Live 8 and all that feel-good stuff
Prone as I am to lying about my age, I shall for this post admit that back in the olden days when Pink Floyd was releasing new LPs, Bob Geldof was playing Pink in The Wall (one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen so far) and David Gilmour had hair, I was taking calculus, statistics, and reading economics. As far as rock operas go, I found The Wall film to be a real bummer, and preferred the earlier Tommy (my CD of the LSO concert “Tommy” is one of my prized posessions), but still, enjoyed Pink Floyd in small doses.
Even back then I knew that every time someone said, “it’s not about the money”, it meant it really was about the money.
Saturday I watched a few moments of the MTV-VH1 broadcast of Live 8, and saw the elegant gentlemen of the Orchestra Baobob play some nice tropical jazz, enjoyed Mariah with the children’s choir, listened to the rather key-challenged Green Day in Berlin sing a s-l-o-w “We Are The Champions”, and liked what little I saw of REM’s suits and blue paint, but later on Paul McCartney needed a little help from friend George Michael for the high notes of You Can Drive My Car. I only saw a few snippets of the broadcast not only because there were other things to do and didn’t have time to watch on AOL Music, but because the broadcaster’s strategy was to play 2 minutes of performers, two minutes of ads, and three minutes of preaching by not only the performers but also by Jeffrey Sachs. The sermon’s theme was “it’s not about money, it’s about awareness”.
Later I turned on the TV while I was making dinner as the high point of the show arrived: Pink Floyd’s reunion. Pink Floyd now looks like a bunch of dads at their 30th college reunion (which, in a way, they are), and fortunately have avoided the burned-out Ozzie look. They played beautifully and well, and I venture guess that at least half the London audience had been waiting for them and them alone. MTV and VH1 interrupted their performance for yet more preaching and ads. Unbelievable.
That said, Live8 was at best an excercise in feel-good banal uselessness. The final “nah-nah-nah-nah” chorus from Hey Jude was the sonic statement of its jejuneness.
The self-promoting eternal adolescents each received gift baskets totalling $12,000 for having performed at the “the greatest thing that’s ever been organized in the history of the world.” Geldof claims that two billion people watched the concerts. Plweez. There are only 6 billion people in the world, most of which don’t have electricity, Bob. Bono said, “We’re not looking for charity, we’re looking for justice”, and a goody bag, and a lot of PR, too — all the while effectively calling for a tax on the working folk of the developed world.
Blog commenters’ reactions range from the name-callers at BuzzMachine where I was told to go grow some balls for failing “to help lift people up on an important day for our planet”, to Lucianne’s who felt a better headline would have been ‘Aging Rock Stars Exploit Africa’s Misery For Cheap Publicity’. Samizdata said,
the main thrust of what Live 8 seems to be about is to induce the governments of the G-8 to take money from their taxpayers and assign it to nebulous and frequently counter-productive projects in Africa, often in effect propping up the regimes who are the single biggest cause of their own nation’s problems and directly responsible for local poverty.
As with any large gathering of the music illiterati, coherence and cogency are going to be as rare as pelicans in Perthshire.
Let’s talk about some clear-eyed assessments by people who have actually studied the facts in Africa: Allister Heath in his article Live8: a triumph for sentiment, not for results, points to the efforts of African activists like Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of Nigerias Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and economists William Easterly of New York University, Cristina Arellano, Ale Bul, Timothy Lane, Leslie Lipschitz, Tomi Ovaska of the University of Regina in Canada, Brett Schaeffer of the Heritage Foundation, and Hernando de Soto. The article concludes (emphasis mine),
The [Uganda Women Entrepreneurs] Association is exactly what Africa needs more of: a dynamic group of self-made Africans that support capitalism and property rights and reject the failed statist nostrums of the past, unlike too many of the traditional, public-sector, Western-educated African elite. The future of Africa lies in internal reforms, the establishment of the rule of law and greater economic stability, to enable a new generation of entrepreneurs and business people to rise up and conquer global markets.
The West can help by tearing up its trade barriers and scrapping its deadly export subsidies; but not by handing out cash.
Saturday I posted about how Ethiopia has fared over the past 20 years after Live Aid. Unless Sachs et al are willing drop the feel-good self-promotion and face the unpleasant reality, things are going to be at least as bad, or probably a lot worse, twenty years from now.
Update Muammar Gadafy says, “We are not going to beg at the doorsteps to reduce debt …. We are insulted constantly and we deserve it.”
Wonders never cease.
Update 2: PinkFloydus interruptus