Thursday, July 07, 2005

More hate - live!


I promised, at some stage, to recount Mark Thomas's article in Time Out about Live8. For those who can't get the publication or who choose not to buy it, here's a summary of his points:

1. Some of the ideas of Geldof and Bono are a bit mad: "If someone had broken into a news studio and shouted, 'Row to France and pick people up', he'd be arrested and sectioned".

2. Live8 is a distraction from the real issues which "creates [a] false sense of achievement". The idea that one concert can solve the world's problems is naive. "The idea that it's automatically good if they raise aid is bogus, the idea that this aid is going to be new cash is bogus."

3. The musical acts chosen to perform hardly represent solidarity with Africa: "What are we going to do, are we all going to sing 'Circle of Life' from 'The Lion King'?"

4. One of the real issues is the demand for privatisation of the African infrastructure as a condition of aid: "You're dictating to countries what their economic policy should be, for the benefit of your own multinationals. Companies have been finding it difficult to do business in Africa because of the insurance. You could look at [debt] cancellation - which is from taxpayers' money - as a way of allowing those companies to go back into those countries. Look at the implications of privatisation. In Zimbabwe, they were asked to charge fees for schools and there was a huge increase in child prostitution in cities, so that the children could pay to go to school."

5. The anti-globalisation movement gets little coverage until its members are (a) beaten up by police and (b) condemned by Geldof for "spoiling it".

6. Western companies are as prone to bribery and corruption as African governments. "The ECGD [the UK's official export credit agency] has just given support for the Chad pipeline to Halliburton, which admitted to bribery in Nigeria. Why on earth are they supporting a bribing company?"

7. The real difference is being made at grassroots level by people on the ground in Africa. "There's a group of people [in South Africa] called the Water Warriors who go around smashing water meters because people can't afford it. [...] They've got these huge metal hooks with rubber handles, and they hook them onto electricity pylons and run cables through the townships, to give people access to electricity. But strangely Pink Floyd have not reformed as a result of their actions."

8. There are positive things about Live8. "It's the first time in a very long time that we have got a lot of people thinking about what's happening in Africa, and also the responsibilities that our own governments have towards that continent."

Not many jokes - Thomas doesn't do so many these days - but many wise words.


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