Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Live8 = Let's Indulge Vain Egos

Jonah Goldberg writes about Live8 with some perspective... and perplexity:

OK, so here's what I'm confused about. People watched a concert, which was chockablock with acts supposedly popular with the young 'uns and old 'uns alike. From Snoop Dogg, Will Smith and Coldplay to the more aged likes of Madonna, Sting and Bono. There were even a few troubadours with last names (or at least two first names), such as Elton John.

And the spectacle was impressive, so much so that Chris Martin of Coldplay declared it "the greatest thing that's ever been organized probably in the history of the world." (You've heard of the Normandy invasion, the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan, various moon landings, the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church? Impromptu flea markets! We've got a major-league telecast here.)

That got a guffaw from me. I guess Mr. Martin is only aware of the history which occurred during his lifetime.

But tell me, how exactly was Live8 a monumental demonstration of support for helping Africa?

You may be wondering how much money this intercontinental jam session raised for the sick and dying of Africa. Alas, not a farthing. Sir Bob Geldof was very explicit about this point. Live8 was intended to raise consciousness and exert political pressure on the G8 summiteers. No one was allowed to actually raise money for the masses of starving people in Africa. None of the dollars spent on the concert by fans, corporate sponsors, or television networks will reach Africa. Charities couldn't rattle tin cups outside the porta-potties and concession stands. This was solely an effort to prod the West to get behind the slogan, "Make Poverty History."

Nice line. But, uh, how? I'm sure Geldof, Bono and a few others have some ideas worth listening to. But I somehow doubt the Madonna and Snoop Dogg fans in the audience had formed a particularly cogent consensus on how to "Make Poverty History." In fact, I doubt you could get even a fraction of them to agree on a recipe for apple brown betty.

Madonna could. And it might be kosher.

Very smart people have been trying really, really hard to make poverty history for a long time. Heck, they've been working very hard to make Africa just ever-so-slightly less hellish for a very long time. Debt relief is probably part of a potential solution, but without ending Africa's tendency to produce horrible, greedy dictatorships, debt relief is more akin to paying off a drug addict's credit cards.

Even if the concert-goers were speaking with a single voice, they weren't saying anything of much use, except "we care" - and aren't we special people for it? Geldof summed up the attitude perfectly when he said, "Something must be done, even if it doesn't work."

Even if it doesn't work??? Isn't that just futility then? But what the hell, someone's getting rich from these events! It just ain't the Africans!

This concert was an exercise in boosting the self-esteem of the audience. Included in the ticket price was grace on the cheap. T-shirts cost extra. Live8 was an appeal to the vanity of people who collectively aren't concerned enough about Africa to watch a classical music concert.

Yup, it was just another BIG way to massage the massive egos of the rock'n'roll rich (and the middle class who slavishly follow them). Plus it got some publicity for some of the has-beens of the music industry.