Friday, July 01, 2005

Bitek Okoye

Live8 starts tomorrow, and, while I'm all for raising awareness and pushing government to enact reform, I really couldn't care less about Live8.

From The Long Walk to Justice, the Live8 site:

Every single day, 30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty.

On July 6th, we finally have the opportunity to stop that shameful statistic.

8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history.

But they'll only do it if enough people tell them to.

That's why we're staging Live 8. 10 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message... To get those 8 men, in that 1 room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty.

We don't want your money - we want you!

You want to do something about world poverty? Let's start with the fact that 8 unelected leaders have had the power to stop 30,000 children from dying and haven't. Let's begin with the idea that 8 unelected leaders have that kind of power on a planet of six billion. Then, let's think about the fact that Bob Geldof's response is not "let's make sure that those 8 people are good people who protect people as well as trade" or "let's make sure that such institutions are accountable to the people their decisions will affect" or even "hey, are we doing enough in the way of foreign aid" but "let's have a rock concert." Hey, you do what you can, right?

I hope something comes of this, I really do, but I have two words for you: Bitek Okoye. While we're rocking out to U2 feeling just great about ourselves, you have to wonder if our lavish show of solidarity makes any appreciable difference in the lives of the people we're trying to help.

For his part, Eric Alterman says it more bluntly than I would, "To Hell with Live 8 (And I mean that.)":
I’m an idiot, I know, but I just figured out that Live 8 is not raising any money for famine relief or malaria cures or AIDS treatment in Africa. It is just designed to “pressure” G8 countries into doing what’s right. Thing is, guys, the G8 doesn’t, (and shouldn’t) care what Madonna, Elton John, U2, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, R.E.M., Coldplay, Bjork, Sting, Dido, Justin Timberlake, Green Day, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill think about anything, particularly if they won’t put their own riches where their big mouths are. (Ditto Pitt, George Clooney, Will Smith, Natalie Portman and Salma Hayek.) I am in favor of harnessing the power of celebrity for global good but where’s the good in this? Good God, this is a moral crime. All that money available just for the asking—all those lives that could be saved by people who won’t miss the money--and these guys won’t even bother to ask? They won’t even allow charities to canvass the audience. Turns out the concert is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING but moral vanity, and the exploitation of starving, sick Africans, by pampered, rich as**oles and their self-interested corporate sponsors rather than their potential salvation. This is really unspeakably shameful.

The man, as always, has a point.

Bill Gates, the supposed lord of a new generation of robber baron philanthropists, has done more for African children than Bob Geldof, their self-appointed champion, ever will.

So all I want is some much needed perspective here. If we're going to make a difference, let's make a difference, but let's not pretend that this is anything other than what it is. It's not charity. It's not philanthropy. It's not justice. It's a rock concert.

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