5 June 2019

The ideological blackmail

Stage view of Live Aid at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, 1985. Source: Wikipedia.

The ideological blackmail that has been in place since the original Live Aid concerts in 1985 has insisted that caring individuals’ could end famine directly, without the need for any kind of political solution or systemic reorganization. It is necessary to act straight away, we were told; politics has to be suspended in the name of ethical immediacy. Bono’s Product Red brand wanted to dispense even with the philanthropic intermediary. Philanthropy is like hippy music, holding hands’, Bono proclaimed. Red is more like punk rock, hip hop, this should feel like hard commerce’. The point was not to offer an alternative to capitalism - on the contrary, Product Red’s punk rock’ or hip hop’ character consisted in its realistic’ acceptance that capitalism is the only game in town. No, the aim was only to ensure that some of the proceeds of particular transactions went to good causes. The fantasy being that western consumerism, far from being intrinsically implicated in systemic global inequalities, could itself solve them. All we have to do is buy the right products.

Mark Fisher. Capitalism realism: Is there no alternative?. John Hunt Publishing, 2009.

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