Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8 - Utter, utter pants

The whole World unites behind Emma Thompson - well, the whole World except for
Latin America, China, Russia, India ... and a miserable old scrotum in South London

Clever title for this post, uh?

Come on, let’s get it over with…


I was watching TV last week when I saw a commercial that I first mistook for the latest GAP ad.


Well, it looked like a GAP ad.

Eventually the penny dropped and I realised it was something to do with global poverty relief…


Every three seconds a child dies


I’m going to say something negative about this aren’t I? I’m one of those people who is nauseated by millionaire celebrities, and Emma Thompson, baring their tortured virtue on the global television, urging us to be as saintly as they are, aren’t I?

Yes, yes I am.

As an exercise in self-indulgent, fatuous cynicism this ad really takes the biscuit. Apparently, the ad was put together in the belief that people who aren’t moved by the thought of needless death WILL be moved by actors, fashion models and pop singers posturing and pouting as if they’re advertising designer T shirts.

I was so ‘moved’ by the ad that I visited the Make Poverty History web site to see what I could do to alleviate global poverty. Their call to action consisted of…

  1. Read their blog
  2. Send an email to Tony Blair

F*ck me, the forces of global exploitation must be quaking in their boots.

As an exercise in commoditising compassion, packaging it and serving it up for dumb, passive consumption this is cutting edge stuff.

It’s either that or a massive parody.

Mmmmm, make people aware of the impact of the unequal distribution of wealth and globalisation by showing an ad featuring people who are disproportionately wealthy, made in the style of a globalised corporate ad campaign...

Rib-tickling stuff indeed.

Let’s not f*ck about here. Celebrities and corporations get involved in these things as much for publicity as for any other reason.

A friend of mine sent me an extract from an intra-office email he received at work last week…

"......employees will receive the MAKE POVERTY HISTORY official booklet and wrist band. They will also be eligible to enter a contest in order to win prizes related to ending global poverty."

He works for a company that sells cable TV porn.

That quote is now up there with my previous favourite example of heartfelt corporate emailed compassion that a friend sent me after the Tsunami (Tsunami? What Tsunami?) six months ago…

Dear Client,

Happy New Year! We start off each new year by inviting all of you to give us direct feedback on your market research needs ... This year we will be making a contribution to the American Red Cross for the victims of the tsunami for each completed survey...

There is the argument that motivations are irrelevant when it comes to campaigns such as this one. Only the ends are important.

Total crap.

Campaigns like ‘Make Poverty History’ subvert and misdirect the debate. They act as a salve to our collective conscience. Their message is that the solutions to the World’s ills are simple and non-threatening. They help people kid themselves that the World can be saved without a fundamental change to their own lifestyles.

And, as I said a couple of days ago, the big companies just fucking love them.

And then, yesterday, we had the concerts.

Oh dear. Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear.

The BBC estimated that 5.5bn people watched them. That’s 85% of every man, woman and child on this Earth.

Hmmm, no bullshit there then.

I was one of the 15% of the global population who didn’t watch the concerts. The prospect of viewing a succession of celebrities giving each other hand jobs on stage and preaching to the World was just too much to bear.

I did however encounter the occasional highlight on news programmes. From those fragments I managed to learn several things:

  • Given the deafening silence from South America, I must conclude that there are no longer any poor people or corporate exploitation going on there. Presumably the populace of Rio’s former slums were sitting in front of their plasma screen TVs, tucking into their filet mignon and rocking away with the rest of the developed world.

  • Bob Geldof scored a notable double, and followed on from his gushing endorsement of Tony Blair’s divinity on MTV last week, by shaking Bill Gates’ hand in front of 5.5bn people and saying what a good bloke he was. Nice one Bob.

  • The Moscow concert didn’t exactly go down a storm. Not surprising in a country where a quarter of its population is living at, or below, subsistence levels. Not much coverage of that concert dying on its knees from the BBC.

  • Paul McCartney has spent enough money on laughable plastic surgery to supply a medium-sized African state with antivirals for quite a long time.

I reached musical maturity in the late 1970’s/ early 1980’s. So forgive me for being appalled at the bland, asinine, and insincere state of music today. Lyrics like…

You choose your leaders and place your trust

As their lies wash you down and their promises rust

You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns

And the public wants what the public gets

But I don't get what this society wants

… have even more edge and relevance than they did back then. And nobody’s coming up with any new ones.

