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Gee, I Coulda Had a G-8!

Posted: July 05, 2005

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

So I caught some of the Live 8 concerts over the weekend -- on TV, that is. Unless your name is Bill Gates, you couldn't have paid me enough to actually attend one of the live events put on this past weekend across the globe by Bono, Bob Geldof and friends. Huge music gatherings of that sort give me the hives. The Bonnaroo festival, for example, sounds like my personal version of hell -- stuck out in the middle of nowhere with 80,000 sandal-wearing hackysack enthusiasts? You'd sooner catch me at a NAMBLA meeting or a "Re-elect Bush" fundraiser -- assuming, of course, that those aren't the same thing.

But I digress. Back to Live 8: While you have to give Geldof credit (someone surely does -- what exactly does he do for a living anyway? Do you think he really lives off the royalties of that horrid "I Don't Like Mondays" song?) for wanting to address the situation in Africa, it's hard not to view the entire enterprise as one of the most colossal examples of misdirected effort in human history since, oh, the Great Wall of China. All of those artists, all of that manpower, all those thousands of people in the crowds and presumably millions more worldwide watching at home -- and the whole purpose was to put pressure on the leaders of the world's leading industrialized democratic nations to "make debt forgiveness, fair trade and increased aid part of their Africa polices" (according to Time magazine)?

That certainly sounds like a noble aim, but let's really examine this for a second. You bring together the largest assemblage of rock and pop stars in 20 years (since Geldof's Live Aid concerts), in the hopes that eight world leaders -- who are meeting that very weekend and thus, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, presumably too busy to actually watch the concerts -- will feel obliged to amend their policies toward African poverty?

Let's assume that the G-8 leaders are all genuinely concerned about Africa's problems and really want to help. Actually, that's not such a stretch -- Geldof himself points out that George W. Bush has done more than any other American president for Africa. But these issues are complex, and money is limited. The U.S. has a war to run, and it can't take care of its own poor (actually, won't seems a more appropriate word, but that's a subject for another day). Granted that ending poverty and AIDS-related death in Africa is important, but so is addressing the same problems in our own respective backyards. Are the leaders of the free world really supposed to just magically find a way to solve Africa's problems just because Pink Floyd got back together?

Let's put that organizational, tactical and diplomatic muscle to some practical use. If Geldof could get Roger Waters to speak to David Gilmour after all this time, maybe he should be taking a page from Bono's playbook and lobbying for the cause. (For that matter, he should be brokering peace in the Middle East -- the man's apparently a diplomatic genius.) Or why not charge admission to these concerts, and whatever the box office is, pressure the G-8 leaders to match that number in debt relief or humanitarian aid?

Hell, pressure each of the performers to pony up a million or two as well -- I mean, U2 could pretty much buy Africa at this point. And give the general public some real incentives to give. If you told me Madonna would never record, sing or speak in public again if a certain dollar amount were raised, I'd move Heaven and Earth to raise that money. Throw in a promise that no radio station in America would ever play the Eagles or Led Zeppelin again, and I'd personally scrape together enough cash to end world hunger and cure all disease by the end of the day, if I had to sell your mother into slavery to do it.

I'm not trying to be glib here, or take easy potshots at well-intentioned millionaires, but it seems that all of this Live 8 effort is an exercise in generating heat rather than light. I'd love to see Africa's debt, its poverty and its crippling death toll eradicated in my lifetime. But I'd also love to see all these wealthy superstars, who clearly have the will to power, put a little more thought into achieving those goals. Staging free concerts by Will Smith, Elton John, Rob Thomas and Coldplay in the hopes that George Bush, Tony Blair and the Canadian Prime Minister will solve Africa's problems? That makes about as much sense as a Wham! reunion.

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Archived Editorials
December 03, 2006: Happy Feet
November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
October 07, 2006: Jessica Simpson
September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
May 7, 2006: Are Yahu Serious?
February 16, 2006: Bill O'Reilly & Brokeback Mountain
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January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
April 29, 2005: Pearl Jam Redux
January 26, 2005: Oscar Grouching
October 31, 2004: Three More Years!
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April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
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