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Message to Live 8 cynics: Shut up, you don't know nearly as much as you think you do

In the run-up to Live 8, and after the event, I kept hearing this from far too many people, far too many of whom really should know better:

It's so annoying to hear rich pop stars witter on about ending world poverty. Those people could buy Africa between them, why don't they put their money where their mouths are?

Setting aside the false irony implied in the juxtaposition of "Rich pop star" and "world poverty" (what, you wanted the poor and disenfranchised to solve the problem on their own instead?), the problem with such cynical statement is that the people making it probably don't actually know exactly how rich rock stars are (this information is available to the public, but I'll betcha the cynics haven't looked it up), or what they've been doing with their money.

Case in point: Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, worth £ 75 million, donated to charities for the homeless for years without making a bit fuss about it; then in 2003 he sold a £ 3.6 million house and donated the money to the charity Crisis.

As I type this, I can hear the cynics scoff already.

So he sold a house? Gave away 5% of his net worth? He's got plenty of other houses, and cash in hand. What else has he done?

To which I can only answer "I don't know, and neither do you." Gilmour has been putting his money where his mouth, er, isn't, and has been critical of people who donate to charities and then shout about it. Not that any amount of shouting would have silenced the chatter of "Put your money where your mouth is, then".

As for Bob Geldof's effectiveness, I'm with Jim Bliss.

I think the man's an absolute hero. He's taken the very modest amount of fame afforded someone from a late-70s punky new wave band with a couple of hits, and done frankly astonishing things with it. Yet every single time over the past couple of weeks that I've seen Live 8 discussed in the media (whether mainstream or alternative) it's been framed in the context of whether or not Geldof is really doing any good....

Here's an admission... my first real political act was almost certainly my decision to become a vegetarian in my mid-teens. It was a political act in the sense that it politicised me. My decision forced me to look at the world in a way I hadn't done before and it got me reading books by people I wouldn't have considered up until then. But the actual reason I became a veggie was to impress a girl.

My point is a simple one... young people can sometimes make decisions for silly reasons, but the ramifications of those decisions can be profound and life-changing... I'd be a completely different person today if I hadn't had a crush on a vegetarian when I was 15. My politics could very well be unrecognisable. Now, I don't know how many 16-year-old poverty activists Geldof has created in the past two weeks and will create tomorrow.

This is also the reason I completely condone Geldof's decision to fill the limited time available to him with the biggest possible acts, rather than making the event a showcase for African talent. This isn't supposed to be an advertisement for any particular artists... this is an attempt to get minds thinking about a particular issue. So it is infinitely more important to have the stage filled with the same faces that appear on the posters above teenage beds and on MTV than to have it filled with relatively unknown African artists, whatever their talent....

Besides, if Bob Geldof can get Roger Waters and Gilmour to perform together again, world poverty should be a piece of cake to him.

Update: Reader Mithandir pointed out an article on the BBC website in which Gilmour is quoted as saying he will not profit financially from the enormous sales boost Pink Floyd records have got from the concert, and a Universal Music spokesman pledges the profits from digital downloads of Paul McCartney's show to the cause as well. So the cynics can shut up about that as well.


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