be among the globe's worst contaminated sites. Thanks to Trudie and her team, Texaco will be made to pay big-time at the pump.Trudie Styler (photo by Marcel Dubois)

Ask Mia Farrow what constitutes an abuse of celebrity power, and she'll answer, "when celebrities do nothing, or spend their enormous capital on self-gratification."

So may the celebrities mentioned above multiply like rabbits. My personal star power is such that it would take two hours of panhandling to raise enough money for the purchase of a bus ticket. Trudie Styler, as gifted and committed a speaker as you'll find on the real issues of our times, can raise a million dollars in two hours. How dare anyone asperse the motives of celebrities since reasons count for absolutely nothing next to the enormous results they produce.

Cherie BlairWhat makes humanitarian celebrities truly exceptional is that even though they have been touched by spectacular wealth and access (once the sole preserve of conquerors and men of political might), they still remain unfullfilled; and of all the options at their disposal with which they could address that unfulfillingness, they choose the one that brings them face to face with man's inhumanity to man -- at considerable personal risk. This is their art, their gift, where the reward is nothing less than being there for those in need. Trudie Styler, in describing her work during her Millennium Summit appearance, said that taking responsibility -- without any distinction -- for all human life has been the supreme privilege of her life: a message that should be included in every bottle.

Daniel Belanger & Mia Farrow

Power and influence notwithstanding, the challenge celebrities face is a formidable one, especially if you believe that it is human nature not to care. It seems that human beings are remarkably indifferent to suffering that doesn't register on or upset the senses. The money that I'm comfortable spending on a flat screen television would strike me as criminal if I were in the midst of Darfur's squalor, disease, hunger, extreme violence and ubiquitous presence of death. But most of us do not have the means nor the will to physically involve ourselves in the world's suffering. Thanks to celebrities, who come back to report on what they have seen and what needs to be done, some of us can no longer remain idle or indifferent. By making a difference, they show us how we can make a difference, which is why Millennium Summits are indispensable.

To Mia, Trudie, Mike, Cherie Blair, the esteemed Bishop Tutu, Daniel Germain (the Summit's founding father), and the many other humanitarians that converged on Montreal because they want to make a difference -- may your tribe increase.

Report filed by Robert J. Lewis
Photo Credits: © Marcel Dubois

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