Another global rock concert, another major “cause,” and another set of questions the politically correct are afraid to ask. This time it was Live Earth, and the rockers were out to save the planet, or at least raise awareness about global warming. For all their efforts this weekend, however, I am not sure if the planet is one degree cooler as a result.
Call me sceptical if you like, but whenever I see mega-rich rock stars coming out for any cause, I am always a bit dubious. I would imagine if you took the top ten rock stars’ combined income, you would have more wealth than the GDP of many smaller nations.
And as I have mentioned before, if we could just get Bono to sell his collection of designer sunglasses, we would have freed up a good amount of moolah to help the less fortunate of the world.
But still, one might argue that filthy rich rock stars with a bit of social consciousness might be slightly preferred to filthy rich rock stars with no social consciousness. But all the hypocrisy tends to largely offset the social awareness, unfortunately.
Hyper-rich rockers telling us peons to live sacrificial lifestyles so that the poor might somehow benefit always seems a bit, well, rich. And when they tell us how concerned they are about the environment, all the while flying around in their gas-guzzling private jets or BMWs, it makes one wonder a bit about their sincerity.
And it is not just conservative redneck types who see some double standards here. Even lefty trendies can get irritated by all the hypocrisy and hype. Consider columnist Marina Hyde writing in the decidedly left-of-centre Guardian.
In her July 7, 2007 column, “The artists formerly known as huge carbon footprints,” she takes these rockers to task. Mind you, she is fully on the global warming bandwagon, and appears to be a great fan of enviro-crusader Al Gore. But she does ask some hard questions about how much good these rockers with dubious qualifications are actually contributing to the situation.
“Live Earth overlord Al Gore has judged that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, which is why private jets, helicopters and limos are being fired up to ferry our well-meaning artistes to various stages. There is no question that awareness will be raised. But it seems worryingly simplistic to think that there is not a trade-off between raising awareness and using people whom many know to be hypocrites to do so.”
Consider one rock wunderkind: “There has always been something faintly Marie Antoinettish about rock stars’ understanding of green issues. Recently, Jo Wood – self-styled environmentalist wife of Rolling Stone Ronnie – was asked by this newspaper what skills she possessed for a post-oil world. Her answer began: ‘I come from a family of model makers, artists and sculptors …’”
“The Rolling Stones will not be stamping another of their legendary carbon footprints on humanity’s face this weekend, but to pluck an example from those acts who will, let’s consider Sting, whose band the Police play at the New York concert. Not long ago, this fabled eco-warrior could be found advertising the biggest gas-guzzling Jaguar of them all. To clarify: Sting’s personal wealth is estimated at £185m – £185m! You have to ask that if people this rich appear unconvinced that they have enough money to say no to another wedge on principle, then what hope is there that some cash-strapped Chinese worker will start giving serious thought to the kind of fuel choices he’s making?”
She continues, “As for Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, it is difficult to know where to start with her recent 80-mile helicopter journey for a weekend at the estate of fellow environmentalist Zac Goldsmith. It beggars belief that these people can continue to be taken seriously by anyone remotely serious; yet there they are, still in the vanguard of celebrity activism alongside London headliner Madonna, whose carbon footprint last year is estimated as the worst of all the artists on the bill. When considered in this context the kind of bargain required to make the Live Earth concerts happen tends toward the Faustian.”
Hyde concludes by offering a bit of advice to Gore: “Given his former line of work, Gore is well versed in the dark arts of campaigning. He should inform as many carefully chosen celebrities as he pleases that he has Swat teams of graduate researchers working round the clock to expose their bad environmental habits, and unless they put paid to them swiftly and publicly, he will use the increasing momentum of his relatively untainted movement to name and shame them. Harsh, you may say, but it’s perfectly fair. It’s not as if they’ll go hungry. If we are truly to live in a world where celebrities are the medium, then they should pay a little more genuine and practical heed to the message, or forfeit the chance to boost their record sales in front of a global audience of billions.”
Hypocrisy is always off-putting. It is rightly to be derided, regardless of one’s political persuasions. And we can all agree that today’s youth need to be challenged on social and cultural issues, and should become more involved with, and concerned about, them.
It’s just that too often the issues tend to be somewhat selectively chosen, and the proposed solutions are often questionable at best. Raising a generation of young people who have a social conscience is laudable, but more will be needed than packing them off to yet another tedious rock concert.