Armchair Critics

sesame streetIf you don’t like carols, are you even a Christian? I ask because I’m sitting in Starbucks, where they’ve been pumping out festive tunes since October. And quite frankly,  I’m ready for the hills.

This means that the news of Band Aid 30 re-releasing ‘Do they Know It’s Christmas?’ doesn’t fill me with great joy. They’re doing it to raise funds for Ebola victims and that’s important. But seriously…Messianic pop-stars crooning about the West rescuing Africa- is that the best we can do?

I’m ready to rant.  But thinking it through, it strikes me that the problem is less with this song, than with my critical spirit.

Detractors say it perpetuates the myth of the heroic West, parachuting in to save the Africans from themselves. That’s a good point , especially given how local medics have fought to contain the disease.  They also claim the lyrics are patronising and twee.  Agreed. Thanking God it’s ‘them instead of you’ is not the way forward. Parts of Africa have experienced snow. And given that it’s one of the biggest Christian continents, they’ve probably spotted that it’s Christmas time.

But. If you’re dying alone of a terrible disease – if your whole family have been wiped out and you’ve lost everything – if you’re scared and hungry and in excruciating pain – are you more scared of dying or of being patronised? Don’t you just want the world to pull its finger out and help in any way it can?

It’s interesting how much we seem to hate Bob and Bono etc when they try to make a difference, as opposed to staying in their celebrity boxes, wearing sunglasses indoors and going to parties. And here’s a question for me and the other armchair critics: “What are WE doing to help? What alternatives are WE proposing?

As someone who’s spent a lifetime honing my moaning, I know it’s easy to criticise.  But when people step out to help one another or do something good, it’s important to recognise and not belittle it. The Sainsbury’s Christmas ad is another example. It’s commercially driven, a bit schamaltzy – and the camera pans away at the point where the nice Brit shoots the nice German who gives him choccies.

But – the profits are going to charity. It draws attention to a true story of war-time grace that should be celebrated. And on a personal note, penguins are overrated.

Would we be complaining if Sainsbury’s just offered us a deal on flat screen tvs? Probably not. But an ad about arms has us up in arms too. Which reveals as much about us, as it does the producers.

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena. Whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly …”

Theodore Roosevelt.





4 thoughts on “Armchair Critics

  1. Dear Emma! I could, quite honestly, throw my arms around you; which I know sounds more than a little OTT, but you really have summed up my thoughts so beautifully!
    Firstly, and least importantly, I too absolutely hate the fact that commercial Christmas (commonly known as xmas – or… worse, ‘the winter / holiday season’) begins at 1 minute past Halloween. The music that’s pumped out in every public venue becomes so irritating that I am totally over Christmas by about mid December.
    However, I also recognise that I am in danger of becoming a moany old woman who has somewhere along the (wobbly) line, lost sight of the ‘real’ importance…
    It may be schmultzy, irritating, trite, patronising, too little too late, contrived… any or all of these. But perhaps the intention behind it, the money that will be raised, the awareness that might be raised, the goodness to come out of it… Perhaps that’s what it’s really about.
    And I love Bono and Bob. I don’t get why people find it so easy to criticise them. I don’t understand how anyone can genuinely find ammunition against these two for the stuff they do…

    I’m ranting and I’m sorry! This is not a takeover!
    I just read your words and feel them so much myself!

    Hope things are all well for you…

    Firefly xx

    PS. Starbucks? (My only disagreement!!!) ;)

  2. Hi Emma – this is weird because I was having a very similar discussion with my husband today. I love the Sainsbury’s ad, and he had read an article slating it for making money from the war etc. So I was saying that I think we all know that Sainsbury’s don’t really have anything to do with the war, and it’s great that the British Legion should benefit from it – and by the way couldn’t they (who helped with the ad) have judged whether Sainsbury’s were being cynical and downright immoral? So… I agree with you! It’s so easy to criticise. Let’s encourage the good wherever we find it! :-)

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