Live8 Berlin was Rocking--was it Helping?

If you don't live within a stone's throw of one of the cities hosting the Live8 today, you may be succoring yourself with the philosophy of David Stubbs (of Wired Magazine). To paraphrase, and probably invite a lawsuit: Musicians today are merely Corporate Stooges, being flouted by Whiskey or Water company executives who don't know art but do know how to turn a profit on plastic disks. Music has lost its power of philosophical leadership, of rebellion, of commitment, of casting the spotlight in the corners where shame lurks. OK. Those are mostly my words. Sorry, David. For a well-reasoned argument along these lines, you can look at Davids Stubb's own words at BBC.

But for those of you with open minds who want another viewpoint and for those who love being part of it, who will watch it on TV or follow the livecasts and blogs if they can't be there, read on...The Live8 in Berlin packed crowds onto the 17th of June Street, probably breaking records for the longest, thinnest concert venue ever. The show was preceded by complaints about the Administrations' refusal to grant permission to hold the concert on the wide green space in front of the Reichstag due to fear of damage to the expensive irrigation system (an ironic contrast to the water shortage issues threatening many African nations). But this was history as the weather was perfect and televisions broadcasting along the length of the street made it possible to see the activities from anywhere along the one-and-a-half kilometer long (mile-long) concert area, although many chose to simply relax in the Tiergarten, where the sound quality remained good.

Opinions were mixed about whether the acts in Berlin were provincial or whether the show successfully respected the honored heros of the German music scene. Others asked whether the show should have focused more on African artists. But the question of the globalization of music is a different argument. Today, the message was about fixing the trade system and stopping the toll of illness to remove the barrier to successful development for African nations.

Let us consider this optimistic thought: John F. Kennedy said there will not be an end to war until the conscientious objector is revered as highly as the war hero. As individuals, we can effect little change in the world, but public attitutudes can and do steer those with the power to make big changes, or even achieve change by the sway of public opinion alone. By raising awareness, by reminding us that the suffering of those far away from our daily routines cannot be neglected, by making it a "beautiful cause", Live8 may be an important step on the long path to sustainable social equality. If the event triggers a good think among the attendees and viewers, (especially as opposed to a misguided illusion that attending a concert fulfills their obligations), then the voices of those who really know the problems and are on the front line of working for solutions will have the swell of support needed to break the cycle of poverty and achieve success.

Did all these people send a message to the G8 which could change the world, or did they merely enjoy the "greatest greatest show on earth" as it has been billed? Will Live8 influence the decisions in Edinburgh next week, or is it only one step further in demonstrating the superiority of live net-casts to traditional television mediums? Some say Geldof is acting out of self-glorification, and we unfortunately must report that several young people (young like born after LiveAid) we interviewed in Berlin could not tell us who Bob Geldof is. I guess his name will be known to one more generation now. But if the call for awareness and solidarity with the problems Africans face makes a difference, then Geldof will have achieved something beyond the reach of many individuals. Only history can be the judge.