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Anorak | Change The Bleedin’ Record: Bob Geldof’s White Saviour Complex Dreams Of A Black Christmas

Change The Bleedin’ Record: Bob Geldof’s White Saviour Complex Dreams Of A Black Christmas

by | 19th, November 2014

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BOB Geldof has used his Band Aid brand to help Ebola victims. Once more the celebrity chorus asks if Africans know it’s Christmas. Do you sense the whiff of celebrity colonaliasm, with Africa and its Ebola virus a backstory to those good Western hearts? Is his grandstanding annoying you? Or should you just appreciate the effort after all, if it helps the victims so what the good cause is a celebrity vehicle?

The Spectator :

Anyone listening to the BBC this week could be forgiven for thinking that the musician Bob ­Geldof had just emerged from Africa, like a ­latter-day Dr Livingstone, the first westerner with news of a deadly new virus..

Bob Geldof walks into this international effort as a nostalgia act from the 1980s. He seems unaware of all the parodies of his charity singles. One spoof, ‘Africa for Norway’, is a video showing Africans recording a charity song to raise funds for radiators to keep Scandinavians warm in winter. ‘In Norway, kids are freezing,’ runs the first line. ‘It’s time for us to care.’ The video asks us to consider what Africans would think of Europe if the only images they saw were of the freezing and the dying. (This winter, incidentally, at least 20,000 British pensioners are likely to die of the cold an annual event. Where is the charity single for them?)

As one Liberian student put it this week, Geldof is suffering from a ‘white saviour complex’. Listen only to Band Aid and you might want to give to Africa but never invest there. You would not guess that any African country could have an economy, still less that they have hospitals, doctors and administrators who are making the biggest contribution to fighting Ebola…

The very title of Geldof’s song, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, suggests that Africans are as ignorant as they are poor and sick. Apart from in Arabic north, Christianity thrives in Africa rather more than it now does in much of Europe — so there is a somewhat high awareness of when Christmas falls (in January, for Ethiopians and Egyptians). In Britain, people will most certainly know it’s Christmas but we’re less likely than ever to mark the occasion by actually going to church. In Geldof’s 1985 Live Aid concert, David Bowie knelt and said the Lord’s Prayer in front of the crowd. It is unthinkable that any pop star would try to do this now and expect the audience to applaud — unless they were touring Africa.

John Wight is also unimpressed:

Band Aid reinforces negative stereotypes of Africa and Africans. It reflects a colonial mindset that is so deeply entrenched in Western culture that we aren’t even aware it exists. The sight of a bunch of rich pop stars parading themselves as paragons of virtue and heroes is crass and eminently offensive. While it may allow them to wallow in self congratulation and positive PR, it is paternalism of the most grievous kind.

Laura Seay is literal:

The original version  “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  was awash in negative stereotypes of Africa and the Ethiopian people Live Aid purported to help. The song treated Africa as an homogeneous place, “where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow” and “where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.” It also claimed that “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime,” a factual inaccuracy that betrayed the lyricists’ ignorance of both basic  geography  and  the giants of 20th-century literature .

In addition to conflating an entire continent with one country, Band Aid’s portrayal of the crisis ignored the man-made dimensions of Ethiopia’s 1984 famine; people were starving not simply because of the regional drought, but because of direct interference by governing officials who used starvation to punish the ethnic groups they considered to be political enemies.

The 30-year anniversary version features rewritten  lyrics  that somehow manage to be even more inaccurate than the original ones

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Posted: 19th, November 2014 | In: Celebrities Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink