I was one of the five million or so AOL subscribers who tuned in to the Live 8 concert on Saturday. My interest was purely professional - something akin to the typical NASCAR fan who goes to a racetrack waiting expectantly for the spectacular crack-up.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Technically speaking, the event was great. There I was sitting at my computer a mouse click away from watching live performances in Berlin, London, Tokyo, Toronto, and Phladelphia. After a while, I stopped thinking about the enormous distances involved and just tried to enjoy the show.
Ain’t the internets somethin’ else?
As for enjoying the show, I managed to catch both an ancient looking Paul McCartney and a still defiant Madonna, whose middle finger salute was actually kind of appropriate. It reminded me of what these spoiled, rich, aging, philistines actually think about the rest of us. This Evening Standard gossip columnist fills us in on some really juicy details:
SIR PAUL McCARTNEY, who both opened and closed Live8, made sure every one knew exactly whose show it really was by continually strolling up and down the backstage area with his entourage of six in tow.
And when the McCartneys came face to face with the BECKHAMS it was always going to be interesting to see the result.
After praising Sir Paul on his opening number (which she was not actually there for), VICTORIA managed to infuriate the former Beatle by running off to hug an old friend. There were uncomfortable smiles all round because DAVID did not know how to explain his wife’s disappearing act to Sir Paul. When Victoria finally returned, Sir
Paul told her through gritted teeth: ‘Oh, well, if she’s more important than me …
BRAD PITT, on stage for all of two minutes, was furious that he did not have his own dressing room and RICHARD CURTIS, the director who heads the Make Poverty History campaign, had to vacate his for the actor
Whatever happened to the “We are the World” spirit where all the stars “checked their egos at the door?”
I guess there are some sacrifices stars just won’t make for a good cause.
And Live 8 was in fact, a good cause; if you are a member of a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) who would be partially responsible for divvying up the doubling of aid to Africa proposed by Geldof. The organizers are looking for some $25 billion in aid to the murderous kleptocrats and purloining shysters who make up the bulk of what passes for governments on that long suffering continent. A few weeks back, here’s what I said about that idea:
The problem with Africa, however, isnâ€™t money. And doubling aid to the continent would be something akin to giving a convicted drunk driver his license back with a gift-wrapped bottle of Chivas Regal.
Others agree with that assessment:
As Paul Wolfowitz, the new head of the World Bank, pointed out yesterday: â€œGiving money to corrupt governments is a formula for ineffective assistance.â€ Wiping out debt is tantamount to giving money and it has to be done with very tight strings attached. It would also impoverish the World Bank, which should play a pivotal role in helping Africa to help herself. So an essential part of the plan to write off debts will also have to be an agreement to provide additional funding for the World Bank. It seems that the United States has been persuaded to hand over extra cash.
Money, carefully spent, is undoubtedly part of the solution to Africaâ€™s problems. It can provide food and education but, for the long term, it can also fund the micro-banks that, with relatively tiny loans, can help individuals to set up businesses. The money Live Aid raised may not all have reached its planned destination but some did. The lunacy of Live 8 is that, apart from the costs that the marchers will bring, one of the biggest concerts for many a year will not be raising money for a good cause.
The hyperbole from many of the participants was pretty tough to take at times. Coldplay’s Chris Martin get’s the award for most outrageous statement made by a clueless musician when he said the event was “the greatest thing that’s ever been organised probably in the history of the world.”
Wesely Pruden just couldn’t let Martin’s idiocy slide by:
Since “the entire history of the world” includes the extinction of the dinosaurs, the eruption of Krakatoa, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the construction of the pyramids, the Resurrection of Christ and man’s landing on the moon, Live 8 had to be impressive mush.
And the mush certainly wasn’t helped by Geldof’s own outrageous statement after the show that “3 billion people were watching.” Even MTV’s website couldn’t swallow that one:
With millions watching the globe-spanning concerts in person (see “In The Crowds At Live 8: Music, Mud And A Shared Desire To Help”) and an estimated billion or more tuning in to the broadcast for what will likely be the most-watched music event in history, the twin messages of Live 8 were inescapable: “We don’t want your money, we want you” and “Three seconds.”
The latter was the figure given for how often a child dies in Africa of extreme poverty. Will Smith dramatically illustrated the point by repeatedly snapping his fingers and exhorting the estimated million-plus crowd in Philadelphia to do the same, creating an eerie crackling sound that slammed the point home.
One billion humans tuning into a single event is impressive enough. In fact, it’s about the same number of people who tune into the Super Bowl every year. And you can definitely say that the game is a helluva lot more entertaining than watching Will Smith snap his fingers.
For contained in Mr. Smith’s stupid gesture is a perfect illustration of why this event is a futile exercise in sophistry. The idea that “raising awareness” of Africa’s plight will save starving children is absurd. In order to save those children, you don’t have to snap your fingers, what you need is wholesale regime changes in 2 dozen or more countries where governments use starvation as the weapon of choice against rebelious populations. Africa’s problem is not lack of food. It is not a lack of arable land, or water resources, or agricultural know-how (they’ve been farming in Africa since before the Egyptians got themselves organized). At bottom, Africa’s problem is, well, Africans. Embracing the socialist doctrines of the old Soviet Union and Cuba during the 1970’s and 80’s, the grandiose schemes and huge development projects undertaken with some of the $220 billion in western aid that has gone to the continent since the 1960’s proved to be boondoggles of the first magnitude.
Dam building for electricity that nobody needs or can use is just one small example. What isn’t known and probably can never be calculated is the out and out theivery of aid funds by African leaders, their families, their extended families, their cronies, and the western companies who are forced into kickback schemes in order to win contracts with this human daisy chain of graft and corruption.
Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines says that companies that give out bribes and get involved in kickback schemes are partly to blame because they don’t blow the whistle. Who are they going to blow the whistle to? Not only will they lose the contract, their chances of getting another in that country or any one of 2 dozen other countries is about as good as the Cub’s chances of going to the World Series this year.
What’s to be done? US Ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy made the mistake of calling out African leadership on aid saying “Turning on the fire hose of international compassion and asking Kenya and other African nations to drink from it is not a serious strategy for promoting growth or ending poverty.”
Pruden gives us the Kenyan response:
President Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, was off at the African Union summit in Libya, helping other despots draw up their gimme list. In his absence, a deputy fired back at Ambassador Bellamy, complaining that Kenya had been singled out for criticism just because it doesn’t take terrorism seriously. Aid for Africa, he told the ambassador, “should not get entangled with the politics of your dissatisfaction with a regime, unless you have decided on a regime change.”
Nobody has, unfortunately, and that’s exactly why aid for Africa is as close to hopeless as anything can be. Regime change all across the continent is sorely needed, even more than another concert by unemployed service-station attendants whanging away on electric guitars and other noisemakers
Precisely. Which makes Live 8 about as relevant to helping solve Africa’s problems as the activities of the masked anarchists who are gleefully running around Edinburgh smashing windows and torching automobiles as if to prove the efficacy of corporal punishment denied them when they were children.
I suppose I shouldn’t criticize an effort with such obvious good intentions. But when that effort is so short sighted and even deliberately blind to the real cause and effect of Africa’s misery, it’s imperative that the millions of impressionable youths worldwide who wouldn’t know a Mugabe from a Mandela not be misled into thinking that singing and dancing for one day with a bunch of over-ripe troubadours will solve anything.