Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on February 15, 2008
In the 1800s, Russia had the all the big celebrities — Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky — but today, not so much. Let’s see, there’s Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and t.A.T.u. What’s that? A couple tennis stars and a couple of…um…singers. My point is, the last 200 years has seen a significant decline in the former Soviet Union star power and the Russians are clearly feeling the pinch.
Which is the only reason I can come up with for why they’d deem it “inappropriate” for George Clooney to deliver a message on his recent trip to Darfur in western Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. What was the Oscar winner’s message? That something needs to be done about the “millions [who] are homeless, not from famine or disease or acts of God, but from a well armed militia intent on ridding the land of its people.” But instead of delivering it to a meeting of nations contributing peacekeeping troops, the star of “Syriana” and “Michael Clayton” had to wait until a news conference to make his point. “It seems as if at times celebrity can bring that focus,” Clooney added. “It can’t make the policies, it can’t change people’s minds really, but you can bring a camera where you go because they’ll follow you and you can shine a light on it. That seems to be my job.”
Clooney also plans to lobby countries to fulfill their U.N. peacekeeping funding commitments. Including the United States, which owes $1.2 billion. “These men and women risking their lives for peace are your responsibility. So, either give them the basic tools for protecting the population and themselves or have the decency to bring them all home because you can’t do it halfway,” he said.
Other U.N. messengers of peace include musician Yo-Yo Ma, author Paulo Coelho, naturalist Jane Goodall, Olympic equestrian Princess Haya of Jordan and actor Michael Douglas. Hang on — Michael Douglas? I think he’s of Russian-Jewish descent.
You’re getting warmer, Russia, but Michael’s not quite George, is he?