Monday, December 1, 2008
Today, on World AIDS Day, MSN has launched (RED)WIRE, an online music service affliated with Bono's Product Red campaign. According to the site, a new song from a popular artist is delivered to subscribers' computers every week. Half of the $5 monthly subscription fee will go to the Global Fund to help provide treatment and medication for those living with AIDS and HIV in Africa.
The horrors of the AIDS crisis globally knows no bounds, especially in Africa, where a third of all infections take place. The scale of this crisis is not to be taken lightly. There's no doubt that the artists participating in (RED)WIRE are eager to give their time and work to the possibility of ending the pandemic. And it's also true that most of those who buy Red Products are doing so with the assumption that they're doing their part too.
In this writer's opinion, however, the Red Product campaign is doing nothing to stop AIDS in Africa, and is probably making it worse. It is a campaign based on the Kipling-esque idea that the only entities able to "save" Africa are the same Western corporations that have been raping and pillaging the continent for centuries.
Several companies and manufacturers affiliated with the campaign--Gap, Starbucks, Converse, Apple--have all been implicated in using sweatshop labor. In each case, the story is the same. Horrifyingly unsafe conditions, verbal and physical abuse on the job, and wages that can barely keep food in workers' mouths and a roof over their head. It's no coincidence that many of these sweatshops are in areas hit hardest by AIDS.
Money made on the backs of the poor given back to them in the form of paltry "charity." It's the kind of perverse irony that only globalization is capable of.
Nobody tell Bono that. He has spent the past twenty-five years living the delusion; ever since he and Bob Geldoff put together Band Aid in 1984 to release the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to bring awareness to the Ethiopian famine. Most people in Ethiopia aren't even Christian.
MSN's (RED)WIRE does little more than provide a fig leaf for this kind of condescending logic and brutal exploitation. If these companies actually wanted to help the crisis, they would cease their pillage of the richest continent on Earth. They would recognize workers' rights and pay them a living wage. They would stop doing business through the IMF and World Bank who have slashed public healthcare for the past thirty years.
Obviously, these companies won't do this of their own volition, which is precisely why the solution has to come from the bottom up. The people of Africa don't deserve charity. They deserve solidarity.
"That's bullshit, get off it!
The enemy is profit!
Disease and starvation
Will not be solved by corporations!"
-Global Justice chant