Thursday, 8 December 2011

The day I realized there won't be snow in Orange County this Christmas, or why Bob Geldof, Bono and Sting badly need anti-oppression training.

Sorry it's been a while, but I've been writing term papers. So. Much. Writing. Le sigh. But I get to hand in two of them tomorrow! Only one more to write. For Monday. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh I just want to watch Christmas movies...and Pretty in Pink. I don't know why, but I have a sudden urge to watch every Molly Ringwald movie I can get my hands on. Jimmifer and I watched The Breakfast Club last weekend. It was glorious. Except I'm still confused about why it's called The Breakfast Club. Like, Brian signs that letter from "the Breakfast Club" but they never decide that that's their name and they don't even eat breakfast together. Weird.

Anyway, as promised, I will now answer the question: WTF is with that Band Aid song "Do They Know It's Christmas?"? Well, I can't promise a definite answer. But I will demonstrate how it is completely bizarre and hugely problematic and just kind of rude.

Now, I am fairly tolerant of the lyrical content of Christmas music. I will sing along regardless of what the words are. And usually, I don't really pay attention to what the words are, possibly because I learned the words when I was too young to fully comprehend their meaning. Or possibly because I'm not actually Christian and don't really want to bother thinking about the fact that I sing loudly about Jesus for about a month every year. I learned the other day while singing along to "Mistletoe and Wine" that I've been singing "children singing crispy and white" instead of "children singing Christian rhymes" and never questioned it. Because, you know, CRISPY AND WHITE CHILDREN aren't something I should be concerned about. Nevermind that it sounds kind of racist, but WHY ARE THEY CRISPY??

Anyway, my point is that it's rare that I will find a Christmas song problematic, mostly due to my own willful ignorance of the words. But while decorating our SWAGmas tree and listening to "Do They Know It's Christmas?", I suddenly became conscious of the words I was singing. (Also, I just noticed that I have three copies of this song in my iTunes. WHY?!?!) What first caught my attention was the line: "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time." Well, no shit, Sherlock. (Not that I am up on the climate of the entire continent of Africa. Maybe some parts get snow. I don't know what time of year it would snow there, though...) Since when is a lack of snow at Christmas a cause for concern? I mean, sure, snow at Christmas is pretty, but that's a pretty geographically limited view of Christmas. Lots of places don't get snow at Christmas, like California. And Australia. And Mexico. Should we be sending aid to Orange County this Christmas? Plus, if life in Africa is as destitute and awful as this song suggests, I think snow might make it worse. Snow means cold. Cold means people freeze to death.

And then this line is followed by the line: "The greatest gift they'll get this year is life." You know what, that sounds like a pretty awesome gift to me. If I could pick ONE THING to get for Christmas, that would probably be it. I hope that everyone gets life for Christmas this year. Please survive Christmas, readers. It would mean a lot to me. (I understand that Band Aid is implying that their needs beyond the basic need of survival are not being met, but come on. That's a stupid way of phrasing it.)

And then it just gets absolutely generalizing and patronizing. Like, not EVERYONE in Africa is homeless, starving and dying. Some of them might actually have radios and CD players and computers and other music-listening devices! So some of them might hear you (I'm looking at you, Bono. I know you sang this line.) sing, "So tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Okay, really? That's insulting. "I'm so glad I don't live in Africa!" Shut up, Bono. And I may not be Christian, but I'm PRETTY SURE the purpose of prayer is not to be like, "Hey, God, thanks for making other people's lives shitty and not mine!"

And then there's the whole thing where they sing, "Where nothing ever grows / No rain or river flows," and then Sting chimes in and is all like, "Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears," which I'm pretty sure he said just so he could say his own name. But like, generalizations much? (And emo much, Sting? Srsly.) The entire continent of Africa is not completely dry. There's like this river...the NILE. It's pretty effing huge. And I see other bits of blue on the map. (Dear lord my knowledge of geography is least I know the blue on the maps equals water, right?) So if you're going to talk about desert-like conditions, maybe you should do your research and talk about the ACTUAL PARTS OF AFRICA that suffer from drought. I'm not pretending like I know exactly where they are, either, but I'M NOT SINGING A SONG ABOUT IT, AM I?

And then there's the best part! The repeated line: "Do they know it's Christmas time at all?" ARE THEY CHRISTIAN? IS EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN AFRICA CHRISTIAN? It's likely that many of the Christian people living in Africa KNOW VERY WELL THAT IS CHRISTMAS. And the lack of snow is probably not keeping them from being aware of this, FYI. Do you think it's Christmas every time it snows? No, no you do not. So the snow thing really has nothing to do with it. Anyway, if they don't know it's Christmas, it might very well have something to do with the fact that they aren't Christian. And if they are Christian and don't know it's Christmas, then yes, that's sad. But still. Your song is stupid. And it creates this weird us/them dichotomy that I am really not comfortable with.

(I'll let you in on a secret, Bob Geldof: People in Africa...they're people too! And they can hear you. So stop referring to them as if they can't. It's creepy and weird, like when parents talk about their kids in front of their "Ryan is being difficult these days and refuses to wear pants or eat his vegetables" and nine-year-old Ryan is standing right there with all his friends and now is embarrassed because everyone knows he doesn't wear pants at home and is "difficult"...except that this is worse, because you're talking about a whole continent of people like they can't hear you. And granted, some of them can't. But it's still not cool to talk behind people's backs. Especially, you know, when the people from your continent have this history of being really racist and violent towards people from their continent because they think people from Africa are inferior to know, like they're children or animals or something. And you kind of sound like you think they're inferior, like children or something...hmmm.)

In conclusion, I love writing blog posts because I can write "and then ... and then ... and then ... and then" without getting docked marks. (Seriously, four of my paragraphs in this post start with "and then.") Take that, term papers!


  1. I think about this a lot too; you are not alone. And I lol'd quite a bit at your thought processes. I'd like to chime in that, according to the media, the great tragedy here is that these people are too poor and starving to TRULY FEEL the holiday spirit of BUYING-Imean, GIVING.

  2. Haha, yes, definitely a very good point! That darn capitalism seems to have influenced our perception of the "holiday spirit"...

    Also, I'm glad someone besides me is still fixated on a song that came out in 1984...

  3. Here from Feministe. And this is exactly why I will make barfing noises and change the station any time this song is played.

  4. I've never heard this song before and honestly? I'm glad.

    Also, this might make me a bad person, but the "white and crispy" thing really made me giggle.

  5. But I DO think it's Christmas every time it snows. It makes Midwestern winters much more fun.

  6. Palaverer - Thanks for stopping by! Feministe is awesome :)

    BabyRaptor - I'm glad someone giggled. I think it makes me a worse person that I made up those lyrics...oh dear.

    Sarah - Whatever gets you through it :)

  7. (here from feministe too)

    Agreed agreed agreed! I like the song itself (music, arrangement, performers) better than 'We Are The World' or 'Tears Are Not Enough' but the lyrics are like nails on a chalkboard.