Monday, July 04, 2005
Poverty ends in Africa
& other holiday hijinks
An aerial view of Africa showing the economic change that
occurred between 12 pm and 8 pm EDT on July 1, 2005.
AGAINST ALL ODDS. Chalk another one up to the miraculous powers of pop music. Without mentioning the names of more than two African countries or the once august initials 'U.N.', the idealistic youth of the world struck a fatal blow to the most pernicious human condition in the history of the species Saturday. On ten stages around the globe, musicians slew poverty in Africa by making their audiences aware of its existence.
Who knew it could be that easy? In recent decades, the major industrialized nations spent $500 billion on 550 million sub-Saharan Africans trying to help them emerge from a hell of famine, disease, genocidal one-party dictatorships, and continent-wide per capita income of less than $500 a year. How can we ever forgive our leaders for not realizing that the only possible solution to the crisis lay in the reunion of David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd? With all the resources at their disposal, couldn't they have figured out that poverty quakes in dread at the thought of Madonna shouting the F-Word to everyone on earth via a global satellite hookup and Paul McCartney leading a half-hour worldwide chorus of "Hey Jude"?
Apparently, some observers still haven't gotten the message. In the London Sunday Times, a cynic named Simon Jenkins had the nerve to criticize not only Sir Bob Geldof's Live8, but the legendary precursor event LiveAid.
Live 8 is clearly an echo of Live Aid, Geldof’s money-raising spectacular for Ethiopian famine in 1985. Live Aid was a spontaneous response to what television presented as a crisis. Its outcome has been hotly debated, most recently by David Rieff in this month’s Prospect magazine. Showering money, trucks and food on Mengistu’s Ethiopia entrenched a vicious regime and aided one of the most cruel forced migrations in history. Ethiopia was never short of food.
Live 8 seems to acknowledge this critique. The £20m it raises will go not on poverty but on itself. Not a penny will go to Africa. Indeed a potential fundraising opportunity, which might at least have bought a planeload of anti-Aids drugs, has become an exhibition of high-tech media co-ordination and a celebrity fiesta. Geldof has given up on money. He rephrases Lennon’s “All you need is love” as “All you need is awareness”.
That's not a very nice thing to say. Didn't he watch the fifty or seventy explanations offered up by MTV's crack socio-economic pundits about how the "awareness" was going to force callous G8 bigwigs to finally fix things? You know, by making them aware that the kids just weren't going to stand for any more no money, no drugs, and no hope in Africa? He couldn't have, or he wouldn't have said this:
All this asks to be taken seriously as politics. So let’s do so — and as more than background schmooze for Blair’s G8 spectacular at Gleneagles. The G8 is not a decision-making body but a “conversation” between rich nations. It has no constitution and no executive. The United Nations, not the G8, is the proper forum for collective action on world poverty.
Targeting the G8 is in truth a hangover from 1960s left-wing agitprop, which held that the evils of the world were due to capitalism and colonial exploitation. Conventional wisdom was to dump the West’s surplus savings and produce on Africa, and then to wail when the continent was predictably corrupted. At a rough estimate some $500 billion was tipped into Africa over the past 40 years. Most observers maintain this contributed to political instability and a negative growth rate.
Probably, Mr. Simon Jenkins is just jealous of Sir Bob Geldof. Is he rich and famous? Did he ever have a big hit once with a band like the Boomtown Rats? And sure enough, when you look more closely at what Jenkins is saying, that's the deal. He's green with envy.
Geldof disagrees. He is a big-time interventionist. He claims legitimacy not by democratic mandate but by the dubious franchise of rock concert attendances. He tells his audiences that they do not need to give money or think. They can feel better just by chanting a mantra like monks. Awareness is self-defining. It accepts no responsibility for any political outcomes. Blame is transferred to elected politicians.
