The Trouble with Band Aid Is That You Can Buy the Single, Think You Have Done Your Bit and Walk Away None the Wiser about the Causes of Poverty in the Developing World
Thomas, Mark, New Statesman (1996)
You could be forgiven for believing that the human race is doomed. The list of omens seems endless: Bush is re-elected; John Peel is dead; Ariel Sharon asks whether any other leader had so much blood on his hands as Yasser Arafat. Yet for some reason we insist on believing that it is only the US which has no sense of irony. A gunfight breaks out at Arafat's wake--which I can't help but think is what he would have wanted--and, frankly, none of us would have been that surprised if Israel had bombed the Ramallah compound during the funeral, just for old times' sake.
Then Iyad Allawi claims that there have been no civilian casualties in Fallujah. And US marines are filmed killing unarmed wounded men, which might as well be broadcast with a voice-over asking: "Have you ever considered a career in al-Qaeda? Dial this 0800 number and ask for Osama."
On top of all this, Band Aid is re-releasing "Do They Know It's Christmas?".
To this, incidentally, the answer is: of course they know it's Christmas! Do you honestly believe the entire continent of Africa goes to work on 25 December thinking: "Hang on, I've got a funny feeling the rest of the world is having a day off."
Yes, they know it's Christmas. If they didn't, it would be the biggest conspiracy in the world. Everyone visiting any part of Africa would be told at customs: "Whatever you do, don't mention Santa." Tinsel would have to be banned, carols would never be sung and the millions who are African Christians would be sitting around with censored copies of the Bible asking: "Does anyone know when Jesus was born?"
If the future of Africa lies with Will Young and Rachel Stevens, then Africa is fucked. If bands such as The Darkness want to help, then I suggest we drop the entire band, in full performance mode, into the centre of Darfur. The sight of high-pitched Spandex wearers appearing in front of them might just confuse, worry and frighten the Janjaweed militias long enough to delay their genocidal onslaught by a few hours.
And yes, dear reader, you are right, I am a begrudging, cynical bastard.
You would be right to say that some of Band Aid's musicians are politically astute and involved in the issues. Not many of them, mind you, though Damon Albarn has put his money where his mouth is on numerous occasions during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and Bob Geldof and Bono know more about debt and poverty in the developing world than most MPs (on reflection, this doesn't sound like the compliment I intended it to be . …