Greg Mortenson: when 'do gooders' become celebrities
The truth is still being sifted about Greg Mortenson, best-selling author and philanthropist. But maybe an early warning came when the story became all about him.
(Page 2 of 2)
One important charge against Mortenson is that he did not visit the village of Korphe at the time he says he did. According to Mortenson's book, the visit provided a seminal moment, putting him on the path to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Darsney says Mortenson's account rings true: “[O]n our way out, Greg got lost ... somewhere between the Biafo glacier region and Askole. About half a day later, Greg finally showed up in Askole saying he'd made a major wrong turn. He'd ended up in a village on the wrong side of the Braldu River. It's certainly plausible that this was Korphe.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In an insightful opinion piece in the Monitor, Courtney E. Martin and John Cary ask whether a new culture of "do gooder celebrities" has emerged. "In this culture of 24/7 news, swollen with schadenfreude, Mortenson appears on the brink of becoming another tragic figure – the most recent saint to fall from his pedestal of six-figure book contracts, sold-out speaking engagements, and CAI’s millions in annual donations," they write.
Mortenson may have been overwhelmed by his sudden celebrity, lacking the tools "pragmatically or ethically – to handle it," they say. "The scale was too big; the speed was too fast."
More and more organizations, including the news media, are putting a spotlight on individuals doing good works. From CNN "Heroes" to the TED prizes to appearances on TV's "Oprah" or "Charlie Rose" the news media find readers and viewers love to learn about and celebrate individuals who make exceptional contributions. (The Monitor has it's own weekly "people making a difference" feature.)
But should the spotlight be on the individuals – or the work they accomplish? Does reading about people going the extra mile to help others inspire us – or let us off the hook, relieved that someone else is making the effort for us?