Rene Descartes, the French philosopher, wrote in 1641, 'I think,
therefore I am'. This statement has become outdated and inadequate in
today's cultural society. 'I am at Live 8, therefore I am' would seem to
provide a much more satisfactory aphorism of the human condition. Of
course, 'Live 8' could equally be replaced with a selection of other
suitable life affirming experiences, (for example 'I am at a U2 concert',
or 'I am swimming with dolphins'). But let's stay on the subject of live
At the start of Live 8 in the United Kingdom, tv "celebrity" Jonathan
Ross announced that it is
'July 2nd. 2 o'clock. London'. However, he
quickly had to withdraw his words as it became apparent that the moment
had in fact not arrived and the concert was not going to begin for
several more minutes. This underlined a certain absurdity that is
attached to Live 8 and similar type of life-affirming events. The
rhetoric is drummed into us that this is a historic moment; one that we
will remember until the day we die. However, when Mr. Ross had to repeat
the same sentences a few minutes later the illusion was cracking. A
chunky looking Paul McCartney and Bono trundled out on to stage and a
quiet confusion seemed to fall upon the crowd. This was 'the moment'
the hype had been working up to and inevitably it transpired to be
little different from any other moment of one's life.
A few camera pans of the audience later and the viewer is left with
little doubts as to the type of audience that will spend the afternoon
worrying about missing Bono's 'historic' (for everything is 'historic' this afternoon) encore whilst queuing for the toilet.
There were a couple of women wearing 'Make Land-mines History' t-shirts.
At least they're trying, at least they're doing something, one might
say. But is this way of thinking really healthy, or positive?
Let us look at some of the controversy that has surrounded the build-up
to Live 8. The most obvious aspect of this has been the arguments
regarding the choice of band line-ups. The only African artist to be
performing at Live 8 is Youssou N'Dour, who is playing Paris and then
jetting over to London (so thin on the ground are African musicians that
one has to cover two of the concerts). According to television
schedules, Live 8 London is running from 2pm until around 9.30pm. That
is seven and a half hours, but only one African artist. Damon Albarn of Blur was
one big name critic, stating
'More than ever, black culture is an
integral part of society, so why is the bill so damn Anglo-Saxon? If you
are holding a party on behalf of people, then surely you don't shut the
door on them. In a way Live 8 does that: it doesn't make you feel closer
to Africa, it treats it like it's a failing, ill, sick, tired place'.
Furthermore, black musician Patrick Augustus
'It seems like the
great white man has come to rescue us while the freedom fighters never
get a mention'
. Again, Senegalese star Baaba Maal
do feel it's very patronising as an African artist that more of us
. The campaign group, Black Information Link, labelled
the line-up as
. It should be noted that there is only
one Live 8 concert taking place in Africa itself, in Johannesburg
However, this wasn't initially planned and it was only when South Africa
itself asked if it could hold one that this concert was added. Moreover,
the attendance at this event has been poor in comparison to the European
events and enthusiasm within the African continent seems to be lacking.
This could, in part, be down to lack of inclusiveness of the
of the Live 8 concerts.
However, we should examine the defense. Bob Geldof (or should I say,
'Saint Bob') reacted to the criticism (and in particular Albarn's) by
This view was backed up with the official line that stated that
'Simply because you have black skin, or orange skin, or white
skin, or lime green skin does not give you a passport on to the Live 8
stage, it just can't. The only thing that can do that is whether you
sell records across the globe, and, therefore the globe will watch'.
Geldof's intention was to get headline-grabbing shows full of people who
fill stadiums and arenas. This is not Womad (the world music festival).
We are not doing an arts festival'. Indeed - I don't think anyone is
going to mistake it for such. But surely implicit in Geldof's statement
is the fact that this event is defined by a massive commercial machine
known as the music industry. African artists don't sell, so we're not
interested. We'd rather listen to Dido screeching sugar-coated ballads
with cheesy lyrics that the average middle-class brain can relate to
without having to delve too far into the murky world of the human
psyche. So, we can therefore infer that it is okay to use a morally
corrupt and intellectually bankrupt industry, allow it to further it's
own ends and the ends of the egocentric "artists" who sport bleach-blond hair
in order to save a continent from poverty as it cannot save itself. Fair
enough one might say, and I indeed would, except that a second criticism
The idea is that through Live 8, pressure will be placed on the G8, the
leaders of the eight richest countries in the world, to actually do
something proactive and significant about poverty in Africa. Frequently,
leading advocates of Live 8 have stated that it really is as simple as
that - if the these eight leaders agree, the World will be transformed.
To reduce the economic and polical systems of the world to such a
simplistic formula is more than faintly ridiculous. Of course, these men
have immense influence and power. But these are men that are routed into
a mindset that is shared by most individuals in the Western world (and
spreading). Joe Bloggs at Live 8 doesn't anguish about using his car
each day when he could walk. Mary Bloggs doesn't anguish about whether
to buy that pair of Birkenstock shoes or give the money to Oxfam. We
live in a culture that expects things almost unthinkingly now.
Politicians lie and don't do the "right" things not just because they're
corrupt, but because the majority of them would be deeply unpopular with
the public. We blame politicians for the problems, but often we define the limits and the rules the politicians have to play by. Combine this pressure from the public with the power that the World Trade
Organisation wields (which many would argue is greater than the combined power of the G8) and we start to see that these eight men are in fact
hostages to the whims of these groups. Joe Bloggs will happily go along
to Live 8 and tap his toes to a bit of inoffensive Coldplay, but make
him give up thirty percent of his income a month for Africa, or the
homeless, or the environment and there would be a change of Government
sharpish to one that would keep his wallet full.
So, we're back where we started, with the Live 8 audience subconsciously
affirming their existence by being present at Live 8. Many will no doubt
awake tomorrow with a feeling of euphoria because 'I was at Live 8!' and a cathartic feeling like they've actually 'done something'.
Undoubtedly the leaders at the G8 will thrash out some kind of deal on
African debt and hopefully at the same time they will address the issues
of corruption within certain African countries. I sincerely hope that
they do. However, without a wholesale change of mindset by the
"mass-men" as Ortega called them, and some fundemental changes to the
systems of Government (which will never happen), then the World will
remain dominated by the consumer, 'I want it now, this is my moment',
type of individual that is characterised by the Live 8 audience.