Mr. Penn – court jester – swirling the sands of Libya


Depiction of a jester by William Merritt Chase

No one – except of course those illusive Tuareg – has seen Gaddafi in quite a while; although we hear from him regularly; again this week he released an audio message through Syrian television.  The message is much the same as his previous ones – the true Libyans are not the rebel fighters and the true Libyans should stand up and defend their country.  “It is your country,”  Gaddafi said, calling them in their millions to demonstrate – and it a true touch of irony, Gaddafi tells the people it is their right to demonstrate – “No one can stop you, no one can tell you no, it is your right.”  I cannot remember him saying that anytime in the last 40 years, can you?

And while Gaddafi remains unseen in Libya others are popping up to help the media fill the dead air.  Sean Penn is doing his part to give the drama some star power.  He is touring the country,  at least he was in Tripoli this week.  When asked to make a statement, Mr. Penn said he was not ready to make any comment; when the reporter asked him, he said he was just looking around and gathering information.  What a fine sense of self-importance Mr. Penn must have – he must have an ego as large as –  as large as the ego of a dictator.

Gaddafi has always been accused of being so egotistical that he could never understand other people’s positions, feelings or thoughts; one might even argue that he wasn’t cruel so much as he was indifferent to the suffering of others.  That is a common complaint against dictators (and monarchs) – they believe nothing is important but their own feelings.  When that kind of all powerful ego resides  in  an all powerful body it usually results in hardships, injustice and a painful existence for the average citizen of the state.  Such a rule believe he is the most important citizen in the state, if not the world; most of histories worst rulers also believed god had chosen them for the role and therefore nothing they did could be wrong.

To anyone outside of such a regime it is nearly impossible to understand that belief or the lives of the people under such a ruler.  For the average citizen of the world,  it is hard to understand any person who feels himself to be above the masses, whether the person be a dictator or an actor;  Gaddafi or Sean Penn.   Help me out here, Sean, just exactly what do you think you bring to party?  Wandering around Libya, as apparently you did in Egypt, withholding your judgement until you have gathered the facts.  Tell me, oh noble actor, why is your opinion important? What skills do you have – you and your body guard – that will help make Libya a better place?

Actors are media constructs – they are not the people they portray on stage or film – they are average people play-acting those roles.  Sean, you are not Harvey Milk or any of the other brave and defiant men you may have portrayed on film. You are an actor – leave Libya to the real people – those are deaths, real people died; that suffering you are witnessing is real, real people are suffering – it is not the pretend stuff of your life.  During the Second World War and the Korean War many entertainers toured the battle zones – they went to bring a little happiness to the lives of the fighting men, something they badly needed.  Those entertainers did not imagine themselves to be geniuses or heroes – the soldiers were that.  Put on a play if you must, Mr. Penn, but leave the rest to the real people – what Libya does not need is another ego out-of-balance with the rest of the world – they have had that.

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