July 5th, 2005

When I'm Bad I'm Better

Live8: A Celebration in Fingerpointing

Live8 and all of the periphery hullabaloo has gotten me thinking about a time when a girl at my work was ranting and raving about how Bill Gates is such a selfish pig and how he has so much money he should be donating "like all of it" to charity. I pointed out that while I didn't have a figure at my fingertips, that he does donate a considerable sum of money to charity per year, likely more than she will ever make in her lifetime. "Yeah, but, he still has more money than he needs. He should be giving more." I wondered to myself how many pairs of shoes this girl owns, and if she realizes that she really only needs one and that she should give the rest to Goodwill. I had the presence of mind not to engage her in this conversation, learning not long ago when I pointed out the subtle difference between "sexist" and "misogynist" to her that she does not take well to constructive criticism or lively debate. As usual, I stray from my point.

Best Week Ever, my favorite source for News of the Insignificant, discussed the curious motto of the Live8 concerts: We don't want your money, we want your voice! Live8, you see, is not raising money to help the impoverished, or collecting food for the hungry, they are raising awareness. To paraphrase Best Week Ever: "any level of awareness will do. If you don't have enough for full consciousness, a thoughtful 'huh' is enough." I feel safe enough saying that everyone on earth is aware of poverty, and that all that awareness hasn't filled any bowls yet.

This morning, in the likely smoky afterglow of his charitable masterpiece, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats (you may remember them from their 80's hit "(Tell me Why) I Don't Like Mondays") has handed over the responsibility to the Group of 8. Unfortunately, none of those 8 people are Madonna, Elton John, Jay-Z, or any member of U2 and are not likely to see the ticket sale or merchandising potential that Geldof's global awareness-machines had seen this weekend. If the average Live8 attendee barely knows what the G8 is, or even that the G8 is a who, how can they be expected to reach comparable levels of awareness?

Africans seem similarly confused:
Yet in Africa where most people are too poor to own a TV, only a fraction of those meant to benefit actually saw the event billed as the world's biggest concert and those who did were puzzled by endless footage of white men with guitars.

"I don't know who Bob Geldof is," said Edward Romoki in downtown Johannesburg when asked what he thought of the man behind the concerts. "But people are speaking about poverty and there is plenty of that in Africa -- maybe a concert like this can put Africa in the news and change things."

Collapse )