Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I Didn't Watch Live8

I didn't watch Live8. I heard pieces of it on the radio and streamed on the computer, but I didn't feel any great compulsion to take time from my day to watch the show. It made me wonder, what was so different from 20 years ago when I was glued to the screen during Live Aid? Here's what I think.

1) Popular music just isn't as important to me now as it was then.

Sure, I still listen to music. A lot. As a true geek, I have installed a card in my Palm Tungsten T3 so that I can listen to MP3s on the road. However, my car radio is usually tuned to news, NPR, or talk radio these days. I'm much more interested in what's going on in the world than I am in the latest music. I'm sure there's good stuff still coming out, I just don't order my life around it anymore. Twenty years ago, I was in high school and popular music was a huge part of my life. So that's changed.

2) The Live8 cause is much less black-and-white than the Live Aid cause was

Live Aid was about feeding the starving people. It came out just after the wildly successful Band Aid single, which for the first time really used the power of music celebrity for a good cause. The accompanying photos and video of starving innocents was easy to understand. The money raised would go to help those people survive in a brutal environment that was no fault of their own.

Live8 was, as far as I could understand it, about relieving debt. That's not quite so cut and dried as feeding the hungry. There are legitimate and logical arguments for and against forgiving debt. The argument for is that with the debt payments gone, the governments can spend money to improve the lives of their citizens instead. The arguments against are that there is no guarantee that the goverments will do anything of the sort, and at least the debts allow Western countries to have some influence with the governments to push for social change.

It's not an easy issue, and there are well-intentioned people on both sides of the argument. People with more credibility, perhaps, than dilettante popular musicians. Which leads to...

3) I don't view popular artists as life influences

Would you want financial advice from this man?
Maybe 20 years ago I was more ready to accept the statements from popular artists as relevant and influential. Upon reflection, however, I don't recall any artist or musician in my life that I would rely on for deep introspection on world events and economic theory. I prefer to get my information these days from sources that have spent more time on the issue, from reputable news sources, and from my own informed analysis.

Green Day's Billie Joe raising a fist and spouting profanity about politicians just doesn't influence my opinions in the least. To the contrary, the contrarian side of me almost wants to run to the other side just because I'm opposed to knee-jerk, slogan-fed, anti-analytical activism.

4) Tying Live8 to the G8 took the concert from charitable to political

The news of the concerts moved smoothly into news of the G8 protesters. I no longer have any respect for the G8 anti-globalization protesters after recent years where anti-USA chants ruled the streets and violence was universally expected. Very few decent people in the world are interested in the protesters any more due to the rabid actions and extreme positions of the most vocal among them. I feel somewhat sorry for the legitimate causes that have been overwhelmed and overshadowed, but so long as they continue to ally with the rest of the rabble, I'm not going to search them out either.

Tying Live8 to the G8, in name as well as temporally, has the unfortunate affect of tying the performances to the protesters - at least in my mind. And that made the concerts seem significantly more politically based than Live Aid 20 years ago. As detailed above, I'll make my own political choices. And I probably won't consider Bono's opinion when forming mine.

Final Analysis

I suppose in the final analysis, we'll have to wait another 20 years to see if Live8 made a difference. For me, it was an interesting news story for a few days, and a catalyst for some introspection. Live Aid changed the way the world that I lived in viewed and acted towards the world that others were sentenced to. Live8 didn't.

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