I Went to Africa and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

September 10, 2009

I struggle slightly with the vogue for personalising conflicts around the globe so that they always end up being more about us than them (Not in Our Name, wristbands, boycotts of Israeli produce) and turning campaigning into a T-shirt and lifestyle. Sometimes it is a neat way of making people care about things going on a long way from home and of showing solidarity with suffering people. But in the absence of a real connection between "here" and "there" it strikes me that there is a bit of forgetting the respective roles of cart and horse going on.

Sometimes it has absurd effects, such as the Save Darfur thong or celebrities photographed smashing up dolls houses – suggesting they have such an absurd lack of understanding of Sudan, Africa or the rest of the developing world that they would have been better off donating aformentioned dolls house to Dr Barnados. These charity appeals should not be about us, our guilt or our emotions. They should be about actually making a difference. 

In some cases, of course, the two can go hand in hand. Wearing an Aids ribbon was a useful way of breaking down the stigma associated with the disease, for example. Wearing a wristband to show your dedication to ending poverty is a meaningless pose.

Anyway, I like this video, which is the winner of Enough’s Come Clean For Congo competition. Under normal circumstances this is exactly the sort of thing I’d greet with a raised eyebrow for the above reasons, but Matt Smith makes the connection between the mobile phone in your pocket and a conflict in a far away place rather nicely. And if anyone else knows a rap featuring the element tantalum, then I’d very much like to hear about it.