Sean Penn Wins Nobel's 2012 Peace Summit Award: Are Celebrities Taking Over Humanitarian Causes?

Analysis

on April 26 2012 12:12 PM
Sean Penn
Sean Penn Reuters

Sean Penn won the 2012 Peace Summit Award at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates on Wednesday, further demonstrating a trend of celebrities getting the recognition for millions of people's work for humanitarian causes. 

Sean Penn received the award from a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in recognition of his humanitarian aid work in Haiti, where he got his hands dirty on the ground and called on concerned citizens around the world to help the country.

He was one of a number of celebrities who participated in clean-up and awareness efforts after the island nation was rocked by a viscious earthquake in 2010, and on Wednesday the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates granted him the top award.

It's an overused phrase I know, but I trust you know it's genuine today, I am humbled. I'm trembling and I like it, he said during an emotional speech after receiving the honor, CBS News reported.

Sean Penn has spent at least half of his time in Haiti in recent months, and he has become an international spokesman for the people of the country.

But he is just one of many, many people who have donated countless hours of their lives to humanitarian work, many of whom do not have the benefits of millions of dollars and successful acting careers to fall back on if they decide to stop doing such service.

Sean Penn spent half his life in films, putzing around Hollywood, living the movie-star lifestyle, and like so many others before him he is now turning to charity work, and being rewarded handsomely for being so kind as to grace the common people with his presence.

From nuns who spend their entire lives in service to the poor and feeble to nurses and Peace Corps members, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have done more actual work in beleaguered communities. But their names are not Sean Penn or Angelina Jolie, so they don't have a national platform, no one ever hears or tells the tales of their tireless struggle, and they don't get to attend gala events and accept over-the-top awards and praise.

Angelina Jolie's transformation into a humanitarian is another example of a hard-partying actress deciding to roll up her sleeves and do some good work. She has been a dedicated servant of many of the world's troubled communities for several years now, but that's all it takes to be bestowed with awards and titles if you're a top celeb with the P.R. savvy to do some charity work.

And for her efforts she has been named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, and she has received vast acclaim for raising awareness of genocide and other problems around the world.

Even the Nobel Peace Prize itself was usurped by President Barack Obama in 2009, a wartime president who has failed to fully end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has ramped up drone attacks in the Middle East, and even started a mini-war of his own in Libya.

For Obama to win the Peace Prize was a slap in the face to all those who have actually taken steps to promote peace, and it was again in large part a function of the cult of celebrity.

It seems that the world's humanitarian leadership has -- like most of the rest of the world before it -- been co-opted in large part by the celeb culture that grips all of us.

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