I hope this letter finds you well, and that you are getting some much needed rest. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother you so soon after an historic musical event, but I watched the network broadcast of your Live 8 show yesterday and felt I had no choice but to write to you immediately.
Before I begin, please know that I have had a crush on you since I was eleven years old. In fact, you are at least partially responsible for my taste in men, which is a cross I have unfortunately had to bear ever since.
In any case, I both respect and am attracted by what the New York Times churlishly calls your "hectoring tones." I, for one, do not doubt the authenticity of your moral indignation, nor do I take issue with your equally sincere desire to effect change. That you choose to express this desire in language befitting a drunken sailor only adds to my swooning admiration.
Nevertheless, I must protest the events I witnessed last night. To start, there is the matter of the show’s opening number, which was cringe-inducing both for its use of Beatles impersonators as set pieces and for Sir Paul McCartney’s embarrassing inability to reach the notes that the song he penned nearly forty years ago still requires.
Then, there was the spectacle of Will Smith leading the crowd in a sombre game of finger-snapping, which was intended to illustrate the appalling rate at which African children die of poverty, but which rapidly deteriorated into a stadium ritual that evoked all the radicalism of a seventh-inning stretch.
Then, there was the much anticipated reunion of Pink Floyd, the band that dedicated its long career and even longer albums to the humanitarian principles of narcissism, nihilism, and bacchanalian self-indulgence. That the guitar solo on “Money” actually kicked ass in no way negates the previous statement.
But then, as I squirmed on the brink of despair, you yourself took the stage and addressed the crowd as a twenty-year old video clip of children dying in Ethiopia played on the screen behind you. The mass fell silent as you dutifully harangued, reminding them that African children are still dying today and that cynicism is not an option. And then you brought one of those starving children onto the stage, the child now a grown, healthy woman, and as she smiled shyly beside you, you raged, “Don’t ever let them tell you this doesn’t work!”
And my god, in that moment all was forgiven: the jowly old rockers and the clueless movie stars and the shameless spectacle of it all. Miraculously, you pierced through a thousand layers of bullshit with a thrust of your finger and, for one remarkable nanosecond, the spectacle threatened to mean something.
And then you fucking blew it, Bob. You handed the young Ethiopian woman off to Madonna and she just stood there, glancing nervously at the crowd while the pop star made show with gospel choir in full throttle behind her. That’s when I noticed that the woman had been holding a microphone the entire time she was on stage but that she never once spoke. She just kept standing there, frozen, like some kind of humanitarian kewpie doll as the pop extravaganza blared on all around her. And then she disappeared.
You must admit, Bob, that it was awful, and that, despite your best intentions, you inadvertently replicated exactly the global power relations that you are seeking to change. I can already hear your snarling retort—that the end justifies the means—and frankly, in this case, it probably does. If this week’s G-8 summit results in a meaningful shift in economic policy on the part of the world’s richest nations, then it will all have been worth it. Even so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the searing contradiction that resides somewhere between the one and the other.
In closing, I trust that you will take this letter in the spirit in which it is intended, and I hope that we will soon have cause to celebrate. And, for what it’s worth, I’d still have sex with you in a heartbeat.
With love and in solidarity,