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Destroy Paternalism in “Progressive” Consumerism

August 11, 2008

That’s a mouthful. I was looking at the WFMU blog yesterday and came across a post called “You Too Can Help Silence Bono”. I really like the internet when it brings me closer to others that think similarly, kinda the opposite I feel from mass communications most of the time.
The post highlights the “Bono Retire From Public Life and We’ll Donate a Ton of Money to FIght AIDS” campaign promises to collect pledges for the Global Fund and hold them in escrow until Bono promises to go away.
I have always been disturbed by the “activism” of characters like Bono, and most stars. There is belief that they lend their star power to raise consciousness about the “issue”. That can be helpful, yet there is a dangerous line that is always crossed in our star obsessed media, and the real organizers and those affected are completely obscured by celebrity. And Bono is the most flagrant example. The criticisms in Kurt Gottschalk post “How to Dismantle a Pretentious Band or U2 Still Sucks” on the WFMU blog, provided some evidence and humor which articulated my discomfort with this “activism”.
What it comes down to, is its so typical & paternalistic, of a “Westerner” and doesn’t empower those who are in need with the resources they need to be autonomous from countries in the Global North. The critique in The American puts it bluntly

He has done more for raising Africa’s profile and our awareness about debt relief, unequal trade, malaria and HIV/AIDS than perhaps any human being in history. He represents a game we have all played for nearly fifty years whose only winners have been corrupt governments and the international development industry.

The writer goes on to say

Here’s a radical idea: if we really want to help, why not ask Africans, not their governments, how they perceive the challenges before them, the dreams they have for the future, and the resources they think they need to realize them?

The running theme, treat those you wanna help how you wish to be treated, and LISTEN! Lessons for all of us as we all get famous!


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2 comments on “Destroy Paternalism in “Progressive” Consumerism”

No disagreement with the general thrust of your post, but just wanted to note that The American is the American Enterprise Institute’s official publication. So everything they publish is going to be with a view towards promoting the AEI agenda. (In the cited article, for example, the takeaway message is an argument against foreign aid.)



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