Opinion: Live 8 threatened by cynicism of our age

Peter Stanford is a writer and broadcaster and sits on various trustee boards

Is it just me or is Live 8 getting a much harder time than Live Aid ever did? One of the (few) advantages of growing older is that you can remember the last time we did things and so have that wonderful gift - perspective. When I was your age, lads, back in 1985, I recall a great public consensus around a spectacular event that did more than anything else to join and hold a whole generation in shared concern at the fate of Africa.

Perhaps the details - and particularly the antics of detractors - have faded in my memory, but this time round the global event in 10 days' time seems to have had more than its fair share of critics. The press and other musicians alike have highlighted the absence of African performers in the various events, criticism that Bob Geldof has responded to with commendable speed. And the question is constantly being asked: "Will it do any good?"

That is a question that only the world's politicians gathered at Gleneagles can answer, but you can't fault Geldof for making them realise that they can't just push the fate of Africa off the agenda, as George Bush seems content to do on global warming. So if nothing happens, the blame will rest on a peculiar coalition of politicians and affluent citizens of industrialised nations, united in cynicism and inaction.

And it is that cynical message that has been to the fore too much in recent days. In response to Bob Geldof's impassioned rhetoric - and he was, for example, straightforwardly brilliant on Jonathan Ross's chat show - we have heard the old arguments about corrupt African politicians, endemic disorder and hopelessness.

You expect it from mavericks on the right, but when the murmurings against Live 8 are going on in the aid agencies, I can't help thinking that this is cynicism gone mad.

Yes, there is a whole list of issues about Africa that, if we sat down and considered them rationally, might make us throw our hands up in frustration and do nothing. But Live 8 isn't about reason. It's about common humanity.

It is about morality. It is potentially about the best part of us, and that is what Bob Geldof speaks to, animates and represents. So let's not blind ourselves into thinking that Live8 will solve everything with a wave of Elton John's magic wand, but let's for once leave to one side this disfiguring cynicism that has become the leitmotif of our age and give the event our best shot. That way we are potentially part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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