Your Christmas message on twitter moved me so deeply and struck a vulnerable chord in the fabric of my being. I am a foreigner living in the UK. In the current climate, not a day goes by when I don’t give thanks for the opportunity to live in a country which is not my own, to have been welcomed with open arms and to be able to immerse myself in another culture, learn and hopefully give something back too. My folks are all in Spain and though I do not see them as often as I wish to, this is due to the life I chose and not a set of depleting circumstances forced upon me, beyond my control. To think that things could so easily change and I could be forced out from my own home, family, friends and livelihood here in the UK shakes me up to the core.
I miss my large family back in Spain terribly at times but I am blessed and lucky enough to be able to get on a plane at the drop of a hat and go and see them, just like you do. I cannot even begin to fathom what it must be like to feel such terror and threat of staying in your own home that you feel you have no other choice but to drop everything and everyone and flee for your life into the unknown and sadly sometimes into a worse fate than the alternative.
I was out at a Christmas party on Friday night and there I chatted to a Belgian guy who visited Syria many years ago. He told me about this stunningly beautiful country where people used to enjoy the affluence you speak off. Many lived in villas with swimming pools and enjoyed the luxuries and comfort that so many of us take for granted and feel a sense of entitlement to in the West today. And then he told me about the Evil that hit and tore this country apart, the rapes, the violence, the cruelty, the utter annihilation that has engulfed this nation. These people and anyone fleeing their own countries are no more deserving of this hell on earth than you and I, but they sure deserve our compassion and empathy, our love and support. It could just as easily be us having to face, for whatever reason, displacement from our homes and a total alienation from or being robbed off the life that we have always known and enjoyed. Suggesting closing our doors, borders and hearts to those in need is not progress but regressing into a mentality of the survival of the strongest, where the humane part of us is gobbled up by our animal instincts. It is regressing into a primitive state of ignorance and savagery, of dominance and control, a state of staleness and blind spots where cultures and races can no longer learn from each other and enrich each other’s points of view and gifting, be it intellectual, artistic, or even humanitarian. Closing our borders, hearts and minds is regressing back into chapters in history of oppression, annihilation, fear, dominance, holocaust, suspicion and stagnation, creating the perfect environment for yet more radical and extreme individuals to thrive in and take away the core values so many fought so valiantly and sacrificed so much to give us today.
Richard, you are absolutely right. Who are we to judge who can and cannot have what we enjoy every single day? What sets us apart from others to feel with such pride that we’ve earned a life of freedom, civil rights, choice and affluence? Absolutely nought. What makes us so darn special and sets us apart from those who live in the Kibera Slums of Nairobi or the Favelas of Brazil, those who are persecuted for their faith or discriminated against because of their race or religion? Absolutely nought! It is mere chance that has placed each and every one of us in the place we live in, to be born within a particular race or colour and to be brought up to be guided by a certain creed. To think otherwise is to lead humanity into a dangerous downward spiral of selfishness, self-centeredness, narrow-mindednes, greed and success at the expense of innocent people’s suffering and destruction; the most despicable legacy or lack of anyone could leave behind.
There is, however, a point in which I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Your profession as an actor not only does not automatically discount you from voicing your opinion in these matters, but rather places a heavy responsibility on you to do so. Whether you recognise it or not your celebrity status, your reputation and outstanding work as an artist precedes you and makes you into an exemplary role model to thousands of people out there. You have an exclusive and unique platform to not only vent your opinions but to stand up and be counted as a person who will use their influence and global presence to make a vital difference in the course of events in this turbulent world we live in. God forbid we leave the fate of this planet solely to politicians. It is specially people like you who through artistry but also through the multitudinous following you enjoy in today’s most powerful tool, social media, can actively fight the threat posed by the far right views you refer to and challenge the views and opinions of those who blinded by their own egos and agendas are willing to sell their soul to the highest bidder, even when that means putting at risk the lives of millions of innocent individuals.
My wish for this Christmas and indeed for the year ahead is a wish for more courageous men and women like you in advantageous and strategic places in society to follow their true calling or the fire in their belly, the flame that burns within at the core of their being to come forth and challenge relentlessly radical and extremists views at the hands of those who can do the most damage to democratic multi-culturally, intellectually and artistically rich and vibrant societies. I am a great believer in investing my life in exploring and pursuing without fear those little nudges we all get, the quiet small voice in our head that is telling us to push forward in certain areas, to go beyond what we are good at and into what ignites us, what we are most passionate and uncompromising about. Everything about you, starting with the name you have been given, shouts out leadership, righteousness, courage, sincerity and above all an incandescent and latent social and moral consciousness, an unwavering determination to fight for what is right. Yes, you are an actor, but I see another side of you coming through, striving to make itself heard, burning up in everything you do and say. I see a man with remarkable, exceptional qualities, qualities which are not only required but which are essential to fight the good fight, to fight to the end for the things that truly matter in this precarious world we live in.
May the force be with you! God knows I am.