TEXT WRITTEN BY BRIONY GORDON FOR THE TELEGRAPH
I have so many problems with the latest Band Aid single that I don’t really know where to begin, but begin we must so let’s get going with the fact that two-thirds of the line-up are unrecognisable to anyone over the age of 30 – not least Bono, who in the group photo looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else than at the feet of a YouTube Vlogger (Zoella) and slightly to the left of a bloke who once lost The X Factor (Olly Murs).
Still, that’s not really a bearing on the single as such – it’s more a sign of how out-of-touch I am with popular culture, that when I looked at the picture my thoughts were ‘gosh, it looks like a school photo on mufti day!’, followed by ‘thank goodness for One Direction – making elderly women feel young since 2010’.
My real problem is Geldof’s insistence on shaming Adele for not appearing on the track. “Adele is doing nothing,” said Geldof at the weekend. “She’s not answering the phone… she’s not writing. She’s not recording. She doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone. She won’t pick up the phone to her manager. She’s bringing up a family, you know.”
This is as condescending as the song itself – do Africans know it’s Christmas? Given that over 500 million people living there are Christians, we must presume the answer to that is yes – and worse, it is a form of bullying that has sneeringly been dressed up as do-gooding.
The message is loud and clear, even if the music isn’t: Geldof is here to save West Africa from Ebola, and Adele, with her peculiar un-celebrity desire to sod the limelight as she brings up a toddler, is a selfish little woman who must be publicly humiliated.
Later, we learnt that Adele had quietly made a private donation to Oxfam. But in the shallow, self-promoting world of celebrity, the simple and silent act of handing over money to charity is not the done thing – that’s what we impoverished plebs do.
Instead, the rich and famous donate their precious time, and for this they expect to be celebrated and congratulated, as if before they flashed their expensively whitened teeth in the video for a song, we had no idea that Ebola was a problem, or that thousands of Africans were spending their last days on this earth in unimaginable horror, bleeding from every orifice, unable even to be comforted by their family and loved ones.
“Give us your f***ing money,” was Geldof’s message way back when, and it is his message now – you all dig deep and give up your hard earned cash because these famous people who make millions singing songs have deigned to give up a few hours of their time on a weekend.
“We really can stop this… foul little plague,” said Geldof when he appeared on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, with no mention of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which has raised £20 million for the region, or Medecins sans Frontieres, who have been out there since March.
It’s not the troops deployed to Sierra Leone who are going to make a real difference – that honour will go to Geldof and his merry army of pop stars, even though they probably think a hazmat suit is a creation by a hot new designer.
Which all reminds me of something Noel Gallagher said during Live 8 nine years ago: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick fifteen-minute break at Gleneagles and sees Annie Lennox seeing ‘Sweet Dreams’ and thinks ‘f**k me, she might have a point there, … we should really drop the debt, you know’. It’s not going to happen, is it?”
But anyone who refuses to go along with Geldof is pilloried or sworn at; so, when a Sky News presenter asked him a perfectly reasonable question yesterday morning about the tax practices of some of the artists featured on the song, his only answer was “it’s b******s”. This is the kind of response you might expect from a 21-year-old with a YouTube channel, but from a 63-year-old trying to engage the public in a subject as grave as Ebola, it just seems churlish. How can he expect us to take him seriously if he cannot behave in a serious manner himself?
Nobody wants a world full of Ebola, but nor do I want a world full of Malaria and HIV and Tuberculosis and numerous other diseases – not to mention conditions such as hunger and poverty – that are destroying the lives of many millions of Africans every day.
Certainly, I don’t want to be told how to behave philanthropically by a man worth an estimated £32 million, a man who is said to use tax avoidance schemes (it is telling that when a journalist asked him two years ago how much tax he paid, Geldof exploded at her, saying: ‘My time? Is that not a tax?’ Well, no, Bob, it isn’t).
I don’t want to be implored to give charitably by a band that travels in separate private jets because they don’t get on (One Direction), or by a man who avoids Irish taxes while simultaneously telling the Irish government to help developing countries (Bono).
“It really doesn’t matter if you don’t like this song,” said Geldof as he launched it, “what you have to do is buy this thing.” But do we? Really? If we don’t, does this make us unfeeling and uncaring, or does it mean that we have already donated money to the cause, or a different cause, even?
This, I think, is my main objection to Band Aid 30: it is all predicated on a belief that the British public are mean-spirited and uncharitable, when in actual fact nothing could be further from the truth. It’s time the likes of Geldof stopped asking us to give money, and like Adele, started donating some themselves. Charity, after all, begins at home.
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