Sunday, June 05, 2005


Colour* My World

When last we left the Live 8 multi-city free concerts designed to draw attention to Third World debt, Bob Geldof and Co. announced that the Spice Girls were dis-invited because "their kind of pop act didn't seem right for this kind of event."

Well, now it seems that there are are more than a few who think that Geldof and Co. don't want another "kind" at the bash -- performers of color: "If we are going to change the West's perception of Africa, events like this are the perfect opportunity to do something for Africa's self-esteem," [DJ Andy Kershaw] said. "But the choice of artists for the Live8 concerts will simply reinforce the global perception of Africa's inferiority."

Another critic, black British TV producer Patrick Augustus chimes in, "It seems like the great white man has come to rescue us while the freedom fighters never get a mention. Where are the reggae artists that have been campaigning for truth and justice over all these years?"

Geldof claims that many black acts were otherwise committed. But, this dispute underscores the basic problem with his latest project. Not making a greater attempt to bring in more of the Third World musical performers that have emerged over the last two decades (most of the black artists who are performing -- Jay Z, 50 Cent and Stevie Wonder, for example -- are American) once again gives the impression that the primary answer to Africa's problems lies with the developed world.

Yet, as a column in The Guardian, perhaps the UK's most-Left paper, argues, this isn't true. This anti-poverty overture will fail just like previous ones, because certain realities on the ground haven't changed:

Whenever I hear talk of a 'new generation of political leaders' in Africa, I have to suppress a laugh. That's not the Africa I see on my travels, and if plans for an African recovery are built on such naivete and wishful-thinking, they are doomed to go the same way as every other grandiose project drawn up for the continent...

...The fact that more African countries are run by nominally elected governments instead of military dictatorships obscures just how structurally similar the new administrations often remain to what went before. The elites that have sabotaged development since independence have adapted to the times, learning to play the democracy game with panache. Africa's lootocracies have reinvented themselves.

And, as noted previously, Geldof has yet to learn from the experiences of the earlier Band-Aid/Live-Aid events where the dictator responsible for the Ethiopian famine got control of much of the money raised to combat that famine.

Rather than learning from that, Geldof instead is calling for a million to gather to protest the upcoming G8. As the saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

*appropriate British spelling

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