Band Aid 30: Love Can Kill You
Hey, they're not making it easy for me to get behind this. I think part of the problem with Band Aid, both in its original 1984 incarnation and its new re-tooled 2014 version, is the utter fucking horribleness of everyone involved. If we're being forensic then we could blame Michael Buerk for starters. Michael Buerk's currently making 150 grand for appearing on a I'm A Celebrity, and could last week be heard on the open turd-strewn sewer that is The Moral Maze defaming a victim of rape. It was Michael Buerk who helped break the Ethiopia Famine story in 1984 and at that time, he had a choice as a journalist, to represent the famine and suffering as an act of nature or an act of politics. Fatally, as he continues to do, Buerk chose to treat us like idiots, giving out a totally simplistic and false portrayal of the situation that inevitably led to simplistic solutions, a headlock of simplicity that's endured ever since in most reactions to 'third world crises'. A 'famine caused by drought'. A 'biblical famine'.
The road to misery is paved with good intentions. Oh they all meant well, didn't they? But the Band Aid trust, set up to distribute the relief the record and gig generated, in dealing with Mengistu and his murderous government in the first place, immediately invalidated any good intentions behind their work. It was Mengistu who caused the famine through his resettlement and depopulation plans, Mengistu who used the aid and relief from Live Aid and Band Aid to continue his plans to brutalise and starve his people, using the advice and the conventional and chemical weaponry the Russians were more than willing to send his way. As a reaction to an in-itself misleading news-broadcast, Geldof's spasm of self-righteousness did more harm than good, politically as well as in terms of pure human suffering, aiding resettlements that killed people faster than any famine. This is what happens when you say something is beyond politics. You raise a shitload of money, expiate guilt from government, seemingly 'forget' about September 84, a few months previous, a month before Buerk's famous news reports, when Mengistu diverted 200 million dollars of foreign aid and spent it on a party celebrating Haile Selassie's overthrow, the first time Western journalists got to see the starving masses of Ethiopia, wandering into the swinging capital from the ravaged countryside. Irrelevant by Christmas. These powerful scum become people you 'need to work with'. You fund their killing, torturing, raping, imprisonment of their people. In refusing, like Buerk to acknowledge that famine is a POLITICAL problem, putting it down to bad luck, climate, you let the tyrants and murderers off the hook. You let the money raised to feed people to be used in 'counter-insurgency'. You balance what little help you give with the fact that without a doubt you are extending the life of an insane, destructive regime. Propping up despots is never a price worth paying. Live Aid, and Band Aid were COLLUSION in Mengistu's regime, collaboration when nothing but outright denunciation should've been our standpoint.
Yeah, check out the new logo. Cos Ebola of course, is affecting the WHOLE OF AFRICA (shhh, doesn't matter that it isn't, after all, how are Africans gonna complain about such misportrayal?) It's a good story, the old gang back and swinging and just this morning we have the unedifying spectacle of pal-of-Blair Bob Geldof singling out Adele as someone who hasn’t answered his calls. Just fuck off you bullying ego-trip addicted wanker. Let’s get this straight – the kind of ‘celebrity humanitarianism’ Geldof engages in has nothing to do with ‘changing’ things. Band Aid, just as it did in 84, legitimises and promotes neoliberal capitalism and the global inequality that is the inevitable result. The whole project is immediately contaminated by its corporate endorsement, self-serving to its coordinators and participants and designed to self-aggrandize celebrities’ brand identities, nothing else. The idea that a wodge of cash (thanks George for the V.A.T waiver you evil fucking lizard) can sort out the endemic and long-running infrastructure and health-provision fuck-ups that have enabled the latest outbreak to gain a foothold is a joke. 'Feed The World' is nothing anyone in the west should be proud of. It's a song whose central conceit is that we can bring a new thing, Christmas, to the huddled African masses (ignoring of course the fact that Ethiopia has a longer tradition of Christianity than anywhere in the West). It's a song that perpetuated a picture of Africa that still dangerously endures today, that allowed rich white pop stars to appoint themselves spokespeople for 'voiceless' Africans, rich white hypocritical pop stars like Geldof and Boneo who use tax-avoidance tactics to sate their own greed while exhorting governments to spend more of other people's money on their own pet causes. It's a song that is still perfectly emblematic of all that's wrong, arrogant, dumbly oblivious to complexity, about celebrities 'raising awareness' of 'third world issues'. The same conceit that thinks a concert can end poverty or a twitter-campaign can bring kidnapped girls back to a school. It raises awareness of nothing, only salves the conscience of the wealthy, was always a fucking horrible song that seeks to reduce Africa to a monolithic helpless place that can only be understood in terms of its desperation and desolation, a basket-case in need of our salvation, a place without rivers, without hope, without snow a place waiting for OUR benevolence again (faint hint that we should never have left). And yeah, lets thank god it’s those Africans suffering and not us. Hold the phone though. They've had a rewrite. FUCKING HELL, check this bullshit.
If, and it must, 'Feed The World' can be seen as one of the most singularly objectionable songs ever, the fact that in the new version those 'controversial' lines have been changed matters not a jot. BandAid30, just as it was in 84, is fundamentally depoliticizing despite its pretentions to activism, says the only power we can exert is as consumers, sucks up to any corporation or government willing to ‘lend a hand’ (including a chancellor busy in a government absolutely committed to destroying the health structures of this country and the lives of many of the people who depend upon them), allows politicians to posture and pose their supposed altruism, rationalising the very global inequality it seeks to redress. It’s akin to ‘corporate responsibility’ i.e BULLSHIT, like a fast food company fucking up forests and running sweatshops while blathering about ethical/green policies. Decaf capitalism, a sustaining narrative that’s useful to elites as issues of social justice get transformed into technocratic matters to be resolved by managers, experts, NGOs and, increasingly, celebs. Just as in 84, Geldof’s self-sanctimony, as with all celebs who ‘speak for’ the ‘third world’ on issues of debt/poverty reduces ‘victims’ into passive idiot bystanders, focuses attention on the spectacle of disaster or relief, diverting attention away from longer-term structural causes behind inequality and poverty and the recurrent health disasters that result.
We the audience have a chance to not be complicit in this. Hope folk reject these twats (made easy cos it’s a terrible song performed by terrible people once again) and their hypocritical moralising and if they want to help investigate the mess of politics behind things rather than the crayon-sketch reductivism of Geldof and his ilk. How dare a song insist that a whole section of a massive continent have 'no hope' bar survival, have no 'peace and joy'. They're PEOPLE you fuckers, not cartoons. Don't give this Geldof cunt any fucking more of your fucking money. Hoping for an X-factor number 1 more than any year previous.