The weird Time 100 fairy tale gets even weirder for M.I.A.. On Tuesday, she was invited to, and then attended–as this amazing picture to the left clearly shows–a gala at Lincoln Center in celebration of the most influential people list the mag just released. There, she apparently met not just Tavis Smiley (on whose show she appeared back in January), Stella McCartney, and the “Twitter guys,” but Oprah herself, who “squeezed my hand so hard, I was convinced she cared.” M.I.A. being M.I.A., she also took the opportunity–on her blog anyway–to once again draw attention to the ever more shocking number of civilian deaths occurring in her native country, Sri Lanka. What she wrote:
“This” being a link to a Channel 4 new story, “Grim scenes at Sri Lankan camps.” Now, the more research we do, the more it seems like the LTTE Tamil separatists are at least as culpable as the Sinhalese government in the ever increasing toll of civilian deaths in Sri Lanka. M.I.A. also linked to another news story, this one from the Times Online, titled “Sri Lanka government admits bombing civilian safe haven“–which, if you had no further context, might you lead you to lead you to believe that the Sinhalese government in that country are the only offenders in the non-combatant bloodshed, although that’s not exactly the case. As far as I can tell, they may well be equal offenders: the government is horrendously careless in terms of where they drop bombs, but the LTTE have been accused by people as non-partisan as NPR as having kept civilians in harm’s way against their will, whether as human shields or as international-human-rights-outcry-type ammunition.
Regardless, though M.I.A. is probably on the record as being a bit partisan in terms of who she blames for the violence, she has also been incredibly consistent in explicitly making her cause the rescue and reprieve of noncombatants in that country, no matter who’s killing them. (Weirdly, this fact didn’t make it into Spike Jonze’s adulatory bio of M.I.A. for TIME, although she did take the cause up herself in the accompanying video they shot of her.) This is nothing but admirable. (It’s also why, for the nth time, we feel compelled to mention how ill-conceived the New York Times‘s accusation that M.I.A. is “apologist for the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the country’s long-running civil war” truly was.)
The fact is, and this is the exciting part–the part that we maybe kind of dreamed of when everyone first discovered M.I.A., back in the Piracy Funds Terrorism days and afterwards–people are actually paying attention. In 2009, two years after she released her last album, she’s been on Tavis Smiley, in the Times, and even prompted the fucking Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary to tell her to stay in her lane on American television: “I think she is misinformed, and it’s best that she stay with what she’s good at, which is music, not politics.” She’s put her money where her mouth is, and consistently used the platform she’s earned through music to try to right what is unequivocally a massive wrong in her home country. So whatever else you might say about her, at least admit this: for all the haters and those who also alleged she was some kind of Prince Harry, rather than someone who bothered to acquaint herself of the global poverty of which she spoke from the very beginning, M.I.A. has proved herself beyond a doubt to be someone who cares deeply about unjust wrong things that happen in unfashionable parts of the globe, and she’s never hesitated to put whatever shine she’s had from her career on the line in order to talk about it.