Ben Affleck gave a TED talk
last week about why the Congo isn’t hopeless. This on the heels of his being awarded some sort of prize from the union he belongs to, and more or less during the same week that the Congolese army, apparently not having heard the news, once again ceded territory
to the rebels without putting up a fight.
The talk isn’t online yet; I assume that the TED folks are dressing it up with their usual multimedia pizazz. I wonder whether Affleck’s speech is based on Charles’ Kenney’s thoughtful 2011 essay
or Prendergast’s tiresome take on the same. I’m glad to see Affleck give the Kinshasa Orchestra a nod; I’d like to think my drum-beating
on their behalf helped.
It’s terribly easy to make fun of movie stars attempting to do good. They meander into disaster zones like cows wandering through a firing range, secure in the belief that their good intentions will see them through. They are as unable to imagine that they could do anything harmful as that anything harmful could ever happen to them. In the end, generally speaking, they are not so much unhelpful as useless: Did anything come of Nicole Richie’s
2009 intervention in the DRC? Even the more thoughtful celebrities often end up accomplishing little. Several times I’ve seen
George Clooney attempt to draw attention to South Sudan by travelling there. Each time, the accompanying camera crew focused entirely on him, all but cropping Africa out of the picture. For celebrities, working with the media must be like costarring with dogs: they’ll follow you anywhere, but the more emphatically you point in the direction you want them to look, the more obsessed they become with your finger.