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 …”