Do you remember that version of Do They Know It’s Christmas which came out in 2004? The one with the Sugababes and Dizzee Rascal taking the place of Bananarama and Tony Hadley, and everyone in the video competing to look the saddest when faced with footage of starving children?* It was shit, wasn’t it? I mean, they hadn’t even bothered to improve on culturally patronising and offensive lyrics written twenty years ago. But if you’d been a pop star and they’d asked you to be in the 2004 version, you’d probably have said yes, right? Because otherwise what sort of a cunt would that make you?
Since I often picture myself as a pop star I thought a lot about this particular dilemma (in case you’re wondering what kind of pop star I am, I’m the female Morrissey, only I’ve not gone bitter and racist. On the contrary, I’m a moral beacon. Plus I don’t need a Marr; I’m my own Marr, and I can play the piano too, for my more mellow numbers). Anyhow, Morrissey-me would worry about using Band Aid 20 in a self-serving manner and question how much her contribution would actually ease suffering in Africa given that greater structural changes are needed. She’d worry that the song and its message were in fact counter-productive, dehumanising a vast proportion of the human race by lumping them together as the apparently ignorant-of-Christmas Africans. She’d consider doing her own cover version of Flag Day by The Housemartins, with all proceeds going to a charity with a real edge. But then she’d worry that that was even more self-serving, and perhaps also a bit chippy, a needless slight against other pop heroes only doing their best. So in the end she’d think “fuck it” and do that line about how “in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy”, as that’s relatively inoffensive (and Morrissey-me is a megastar, so she gets to choose which line she does).
Anyhow, I went through that moral maze eight years ago, albeit in a completely imaginary world (one in which I was also struggling to cope with a love quadrangle involving me, Bernard Sumner, Jarvis Cocker and someone who looked like Morrissey but obviously wasn’t because in this world Morrissey never happened, at least not until me). I’m reminded of it now though because it’s kind of how I feel about charity or political blog hops, at least in part.
I do take part in them, but I feel a total cow for doing so. Like, who do I think I am? Not an expert on massacres, or infant mortality, or sexual exploitation, that’s for sure. Am I really doing this out of the goodness of my heart, because I’ve got something useful to add? Or do I just want to increase traffic to my blog? I don’t think it’s the latter (I get far more traffic to my blog when I upset people, which is just fucking great). But I do worry that I’m jumping on the bandwagon, a bandwagon started by people who know what they’re talking about whereas I don’t.
But then here’s the other side: even if I feel a sell-out, or than I’m ignorant, or that I’m posturing, does that actually matter? Indulging personal qualms about the exact positioning of my post within a wider drive is, let’s face it, a total luxury, and a total irrelevance. Who am I to decide charity isn’t “my thing” and that maybe it’s a bit cringe, or a bit compromised, and maybe it’s best to stay away? If I was doing something else of value, that might make sense. But generally I’m not. Ranting on this blog is the closest I get to activism. And given some of the rubbish I write, it’s a bit self-serving to get all protective about that.
If I’m 100% honest, I am a bit cringed about the post I wrote on Houla yesterday. I’m uncomfortable, for instance, with the fact that I mentioned visiting Belsen. The sentiments were sincere, but it also feels a little like I’m cynically raking through my past in search of a moment which allows me to portentiously say “I, too, have pondered man’s inhumanity to man”. I mean, I have. But not in a way that adds much value. But still, “a bit cringed”. On all possible scales of human suffering, it is nothing.
* Admittedly Bono was still in Band Aid 20, singing exactly the same line about thanking God “it’s them instead of you”. Disappointingly, though, Sting wasn’t. Is it just me, or did you find it weird that he got the line about “the bitter sting (Sting? me?) of tears”?