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
In the wake of mass privatisation of water across the globe that has been taking place over the past decade I would like to share a few resources/facts with you today.
Water, H20, is arguably the most important natural resource on the planet and the most important thing that humans need to survive and lead healthy lives. Unfortunately according to WaterAid, 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, one in three of the world's population AND 748 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world's population. (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2014).
The reality of this situation will never quite hit those of us have fortunately had access to clean water our whole lives. Yet there are some drastic problems that really cannot be ignored. We have just as much as a part of this and need to face the reality of the situation. The act of the privatization of water for example hit me hard when I watched a few documentaries a few years ago. Watching ‘Tapped’ for the first time really allowed questioning the bottled water industry and my own consumer habits.
I won’t go on and on about my own opinions but I would love to share few resources with you as water for thought:
1. First of all take a look at WaterAid for some more facts and figures. WaterAid's mission is to transform lives by improving access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.
2. ‘Tapped’ documentary. Examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil.
3. ''You'll be buying Evian just to take a f...bath''. Mos Def’s great hip-hop tune ‘New World Water’. You can find the lyrics here. Appeared on his 1999 album ‘Black on Both Sides’. Lyrics speak for themselves.
4. Water: The Great Mystery. A documentary about the history of Water . Great cinematography.
5. Check out this article regarding Nestle’s CEO who is pushing for the privitasion of water worldwide. This article is more about his discussion regarding GMOs (which is another topic entirely which I am hoping to write about ) however if you do your own research online regarding his opinions on water privitasion you can find many more resources. Corporate watch, an independent research group that investigate the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power, discuss Nestles's unethical policies in depth here. For example, they state about Nestle's water policies:
“Nestlé production of mineral water involves the abuse of vulnerable water resources. In the Serra da Mantiqueira region of Brazil, home to the “circuit of waters” park whose groundwater has a high mineral content and medicinal properties, over-pumping has resulted in depletion and long-term damage.”
6. A video I just came across today by WorldVision called the 'Zambia Project' . Even thought I do not necessarily like the way this Project has been marketed* (I am not criticising it), it does paint a realistic picture of the situation in a lot of countries across the world.
The reason I wanted to share all of the above was it because it has indeed helped me have a wider view regarding how much we take for granted. Spreading knowledge in this age of connection is incredibly valuable, so there you have it.
*I wrote my MA thesis on the resbonsiblity of Images and messages used in humanitarian fundraising campaigns with a special focus on LiveAid and the Ethiopian Famine of 1984; I also took a look at what had changed 20 years on by the time of Live8. In a nutshell, my research lead to me to the opinion that the 'pornography of poverty' does not at all help in changing the perception of poverty, creates unnecessary guilt, a feeling of apathy and numbness towards horrific realities that exist. This does not fix the problem of poverty. It SHOWS poverty but not the REASONS for poverty, which are complex reasons that our embedded in the global economic and social system that we are a part of. By the end I ask for responsible representation, one that is indeed perhaps slightly more political, context-ridden, that allows people to realise they ARE indeed a part of the problem AND solution, that they DO have agency to take action other than for example donating money (not that this is a bad thing) and forget about what's going on in their daily lives. I say this because most people do prefer to feel they are actually making a change through their own actions. If ıinterested in my thesis please get in touch.
Interested in international development, humanitarian work and activism through art, literature and music. Singer/Song-writer/Guitarist.