I hate celebrities.
There are many reasons why, but probably the most significant is how celebrities have this ceaseless way of taking-up pet causes. These causes are always different and always the same. Always. They are: liberal activist causes based on giving humanitarian aid to some poor afflicted people in the third world after some form of calamitous catastrophe (man made or natural) has occurred. This aspect of celebrity is particularly annoying because this cause is then paraded around by vapid beautiful people (George Clooney, Angelina Jolie) who promote it in way that makes a whore out of the cause itself, coating the cause with a thin film of sleaze, using the cause as a disposable commodity to further the perception of themselves as deep and sympathetic people. These causes are taken up and forgotten and changed with a dizzying pace, the political accessories of celebrities. But the smugness this breeds, or this idea of charity as vanity is not even what upsets me the most about these celebrity "endorsements". What bothers me the most is that they really highlight the greatest fallacy of modern liberalism in America, one that is the elephant we ignore, the Baluchitherium in the room.
Even if I were able to believe that humanitarian aid addressed the source of the problem (the systematic root problems that precipitate crisis), even if I were to believe that this cause of giving aid was something more than putting a bandaid on a bullet wound, even if I accepted all that as true, I would still be faced with the greater truth - that merely by existing and consequently, consuming, one is always participating in systems of exploitation and abuse that far outweigh any ethical choices one can make throughout a lifetime. This is the great fallacy of modern liberalism in America, that while one espouses human rights and liberty for all individuals, one is doing this while actively participating in a system of commercial and political exploitation that intentionally deprives those affected people of any greater agency, all for the betterment of this great nation. Even if one were to be the greenest humanist philanthropist imaginable, involved in a myriad of causes to help the less fortunate, one would still be participating in a system that made them less fortunate to begin with, and one would still be supporting that system by innocuously consuming products with no knowledge of the greater consequences that small act of consumption will have.This liberalism in thought and conservatism in action is doublespeak, and most liberals don't know they guilty of it, mainly because living in America means being totally divorced from the knowledge of where what you consume comes from, and what what you consume is made out of. This is not a rhetorical flourish, for those incredulous allow me demonstrate:
Lets consider 3 seemingly harmless items that are ubiquitous in our quotidian lives: Chocolate, Plastics, and anything that uses a microchip processor like an iPod, computer, or cell phone.
1. Chocolate. Delicious right? It comes from the Theobroma cacao tree, which is a tropical tree, a temperamental tree that takes years to cultivate before bearing beans to be harvested. About 80% of the worlds supply of cacao beans comes from West Africa - mostly from the Ivory Coast - where child labor is used to harvest the beans. A UNICEF report from the late 90's reported that some farmers in the Ivory coast use slave labor, child slave labor. What's even better is that the chocolate industry instead of self-regulating, and offering organic slave labor free chocolate as a commercial alternative, decided to fight legislation tooth and nail against a slave free food label. Thanks Nestle! This ensures that when we bite into our next candy bar we can be pretty sure a child slave helped contribute to our satisfaction.
2. Plastics. Life would suck without 'em right? They are in everything these days-from the cellophane on my cigarettes to the cars we drive. And speaking of cars, plastics also use petroleum, because plastics come from petroleum. Which comes from oil, that limited natural resource that only grows in scarcity. We can only manufacture plastics from natural gas and petroleum, both of which will run out sometime in the near future. But plastics have another similarity with cars, in that they offer their own special, largely ignored ecological disaster. Plastics are one of those few man made creations that are non-biodegradable, meaning they stick around forever slowly breaking down through erosion and sunlight into smaller polymer chains, until they are small enough to be runoff from a landfill and enter our tributaries and lakes and streams where we consume them and then they play a new role in our bodies where they act as estradiol and make our endocrine systems go crazy or make us infertile. Depending on which number plastic it is (1-7) it can also be toxic. So there's that. Then there's plastic island in the pacific ocean that covers a surface area 2X the size of Texas. This is a large ecological disaster that remains widely ignored, the consequences of which are unconscionable. Oh did I mention this is only one of the 5 great garbage patches in the gyres of the worlds oceans?
3. Cell phones, iPods, and computers. These are essentials in the ever increasing digital lives we lead. Necessary at this point. The motherboards and microchips that power these devices come from basic minerals we are relatively familiar with - gold and the three T's: tin (cassiterite), tungsten (wolframite), and tantalum (coltan). Now tantalum is wonderful because it used in almost every form of electronic capacitor in small devices - it stores the energy. Tin is the soldering on the motherboard, tungsten allows your phone to vibrate, and gold coats the wires. Now all this is important because all these resources are in abundance in one country in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire). Now if you don't know anything about Congo, you are probably not to blame, in the US there has been a conspicuous media blackout concerning the Second Congo War which began in 1998. Since it started over 5.4 million people have died making it the second most deadly conflict since World War II. Now despite clear ideologies at the beginning of the conflict it degraded into just a deadly power grab for all sides involved, and all of DRC's neighbors got involved in some way shape or form, Rawanda and Uganda playing the biggest roles, but not to be outdone by the troops of despots Mugabe and Gaddafi. Burundi, Sudan, Namibia, Chad, and Angola have at various points entered the fracas for their own self interest. Several different factions and militias control various parts of the country where they tax the mines and smuggle the minerals out to buy weapons to perpetuate an endless cycle of war. As if this wasn't atrocious enough, rape has been institutionalized by ALL sides in the conflict as a means of control and fear. This has driven up the rates of HIV and vaginal fistulae due to gang rape. And rape is not just against women, rape is also against men. The DRC has the highest incidents of sexual assault in the world. If this wasn't atrocious enough all sides have also engaged in the hunting of pygmies as sport. Pygmies are regarded as subhuman and often eaten in acts of cannibalism loosely associated with the magic powers supposedly embodied in them. This is, without a doubt the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, it makes Darfur look ike a walk in the park yet remains absent from the news and absent from Clooney's armchair activism.
The fact is the destabilization of this region is great for business (just as child slavery is great for chocolate), if DRC were allowed to have a coherent government they could nationalize the mines and demand a fair price for their resources, which would consequently damage the economies of all first world countries that rely heavily on technology in their infrastructure.
Now here is the fallacy: try going a day without chocolate. Easy enough? Now try and repeat the process with technology? Very difficult. Now try and do that with plastics? Impossible. Even if trying to boycott these things one finds it impossible and unbearable because we have created a reality so thoroughly based on domination and exploitation, one so pervasive, that we simply cannot escape it even if we want to. There is no way out, and we choose to remain ignorant to these issues so we never have to confront the hypocrisy of our liberalism, that while calling for justice we are actively contributing to injustice. I own a Blackberry and I am currently writing on this laptop, and I have to recognize that to even be able to share this with you today someone was either raped or murdered. This is the hidden brutality of the world we live in, it is too late to even bite the hand feeds, at this point you would just be biting yourself.
But maybe I am too harsh on celebrity maybe there can be a purposeful use for it after all. Because here I am in the check out lane of a crowded super market and I'm starring at People magazine and they have one those Clooney causes as one of their many subheadlines next to his smug face and then I look over and see all the chocolate bars next to the Tic Tacs and random AAA batteries wrapped in plastic next to the register that is ringing up my order, the register that is made out tungsten and tin and tantalum, and I don't want to think about what I'm looking at, I don't want to consciously agree that I am a bad person, I want to laugh and be distracted and I need that mindless celebrity that says nothing of any importance but is still a manic disorienting 24/7 source of entertainment. At times like this, as much as I hate to admit it, I need Charlie Sheen.