I’d always loved the classic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?‘ as a child- it was on constant repeat (like the rest of the ageing classics) throughout my (Christmastime) childhood. But when I really listened to the lyrics of Band Aid 1984 at fifteen, I was appalled- Why would Africans care if they didn’t have snow? Why would I thank God that someone else was suffering instead of me? The picture of Africa that was painted then shocked me- a desolate, depressing, poor, barren land with their only luxury being life- and this outdated, backwards song was still playing on the radio in 2010.
And now, in 2014, Bob Geldof has decided (again) to recreate the song that has such a damaging presentation of Africa in aid of Ebola- which has killed around 5000 people since the beginning of the year.
The opening of the video shows two people in full body suits entering a dirty room with an emaciated woman lying half naked on a filthy mattress. They lift her by her hands and feet and carry her to the waiting wheeled table. Cut to scenes of smug celebrities smiling and walking cheerfully into a studio as photographers clamour to get their pictures. Some of them are even posing.
These first thirty seconds set the tone for a sickening display of celebrity culture and shallowness. That poor, dying woman has been stripped of her dignity and now represents poor, dirty Africa, probably against her will. I can’t find anything about it- did she at least benefit from the video in any way?
(I don’t think she did. Thanks to all you celebrities for giving your time. Thanks to Ebola Woman for letting us abuse your image. Oh wait, that’s not in there?)
You’d think, that with 30 years (and three revisions of the song), that it’s had time to evolve, and become less offensive than it was when it first arrived on our radios, but alas, it hasn’t. As I said before, the lyrics are still as ignorant as they were before, still forcing that idea that Africa is so far removed from ‘us’, so uncivilised, so poor, so disease ridden and without joy. Poor them right? I’m sure most who live there, and those who are from Britain, don’t appreciate this kind of biased message still being allowed to perpetuate this backwards perception the West has of Africa. It would have been so much better to create a new song, with a more diverse set of singers, with much less glamour and just create something raw and powerful, rather than repeating this sham which now feigns charity.
Edit: My mother showed me this video which is a far more positive and informational song offering advice and solidarity to the countries affected.
The celebrities all gather cosily in their recording studio, while fans watch desperately with their iPhones in hand and photographers flash their cameras constantly. It all seems so wrong that this is a video for charity, when the photographers are out there, making money for shots, and the celebrities are there receiving their free promotion. How wonderful that they gave their time (for free!!) to promote a cause. How noble and caring and charitable of them to give money to charity like that- or did they? Did they donate anything themselves? Who knows.
Giving to charity (I believe) should always be done privately. If it’s not private, there’s usually an agenda (in this case I’m sure it’s more fame, more fan adoration and free promotion- oh and Ebola). I thought maybe I’d check out the website and see where this money is going. What do they do with it? Apparently they don’t feel the need to elaborate other than this:
On the home page, there’s no information about Ebola at all. The homepage. All we get is…you guessed it, celebrity news and tweets.
So I have no idea what they do with the money. None at all. Does it go to funding hospitals? Or food? Or cures? Or clothes? Or Ambulances? What? I have no idea. Thank you Band Aid.