It seems so long ago now that we asked for your help. Seven years. It was only meant to last seven weeks, but I hadn’t counted on the fact that hundreds of millions of people would respond and I hadn’t reckoned on over 100 million dollars.
Seven years. You can count them now in trees and dams and fields and cows and camels and trucks and schools and health clinics, medicines, tents, blankets, clothes, toys, ships, planes, tools, wheat, sorghum, beans, research grants, workshops….. Maybe you should try and count them in terms of people. There are thousands upon thousands of people in a bitter and blasted part of this planet who were helped.
We promised that every penny would go there. And it did. Every penny that was raised through individual or corporate donations was sent to the countries we operated in. Their pain was eased, their burden lifted momentarily. Perhaps you gave them only a few extra weeks, a year or two, maybe a whole new start. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it worked. Not one of these would turn down those few weeks, years, whatever.
The experts will tell you it is hopeless? After seven years I am as expert as anyone. It is not a hopeless thing for one individual to care for another, to extend the hand of sympathy and shared humanity. It is not hopeless to ignore the discourse of development research and political polemics, and to reach above and over their impenetrable roar and touch the human beings on the other side.
Ask those people is it hopeless? Ask especially the poorest of the poor, the most innocent of all, the victims of both environmental degradation and political ruthlessness. Ask them, as they fall from hunger and tiredness, why they do not just give in, and succumb to what seems to be their inevitable fate? Because they too don’t believe in a world without hope.
They think its worth living. Humans have an awkward tendency not to give up hope. The cameras may be tired of the story. Perhaps only pop stars interest them. I don’t know.
In a result oriented world we get weary if messy problems aren’t resolved neatly. Maybe, in a world where we must prioritise our passions, Africa is a little tiresome, a little passé.
Maybe the glamorous suffering is elsewhere this year. Except there is no glamour in pain, no nobility in hunger, no pride in suffering. It goes on, We never pretended we could stop it. We wished to do something. We did.
We wanted to make a point. We made it. We tried to take an issue, nowhere on the political agenda, and place it right on the top. We placed it there.
Maybe now that the political situation in Africa has become fluid again there is real reason for hope and improvement. When African leaders cease to use their citizens as fodder for monstrous utopian idiocies of social engineering, when they enfranchise their poor, when they begin to respect their countrymen, when they cease to accrue the products of the countries for their own personal glory, then there will be change.
Maybe when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere begin to bear in mind the effects of our behaviour and our governments’ policies on the poor of the world, there will be an improvement. Maybe when we cease to discriminate in trade, finance and politics against these people there will be improvement. And when the onerous burden of debt and unfair trading practice is lifted there can be progress. All these things are possible, for we are not helpless in the face of these manifest injustices. We can respond. Seven years ago in unprecedented ways you responded. You must not stop now.
Seven years ago I said I did not want to create an institution, but I did not want the idea of Band Aid to die. I did not want the potential of it to cease. There are a few dozen aid agencies, and they do great work, but that was not our function. Our idea was to open the avenues of possibility. The possibilities of ending hunger in Africa are there. There can be other Band Aids, there must be others, in new times, in different ways. I said once that we could be more powerful in memory than in reality. Now we are that memory.
Will you ever forget the gift of a small plastic record in the cold dark Christmas of ’84? Will you ever forget singing on a bright hot summer day in ’85? Will your legs not ache in sympathy with the memory of running in the spring of ’86?
The avenues of possibility have been opened.
Walk down them
Goodbye and thank you for everything.
unthinkable that, in a country of such bursting plenty, so many people are
facing ongoing hunger and poverty.
one in this country need go hungry, and alleviating the problem is primarily a
matter of readjusting our priorities.
are the world.
The Bellamy Brothers
(Howard & David)
are always happy to be involved with a program to end hunger. In a society where
we have so much and so many things go to waste, we sometimes don't realize that
there are many people who go without food.
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