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."
Trust us, Mr. Romoki, we don't know who Bob Geldof is either. But if the point above is true, you probably don't have a TV so I'll clue you in: Poverty in Africa is a well-known, well-discussed, often-televised topic. I guess if you are too poor to own a TV, you don't really need a TV's help to be aware of poverty. The television-owning population of the world, however, does, and did before Live8.
Elsewhere in LJLand this weekend, I received this comment to one I had made (emphasis mine): "Considering how much the Republicans like [username removed to protect the journal] are voting against the anti-poverty measures like welfare and health care plans, actually speaking out for poor people is a good thing and one that I (who would have died of tonsillitis [sic] at age 4 were it not for the EVIL Medicaid - which COULD be used by pedophiles to buy viagra according to Fox news so let's scrap the whole thing without question) for one like the fact that SOMEONE thinks that poor people should have some kind of assistance." Point aside that while everybody thinks the poor should get "some kind" of assistance, that assistance may not be welfare or Medicaid, but some other kind of assistance, these Live8 concerts did nothing of the sort. Awareness, "speaking out", releasing doves or all-too-ironically breading the VIPs in attendance is not going to help those living in poverty.
Quoth Sir Geldof: By doubling aid, fully canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.". Even he doesn't think that awareness isn't going to change the future for millions of poor people. Geldof's tent is pitched, along with the commenter above, in the "throw money at it" camp. Is Live8 going to throw any money at it? Nope. But hoo boy do they have some awareness to toss around.
Granted, I don't have my MBA, so I don't have ground to stand on when it comes to business, but I'll give it a shot. Let's say each of those thousands of tickets to the nine concerts (come on. Couldn't there have been 8 live Live8 concerts? SYMBOLISM PEOPLE) were priced at $100 apiece. T-shirts, by the hundreds of thousands for $20. Sodas, waters, burgers, etc. Advertising revenue potential in the billions. One condition: all food, t-shirts, concessions, and performances are all donated by the vendor or performer. Charge Super-Bowl level prices for advertising during the broadcasts, the benefit to the advertiser being that they are associated with this remarkable work of charity. This weekend had the potential to raise enough money to cancel one of those national debts all by itself. What did it raise instead? Awareness. Canceling debt and moneytossing is somebody else's job.
I think charity is a noble cause and applaud those who devote themselves to it. I feel that as long as I am not in the position to be making contributions to charity, I am not in the position to be criticizing another's willingness to donate. However, to hold a charity event that benefits no charity simply to create a platform to tell someone else to be more charitable is laughably hypocritical. Like my co-worker mentioned above, instead of pointing fingers and criticizing, Geldof et al had a pretty good opportunity this weekend to donate their extra shoes. Something tells me that Los Angeles-Area clothes drops aren't going to be seeing a surge of Manolos anytime soon.