Dag 22: gemengde gevoelens

Vanmorgen dus mijn presentatie. Ik begon met het vertonen van de eerste 7,5 minuut van de Live Aid dvd. Die zijn nogal schokkend en confronterend. Meteen daarna kondigde ik mijn speech aan. Je leest het goed ja: speech, geen presentatie, daar had ik geen zin in. Na afloop kreeg ik applaus, maar ik voelde me daar heel raar bij, en nu -vier uur later- eigenlijk nog steeds. Want ik heb het onderwerp feitelijk gebruikt om voor mezelf een cijfer te halen voor het vak. En ergens geeft dat een raar gevoel.

Afijn, helaas heb ik het filmpje hier niet om te laten zien (koop de Live Aid dvd en dan snap je waar ik het over heb), maar mijn presentatie/speech wel. Ik zal het filmpje even samenvatten:

BBC News, 23-10-1984: 7 miljoen Ethiopiërs lijden wegens extreme droogte die al drie jaar duurt aan hongersnood. In totaal zijn er 30 miljoen mensen in de Sub-Sahara die in grote problemen zijn wegens voedselgebrek. De BBC filmt in het plaatsje Korem, waar 40.000 vluchtelingen zitten. 15.000 van hen zijn kinderen. Voor minder dan de helft van de mensen is er voedsel in het kamp. De regering probeert mensen aan te sporen terug naar huis te gaan, maar daar is ook niets. Op de dag dat de BBC er filmt sterven er 37 mensen, waaronder een 3-jarig meisje recht voor de camera. Massagraven, eindeloze rijen wachtende mensen waarvan je elke rib, elk botje kunt zien, chaos als er een gerucht is dat er voedsel komt, en uiteindelijk beelden van tientallen in doeken gewikkelde mensen die de honger niet overleeft hebben.

En daarna moest ik dus iets zeggen over de rol van de media..:

What you have just seen is BBC News footage from 1985. After news broadcasts like these the world came into motion. And the media were leading. 7 million people were dying from starvation in Ethiopia, 30 million people in total in sub-Saharan Africa. And it was happening right in front of the world’s eyes. You could –as you just did- see the people actually dying live on TV.

 

So that was the first role the media played during this horrible famine: showing the world what was going on.

 

The second part they played was transforming the shock and the horror felt by the people who were watching, into action. And this action was ignited by Boomtown Rats front man Bob Geldof. He organized LIVE AID, the first absolutely live, all-day, multi-artist concert broadcast to the whole world. Without mobile phones, without e-mail, with hardly any faxes, and with international phone calls that needed to be booked hours in advance, two simultaneous concerts in London and Philadelphia were co-coordinated.

 

The media helped where they could. LIVE AID was broadcast to 98% of the available TV-screens in the world, with 1.5 billion people actually watching it. LIVE AID raised $80 million dollar that year, at that time the most by far that had ever been collected by charity for one event.

 

And then the attention faded. And when the deteriorating food situation in Ethiopia necessitated new appeals only five years later, the media said things like: ‘Why do we have to give again? Does giving help at all? It’s useless.”

 

The media had no desire to address the structural economics which were the real cause of the problem. Instead they talked about compassion fatigue. Geldof responded by saying: ‘The experts will tell you that it’s hopeless. But it’s not a hopeless thing to care for another.’

 

And then the Tsunami came. 20 years later. Once again the media lined up, and people started giving, generously. But it took only two weeks before you’d see stories in the papers about the same compassion fatigue that was so evidently there 20 years ago.

 

People –led by the images and sounds that the media show them- seem to be overloaded with information, often consisting of horrible stories.

 

To put things in a broader perspective: the choice between giving or not giving, between the media choosing to advocate help or pointing out that help is futile, seems like the choice between realism and idealism.

 

After WWI idealists said: ‘this never again, we must strive to a better world.’ But realists responded by saying: ‘look at the reality, war, hunger, misery everywhere. States fight each other for power and survival.’ When WWII started, the realists needed no further argument.

 

Should we give in to realism? Is help useless? Are the media right when they say that help is futile?

 

Or perhaps the media simply gave up hope and became apathic? Became realistic and lost their ideals? Or do the media just try to bring another horror story after a few weeks or even days, because they want to satisfy the hunger (…) from their audience, who always desire something new and exciting? Always looking for the next big story, the next human disaster, without caring for the former ones.

 

Personally I believe that it’s the realists that have given up, so THEY lost. I want to believe that change is possible, that giving to causes like LIVE AID or the Tsunami victims does help to create a better world.

 

And my big question is: what are the media going to do? We have seen their influence in both LIVE AID and the Tsunami relief. The media have the power to influence how much people will give and how many people will give. Are they aware of this? Do they care?

 

Do you care? 

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