Kofi's hat

Kofi's hat

MP3s, music news and reviews, and a sprinkling of pop culture. Named by Aqualung's Matt Hales, after his son.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ink in my blood, a song in my heart. Metaphor is my middle name.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gift Bags at Live 8 Raise Awareness of Hypocrisy (Also, Metric & Subhumans mp3s)

So far the self-congratulatory air surrounding Live 8 has been both annoying and unearned. Geldof & his Superfriends have done a great job at creating awareness of the fact that they aren't raising money this time. They have also reminded us how badly Geldof & co. screwed up the last time they tried to help Africa. Good intentions are nice, but not edible. I can't say Live 8 isn't benefitting anyone, though, because the performers in Philadelphia get gift bags! Specifically, Hugo Boss duffle bags and a chance to fill them in a "celebrity gifting lounge" set up to look like a boutique. Donated items include, among other items, Hugo Boss suits (estimated value $800-$1,000 each); XM satellite radios and subscriptions ($500), Seven jeans ($180 men, $150 women), Gibson guitars ($2,000), and Bertolucci watches ($1,500 and $6,000).

While enjoying their "shopping" spree or in between acts, performers can enjoy assorted food and drinks, also donated by various companies who certainly didn't want them to go hungry or thirsty and who possibly see some value in product placement at such a high-profile event. Surely, even hungry people in Africa would likely understand if a company would prefer that all that food go to celebrities, rather than to them. They could understand that companies might prefer to associate their products with "famous/has-been performers" rather than with "starving people."

Perhaps the surprising part should be if Philadelphia is the only Live 8 concert giving out gift bags. I find it greedy, shameless, and hypocritical for people to accept gifts in exchange for what is supposedly a performance for charity. Is this unethical behaviour? "It's not unethical, but it falls into the middle gray zone. Because on one hand the motivation is to help other people, while on the other hand the motivation is to help yourself, and that doesn't seem to go hand in hand," says Thomas White, a professor of business and ethics at Loyola Marymount University Ah, yes, dual motives. Let's at least see whether anyone has second thoughts after accepting their gifts, and sells them. Won't any of them feel a weird sensation I like to call guilt about wearing/using that stuff?

Rushworth M. Kidder, President of the Institute for Global Ethics makes an interesting point: "It makes you wonder why the companies couldn't give the cash to the charity instead of the celebrity. There is nothing stopping the businesses from taking a stand, saying, 'No, we are going to take this money, and we are going to give it to the charity." I would love that, but perhaps if a company did so, there would be negative business reprecussions, like not being allowed back into the exciting, lucrative world of giftbaggery. (I'm not the one who thought of that. I thought it sounded a bit cynical, but I'm told it's "realistic.")

In 1985, Geldof and co. tried the "raising money to feed people" approach. It didn't work that well. As the aid was distributed, there were allegations that much of the food and money never reached the people they were intended for; instead Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam and other dictators were stealing both, and using them for their militias. Geldof acknowledged the misappropriation of aid: "I don't know any people who have been into Africa who haven't had their fingers burned one way or another." Yet, oddly, he called Live Aid "almost perfect in what it achieved."

This time, the goal is, at the G8 Summit, to pass what Geldof & co. consider "a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair." They claim "If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history."

Merely canceling debt and giving more money to Africa is counterproductive, without democratic reforms, according to Makeda Tsegaye, an Ethiopian activist based in Kenya. Tsegaye urges that Africans be supported "to take full charge in their own affairs to bring lasting solutions."

Metric - Wet Blanket

The Subhumans - Pissed Off With Good Reason


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