Column: Live ache

By Eric Naing

Last Saturday over a hundred musicians performed to crowds of hundreds of thousands of people, all for the purpose of raising awareness about African poverty. Yes, the much-hyped Live 8 concert went off with both a bang and a whimper.

Being the music dork that I am, I dutifully sat in front of the television for all eight hours of VH1’s and MTV’s coverage. I will admit to being very excited for the event. Simultaneous concerts being broadcast live from cities all over the world featuring some of the biggest names in music sounded cool, in theory. Unfortunately reality set in and I soon realized that MTV truly is the most evil entity known to man.

In case you did not get the chance to see Live 8 for yourself, I will provide you with a summary.

MTV/VH1: “Instead of actually showing the concert, we’ll have our inane video jockeys (aka VJs) talk about a political issue they know and care nothing about, all while having a commercial break every ten minutes.”

Madonna: “Hey, remember that I used to be cool and that my music didn’t used to suck? Oh yeah, also remember that I am totally British now.”

R.E.M.: “We need to play fast because I have a feeling MTV is going to cut our set shor…” (Set interrupted after 30 seconds for a commercial break.)

Kanye West: “I’m going to get up on stage and sing about my millions of dollars and expensive cars despite the fact that this concert is about raising awareness for African poverty.”

Bono: “I am SO important.”

Random MTV/VH1 VJs: “While raising awareness is a good thing, one must wonder if this concert will have any affect on the many corrupt governments in Africa…” Just kidding, the VJ’s sounded more like: “Whoa. I am a bland and thoroughly inoffensive television personality. Please like me.”

The Audience: “We used to support African poverty but now we oppose it because Jay-Z told us to.”

OK, so maybe Live 8 wasn’t all bad, but I couldn’t help but think that it could have done so much more to fight poverty. The musicians did all they could, but that really amounts to little more than the occasional “Hey, poverty sucks. Now here’s another song.”

As a child, my mom used to tell me that I should finish my food because there were starving children in Somalia. I felt bad about that, but ultimately, I really didn’t understand or care. Live 8 is the equivalent of that “starving kids” speech. We have been told that there are starving kids in Africa all our lives: so much so that we have almost become de-sensitized to the fact. So having a bunch of musicians tell us this will ultimately do little.

Unfortunately, most of the people in attendance and watching at home seemed to care more about the music than the message. And that is the inherent problem with Live 8. Fighting poverty in Africa is a complex issue that is so much more than “ending poverty.” Africa needs debt relief, better infrastructure and technology, increased aid and stable governments-all of which will not be accomplished with mere “awareness.”

If MTV really wanted to do something about African poverty, they should do more than just broadcast one concert and a few commercials. They should dedicate more air time to the issue. In order for us all to care about this, we have to understand it. My suggestion would be a show called “MTV Cribs: Darfur” where we would be shown the homes of displaced African farmers trying to escape genocide. MTV isn’t the only one at fault though; even most major news outlets seem to have run more stories about shark attacks than African issues.

Live 8 was an admirable attempt at making people care about Africa, but it was only a drop in the bucket. For real change to occur, MTV, the musicians, the news media, politicians and all of us need to actually start caring about African issues instead of just paying them lip service.

Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His columns run Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected] dailyillini.com.