I’ve been thinking about the significance of yesterday’s event – and my core frustrations with it – constantly. Here are my thoughts.
1. For those who attended the concerts around the world, it seemed awesome. Philadelphia did itself proud. Believe me, I understand the life-changing vibe a huge concert can have. Music is magic, plain and simple.
2. The intentions of the organizers, participants, and many attenders/viewers are admirable. Poverty sucks, no matter what continent it is on, and Africa has been victimized by the West for centuries. It’s about time we tried to be more supportive of Africa’s people. No argument there.
3. Here is what bugs me – I do not think Live 8 was nearly as effective as it could have been. (This could be a result of the fact that it was thrown together in eight weeks.) I’ve been studying the official website, trying to understand the call to action. The site says “8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history. But they’ll only do it if enough people tell them to.”
So the call to action is this: tell your leader (if you live in a G-8 country) to double aid to Africa, drop the debt, and make the trade laws fair. It’s that simple.
I remember all of the anti-war protests of the Vietnam war era. Years of protests. Marches on Washington, college campuses shut down, people killed for the idea that the war was a mistake and American soldiers should come home. And it worked. The American government was finally forced to acknowledge that the war did not have the support of the people and we pulled out. The leaders listened to the people, which is one of the glories of democracy. While I was too young to observe the Civil Rights movement, I’ve read a great deal about it. Again, massive social change was undertaken by thousands of people who protested, lobbied, went to jail, sacrificed their lives, and fought for change for years – decades.
They didn’t simply show up for a free concert.
As cool as parts of Live 8 were, I do not think it’s going to have any influence on the G-8 leaders at all. It was a one day event. People did not come out to protest, they came out to dance. Yes, it was for a good cause. Yes, some people were educated. And that’s as far as it goes, IMHO.
4. That being said, if you really care about world poverty, here are a few suggestions about what you can do. (Please add more in comments!!!)
a. Vote. Vote in local and national leaders who are willing to put poverty on the agenda. If you are not old enough to vote, you can still influence politics. Call your congressional representative’s office and ask what pieces of legislation your congressperson is supporting that will change (fill in your cause here.) (To those of you at the concert yesterday – were there any voter registration booths?)
b. Get involved in local party politics. It is incredibly easy to influence local party agenda, because so few people get involved. Local party committees choose candidates. That is where the power lies.
c. Understand where you can change poverty in your back yard. There are schools within a two-mile radius of yesterday’s concert that do not have school libraries, because there is no budget for them. There are children who live in walking distance of yesterday’s concert who went to bed hungry last night, who didn’t have cable TV or the Internet to watch the concert, who have little hope, and few ways out. Poverty is everywhere.
d. Take charge of your education. It is not enough to say “a child dies every three seconds.” Ask questions. Did you know that several studies in India have shown that the most effective way to bring children out of poverty is to provide their mothers with at least a fourth-grade education?
e. Talk to your family about what percentage of your budget goes to the poor. Are you willing to give up part of your cable package to feed a starving person? I suggest canceling MTV and VH1, and donating the money saved. Find out which corporations are exploiting the poor in Africa and boycott them. Research companies which support fair trade and support them.
That’s enough for a start. I really hope you guys add to this list.
One more thought. The irony of privileged Americans who drove fourteen hours in their gas-guzzling SUVs to Philadelphia, where they stayed in air-conditioned hotels so they could attend a free concert where they ate junk food to their heart’s content and left trash barrels overflowing with unfinished hot dogs and funnel cakes in an effort to “Make Poverty History” is rather obvious. Doing something charitable because it makes you feel good is a start. Doing something charitable that will actually make the world a better place is even better. I urge you to action.
One, just one more thought. (Really, I’m almost done. I need to eat breakfast.) I predict the biggest change that will come out of yesterday’s events is the rise of online streaming. AOL kicked MTV and VH1s collective butts yesterday. Mass media just shifted.