Live 8: Help for Needy Artists?

It is secret to no one that I am totally on board with debt relief for impoverished countries. I am gung-ho for our MTV generation to learn about the world’s injustice, even if through the lips of celebrities.

But honestly, give me a break. The Live 8 show is patronizing. It’s white. It’s privileged. It’s a money-maker for the music industry. It’s an opportunity for celebrities to feel they are redeeming their lives of over-indulgence. Where are the Afro-Caribbean performers who have been singing about these issues for years? Where are artists from Africa? Where are their voices? Live 8 is an opportunity to share the stage with artists from the very nations that the effort is poised to “help”. Instead, they have been shut out. They were denied the opportunity to gain any celebrity, to speak their own stories, to share in the great profit enjoyed by Western artists.

So what is Live 8, then? It seems like an opportunity to use the faces of suffering African children to lift the careers of aging white men and other super-rich stars. The plight of the poorest people of the world is exploited, while celebrities can pat themselves on the back at a job well done. The continent of Africa (and the diverse, 50+ countries within) are essentialized to one bleak, sad, pathetic, uncivilized place — in need of the white, Western, “civilized” societies of the world to come to it’s rescue.

Live 8 says: “We don’t want your money. We want your voice.” What does that mean? The world is no better off than what is was at the first Live 8, 20 years ago. In fact, the numbers of the impoverished have risen, debt is higher, and in the face of HIV, re-emergence of diseases like polio and TB, the outlook bleaker. Are we ready to do what is necessary to bring opportunity to others?

Are we prepared to abandon cheap goods, Wal-Mart, Target, and the like, whose goods come from maquilas and other sweat shops around the globe? Are we ready to pay to support only fair trade coffee, fruits, and vegetables? Are we ready to forgo our bling-bling and give up diamonds, which are purchased cheaply out of the disease, maltreatment, and death that are West African diamond mines? Are we ready to bring down drug company profits, CEO millionaires, and industry monopoly? Are we each ready to give up a little of our slice of the pie?

In a world of finite wealth and resources, bringing others out of poverty, despair, and certain death means that we with excess must be willing to cut our gains. I find it somewhat ironic that the message of debt relief comes from stars like P-Diddy, Jay-Z, and other artists known for the high-count carats they shower themselves with — not from their work as humanitarians, educators on world affairs, or spokespersons for the vulnerable.

Pardon me if I choke a bit on Live 8’s efforts in international aid.