Thursday, November 18

Band Aids - The Celebrity Solution to World Poverty

WARNING - SERIOUS BLOG POST AHEAD!
So there's a new version of the 1984 Band Aid charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" featuring the likes of Chris Martin from Coldplay, Joss Stone, the Darkness, Busted, Jamelia and many others.

Now I'm thrilled about any project seeking to raise money and awareness of the millions of people suffering in abject poverty and starvation around the world, but there's something about this particular approach that concerns me ...

Given the desperate situation that many people find themselves in - where they struggle for even the basic food, water and shelter and are far more susceptible to fatal diseases, the wealth and plenty of the West is simply obscene! I'm not earning very much by British standards and yet I can afford food, clothing and shelter - even the occasional CD, DVD or computer game - Comparative material paradise!

However, I do feel slightly uncomfortable at being 'informed' of the issue of world poverty and starvation (even if it's through music) by those who must count among the very wealthiest and privileged people in the world. Obviously I can't say what the motives of the individuals might be for getting involved in the project - I'm sure many if not all are genuinely concerned and want to help the less fortunate. But there's surely a hint of hypocrisy in the very wealthiest telling the next wealthiest group that they should give some money to people who are struggling to survive.

It does seem that this is what Charity has been reduced to by the late 20th & early 21st century. It's slightly unfair to beat up on the celebrities over their use of this status for such a good cause, but it makes me wonder ... Have we become such a selfish nation that we will only donate to charity when we receive some kind of entertainment in return?

The culture of celebrity has grown so much that one can easily understand why a charity would want to make the most of star attraction for their cause and we see this with elements of Comic Relief, Children in Need and Band Aid. There's a Charity single, a live TV show with all sorts of novel, comic and dramatic items for our delight; all this interspersed with footage of dying children to 'encourage' us to cough up a little of our hard earned wealth. And then we've done our bit, for the rest of the year we can enjoy life, our conscience pacified because we made that donation. We can switch over at those uncomfortable Oxfam or Christian Aid adverts on TV and stick to the comic, dramatic and musical escapism that dominate the small screen. We can forget starving, dying children for most of the year - after all it's a whole other world. It seems that for us to stick our hands in our pockets, it will take a troupe of BBC Newsreaders embarrassing themselves, or a specially written sketch from a great comedy institution, maybe a stand up routine or a few musical numbers; a night of good entertainment.

I don't blame the celebrities - good on them for using their mouthpiece to such rare good effect!

I don't blame the charities - when everyone else is exploiting the cult of celebrity for financial gain, why not attract celebrities to bring attention and funding to your infinitely more worthwhile cause?

I blame us, as Western society (myself included). We have become so selfish and so self obsessed that we are far more motivated to give to charity when we get something in return - when we are entertained, then we will give. Given this reality, it's no wonder that Comic Relief and Band Aid operate as they do. It does make for a sad indictment of what a self-seeking and introspective nation we've become.

Well done Bob Geldof and others involved in Band Aid (and other charities) for all the hard work you've done raising considerable amounts of money for the poorest people in Africa and around the world. Personally I won't be buying the new single, but making my own donations.

After all a person is for life, not just for Christmas.

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