Reflecting.... It's been 4 years since I wrote my thesis on the 'Pornography of Poverty: An Anthropological perspective into fundraising campagins'. I had focused on images and messages of these campaigns and asked for the responsiblity of representation. Why use that title? - it was striking for me when I saw the expression describing how images of poverty were being used similarly to images of pornography. I agreed;
Placing poverty outside of context and constantly showing images of poverty but not the REASONS and the social and economical systems in place that perpetuate poverty lead people to either:
1. Turn a blind eye to those images we are unfortuantely now so used to seeing eveywhere (que: child with flies around eyes) that we become numb and desensitised OR
2. Give money and not think about anything else: 'I've done my duty'
(Note: I am NOT saying giving money is wrong).
I had focused on the LIVE AID concerts (I had grown up watching the Live Aid tapes because of my parents - and it was indeed one of the most epic events in history- unmatched) that were set up by Bob Geldof to aid the famine in Ethiopa in 1983-4, looked at how and if things had changed for LIVE 8 in 2005 concerts that took place during the 31st G8 summit and through my research had essentially pleed for a more responsible form of representation for humanitarian fundraising campaigns.
Now that BAND AID 30 has come out (Live Aid was born out of a song 'Do they Know It's Christmas?' sung by various artists (known as Band Aid) I have had to reflect once more on my opinions. Where are we now with these campaigns?
Last year I was lucky enough to meet Bob Geldof at a conference in which he was giving a talk about his experiences. I was touched by his passion and knowledge. I told him about my dissertation. In my dissertation I had actually criticised the song and celebrities for 'wanting to do good' but being patronising and also furthering the negative perceptions of Africa.
Speaking to him changed my viewpoint. I still thought (and think) the song is patronising but I was also now able to see his experience, his reasons, his idea behind this all. He himself said - he didn't realise how BIG the song was going to be - Live Aid 'just happenned', it grew it became uncontrallable. He was a normal & charming guy, spoke of his own life (quite tough too growing up in Ireland) and his emotions behind starting such a campaign. I can understand this.
And I believe that this representation HAD changed to a certain extent for Live 8. Twenty years later G8 WAS indeed more political - aimed at politicians. It made a lot of noise. Caught politicans attention and G8 countries as a result HAD to make certain concessions. It DID have small effect. By focusing on political and social processes Live 8 was in my opinion closer to truth in terms of representing the issues at hand.
It feel that all of this comes back to the famous quote: ''with great power comes great responsibility''.
So 2 days ago I watched the new Band Aid 30 video to help fight Ebola. What are my opinions? Mixed: dissapointed somewhat at the same song, similar message, the injustices that continue; but also understanding (The single raised 1 million pounds within X Factor debut) - this amount of money DOES have power to bring about significant change IF it goes to the right places. The truth is some celebrities and some people aren't doing anything.
There is one quote I found by Damon Albarn which I do agree with however:
“There are problems with our idea of charity, especially these things that suddenly balloon out of nothing and then create a media frenzy where some of that essential communication is lost and it starts to feel like it’s a process where if you give money you solve the problem, and really sometimes giving money creates another problem.”
I guess my point to all of this is it's easy to crticise but it's also easy to create something without necessarily thinking of the consequences because 'IT'S GOOD'.
I think in some ways campaigns have started to lead in this direction, in others there is a long way to go. Why couldn't they create another song for helping with Ebola ? (Because Band Aid is now such a well known song and it'll sell more (thank God they've changed some of the lyrics - others don't agree with me, see links below.) Is this right or wrong? Does creating a song and donating money help? Which organisations should we donate to there are many? Is doing something better than doing nothing? Where does the money go?
These are all questions we should all be asking constantly because it's not a matter of 2+2 = 4 and we ALL have our part to play to break unfair, out of context and untruthful representation. Perhaps one may not agree with the new song or perhaps they will. One thing THAT IS important though is that we KEEP on asking these questions and strive for real change.
This IS our world, it is OUR responsiblity too.
To read my dissertatiıon written in 2010 and see some of the images / campaigns used during Live Aid-Live 8-BandAid click the download link below. Looking back there is a lot to improve upon, to develop and change which I aim to do in the future but for a little more information it may be useful. For any other questions you may contact me via email in the CONTACT section of my website.
Video Discussion (Updated 20 Nov 2014):
Sunday Morning Live on BBC 16.11.2014 Ms Robtel Neajai Pailey (PHD Student at my old university - School of Oriental and African Studies) discussing Band Aid with Esther Rantzen.
Other articles on this topic (Some I agree some I disagree but interesting to look at varying opinions.) (Updated 20 Nov 2014)
Why I had to turn down Band Aid
'We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off'
Why Adele was right to ignore Bob Geldof and Band Aid
Damon Albarn suggests Sir Bob Geldof's Band Aid 30 patronises Africa: 'There are problems with our idea of charity'
Sir Bob lets loose again to brand criticism of new Band Aid song ‘complete b******s’ during live TV interview as single goes to NO.1 in iTunes chart
Band Aid 30: Fuse ODG turned down Bob Geldof's song over 'negative' image of Africa
Bob Geldof Denies Adele Band Aid Song Snub
Band Aid 30 ditched the only half-decent line it had
Interested in international development, humanitarian work and activism through art, literature and music. Singer/Song-writer/Guitarist.