Harnessing Excess

Harnessing Excess

Abby Zimet

For the skeptical or cynical, it was remarkable to see the
skillfully - and quickly - orchestrated star power that was last
night's Hope for Haiti Benefit. Almost 150 of the glitziest celebrities
of our glitz-soaked culture turned out to perform, answer phones, help
however they could – be, in short, mensches.

Between somber
performances by the biggest stars of the day - Springsteen, Bono, Mary
Bilge, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Jay-Z, etc etc - cameras panned over
all the likewise big, and often unlikely names, answering phones: Look,
there's Jack Nicholson! Reese Witherspoon! Robin Williams! Whoah,
what's that sleazebag Mel Gibson doing there? etc. Other big stars
awkwardly but good-heartedly told moving stories of great need,
children saved, acts of grace. Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean
insisted, "From the ashes we shall rise.''

Even before the
event - organized by Jean and George Clooney, clearly already a mensch
- Hollywood's biggest names had stepped forward. Pitt and Jolie gave a
million dollars to Doctors Without Borders. Leonardo Dicaprio and Julia
Roberts also donated a million. So okay: We inhabit a profoundly silly
and excessive celebrity culture obscenely out of sync with the rest of
the world. How refreshing, for once, to see the power of that excess
used for good.  

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Last night's benefit is expected to raise over
$150 million. It is a drop in the bucket in the need of Haiti, to be
sure, but it helps. It also inevitably raises the painful question: If
this can be done for Haiti, why not Darfur, Congo, Sierra
Leone, all the suffering and little-noticed peoples in all the war-and-disaster-ravaged
places of the world? If a bunch of rich individuals can pull this off, why can't a group of rich countries do it?

is not a matter of resources; it is a matter of will, or lack of same.
And that's almost as much of a tragedy as an earthquake. What Clooney said
of Haiti could be said, in varying degrees, of anywhere: "This reaches across all borders,
all boundaries. It demands our attention, our help and our compassion."


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