Bob Geldof's African Complex

Here's a wild thought: Could Bob Geldof turn out to become one of Africa's worst enemies despite his original masterstroke of giving a platform to ageing rockers, publicity-hungry pop stars and dubious has-been singers to help promote their all-conquering charitable efforts?

Here's a wild thought: Could Bob Geldof turn out to become one of Africa's worst enemies despite his original masterstroke of giving a platform to ageing rockers, publicity-hungry pop stars and dubious has-been singers to help promote their all-conquering charitable efforts? After all, what they seem to achieve nowadays is paint a picture of a group of people who are using all their talents as opposed to their own bank balances to save an entire continent, and that the government who represent them are totally inept.

Yet it's conveyed that only these superheroes voices and the general public's money can save the day. Or that's what we're told to think. However, like any multi-billion-pound industry, sadly, foreign aid is full of corruption and hypocrisy. For what people don't realise is that the aid Geldof & co provide is stuck in bureaucracy, applied in the wrong way so only has short-term effects and is vitally bad news for those it is meant to helping..

I'm not saying that we shouldn't donate to the Ebola cause nor any other charity you wish to, but through things like Band Aid, powerful people like Bob Geldof infantilise places like Africa. Western media has done their best to make sure when we think of the continent it is an irresponsible, diseased and desperate place that can't be trusted to govern itself and we have to be the ones there to save it.

War. Disease. Famine. These are the words we're constantly reminded of whenever we do get a glimpse of Africa in the media. We're told that Africa relies on a constant stream of aid support, yet we're never told how Africa can ever once again stand on it's own two feet - never is an option on how they could do it on their own offered. Like the puppets of showbiz Geldof's Band Aid singers are, Africa is that of the Western world. It's our little destination that we can save, and it makes us all feel like we're brilliant people for doing so.

There are of course things we can help with - provided that the correct infrastructure, research and management is in place - there are some fantastic charities who make a big, big difference. But with Band Aid, we're not told how they plan to add to this. We're just told to 'give us yer feckin' money' without any real explanation. In fact, it's just a board of trustees who are left to make these crucial plans.

Geldof's even on record saying if you don't like the song, you should still buy it anyway. Would you yourself accept such patronised charity? And why should we feel so pressured to support a group of people who have been proven to blindly throw money at situations they don't fully understand. Aid companies have been shown up to be shown to exhibit self-importance, even more-so when fronted by men with messiah complexes like Bob Geldof and Bono.

You see, Geldof and co can't argue that some of their allied Unicef workers don't travel business class, quaffing champagne and three course meals whilst en route to try to 'save' those starving from real world poverty. Because they do, and the lack of humility when a man worth £32million, well-known for avoiding tax, is expecting us to dig deep is astounding it reminds you that with no doubt, this campaign also marks thirty years since Bob Geldof marked himself as a cultural icon.

It's almost as if thirty years on, and with bands like U2 having to pay Apple to actually install their album into Western kid's iTunes collections that very few young people really care who these old fogies are. We found them insufferable back in the 80s, again in the last decade, and now this time, I think there might be a very difficult question to ask the third time around. The oft-quoted observation by Marx that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce" applies here for both its acuteness and how it has become a cliche. The Band Aid songs reflect this pattern. They begin as an attempt to respond to catastrophe and then excise all historical context and specificity.

The are is a lot of money in charity and Band Aid helps support the notion that has been painted by these huge aid organisations that Africa is mostly a famine-ridden shithole. Yet would it not be far more beneficial to raise and nurture African countries by investing in them, rather than constantly supplying and belittling with them aid? Would it not benefit them more by us promoting what they could achieve, rather than constantly painting this negative image of a helpless continent? Or is that not sensationalist enough? Do we always need a sob story to dig deep into our hearts and our pockets?

Bob Geldof, Bono and many more have unwittingly spent the last thirty years helping promote and define the African people as helpless, useless, poverty-stricken humans who belong to a class so desperate for help that they need us to buy a charity single every ten years to save them. It has completely damaged tourism and investment opportunities for Africa. Not only does this strip away the dignity of people living in African countries who are the ones who actually lead and make change happen, but it perpetuates stereotypes of conflict, poverty and disease as the single story of the continent.

Supposedly, Geldof made his first big money selling off the production company who produced The Big Breakfast, so I'm not going to accusing him of ulterior motives for the first Live Aid. But it did afford him a brand new social power through books, interviews, TV slots and speaking engagements etc. The cynical part of me has to see that whilst these campaigns no longer promote an awareness like they originally were intended to thanks to the digital age, charity can still be quite a nice little earner.

Why doesn't Bob, Bono and these charities don't consider promoting some real African development opportunities in helping deconstructing the stigma many of these countries suffer, whilst also raising awareness about Ebola instead? Is it because they'd rather we were all led to believe that we constantly need to give these poor people a lifeline? There are projects in Liberia and Nigeria which have been proven to be far more successful and far less damaging to the countries involved in the long term.

These efforts are the transformative ones, but they're not the profitable ones.


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