Ebola in Africa and Band Aid

This video is called Ebola: A Disease of Extraordinary Poverty.

By John Wight in Britain:

The last thing west Africans need is the paternalism of Band Aid

Wednesday 19th November 2014

Ebola flourishes due to capitalist underdevelopment in west Africa and will not be solved by a bunch of white pop stars, says JOHN WIGHT

Back in 1984 a group of rich pop stars gathered together to “save Africa” in response to famine in Ethiopia. The result was Band Aid.

Thirty years on and another group of rich pop stars has come together to “save Africa” in response to Ebola.

Tarzan of the Apes is a fictional character who first appeared in a 1912 book of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At the time the popular view of Africa and Africans in the West was of a primitive, backward and retrograde culture and people who needed to be “saved” by the white man and white civilisation.

It was the very mindset responsible for the continent’s colonisation, which over a period of 400 years devastated its people and plundered its natural resources, leaving deep economic, social and historical scars that have yet to heal.

While Africa no longer suffers the colonisation that it did when Tarzan first appeared in popular culture, it continues to suffer from the colonial mindset and from a global economic system that has ensured its continued underdevelopment up to the present day.

The Ebola crisis has succeeded in forcing its way into Western consciousness as no other disease has in recent years. Why? What precisely is it about Ebola that has struck fears into our hearts that sets it apart from diseases such as malaria, which, according to the World Health Organisation, kills one child in Africa every minute?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Ebola is an equal opportunities disease, every bit as capable of spreading among and killing people in the West as in Africa, where it originates.

In an article for The Lancet back in April, Melissa Leach of the Institute of Developmental Studies in Brighton writes: “Ebola is being highlighted as an ‘exceptional’ disease – one well worthy of dramatic political and public attention. This contrasts with more mundane diseases – malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea – that more regularly afflict Guinea’s women, men and children.”

The Band Aid phenomenon of the 1980s was created by Bob Geldof. It began with the Christmas single Do They Know it’s Christmas? and went on to spawn twin Live Aid rock concerts in Britain and the US.

It succeeded in raising an estimated £30 million to aid the victims of famine in Ethiopia and was the catalyst for the proliferation of Africa-focused charities and NGOs operating throughout the continent and creating a veritable industry in the process.

However, if judged by results, those charities and NGOs have had little or no impact when it comes to reversing the conditions responsible for 40 per cent of people in sub-Sahara Africa continuing to live in absolute poverty.

The underlying problem afflicting Africa, and making it easier for horrible diseases such as Ebola to spread and gain traction, is a simple and enduring one. It is capitalism.

The non-negotiable condition of the development of the northern hemisphere is the underdevelopment of the southern hemisphere, and until this changes Africa will continue to labour under the weight of economic exploitation and oppression.

Band Aid reinforces negative stereotypes of Africa and Africans. It reflects a colonial mindset that is so deeply entrenched in Western culture that we aren’t even aware it exists.

The sight of a bunch of rich pop stars parading themselves as paragons of virtue and heroes is crass and eminently offensive. While it may allow them to wallow in self-congratulation and positive PR, it is paternalism of the most grievous kind.

Solidarity demands a response that is rooted in challenging the political and economic status quo responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment and with it the ability of diseases like Ebola to gain traction and spread.

It does not equate to acquiescing with a charity song that jars with lyrics which objectify and essentialise Africans as a homogeneous mass of helpless and hapless children waiting to be saved by “whitey.”

It denies Africans their own voice and in so doing undermines their dignity.

Ultimately, it is not Africa that needs to be saved, it is us. Only when we are saved from the greed and paternalism that distorts our understanding will Africa and the rest of the developing world finally begin to emerge from under the iron heel of Western hegemony.

6 thoughts on “Ebola in Africa and Band Aid

  1. Am I to take it that Mr Wight did not contribute to Band Aid for fear of Paternalism? I know I contributed and didn’t feel at all paternalistic nor did I think I was donating to savages or a primitive and backward people, though in fairness, some are.I gave because people were struggling with starvation and I wanted to help. I didn’t have the ability to force the Government to change it’s policies towards investments so a charitable donation seemed best.

    I’m aware it solved no long term problems and because of the end result I’m prepared to overlook the reasons these wealthy pop stars did this, though again, maybe they did want to help and Mr Wight’s views about self-congratulation and good P.R. are a jealous swipe at these people. The point is the charity single raised a lot of money, raised some awareness and certainly did a lot of good even if the problem wasn’t solved.

    Since there are no countries rushing forward to solve the problem of underdevelopment, and I for one would like to see them do so, it’s no reason to take a swipe at people who are helping in no matter how small a way. Referring to those who help as Whitey is demeaning and it’s unfair to imagine that no-one is aware of the depth of the problem but himself. Most people of the current generations know nothing of Colonialism and don’t regard Africans as he infers. Maybe we in the West do need saving from our greed, but greed in Africa by it’s own rulers ensures there isn’t sufficient for it’s people and it’s infrastructure. Curing that and the customs of bribery and corruption would help so that aid actually reached the people.

    Any sniping should be aimed at Politicians so that laws can be changed but posts like this are an insult to the millions of people who gave to try and help solve problems before and will no doubt help again.


  2. When I was in Kenya, many Kenyans were of the view that aid, in any form, was the source of the country’s parlous economic state. There is much evidence for this. Charity of any kind, if it becomes institutionalized is corrosive, and undermines motivation both in the people and their governments. Dealing with a short-term crisis is one thing, but facilitating people out of poverty is what is actually required. To be sustainable, it must come from within the system.
    Of course people want to give to good causes, and those feelings are admirable. But there can be far reaching consequences that can have the opposite outcome. In most of the world’s impoverished countries you will find their governments selling off their nation’s resources to big multi-national corporations. Such corporations also see business opportunities in tragedies like Ebola epidemics. See how the fear of its spreading out of Africa is being racketed up. Dr. Mercola on http://www.mercola.com has a few interesting observations to make on this circumstance.


  3. Pingback: Ebola, Africa’s history and present | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Music, Ebola and cold in Norway | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Africa and Ebola, open letter to Bob Geldof | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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