Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Live 8 agenda questioned

The millions of people who enjoyed the Live 8 concerts in person and on television yesterday were repeatedly urged to visit the organization's website and sign the ONE Declaration calling for action "to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty." Although certainly informed by noble intentions, the policy approach outlined by Bob Geldol, Bono and their colleagues needs a close second look.

As George Mobiot points out in a recent essay, the exact terms for the debt relief proposed for African nations often comes with conditions that involve privatization and other neo-liberal "reforms" that could create more trouble than the debt itself. The spectacle of rock stars and movie idols making nice with the likes of Tony Blair and Georeg W. Bush, should give us pause. It may be that the world's poor are being sold down the river yet again, as the music plays on and we all cheer wildly.

Mobiot writes of the "two bards," Bono and Geldof:
"I understand the game they're playing. They believe that praising the world's most powerful men is more persuasive than criticising them. The problem is that in doing so they turn the political campaign developed by the global justice movement into a philanthropic one. They urge the G8 leaders to do more to help the poor. But they say nothing about ceasing to do harm....

"Listen to these men - Bush, Blair and their two bards - and you could forget that the rich nations had played any role in Africa's accumulation of debt, or accumulation of weapons, or loss of resources, or collapse in public services, or concentration of wealth and power by unaccountable leaders. Listen to them and you would imagine that the G8 was conceived as a project to help the world's poor.

"I have yet to read a statement by either rock star that suggests a critique of power. They appear to believe that a consensus can be achieved between the powerful and the powerless, that they can assemble a great global chorus of rich and poor to sing from the same sheet. They do not seem to understand that, while the G8 maintains its grip on the instruments of global governance, a shared anthem of peace and love is about as meaningful as the old Coca-Cola ad."

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[Of course, this is not the first time that rock and roll has been enlisted for grand ideals as critical thought was suspended. -- LW]

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