Monday 15 June 2015

It’s time to end Africa’s celebrity Hell

The world, saved by one celebrity at a time

Drum up some PR and win a child of your choice

Is there no end to Africa’s suffering? Well, there is something we can do to improve the lives or Africans and to raise people’s understanding of the continent.
We can ban celebrities from travelling there.
 It seems to be the top destination for celebrities needing a touch of PR. Perhaps the tabloids have papped them in the bushes with the kids nanny, or their assistants are more personal in their assistance than stated in the job description. Others just want to go shopping for babies.
Either way, it’s time to step up and stop celebrity exploitation. The offenders are the professional good hearts, the messiahs of misery, the NGOs. They exist to Do Good. Now that is trickier than you may think, especially as all the big donors, governments, who have essentially privatised the aid industry but can ask a lot of awkward questions about how the money was spent.
So, the NGOs wanted large sums of cash from people who would not know much and ask fewer questions. Hello general public! And so the need for ‘raising awareness’ began. This is how it works, you find an issue, frame it in such a way as to extract the most cash from those who know the least and raise funds, sorry awareness.
But ‘raising awareness’ is an end of itself these days, but what is the value, beyond cash donations?
It is impossible, in a globalised world to be aware of more than a tiny fraction of what is happening on the planet. And if we know, say that X% of a defined age group in Country Y have illness Z, how are we to respond?
Is it worse than X-1% having illness B in country C?
You see the problem. 
It seems that some grim league table of suffering is the result of raising awareness.
Stop Kony. Remember that, where messianic youth suddenly became experts on a deeply complex and long running issue within mere seconds of watching a glossy video. In fact there was a good reason the video was glossy: almost all the funds were spent of flying the staff and cameras around the world.
Awareness raising always results in offering simplistic solutions to people who won’t ask awkward questions, about the organisation or how it spends the cash.
The trend really got silly when God told Christian Aid to send the winner of the first UK Big Brother bore-a-thon to Jamaica. Poor bloke ran away in tears, utterly horrified at being outside Sarf London.
There have been a string of such incidents since, most recently with someone who plays posh totty on TV, Elizabeth McGovan behaving stupidly, but she did get one thing right, she asked the charity’s pr minders, “I need to know what distinguishes World Vision from its competitors?” For she understands, vaguely admittedly, that this is about a competition for resources: people’s cash.
In the meantime, the white people can fuss over suitably photogenic black babies.
And nirvana can strike, as it did Madonna, “I thought, ‘I have to help. I have to save these people.’ And then I thought, ‘Wait a minute; I think it’s the other way around. I think they might be saving me.”
Now let’s save everyone from these people. Step one is to remove Bono’s passport.

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