When something is better than nothing

I have to admit, my heart sank a little upon hearing that Band Aid 30 was going to be a thing. “Really? They’re releasing that song for the fourth time?” (I then took a great amount of pleasure in being able to prove to Drummer Boy that yes, we have now heard four incarnations of Do They Know It’s Christmas? People always forget the 1989 version. Probably with good reason. I digress.)
It’s just all a bit, well, pfffff… You know. That song again. It doesn’t even make sense – and the lyric edits this time around haven’t helped in the slightest. If there’s anything more sinister than Bono singing “Tonight, we’re reaching out and touching you”, well, I don’t want to hear about it. Tomorrow, we’re applying for a restraining order. And I mean, who even is Rita Ora? I still don’t know.
So, yeah. It’s problematic. Rich, famous people telling poorer, less famous people what to spend their money on – and possibly shaming other rich, famous people* for not doing so – is never going to go down well, and Bryony Gordon’s somewhat uncharacteristic rantmakes this point really well.
*I’m still not 100% sure Adele was “shamed” for not being a part of it. All the reports I’ve read – and admittedly, that’s a grand total of 2.5 – have been very vague about what was actually said.
However – and when I bring out the GCSE History essay game-changing word, you know shit’s going down – at least Sir Bob Geldof has done something. Even if that ‘something’ is ‘assembling a rabble of mediocre chart-botherers and cobbling together a single and a music video’. They managed to do that in the space of 36 hours. In the last 36 hours, I’ve… had a pub lunch, slept a bit, and sat in an office fiddling about with a shitty Sharepoint site. So I can’t fault the man for deciding to do something and then bloody well getting on with it.
And yes, the criticism that the great and the good and the former rock stars should just put their hands in their own pockets, donate to one of the incredible charities that are already doing so, so much and shut the hell up about it is perfectly valid. Of course it is. Personally, I’m way more in favour of  quietly donating to your chosen charity than I am of any of the rather more public fund-raising efforts that have been so popular this year. (I’m not going to be specific; we know what I mean. I was going to write about it at the time but I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to be crucified. I still might throw a few thoughts down; everyone loves that one idiot who’s brave/stupid enough to voice their unpopular opinion.)
But there’s still something to be said for the people that wish for change – and then come up with ideas to bring about that change, and follow them through. Take Russell Brand – yes, he spouts a lot of words, and maybe only some of them are well-chosen, but whether you agree with him or not, he’s done something. He’s had enough faith in his own convictions to write a book about them. (I can hear the “yeah, but Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and look what happened there” quips from here, OK?) It’s easy, and often right, to criticise people for their egos, their self-promotion and their seeming naivety. Reading some of the criticism of Brand in the last few months has made me think that there is a sense of “but he’s just a very average comedian, how dare he have opinions on other things? Get him back in his box!” If you set the dogs on the first person with a new idea, no-one else is going to want to come forward. And so nothing will change. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the only people who’ve ever made a difference to anything important have always been the ones who were naive – and mad – enough to think that they could.
And do you know what? If I’d had the year Bob Geldof’s had, I don’t think I’d be throwing all, or indeed any of my energy into putting out a charity single. I really wouldn’t. I cannot imagine how awful this year must have been for him, so if he can be thinking about the suffering of others at a time like this, then all credit to him.
 
I think the only point I’m making here is… live and let live. Or, to nick a Caitlin Moran quote, “don’t get in the way”. If someone’s doing something that they believe in… let them. If you don’t like it, do your own thing. It’s as simple as that.
 
This is a much better track than Band Aid 30.
 
And so is this. I’m going to learn all the words to this; it can be my [very tedious] party piece.
 

 

2 thoughts on “When something is better than nothing

  1. As always, really like reading your blog posts and keep up the good writing! However, I'm not sure I can buy the argument that something is always better than nothing; while raising money for charity is all well and good, there is definitely something objectionable about Band-aid and other celebrity-led appeals to Joe Public demanding they dole out time and money. Simply put many such appeals are sanctimonious lectures to the public telling them they have it relatively easy and morally have an obligation to give money to help others less wealthy. While it is true of course a supermarket worker in this country has a thousand times more wealth than a farm worker in Zimbabwe, this does not necessarily mean the supermarket worker here is not themselves in poverty because wealth isn't absolute, it is relative, and relative to the society an individual lives in. It is extremely patronising and darkly ironic then to have an appeal led by the wealthiest of society demanding donations from those less fortunate themselves. Indeed it is damaging, because it promotes condemnatory attitudes toward those who are unable to donate; the campaign states no-one is so poor that they can't donate, so by logic anyone who doesn't donate must be doing so because they are immoral and don't want to, not that because they can't. Some even argue such campaigns can create distractions from the problems in our society which paper over the cracks: “sure life in our country sucks, but look at THOSE people in Africa, see at least our country isn't that bad”.

    It might also be pointed out, while some like Bob Geldof might have good motives, many others are probably more driven by self-aggrandisement. This is the reason that companies give money to charity, why politicians are eager to be seen as benefactors, it is also the reason many celebrities involve themselves with charity, to promote themselves. This makes it all the more irritating when they do make sanctimonious appeals. Often the appeals themselves are very disingenuous to their alleged beneficiaries, the lyrics to feed the world are widely viewed by many as misrepresenting conditions generally in Africa, and that's without even factoring in the lazy 'renovation' of the song this time around. If many of these individuals really are as committed to the plight of others as they claim, why not make an actual sacrifice to raise awareness instead of 6 hours of their time in a recording studio. Why not commit to spending a month on a diet of only bread and water in solidarity with the starving? why not contribute a portion of their income for a period? why not make a sacrifice themselves rather than demanding it from others?

    Sure at least someone is doing something, but it is perfectly valid to complain they are not doing enough, or that they could do something different.

    PS Russell Brand is a perfect example of the self-aggrandisement trope; the guy knows nothing about anything and spends most of his time high as a kite insulated from the actual impact of cuts by his wealth. It's all very well stating the obvious and saying something is wrong with the country, it is dangerous when imbeciles try and paint themselves as leaders of the revolution because there is always the possibility gullible people will follow them thus discrediting the entire movement. Case in point Nigel Farage, millionaire public-school educated alcoholic ex-banker, who btw claimed millions in expenses from the EU parliament, presents himself as leader of anti-establishment revolution and man of the people. This is despite being more establishment than the establishment, and more corrupt than a south American dictatorship.

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  2. It's called a “comments” section, not a “thesis” section.

    ANYWAY. As I'm sure you're aware, your points are all correct, considered and valid, and I'm only going to address some of them, as it's been a very long day. Firstly, I almost don't care if someone's involved with a charity with the main aim of boosting their own profile – and I shouldn't imagine the charities mind too much either, as long as they're getting the money and the cause is getting exposure. Secondly, how do we know that Celebrities X, Y and Z AREN'T donating a portion of their income? We don't.

    Thirdly, while in theory you're right, in that it's valid to criticise people for not doing enough, but I think as a species we've really got to stop doing what I call “waiting for Jesus”. One person isn't going to solve ALL THE PROBLEMS – everyone's got to do their own bit. If someone's making a small effort to change things for the better, we need to stop saying “yeah but you're not doing this, that or the other” and start saying “OK, you tackle that bit and I'll do this”.

    And I know it's pointless arguing about Russell Brand with you, and I can't say I'm a huge fan myself, but regardless of what you think of him, he has got a lot of youngsters thinking about politics – he's sparked an interest in the state of things – which, quite frankly, is more than can be said for most politicians.

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