Band Aid Baloney
OK, another crisis, another token gesture by the West’s super rich elites. But hey, at least it makes ’em feel good. While it might assuage their guilt feeling about living like kings while so much of the world is in abject poverty, I for one am not all that impressed.
I refer of course to the latest shindig, Band Aid 30, put together by Bob Geldof and Co. Another gathering of uber-rich pop stars who want the world to think they are real humanitarians. I have often written about these sorts of efforts, and have pointed out the double standards, the ego-tripping, and so on.
And I am not alone in my concerns. Quite a few folks have blasted this latest effort, and for various reasons. And many of these critics come from the continent Geldof is claiming to help. So I will let them speak here. One article begins this way:
A growing number of Africans are uncomfortable with what some call “the white saviour complex”. Bob Geldof may well be the only writer of one of the best-known songs of all time to admit that his multi-million selling anthem is truly awful and that he now finds himself irritated when he hears it on the radio. “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history,” the shouty Irish singer and activist said in 2010. “One is ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and the other one is ‘We Are The World’.”
But that hasn’t stopped him re-recording the former, originally released in 1984 to raise funds to fight to the Ethiopia famine, and now incongruously synonymous with Christmas in Britain. The problem is that a lot of people agree with his assessment, and many of them are from countries on the very continent he is trying to help.
Various voices are heard in this article. Abdullahi Halakhe, a policy analyst in Kenya says:
Do you know it’s Christmas? According to some estimates, the Christian population in Nigeria alone is almost three times the number of Christians in England and Wales. How couldn’t they know it’s Christmas? Bishop Arinze from Nigeria was at one point even in the running to be the next Pope.
Just sample the grotesque tone of the lyrics, dripping with the “White Man’s Burden.” It was awful 30 years ago, and it’s awful today. If they wanted a spike in record sales because we are nearing Christmas, this was not a great move.
What do you think of Western charity songs like this as a response to African emergencies? I think the fundamental problem with the “saving” Africa posture is that it is predicated on the notion that Africa/Africans are agency-less, which for me is problematic because it is the continuation of never-ending paternalistic tendencies towards Africa.
Robtel Neajai Pailey, a PhD researcher from Liberia is more blunt:
In May, Liberian musicians Samuel ‘Shadow’ Morgan and Edwin ‘D-12’ Tweh wrote and produced ‘Ebola in Town’. The lyrics were informative and the percussive beats so hot that it became an immediate hit. And just last month, the song ‘Africa Stop Ebola’ was produced by Malian, Ivorian, Congolese, and Guinean musicians.
We got this, Geldof, so back off. If you really want to help, buy a gazillion CDs of the two songs and send them to your friends as stocking stuffers with a note that says: “African solutions to African problems”. Instead of trying to remain relevant, Geldof and co. would do well to acknowledge the ingenuity of local artists and stop trying to steal the limelight!
Ethiopian financial analyst Dawit Gebreselassie says:
I think such celebrity-led initiatives have come to do more harm than the “good” they were intended for. And, even worse, is that it’s hard to imagine that the people behind it do not see the harm they are doing. Ethiopia has for the last few years been trying extremely hard to change its image as a poster child for poverty. It has been trying to depict a new bright image to the world so as to attract tourists and foreign direct investment. But this uphill battle is always hindered when such reminders of the past appear again on the screens of the people that are trying to be persuaded.
Africa’s only hope of success against poverty is through sustained, structured and equitable economic growth brought about through things such as investment and tourism. It’s hard to imagine how a few dollars raised every so often can possibly outweigh the damage it does by blemishing the continent’s image.
Nigerian human rights activist Chitra Nagarajan nails it:
If the purpose of Bob Geldof and others is really to help the Ebola response rather than burnish their own profiles as modern day saints, they would donate money behind the scenes. The money that will be raised through this Ebola single could easily be raised by these rich musicians having a whip round among themselves and their friends.
Columnist Bryony Gordon is also scathing (and rightly so):
Geldof is here to save West Africa from Ebola…. In the shallow, self-promoting world of celebrity, the simple and silent act of handing over money to charity is not the done thing – that’s what we impoverished plebs do. Instead, the rich and famous donate their precious time, and for this they expect to be celebrated and congratulated, as if before they flashed their expensively whitened teeth in the video for a song, we had no idea that Ebola was a problem, or that thousands of Africans were spending their last days on this earth in unimaginable horror, bleeding from every orifice, unable even to be comforted by their family and loved ones.
“Give us your f***ing money,” was Geldof’s message way back when, and it is his message now – you all dig deep and give up your hard earned cash because these famous people who make millions singing songs have deigned to give up a few hours of their time on a weekend. “We really can stop this… foul little plague,” said Geldof when he appeared on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, with no mention of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which has raised £20 million for the region, or Medecins sans Fronteries, who have been out there since March.
