Thursday, 23 December 2010
BAND AID, CHRISTMAS, AFRICA AND WHITE MAN's BULLSHIT
"Thank God it is them instead of you"
By Frank Natter
In modern times, we seldom celebrate our colonial mentalities. We tend to hide them away under euphemisms. Christmas charity singles, however, provide a rare peep hole into the decayed core of the former colonial powers: the moral decrepitude still stands, where the empire has fallen. After abdicating all responsibility for why the world population is so polarised and why the Western nations can enjoy times of mass excess and extravagance, we throw on paternal hats and sing some utterly offensive tripe.
Nothing is worse in this respect that Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” A song who’s very title echoes the modus operandi of the Christian missionaries who were instrumental in tearing Africa to pieces. A song that refers to the world’s poorest as “the other ones” and “them” - blatant and unexcused orientalism - from Liberalism’s most compassionate. It beggars belief that in 2010 this is still played, en masse.
Africa, the richest continent in terms of natural resources, is universalised as a basket case, “Where nothing ever grows/No rain or rivers flow”. Now, in defence of Geldoff and Ure (a phrase that will only be used once in this article, I assure you) the song was meant to raise money for the Ethiopian famine of 1984. At this particular historical moment there was a lack of water. However, the writers never specify this. In order encourage charity amongst the population of Great Britain a picture of the whole continent of Africa is painted where it is deprived of snow and running water, where “the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears”. Artistic license is one thing, but what the self-righteous pop stars have done is embedded within the mentalities of the masses a picture of Africa that is in complete opposition to the truth. More harm has been done than good as it has, and continues to, reinforce stereotypes that systematically deprive third world peoples from autonomy. My generation would sing this song in our December assemblies and at our Christmas performances. One hopes this practice does not remain today, though given the single still transmits nationally through all our major radio stations, nothing surprises.
Africa enters the youth consciousness as a place of utter devastation, deprived of any semblance of happiness. “The Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom”. A graphic and horrible metaphor that shows complete ignorance and disregard for the percussive, vibrant and joyful cultures throughout the continent that have spread globally and had an immeasurable impact on our own artistic output.
The song is replete with geographic inaccuracies and inexcusable colonialism. It validates a Victorian “charitable” mentality, where the wretched of the Earth are “raised a glass” for, patronised from afar, while the crimes that are the cause of the devastation are literally whitewashed from history. Those poor, black people, don’t even know it is Christmas! Well this seems quite trivial given us poor white people don’t even confront our own history and instead actively perpetuate it, under the guise of compassion.
The song ends with a declaration: “Feed the world!”, over and over and over again. It kind of reminds me of the resolution that has attempted to get through the UN, again and again and again that states that "proper nourishment" is a human right. The declaration has been continuously blocked, by the US, as to feed the world is to compromise the extravagance of modern Western existence. So, instead, we continue to polarise the world. The rich remain rich, while the poor remain poor. This Christmas, if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to celebrate it keep in mind that opulent, festive meals are provided at the expense of the vast majority of the world. “Thank God it is them, instead of you”.
By Daniel Renwick (Aka Frank Natter): Joint organiser of the forthcoming meeting: Haiti Will Rise Again, (Commemoration of Haitian Earthquake), 12th January 2011, Gasworks, Vauxhall 19.00-22.00