I had the opportunity to watch CNN’s Heroes of the year 2008. This being an American TV station it is hardly surprising that the viewers chose 7 Americans. One would have wished that their selection would reflect a little more of the international perspective of human suffering, not that those 7 Americans weren’t deserving of the praise. Three of them, in fact, do help people abroad. CNN, after all, is watched by more people outside the U. S. than inside.
The show as such was pretty much a normal Hollywood award show production with all its smoothness, the celebrities in low-cut dresses and high-heels, basically the format of an Oscar or Emmy awards presentation. Even the female heroes were decked out in Hollywood designer dresses with many a revealing neckline, one even in danger of revealing everything. The stars who presented the heroes are pretty much household names and they did a good job, as could be expected. We saw many in the audience wiping away tears from their eyes. The finale was a rousing rendition by John Legend with his song ‘If you are out there’.
Among the ten, however, was also a Cambodian woman, now living in Canada, by the name of Phymean Noun. Her story can be viewed on CNN’website at http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/29/heroes.noun/
It goes without saying that her efforts are indeed heroic, not the least that she spent $30,000 of her own money to get her project started.
What bothered me in the presentation of her good work was that Cambodia was mentioned as a place in hell. Yes, I know when Lucy Lui said this she was referring to the dump sites, not to the country as a whole, but it nevertheless came across as just that. Maybe I am a little oversensitive here, but it left a sour aftertaste in my mouth. Of course, we know about these scavengers, and we know something must be done about that, and indeed are happy that someone feels called upon to actually act. But it still would have been better if at least a fleeting remark had been made about what Cambodia is today. I could imagine an opening line for the video like this:
‘Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on earth. Although it has made some progress in alleviating the plight of the poor, it still is not enough. Some people and their children can only carve out a meager living by scavenging the dump sites…..’