The bands I idolised as a teenager would have spat on millionaires and politicians, not licked their arses on global television. And for God’s sake, Paul McCartney was an irrelevant, old, rich bastard back in 1980. What does that make him 25 years later?

OK, I’m being a cynical, negative old scrotum but surely some of the people in the crowd yesterday must have felt uncomfortable at the sight of a smug, self-satisfied Bill Gates and thought…

‘Hang on a minute. That’s the richest man in the World up there telling me what I should do to relieve World poverty. What kind of a stupid c*nt does he think I am?’

Quite a large one actually.

And the irony of all of this, of the whole global poverty issue, is this…

We don’t need our ‘wealth’; quite the opposite.

We’re choking on our own effluent. Our food is giving us brain tumours and heart disease. We have material comfort but we’re lonely. We’re brainwashed into wanting more yet never being satisfied. The developed world, particularly the US and the UK, is fat, flatulent, spiritually dead and depressed.

Give it to the Africans. Please. It's killing us

But can our self-appointed, saintly spokespeople bring themselves to say this?

How can they? They’re suffering from the same sickness as the rest of us. Only worse.


Every three seconds Bill Gates, U2 and Paul McCartney earn a shit load of money


And they’re mad for it


On top of that, aside from the fact that we’re all insanely suicidal consumption junkies, there’s also the small wee issue that, collectively, we don’t really give that much of a shit. Not really. We still live in a World where the fate of one White Boy is much more important than a couple of thousand brown people.

Too harsh? Just wait a few days for the next big disaster, wherever it may be, and watch the coverage on the same channels that were uncritically pumping out yesterday’s offal. Listen out for that old favourite line...

‘The total death toll has now reached 3,000, including four Britons’

That one always cracks me up

Remember, the UK spends £1m on ‘defence’ every 13 minutes. This country is home to people who’ll spend three quid on a cup of coffee without blinking and treat their dogs to ‘something a little bit special’ that two thirds of the World’s human population could only dream of getting down their necks.

The good ship Global Fuckup is still well and truly on course to its final destination and this week’s nonsense hasn’t changed things one little bit. No, on second thoughts, it might have made things slightly worse.


Anonymous said...

yep you're miserable Stef...and damn me mate I agree with almost every word ;)

It cracked me up when Bob berated people for flogging their 'free' tickets on eBay. Don't get me wrong he probably is a saint and can walk on water (etc)...but the bullshit alarm has been buzzing for many years. Give it rest boys. Imagine the G8 thinking to themselves 'Oh shit, we'll have to do something now the Floyd have reformed'!

I don't need Bono to remind me what goes on in the world, unlike all the celebrites who never touch the pavement, I'm living in it.

Peter said...

That's exactly it Stef. What is never mentioned in these collective back-slapping sessions is that we will have to undergo a serious reduction in our 'quality of life' for things to change.

Our way of life now depends on being able to get things virtually for free from Africa, and as shown by the (lack of) reaction to the larger anti-war protests, financial or strategic aims trump satisfying public opinion aims every time.

All that'll happen is more money being thrown in Africa's direction, perhaps only if more public services are privatised, and we'll all be able to forget it again until there's another historical day we can have a chance to be a part of.

And none of the celebs delivered their heart-felt pleas with a smidgeon of irony. Elton John?? Give me strength. The man spends a small country's debt on flowers every month.

It made me laugh to know you'd be sitting there gritting your teeth as I was.

Stef said...

@anonymous: *almost* every word. Tell me which is out of place and I might be open to a rewrite

@pete: Yes, irony and its ever-attendant handmaiden, self-deprecation, were most conspicious by their absence from the proceedings

... was Elton on as well? I really did only watch the news coverage so I missed that - and I'm profoundly thankful.

Anonymous said...

Hell Stef, I don't agree with 100% of what I say either ;)


Stef said...

Just as well - the rewrite offer was a blatant and cynical lie


N. said...

So Sir Bob, how is wiping debt and giving more aid going to help those poor who's homes are currently being bulldozed by their own leader?

Africa is poor because it maintains a tribal stoneage culture which breeds perpetual massive corruption and war.

How do we end poverty in Africa? Change the culture. How do we do that? Wouldn't have a clue, but wiping debt and giving more aid sure isn't going help.

In the mean time buy a white wrist band. It'll save time identifing the twats.

Stef said...

