Joe Hendren

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8, Gates and Green Day

Rather tired at the moment. But I did stay up late last night watching Live 8.

While it was an enjoyable concert I was disappointed the TV interludes about poverty and Africa, supposedly explaining what the event was about, were not more substantial. Like the appeals for money during Live Aid, the commentary focused on large figures, emotion and sentimentality (the short film about the 'no food diet' was probably the best of the lot).

Given that Geldoff wanted this to be a political event, rather than a telethon I thought the commentary could have been a heck of a lot more political.

But even the moderate commentary was excised in some parts of the world. In the US, MTV consistently cut away from the political speeches and cut many of the songs to screen advertising. One disgusted MTV viewer - "there are more adverts than concert footage".

Most of the TV interludes reduced issues to simply quoting large (and shocking) figures and calling for something to be done. Why not give a short history of third world debt, the causes of global poverty and give some quick fire examples of why the current trade rules are unfair? But that would mean pointing the finger at the West for pushing a lot of debt onto Africa, and of encouraging exports of food _out_ of Ethiopia during the 1980s famine. It would also highlight the hypocrisy of "free" trade. None of the G8 countries developed their economies though a doctrinaire adherence to "free markets" and privatisation - so insisting that third world countries can do is an almighty bullshit pill. It also might lead people to question why they put up with the same bullshit at home.

While such a message would have been a heck of a lot more politically effective, perhaps even a tepid critique of power would have upset Geldoff's new friends, such as Blair, Brown and Bill Gates.

For me, the appearance of Gates was the most sick inducing moment of the whole shebang. Despite Live 8 not being about phillantropy, Geldoff introduced Gates as the "greatest philanthropist of our age". Yet no one mentioned he made his money as head of Microsoft, a corporate who aggressively defends its copyright, and supports extending the provisions of WTO trade agreements such as TRIPS to provide better protection for copyright holders. Yet this same agreement has been one of the key reasons why Africa could not access AIDS drugs - as it lacked the money to pay off the multinational drug companies, and TRIPS forbade them from producing cheaper generic drugs. While provisions were added to TRIPS in 2001 to allow for forms of compulsory licensing during 'national health emergencies' (such as AIDS) it is still very much a live (death!) issue - especially as some nations have been reluctant to enforce these provisions for fear of jeopardising the supply of aid and investment (and brand-named AIDS drugs) from wealthy nations.

While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given a lot of money to assist AIDS projects, this work, like Geldoff's, can only be a sticking plaster if it ignores the underlying power issues that lead to humanitarian disasters.

Thankfully the appearance of Green Day soon after rehabilitated Live 8 back into what is should be - a political event with lots of rock and roll. First song - American Idiot - "Well maybe I'm the faggot America. I'm not a part of a redneck agenda. Now everybody do the propaganda. And sing along in the age of paranoia.". Billy Joe reminded Berlin of the power of democracy "And remember one thing, regardless of the powers that be are, remember one thing, you're the fucking leaders, you have the power, don't let these bastards dictate the rest of the world or dictate your fucking life, allllrighhhhht!". Green Day then concluded with "We are the Champions" - a song that also doubled as a tribute to Freddie Mercury and Queen - the standout act of the original Live Aid.

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