...Live 8’s demand is apparently that
governments should up the Sixties game and assume the mantle of global
welfare. Voluntary giving to charity should become compulsory. The
humanitarian urge should be nationalised. In addition, outcomes do not
matter. Geldof is quoted in the International Herald Tribune as
claiming that something must be done “even if it doesn’t work”. For
him, doing something useless even if harmful is a moral advance on
We'll let the results speak for themselves. Wait till Mr. Jenkins
sees what Africa has become over the weekend. For example, here's a
photograph of the continent's once desolate northeastern coast.
New African housing: this coastal stretch used to be huts, desert, and
dungpiles. This happened while Snoop Dogg was performing in the U.K.
He'll sing a different tune then, won't he?
FOURTH OF JULY. Live8 aside, this was a very big holiday weekend in the U.S. of A., and we can't let it go by without acknowledging the tremendous historical importance of Independence Day, as well as the sacrifices made by those who fought the good fight when it counted. In a time wen the mass media are increasingly scornful of patriotic remembrances and displays, we were heartened that the prestigious American Movie Channel chose to honor the American Experience with a showing of "Independence Day: The Fourth of July."
We believe all Americans should take a moment or two to reflect on how close we came to losing the American Way when the evil aliens attacked that time, and only a handful of heroes -- like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and President Bill Paxton -- had the guts and brains to win that terrible war for independence. Hats off to them, and to AMC for all the good work. Let us never forget.
GOOD. The sports highlight of the weekend was Venus Williams's come-from-behind victory in the longest Ladies Final in the history of Wimbledon. Repeatedly on the edge of defeat, she simply refused to lose and then gave us the additional gift of a victory celebration so joyous and delightful that the memory of it brings smiles even now. Congratulations to a true class act.
BAD. The word doesn't do justice to MTV's coverage of Live8. It has to be supplemented with others: incompetent, self-indulgent, venal, embarrassing, shallow, and boring. If there's any justice in the media world, this very worst of all cable networks, and its slum companion VH1, will soon depart the stage it has disgraced and degraded for at least the past decade, and the ascendant power of the internet will speedily reduce it to an awful memory.
UGLY. Some elements of the crazy left are so vicious and repellent that even a liberal or two will speak up to denounce them. We congratulate the blogger who decided that the egomaniacal law professor Brian Leiter needed to be taken down a peg or three. (HT to Glenn Reynolds.) Here's a sample of his thoughtful analysis.
I said a long time ago that the current Democratic leadership was actively harming the poor by failing to become an effective force in arguing for their interests. The wealthy and comfortable apparachniks of the Party, and the tenured supporters of the party like Leiter, live well while the poor and near-poor struggle.
If they were doing their jobs - if they were building a powerful and effective force for progressive values in this country - no one would mind that they were doing well by doing good. But the reality is that they are marching the Democratic Party off a cliff, and their arrogant blindness - and the fact that they revel in their arrogance - is one of the main reasons. Not only does it drive away what Leiter calls the "brainwashed" "cowed" and "fooled" by it's affect, but it leads to a myopia and unwillingness to change, react, and cope with the reality that is far from "easy." So we get bad people expounding bad politics.
Brian Leiter is a cliche, and he has almost nothing original to say. But it's still worthwhile to put people like him in the spotlight once in a while to remind us that the Howard Deans and Tedd Kennedys are standing atop the shoulders of a vast army of arrogant twits.
UGLIER. Ward Churchill:
"For those of you who do, as a matter of principle, oppose war in any form, the idea of supporting a conscientious objector who's already been inducted and has combat service in Iraq might have a certain appeal.
"But let me ask you this: Would you render the same support to someone who hadn't conscientiously objected, but rather instead rolled a grenade under the line officer in order to neutralize the combat capacity of a unit - that kind of resistance?"
Churchill's comments stop short of advocating fragging. But he tells the audience that fragging was a major factor in destroying American effectiveness in Vietnam.I wonder how the mass media would react if a conservative called on college students to start fragging their America-hating professors.
Well, I don't really wonder. I just kind of yearn.
JUST PLAIN WEIRD. Can anybody help me figure this one out?
What were you thinking when you put on that necklace? Laurie? LAURIE?
I'll be waiting right here for your explanations.