Picture this: You just came back from a holiday in a country far away from yours. You had a great time and it was such a refreshing experience, but as an avid citizen of the 21st century, you posted about some of the things you liked and didn’t like on social media. You went about with your life, and your comments remained on the Internet never to bother you again.
Now picture this: You are a celebrity. In fact, you are Leonardo DiCaprio.
Leonardo DiCaprio recently visited Indonesia, and while he was there, he visited a protected national park. Last week, he took to Instagram to talk about how “rampant destruction” caused by the extraction of palm oil is affecting the Sumatran orangutan. According to the BBC, an immigration official said Friday that Leonardo DiCaprio could be banned from Indonesia because of his comments.
As the forest of the #Indonesian #LeuserEcosystem continues to be cleared to meet demand for Palm Oil, the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan is being pushed to the brink of extinction. Here, at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme’s Orangutan Quarantine Center, rescued orangutans are rehabilitated so they can be released back into the wild. If we don’t stop this rampant destruction, the Leuser Ecosystem and the Sumatran orangutans that call it home could be lost forever. Click the link in the bio to support this important work. #Indonesia
This baffled me. Why was a man being banned from a country for saying something a lot of people have thought at least once? In this day and age, everybody is constantly publishing every thought their brain makes to some form of social media, yet most of these people are not banned from any kind of land. What makes Leonardo DiCaprio so special?
The answer, of course, is in his name. He is one of the most renowned and revered names in Hollywood and in the global sphere. He has famously advocated for our environment, even including it in the acceptance speech of his first Academy Award. He is an influential voice — one that is actually heard by everyone. Does he, then, have less freedom to actually speak his mind freely? Clearly, he does.
Ironically, the most famous voices, the ones who can actually make a difference, have to tirelessly think before speaking. Even if they think about what they are going to say, they are bound to receive backlash from someone somewhere over something. Then there is the rest of the population. We can speak our minds freely and may want to change more things than one, but we need that infamous fame to achieve this. If this is not a vicious circle, what is?
Ultimately, Leonardo DiCaprio is safe. Indonesia’s foreign minister and environment minister said that he “lacked complete information” and, in fact, DiCaprio’s comments and concerns are deeply appreciated. Nonetheless, the actor’s fame made his words worth a lot more than they would have been worth otherwise.
As any idealistic college student out there, I hope to be influential some day. I realize, however, that influence, fame and opinions are a tricky combination that no one will ever figure out. Does that mean that we should stop voicing our concerns and our opinions? Does that mean Leonardo DiCaprio should stop voicing his concerns and opinions? No, not at all.