End Celebrity Fasts & Boycotts Now!

Dear Mia: I trust, Mia, that by now you’ve fully recovered from your fast for Darfur. It was noble of you, though a bit naïve, I have to say.   Africa is one of my passions, Mia, so I’m not belittling your intention, and I know you’re intelligent enough to know that the complexities of […]

Last Updated: July 22, 2009 @ 5:25 PM

Dear Mia:

I trust, Mia, that by now you’ve fully recovered from your fast for Darfur. It was noble of you, though a bit naïve, I have to say.

 

Africa is one of my passions, Mia, so I’m not belittling your intention, and I know you’re intelligent enough to know that the complexities of Darfur cannot be easily resolved. However, I thought it was a big mistake. Your lack of public support from prominent African Americans, and celebrities in general, didn’t help.

I remembered reading some time ago that Dubai construction companies had big plans for Khartoum. The story came back to me before your fast. It was when I saw the Hollywood brothel moving en masse to Dubai late last year for the opening of the latest vulgarium, the Atlantis.

 

The Sudan connection didn’t make much of an impression on Hollywood then, Mia, neither did the woes of those wretched Indo-Pak labourers. Even more tellingly, that hotel is operated by Sol Kerzner, possibly not a name familiar to you but he is the chap who ran Sun City — that "entertainment" venue in a black "homeland" that white South Africans frequented for a hint of vice.

 

I suppose it would inconvenience the reputations of some if I point out that during the Apartheid era that was where many African Americans went for 30 pieces of silver to entertain Nelson Mandela’s captors. The history of celebrity activism wilts under scrutiny!

Now I know you were fasting about the exclusion of aid organisations from Sudan, but to most people in the Arab world western weeping over Darfur after the carnage of Iraq is rich to say the least. There is also quite a lot of anti-China sentiment in the Darfur protest camp, which confuses the issues and allows China and the Arabs to use U.S. foreign policy as a precedent.

When I consider that George Bush is enjoying his retirement in Texas and Tony Blair is traipsing around the lecture circuit filling his voluminous pockets, I understand fully why we are loathed by people who deride our hypocrisy. When Omar al-Bashir was in Doha — with an arrest warrant over his head — did we really expect the Arabs to hand him over while George and Tony enjoy their Liberty?

Mia, I know you have been involved with child welfare for a long time. I believe your sincerity, but I also expect you to have gained some experience and insight as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In the Arab world "face" goes a long way, and you could have, should have, opted for a different approach.

In some ways, Mia, your acting has never received the acclaim it deserves. Your performances in "Broadway Danny Rose" and "Alice" are for the ages. Everyone is aware that Gulf States are jockeying for prominence, and media is one of the areas that they are keen to see prosper. You could have exploited that for Darfur.

 

You should have, for example, gotten a group of prominent Hollywood women to visit the area. Workshops with young Arab women filmmakers, meetings with a few Sheikhas … Your presence alone would have gotten plenty of coverage, and you could have got a powerful alliance behind you if you did it subtly, giving them the opportunity to cajole discreetly.

I’ve just found that Maria Bello was fasting, too. Now, Miss Bello was splendid in "A History of Violence," but let’s face it — there wasn’t exactly a crush at the box office. I think she would be of more use to the people of Darfur if she concentrated on her day job and articulated things when it was appropriate to do so.

 

Mia, the more I think about this business of Hollywood actresses starving themselves for Darfur the more it seems like a job creation scheme for satirists. I’m not anorexic, I’m just catching up on Sudanese history. Anyone for the Sudanese history diet?

I also have grave doubts about celebrities arranging boycotts. You played a part in persuading Steven Spielberg to resign from the Beijing Olympics, and we all know how greatly he was missed!

The days of us — Western consumers, I mean — threatening boycotts are over, Mia. What if China boycotted us? What if they banned exports? I know that is impractical, but you remember those old news reports of Moscow housewives wandering through empty stores?

 

That would be us, Mia! But they will be boycotting us soon, I’m sure.

Maybe a sumptuous edition of a Mia Farrow DVD set will trigger riots. And what if China suddenly, or even violently, embraces democracy and grieving Chinese families want to settle scores with the state censor. What if a Chinese judge issues an arrest warrant for Westerners who assisted the Chinese web censors?

 

Will we send Bill Gates, Jerry Yang, Sergey Brin and Larry Page off to Beijing to face the consequences of their co-operation? Can’t see it, Mia, but maybe it’s time for us to grasp that the world has changed.

Everything we do, experience, like, dislike is from a Judaeo-Christian point of view, Mia. Everything we take for granted is not under threat, but it will no longer be the dominant view. Cars, kettles, toasters and the like don’t usually cause offense, but people like you in the media will feel the brunt of the changes.

 

Unhindered we have exported our creative products, our habits and our commercial sensibility. The people who worship Hinduism, Islam and Buddhist traditions will increasingly impress upon us a rather different world view which will be, almost certainly, less liberal than what we’d like.

 

Western Conservatives will have nothing to cheer about, either, as they see huge Asian markets exert their influence politically.

Because these societies have never experienced multicultural immigration, they are obviously more racially coherent than societies in the West. So religion and citizenship do not diverge; therefore they are more prone to sectarian nationalism, internally and externally. Moslems and Hindus are probably the most obvious examples of this, although another closer-to-home example is Ireland.

 

In developing nations it is largely a privileged elite we deal with. As their economies grow, it will be hard to predict what nationalist ideas emerge. But I think the idea that these regions are a natural growth market for Western media companies is one that has to be tempered.

 

Maybe it’s time for us to prepare to deal with these societies more humbly. I don’t mean we should sit back and watch genocide unfold, but we do have to grasp that our interpretation of events and history are all from a distance and as the retorts become more frequent, more confident and louder, we need different tactics.

 

Mark Lynch lives and works in London, where he writes an online novel, The Republic of Truth, about teen survivors of a climate disaster.