@Noel: You seem to have left a comment that subsequently disappeared. I'll respond anyway ...


Well, you're not going to cop off with any Leftie chicks thinking like that.

In defence of Africa, many of its issues date back to arbitrary line drawing by colonial powers that disregarded tribal boundaries. Then toss in the influence of the multinationals who preferred a long-term relationship with one corrupt dictator rather than a series of democratically elected parties. But, yes, cultural issues undeniably are a factor.

But, f*ck me, the situation is complicated. A lot of people in the UK are saying that dumping cheap, subsidised agricultural surpluses from the EU has destroyed African agriculture and the EU should stop it. What? Making food more expensive is going to lift people out of poverty?

Is debt relief going to help? How many of those countries are actually servicing their debt?

What's to stop African governments spending their aid on tanks, whisky and BMWs? Maybe give the money to NGOs and cut out the governments? Isn't that a form of neocolonialism and demonstration of the belief that the White Man knows best?

Like I said. Complicated

Alternatively, you can just ignore all that complexity, buy a Chinese made wrist band and forget the fact that Elton John spends £100k a year on flowers.

Doesn't the wrist band story say it all ...

1. Not made in Africa
2. Made in sweatshops that break even lax Chinese standards

For fuck's sake ...

Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

I spent Saturday ignoring all Live8 as well, how much of this 'celebrity charity' stuff is designed to help serve their own egos / guilt / flagging careers?

I thought it was funny that they almost forgot to include any Africans in it but managed to hastily cobble a South African gig in. Oh the irony.

Next month let's hope the continent put on their own gig - Let's make Geldoff/Blair/Brown/Bush History.

Anyone else think this is a nice, politically timed event not to force the governments of the riches countries into action but to allow them to have a little meeting to decide where the f**k their going to be getting their oil from.

Also - talking conspiracy theories, how come the Railtrack shareholders taking the Blair government to the High Court seems to be somewhat under represented in the BBCs news feed???

Sparkling said...

I really should have watched some of saturdays Live8, or at least kept up with the news coverage of said event. I have no comments what-so-ever to this.

rahid said...

Even though i also never watched it (that singing/dying rich/poor paradox stuff depresses me ok), i know we're so totally fucked as a lifeform if 400 people (?) can STILL be bothered to ring up about a bit of swearing.

Peter said...

I don't agree with N. that changing Africa's tribal culture is the answer.

For a start we're talking about a continent and a great number of cultures not just one tribal one.

Also, are you suggesting that the only option is to wipe out aeons of tradition and become like the West, just to be able to repay loans that were forced on them in the first place, through corrupt but subservient West-installed, governments?

It's the abandoning of the (in my eyes imperfect) tribal culture that breeds corruption.

Wiping the debt is a huge step in the right direction. Obviously it has to be part of something bigger, but it is far better than what we will actually get.

I was prepared to give Bob a chance. After all, these white bracelets and concerts have raised the profile of the MPH campaign (which incidentally, does have practical and laudable objectives) in the eyes of white van man, and more significantly, children. But seeing pop-stars hailing him as a "true modern hero" and him repeatedly coming out, milking the applause, confirmed it as an exercise in ego-massaging and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Stef said...

@NM: Yes, the entire day was a massive distraction exercise. The problem is that the whole of the media is 'on message', so the sound of millions of people vomiting in disgust was missing.

(Re. Railtrack. A tad off-topic but, yes, that story has been buried by the BBC - it's the State Broadcasting Company don't you know)

@Sparkling: I'm jealous. Believe me.

@Rahid: Thanks for that. I'd missed that one


BTW I think someone at live 8 must have realised how silly the 85% figure was. That claim was changed today and now reads ...

'Organisers estimated that 85% of the world's population would have been able to tune into the event.'

Hmmmmm ....

Nick said...

Though you raise some good points, at least mpv has got people involved and as a result action taken by rich governments (cancelling of debt & more aid) saved an estimated 20 million more people by 2015. The thing that really fucks the poorest countries is unfair trade rules that rob them of 14 times what they get in aid. The only way we will ever get fairer trade rules is if there is a huge mass of people calling for it. The click campaign and live 8 at least raised awareness among the general ignorant population, and got more people behind the campaign. This resulted in action at the g8. By the way I didn’t see it either, however I was where the real action was in Edinburgh and I missed the highlights as I was on a bus for 15 hours on my way home.