Thursday, 7 July 2005

You can't

.... you can't start a fire without a spark. [Springsteen B, "Dancing in the dark]

I feel I've been blogsquatting all over the place with comments about so I thought I'd try and bring it all together here. If you want to read the other stuff I've written it's at Black Star Journal and My heart is in Accra and assorted other places.

The cynics, and there are many, are quibbling over why there were few African artists at the Hyde Park gig - easy really, it was about attracting attention rather than record sales for artists who are unknown outside a small market place. They ask if all the artists taking part knew enough about African issues - I doubt it, I doubt that Maria Carey knows that there is a world outside the red carpet and the hospitality tent. They question the motives of Geldof; he's trying to resurrect his musical career - get a life! If that was his motivation it'd make raising Lazarus look like an everday occurance. They suggest that the audience were there for the music not the issues - that's a maybe, but better that they were there than nobody listened? People think of Africa as a basket-case and it's a complex situation that can't be summed up in a sound-bite - no issue about that, but six weeks ago who thought about Africa at all?

Africa is a continent made up of 53 countries. It was carved up by the old European empires - France, Britain, Holland, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Belgium. They ignored existing borders and created a patchwork of "nations" that bore little relationship to the practical realities. Over time the developed world has raped the continent, it had an abundance of natural resources but has been subjugated in the desire for this wealth. Gold, diamonds, oil, etc have flowed from the African continent with little regard to how we came by these riches. Every country in the developed world has benefitted from this.

Twenty years ago we put our hands in our pockets for Live Aid and stumped up a few quid to feed starving children and we saved some lives but it wasn't enough. Today, now, as you read this, a child dies every three seconds. Now the cynics get tense about that too but it's approachable - a sound bite for the digital age. Every three seconds, click your fingers, every three seconds, that's a life. It's obscene but it's approachable. We can encapsulate the idea that a life is lost every three seconds even if we can't really deal with the reality of losing a child, a father, a son, a wife, a daughter, a brother, a sister to something that might have been avoided. A swift reality check - in the UK in 2004 there are roughly ten (yes 10) lives lost each day in road accidents. In England and Wales there are approximately 240,000 deaths each year - do the sums, about a week's worth of avoidable deaths in Africa.

The purpose of Live8 was to grab attention - it was the biggest advertising hoarding the world has ever seen. From here it's up to us. We can sink back into the comfort of apathy or we can go out and try to understand some more about what Africa is all about. We can stand on the sidelines and scoff at the efforts so far or we can engage and make a difference. What we cannot do is ignore it - that's what Live8 means. I don't intend to let my children grow up in a world where accepting that children die because they contract diarrhoea is permissable. I don't want to envisage a world where I have to explain to my children that we tried twice, with Live Aid and Live8 and we still screwed up.

I suppose the message is - by all means be critical but be engaged, the people who stand back and don't get involved, those only able to say what was wrong, should think again. We are where we are - do something to move the situation forward - that's the task at hand and standing back and wringing your hands serves no purpose.

Live8 engaged people - make them listen.

3 careful considerations:

Bluefluff said...

make them listen

As your blog does, most movingly & appropriately, with its 3 second click audio.

kat said...

They question the motives of Geldof; he's trying to resurrect his musical career - get a life!"

Many years ago, before Band Aid and Live Aid, I went to a Boomtown Rats live gig at the Apollo theatre. Bob Geldof came over as a very genuine and caring person. He has not used all this to support his music business - He has used the music business to support Africa.

Nogbad said...

Some friends in the village know Bob and they agree that he's a really genuine guy. The idea that he's trying to use Live8 to flog records is patently ridiculous but I've seen it suggested in a few places.