Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Do They Know It's Christmas?

So, now two of my 5 radio presets in my car are playing xmas music 24/7. One has been since early november, and I'm already pretty sick of it.

But I still scan through them on my way to work, and usually stop if one is playing
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid.

The song was released at the end of 1984, right before I turned 16, and is perfectly dramatic and bleeding-heart-ish for where I was then in my life. I still love it, in a weird nostalgic way.

The lyrics, however, are just ludicrous. I'm embarassed by them. I mean, the name for one thing. "Do they know it's Christmas?" - Well, some of "them" are christian, and certainly know. Some of them aren't, and for them it's NOT. A more appropriate question might be do WE know it's not Christmas for everyone? And should people have enough to eat even if it's NOT Christmas?

And then the "there won't be snow in Africa" - well, actually, there most likely was, some places in Africa. There are some dang high mountains over there, from what I hear. I bet there's snow on at least some of them. But more to the point, who the hell cares about snow? Yeah, that's what starving people are missing out on, snow. Poor things.

I know, poetic license and all that. It sounds good, and was very moving. Sold a lot of records, made a lot of money, which I heard didn't actually help the situation all that much. (as famine is almost always political, rather than due to actual lack of resources anyway)

So I guess it just got me back into thinking about charity and how we see our relationship to the world. The song is so much about guilt because we have and others don't, but also, in this weird way, about how we're better than them (we, after all, know it's christmas, and we have snow to boot)

I'm all for a sense of justice - a sense that something is wrong when we have a huge excess and others are suffering from want, but guilt is different, somehow, I don't like it. And the idea that people are starving because they're missing something that "we" "get" is just offensive.

But the song still moves me. Nostalgia? Poetry? Still caught up in my western world white guilt? Yeah....

*edit* link to youtube video, courtesy of Martin, Thanks!

7 comments:

MartinK said...

Another few years of global warming and we won't have snow either, and Christmas is just mostly an excuse to buy those tacky blow-up lawn ornaments (I know it's probably classist to call them ugly but THEY ARE).

But nostalgia? George Michaels passing on to Simon LeBon who then gets joined by Sting, with a brief segue to that Spandau Ballet guy only to build with a duet of Sting and Bono!? Boy George! Phil Collins! John Taylor (boy he was a hottie)! Kool in the Gang! Bananarama for crying out loud! This was just about the most awesome lineup of my high school music tastes all lined up together. I'm over on Youtube right now and have chills up and down my spine. It seems almost unpatriotic to point out that the lyrics or meaning behind them are lame. When Bono knocks it up an octave to belt out "Well tonight thank God it's theeem insteeead of yoouuuuuuU!" Whew!

earthfreak (Pam) said...

This is great.

I've watched it on youtube 5 times now, I think my new roomate is annoyed. (not really, she's an 80s kid too) chills, oh my!

I never had mtv, so I'd only seen the video once or twice, oh my golly, the nostalgia, though!

MartinK said...

You might have seen this on my blog already but if not, here's the link to a vintage photo I scanned in this afternoon:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martin_kelley/2087197839/

Jeanne said...

OMG Martin, that's an amazing photo. I still wear my socks like the woman in the photo. Guess I never got over the 80's entirely.

Anonymous said...

I used to happily sing along to this song whenever it came on the radio. Then my 16 year old son pointed out the arrogance and ethnocentricity of the lyrics. Now it really irritates me.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

maybe I'm old and cynical, but I'm a little with Martin in some ways.

The lyrics are HORRID, but there's something so sweet about the whole thing anyway. As long as we know they're horrid and move forward with a different attitude (which, I have to say, I think we in the US mostly don't, if we care at all about people in other countries it's usually pretty condescending) maybe there's room for keeping a soft spot for the former, naive, ignorant you that you were once.

not sure...

earthfreak (Pam) said...

random extra comments.

How did ANYONE not think George Michael was gay?

and, Sting looks really bored. I love Sting.