Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

13 February 2014

Choking to death on a piece of cheese would be a terrible way to go out. Fortunately a Californian golf-tournament director was spared a dairy-based demise last week and gifted a story that he can tell repeatedly for the rest of his prolonged life: it was none other than Clint Eastwood who administered the Heimlich manoeuvre.

The efforts of the 83-year-old actor were played out at a drinks reception in Carmel-by-the-Sea rather than, A Fistful of Dollars-style, in a bullet-splattered Mexican border town – but they were no less heroic. Clint (and you’re going to have to imagine his masculine gravelly tones at this point), said, “I gave him three good jolts and that got it out. Then I made him drink a big glass of water with a bunch of lemon squeezed in it.”

Mr Eastwood isn’t the only Hollywood star to have been involved in laudable dramatic events away from the film set in recent years. In 2012, The Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence called an ambulance for a collapsed woman in Santa Monica. In the same year, The Notebook heart-throb Ryan Gosling stopped someone from walking in front a New York taxi, having already become a YouTube sensation in 2011 for breaking up a street fight. And Tom Cruise just can’t get enough of real-life rescues: he’s said to have saved a couple of boys from being crushed at one of his film premieres, assisted the victims of an LA car accident and recovered hapless sailors from a burning boat.

Heartwarming stuff, isn’t it? In among all the floods and the wars and the economic ruin, famous types are busy coming to the aid of helpless ordinary citizens. And what do the famous types invariably say in these situations? “I just did what any normal person would have done.”

I think we, the normal people, should see this sentiment as a call to arms from Hollywood’s heroes. Not to save lives on a daily basis but to actively look for opportunities to do good. Because in all honesty, does a normal person even bother to help that small lady carry her huge suitcase, or stop to give that struggling tourist directions? Or is that the normal person over there, head down pretending he hasn’t seen anything?

Maybe I’m being too cynical – and am about to be idealistic and a touch moralising. But surely there is something to be said for looking up from your smartphone occasionally and doing a deed, however small. Letting someone with a lot less food in their basket go ahead of you in the supermarket queue won’t make you headline news – unless, of course, it happens to be George Clooney buying a banana – but it will lubricate the cogs of social harmony, which get a bit creaky every now and again.

With that in mind, I’m off to find an old lady who needs help crossing the road – I might even whisper “Do you feel lucky, punk?” in her ear for good measure.

Dan Poole is Monocle’s deputy chief sub editor.

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