Sean Penn has just added to the farce that is the Falklands/Malvinas Cat Fight.
From the minute 2012 rolled around, and with it a heap of empty Falklands chat, I made a conscious decision to ignore it. Given the number of lives lost over these pesky rocks, and the strong sentiments they evidently continue to stir up today, surely Cristina Kirchner and David Cameron would not think that a few insults chucked back and forth are going to be worth anyone's time? We have a flailing economy, the threat of global flashpoints in Syria and Iran, and a smugly indignant Alex Salmond: now is hardly the time to rake this up. Argentina's motives aren't hard to comprehend, but it took a bloody and scarring war to settle this matter three decades ago after Argentina invaded the islands to the unanimous horror and opposition of its inhabitants; this is no decision to be made over coffee, cake and a few back-handers. Now that Sean Penn has jumped on the bandwagon though, it's become enough of a circus for me to join the fray.
Chucking about words like "ludicrous" and "colonialist" - plus "the Malvinas Islands of Argentina" - Penn is feeding an insubstantial, surface and puny fire that has kept burning for a remarkably long time, even leading UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon to express his "concern" at how thick and fast this tiff is progressing. The whole thing was rather inflamed by the incompetence of leaking Prince William's posting to the press. Was this an MOD cock-up or did some dumb Tory think this would give the government a jingoistic shot in the arm? The sub-plot here is poor old Will's status as the favourite pawn of all those who would abuse his global popularity for their cause, such as lobbying for the Football World Cup or campaigning to let footballers wear poppy armbands on Armistice Day. Be that as it may, the issue has escalated into a game of trumps. With a movie star and Oscar-winner on their side Argentina have upped the ante. I'd say the best course for the Falklanders, and the UK, is to keep our tongues bit, and our celebs on a leash.
Fine if Sean Penn were fighting for an oppressed people, but in reality, what is this debate about? There's no colonised people. This seems to be an argument about land and oil. Now if there'd been Falklander demonstrations against the 'powers that be' in London, if Mr Penn had been growling into a camera lens standing next to Falklands governor Nigel Haywood, that would be a very different story. Parallels have been drawn with Northern Ireland. There, there is a rational argument as to whether the majority that should decide the territories' fate is the one in the six counties, or the one on the island as a whole. But in the Falklands, what is the democratic argument for adopting a solution other than one the islanders want?
Of course, as a country still not fully recovered from an economic crisis, with a president determined to set things straight by the time her second term is out, these neighbouring oil fields are all too frustratingly close. And despite recently implementing restrictions on foreign land-ownership, Argentina's vast and fertile land is being bought up left, right and centre by investors from economically developed countries who've run out of their own.
But if we start looking back to 'what was whose' almost two centuries ago when British control over the islands began, then there's much more than just the Falklands that should be handed back to its original owners.
If this issue really is to be dug up again, it needs to be worked at from its core. Celebrities can only be peppered on once there is a political springboard to bounce off. It's awfully avant-garde of Sean to jump the gun, but where's the oppressed minority he's speaking for?
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