Nobody wants a world full of Ebola, but nor do I want a world full of Malaria and HIV and Tuberculosis and numerous other diseases – not to mention conditions such as hunger and poverty – that are destroying the lives of many millions of Africans every day. Certainly, I don’t want to be told how to behave philanthropically by a man worth an estimated £32 million, a man who is said to use tax avoidance schemes (it is telling that when a journalist asked him two years ago how much tax he paid, Geldof exploded at her, saying: ‘My time? Is that not a tax?’ Well, no, Bob, it isn’t).
I don’t want to be implored to give charitably by a band that travels in separate private jets because they don’t get on (One Direction), or by a man who avoids Irish taxes while simultaneously telling the Irish government to help developing countries (Bono). “It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like this song,” said Geldof as he launched it, “what you have to do is buy this thing.” But do we? Really? If we don’t, does this make us unfeeling and uncaring, or does it mean that we have already donated money to the cause, or a different cause, even?
This, I think, is my main objection to Band Aid 30: it is all predicated on a belief that the British public are mean-spirited and uncharitable, when in actual fact nothing could be further from the truth. It’s time the likes of Geldof stopped asking us to give money.
Finally, see my last link below for “10 Facts for Bob Geldof”. Pity Sir Bob is so rather clueless here. But his ignorance seems proportionate to his arrogance.
10 Replies to “Band Aid Baloney”
I will not be buying this rip off cd or download or whatever they want to call it these days.
These people think that just throwing them a fish, it makes them come back again and again, so they feel good about themselves. It helps absolutely no one. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, give him a fishing pole and teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Want to help the African countries, start by rounding up past and present leaders of said countries, check their off shore bank accounts (which is where you will find the billions of dollars worth of aid money).
Next, start teaching them farming, education, etc, so they can begin to organise their own countries.
Foreign aid should always be designed to get those who receive it to become self sufficient, not as a lifestyle.
To keep countries on welfare is abusive, and those who push dependency should be charged with crimes against humanity.
No matter how much money is thrown at Africa, not much really changes.
Throw biblical Christianity and Holy Spirit at a bunch of cowards who won’t even stay to watch their friend and leader crucified and you get a movement that transforms individuals, societies, continents, and history.
It is well known that many African nations are filled to the brim with governmental corruption, not to mention destructive animist and Islamic cultural and ideological practises.
Money hasn’t changed the place, nor has it changed the West for the better but Christ has the power to bring real transformation there. When a society follows Jesus into biblical faith, honesty, and integrity, especially at the governmental level, then things will change in Africa.
As for the West, we are abandoning those characteristics as quickly as we can – we are becoming all the poorer for it, monetarily and otherwise.
This is no doubt why Christ implored us to give in secret. Because those that give to make a show of themselves will inevitably be so deluded by their love for themselves that they will not see that what they are doing is causing more harm than good.
Reminds me of some youtube clips I saw not so long ago entitled “—(enter celebrity name)— – hypocrite”. There was one for Al Gore, another for Robert Redford due to their pushing green agendas whilst living very “carbon intensive” lives themselves.
Everybody should read the confession of this Irish journalist who rightly had the guts to say Western aid not only prolongues the agony in Africa it exacerbates it: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/writing-what-i-should-have-written-so-many-years-ago-26463692.html
As he says, only the women, children and the aged suffered from the ‘famine’ in Ethiopia. Meanwhile well fed young men sauntered around in uniforms with weapons and sexually abused the starving women.
Sorry, Africa has to sort itself out as far as I’m concerned.
I was talking to someone about this and I stated that to them that it would far more useful to donate money to those on the front line than buying this single.
Off topic but important: help out the Duggars as much as you can:
Another way to help the Duggars:
Well said. Ian, Simon, Damien and Mark.
I wasn’t aware Africa itself could do anything to deal with the Ebola crisis, which had led some foreign ministries like DFAT and the British Foreign and Commonwealth office to advise against “all but essential travel” or “reconsider your need to travel” for the worst-affected nations.
European and East Asian farm subsidies – entirely designed to counter the forever-ignored fact that modern technology has placed geologically young, cool, mountainous nations at consistently increased comparative disadvantage vis-à-vis hot, flat ancient ones – are often argued to be part of the problem. Serious scholar have shown, however, that it would be the wealthier ancient lands – Australia, Brazil, South Africa – who would benefit most from European and East Asian farm subsidies disappearing. Moreover, many of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa are young and volcanic, and thus would acquire comparative disadvantage in agriculture upon minimal development.
If the West would leave sub-Saharan Africa – excluding the polluting mineral states of southern Africa and North Africa whose greenhouse emissions need to be reined in – alone then it would no doubt benefit itself though less government spending and debt and less absurdly high living costs for extremely young, low-diversity and robust environments.
Eliminating the farm subsidies and minimum wage laws in Europe, East Asia and the Americas would help sub-Saharan Africa indirectly: Africa would become able to afford more of the West’s advanced high technology goods (cheaper on global markets, even with much dearer raw inputs), which owing to the impermenence of comparative advantage would have to be very competitive in nominal wages.