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That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin';

Gotta have my hustle tight, makin' change off these women.

It's Hard Out Here Fo' a Pimp

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(Best Song, 2006 Academy Awards)

Another reason to value the Oscars. They shine light, where some of us never knew there was darkness. They cry for hearts we never knew were broken. I was curious, now that Sir Paul McCartney has taken care of the seals, Dan Ackroyd and people even less funny have taken care of world poverty, what was the next issue on the list? They all have their causes.

If our entertainers and celebrities keep up this pace, taking a bejewelled and gaudy scythe to all the world's ills and injustices -- such was my reckless hope, will be there anything left to fix? Is Paradise merely a People's Choice Awards away?

I was naive of course. However many problems Mr. Geldof or Mr. Penn or Ms. Sarandon subtract from this tormented world, by such exertions as off-the-cuff remarks at an awards show, or wearing dinky rubber bands on their wrists, or assembling in large noisy groups to tell jokes and sing songs, such is the scale of human misery that there is always another injustice to right, another woe to succour, another cause to uphold.

It has to be so. There is only so much star power to go around. If Mr. Penn is in Baghdad, he cannot be in Darfur, if Ms. Sarandon is busy saving Mumia abu-Jamal, there are sweatshops in Manila that must sweat on without her.

We ask and expect too much of these giants of the heart. The world will never be completely fixed. That is why I am such an eager supporter of the Oscars. Whenever the rest of us settle into the torpor of a dream of the world made new and innocent, the Academy Awards are there to wake us up, to tell us it just isn't so.

It is such an unselfish ceremony. Maybe, once upon a time, the Oscars were just about "the industry" and status and self-worship. Say, pre- Jaws. Not any more. They're a social-statement factory now. We watch awards shows to keep our social consciences up to date. They are like extended promos for the progressive zeitgeist. This year alone, with Brokeback, Crash, Hustle and Flow, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich, and Syriana, we had something for every blistered conscience. War on terror, homophobia, racism, government witch-hunts, big-oil conspiracies, street angst -- it was like a cultural studies degree set to music .

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No cause is too small for a truly big heart. It's for what might, otherwise, slip by the big banner features that they give out awards for best music and such. And so, when they announced the Oscar for best song last Sunday night, why, I was close to tears. Oscar, finally, remembered the pimp. The moment only lacked Eddie Murphy and Hugh Grant to give testimonials.

Pity the poor street hustler was this year's valentine. It's Hard Out Here Fo' a Pimp was Oscar's choice for best song this year and, for my money, you'd have to go back all the way to 1955 and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing for something equally affecting.

And about time too. I guess this is what George Clooney meant when he said he was glad to be "out of touch" meaning, really, that he's out in front of the rest of us when it comes to searing social maladies. So true.

How often have you, dear reader, really, given thought to the tribulations of your neighbourhood pimp, or, if you are so desolate as to be in a neighbourhood without a pimp to call its own, then the pimp a few blocks down? They are the chimney sweeps of our time, orphans of the urban storm, the little match girl in a Cadillac.

Gotta couple hoes workin' on the changes for me.

Hustlin' his "bitches" and "hoes," rounding them up, keeping them in tank tops and heels -- a miracle of urban industry.

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Who smiles at a pimp? Who sends him Christmas cards? What a burden he bears.

I'm tryin' to get rich 'fore I leave up out this bitch; I'm tryin' to have thangs, but it's hard fo' a pimp.

We all know it's hard to "have thangs" but how many of us, I wonder, knew just how much harder it must be "fo' a pimp." Empathy smites me. I suffocate in co-feeling. I knew when I heard the song, I thought what a bitch those bitches must be. It is hard fo' a pimp.

But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water; Couldn't keep up with my hoes, that's when shit got harder.

The grit. The elegance. The pain.

So thanks to the Oscars; thanks to "out of touch" Mr. Clooney, for being, so to speak, so in touch with what counts. Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans upon his hoe . . .

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Different anthem, same large soul.

Rex Murphy is a commentator with CBC-TV's The National and host of CBC Radio One's Cross-Country Checkup.

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