Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8: Thinking It Through

Midway through listening Bjork's whale song call in Japan's Live 8 conference, it occurred to me -- why are we doing this again? The MTV VJ's who are our moral compass for the day are all pointing to the ending of starvation. (Please note: I am pro-food, children, & Santa Claus.)

There are a number of steps necessary to get this love fest in action. The main assumption is that if poor countries can stop paying down the debt; they can start spending money on infrastructure and social programs for the poor.

I have bad news. The majority of these countries has exceedingly corrupt leaders. If given more money, they tend to just spend the more money on (1) themselves or (2) securing power for themselves (guns, bribes), or (3) attacking weaker neighbors. Yes, I know everyone isn't corrupt, but the infrastructure is so flawed even in cases where we give relief (AIDS drugs, money, food) they just end up in the power of the rich.

Am I saying this is a waste? No. Am I saying we shouldn't do anything? No.

I am saying is when we are communicating an ambitious goal such as ending hunger in Africa -- the education effort has to go beyond telling eight people to agree to saving children. By implying to the average citizen that this is all that is required, when things don't change overnight, they will (1) stop the fight out of frustration OR (2) assume that the problem is resolved because they stood in the sun and listened to Will Smith's catchy "Switch." (Which is NOT in my iPod, Otto Man!)


Otto Man said...

I love that these concerts are raising absolutely no money for Africa, but are instead just raising "awareness." Many people don't realize that a family of four can be fully vaccinated, fed, housed, and clothed for a year simply through three fleeting seconds of awareness by a Poughkeepsie-area housewife.

I think Geldof might have done so many drugs he know thinks he's Gandalf instead, someone who can cure problems simply by thinking about them and then employing a potion composed of childhood dreams and unicorn farts.

No, there will be no money for medicine, little Uhuru. But the bass player from Velvet Revolver cares, don't you see?

Thrillhous said...

Thanks for saying it first (and eloquently), Studio. I too am pro Santa and pro food, but this concert stuff just don't get the job done.

You're 100% right about the problem of corruption in many African governments. I'm no expert, but here's my postcard summary of the African experience of the last 100 years.

1) Some European dopes colonize the continent, drawing up country borders that make about as much sense as the lyrics to a Scorpions song. In addition to subjugating the locals and imposing their own version of civilization on the inhabitants, they do some good stuff, such as creating an infrastructure of roads, schools, medical facilities, etc.

2) The locals, usually after a couple decades of slow-burn struggle, kick out the Euros. The leaders of the insurgency take the reins of power.

3) The leaders of the insurgency turn out to be dictatorial sickos who do all the stuff that StudioDave described. At the same time, all the money from Europe dries up, and the infrastructure goes to poop.

4) After more decades of really really crappy rulership (homegrown this time), the people rise up and get a shambling democracy going. Problem is, there still ain't no money coming in, and the tryants have wrecked the country's finances worse than Ken Lay down at Enron.

That's pretty much where the most "advanced" (politically) countries in sub-Saharan Africa are right now (Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, etc.). They're struggling to right the ship, but there's just so danged many problems.

Canceling debts would be a great thing, but it's not enough. As Studio said, throwing money at the problem ain't gonna fix it. My opinion is that they need boots on the ground, but in those boots should be Peace Corps-type folks rather than UN or US soldiers. As my fame throughout the blog world grows, perhaps I will see fit to expand upon this idea, but now I have to go tell 8 people that Sally Strothers is running low on moonpies, or something.