Here’s one for the “Hollywood Moralizing” category. Matt Damon, the reigning king of speaking before thinking, recently lamented the state of the U.S. political landscape. It seems that Damon believes that financial inequality in America is a much bigger problem than the media is letting on. And he knows this because he went to a Bruce Springsteen concert in New York City. Good for you, Matt. What can’t be learned from the liberal media can always be learned from a liberal singer. It’s all so perfectly logical.
What is absolutely mind-blowing about Damon’s comments is how completely hypocritical they are (big surprise!). Damon is not your average Hollywood do-nothing. His work with Water.org is commendable for several reasons (more on this later). But when he tries to tell a reporter that he knows how Americans really feel about economic inequality because of what happened at a Springsteen concert, it is boggle-the-mind stupid.
To begin with, Springsteen tickets in Madison Square Garden begin at $75—as in for the nosebleed sections. And you can bet your ascot that Damon wasn’t sitting there. In fact, you can further bet that he didn’t even pay for his ticket. He was a “special guest” of Springsteen himself. How do I know this? Because of what Damon says: “I went backstage after and saw him [Springsteen] and it was the first thing he said to me. He's singing to firemen and cops and real people. And the fury that's there is very, very real.” Did everyone else at the concert get to go backstage and hobnob with Bruce too? Did the poor saps who paid $75 to watch the concert on the JumboTron get to meet “the Boss”? You already know the answer. Why is it that Bruce and Matt get to high-five each other backstage, yet the paying customers (you know, the 99 percenters) get to file out of the Garden and go straight home? Is there a bit of inequality here, Matt? What gives?
Further, what is truly astounding is Matt’s matter-of-fact reporting on what made the crowd furious and what so impressed him about the problem of “income inequality.” During a song titled Jack of All Trades, which speaks directly to the topic, Springsteen sings: “If I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot them on sight.” Fascinating. So it’s acceptable for Springsteen to advocate and threaten violence against the 1%? Damon’s response is even more fascinating: “Now when he says that, when he's saying that, the place roared. I mean, roared. Like 30,000 people involuntarily screamed their approval. And it was so alarming.” What should be more alarming, Mr. Damon, is that you and Bruce are part of the 1% “bastards” that the frenzied crowd wanted shot dead. For you to include yourself with “them” is more than a bit presumptuous, don’t you think? Might this have something to do with why the 99 percenters in the crowd had to enter through metal detectors and were not invited to the party backstage? I wonder.
Damon has generated buzz in the past for his criticism of President Obama. While he is clear about his support for Obama, Damon is frustrated that the president has been less than proactive on following through on his many (many) election promises. Damon is right to be frustrated, but he is wrong to be putting his hope in politics. As he does with his Water.org project, which he co-founded with water engineer Gary White, Damon should not be looking to politicians to solve problems, but to individuals and the free-market. On its website, Water.org clearly states its mission:
We believe people in developing countries know best how to solve their own problems. That's why we forge partnerships with carefully-screened, indigenous partner organizations that understand, and are part of, the local culture. The result: a solution tailored to the needs of each community, instead of a technological fix the community has no way of maintaining.
Notice that the word “politics” or “politicians” is completely absent. What you do read however is “people,” “community,” and “local culture.” Not unlike the Christian church’s strategy of sending missionaries, Water.org looks for ways to help the local area deliver clean water to its people by implementing and working within the structure that already exists. This is a key function of the free-market and one that is almost never discussed or allowed by political regimes, whether local or foreign. Damon’s organization seems to understand this and is seeing great success with this approach. Why can’t Damon understand that this is far more effective than blathering on with Bruce about income disparity? My income is quite disparate compared to Damon and Springsteen, where do they get off telling me what it’s “really like”?
Here’s some advice, Matt. Continue solving the world’s clean water issues by working within the local free-market structure and stop listening to pseudo-social commentators like Bruce Springsteen. And then begin to realize that what works for third-world countries also works for the first-world ones: free-markets rather than hot air from stuffed political suits.