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Live 8

Black Looks is very angry about the way that Live 8 represented Africa and its problems. She believes that it 'infantilised' Africans and 'reduced the issues to cheap sound bites and meaningless nauseating rhetoric'.

Although I'm never quite sure what to think about initiatives like Live 8, I have a lot of sympathy for what Black Looks is saying. I was watching the concert on TV at the moment when Sir Bob pointed to the big screen which showed a still from the original Live Aid concert footage.

This was the face of a starving child who had been 'just moments from dying' before we, the public, saved her with our donations. The child, now a stunningly beautiful woman, was then brought onto the stage, robed in white, to address the crowds, before Madonna appeared (also dressed in white), took her by the hand and began to serenade her.

I felt very confused about what I was (supposed to) feel at that moment. OK, it was slightly more palatable than seeing Maria Carey diva it up in front of the African Children's Choir before telling them to 'run along' and 'be good'...

But to see someone 'saved' by our help and then paraded around as an example... Am I being naive? Does the means (theatrical 'consciousness-raising' stunts) justify the end (more money, more justice, less death)? But if you're going to raise people's consciousness, shouldn't you do more than show an Africa full of flies and tears and helpless people?

Ten years ago, when I was working for an NGO doing international development projects, we became so concerned about our role in perpetuating negative images of developing countries that we changed our ad in the national press from one showing a photo of sad, hungry-looking children to one showing smiling faces. That month, donations dropped by around 50%. Depressing but true.

There can be no doubt that Geldof's heart's in the right place and he certainly gets things done while others sit on the sidelines debating the finer points. But I think a massive opportunity was lost to really educate people about what it's like to live in Africa. I think we could do better than the rhetoric about saving people.

As for all the white outfits...Geldof, Madonna, et al...well, wasn't that just a little unfortunate? I know the makepovertyhistory bands are white but shouldn't some PR person have thought about the symbolism of a white suit a bit more carefully?
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