Headlines

So what was the biggest headline yesterday, people? The Indian train caught in flood waters? Africa’s bid for seats on the UN Security Council? The discovery of an important factor in the development of neurodegenerative disorders?

What do you mean you didn’t know about that lot?

Okay. How about the sad passing of Luther Vandross? No?

All right. How about the big things? Was a front page dedicated to the political situation in Iraq, the global extent of AIDS or the rebuilding in South East Asia following the Tsunami? Thought not, somehow…

All these big, important and even tragic things are going on around us but the headline the world over today is:

Geldoff flogs dead horse

What was it all about? Well, apparently, he felt it was time to try to raise awareness about the situation in Africa again. No money asked, he just wanted to pressure the G8 summit to do something about it and to put Africa back at the front of our minds. A worthy cause, on the face of it. Thing is, this is not 1984. When the Band Aid single was released, a famine was in full swing in Ethiopia and many weren’t aware that it was going on. Band Aid and Live Aid threw Africa in our faces and said, ‘Look! There’s a disaster here: DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!’

After the mid-80s, we were always aware. The images I remember from the news as a child in the early 90s are all of fly-covered children looking like skeletal corpses. Each new disaster in Africa has been reported on, right up to the crisis in the Sudan last year. Since Band Aid, Africa has never been far from the headlines. Obviously, there are still problems. As far as Africa is concerned, the world may well be ending for the horsemen of War, Famine, Plague and Death ride roughshod through the deserts and jungles. But since Live Aid, the West has been aware…

The Make Poverty History campaign is a great thing, it has brought our attention back a little. But it never strayed far in the first place. That’s why I think Live 8 is misguided. While the more subtle sales of wristbands and that haunting finger snapping commercial on the trailers in the cinema foyers are putting a well-know issue into deeper perspective, the enormous rock spectacle of Live 8 can only detract from it. Suddenly, we’re away from the encroaching deep thought and back into the realms of high-profile cause célèbre. Rock concerts are great for grabbing attention but the glitz stops us thinking more deeply about an issue. Worse still, Bob Geldoff’s misinformed belief that we still need grabbing by the balls about African poverty has meant that an opportunity presented by the concerts has been lost. More celebration of African culture could have turned our minds back to Africa. Instead, little, cutesy African children and poverty success stories hang round on the sidelines as passive little icons next to sprawling white acts. They shouldn’t even bother – a small child has no hope of holding an audience’s attention stood next to a popstrel with decades of practice in stage presence. The human face of poverty gets reduced to the status of silent sideshow. Thank you, Sir Bob. You’ve really helped break the last vestiges of the ‘ignorant savage’ stereotype there…

As for pressure on the G8 delegates, the best thing Geldoff can urge is that they ignore him. While he harps on about poverty in Africa, the G8 leaders have a matter of days to thrash out solutions to poverty, Tsunami relief, Tsunami rebuilding (a completely different animal), climate change and a whole host of other problems. The world is bigger than the mighty Sir Bob’s African crusade. Come to think of it, Africa is bigger than the mighty Sir Bob’s African crusade. The great crusader has dismounted to duel with the Horseman of Famine while Death and Pestilence are obviously acting as Famine’s seconds here. ‘People die of want in a world of surplus,’ said Geldoff and I agree wholeheartedly that this fact is ‘morally repulsive and intellectually absurd.’ But War leant Famine his sword in the first place. The problems in Darfur began with war, and displacement due to war is one of the many things standing in the way of the creation of permanent supply facilities to impoverished regions. War is not the only factor involved here, which makes Bob Geldoff’s G8 agenda of fair trade and debt cancellation a childish answer to a problem so fiendishly complicated. Even with fair trade laws, unfair trade will continue because the governments of certain African nations and certain, less moral, multinational corporations will exploit loopholes or outright flout the laws because it suits them to do so. And in a global economy with so much trade going on, no-one will have the power to enforce those laws anyway. Meanwhile, wars will displace populations to unfertile areas and destroy fields in the fertile ones and mismanagement by corrupt regimes such as Mugabe’s Zimbabwe will drive potentially stable economies into the gutter.

Try to forget Live 8. The solution is a long way off and distractions like this will only serve to stop us getting there.

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~ by Scary Rob on 3 July, 2005.

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