Saturday, 16 March 2013

Red Nose Day

There is a grim cynicism surrounding Red Nose Day in the UK. With Comic Relief having just visited our screens, there is an acute awareness in a time of severe cuts and economic concern that ultimately, despite 25 years of donations, the money is being poured down a pit. With a record £75 million raised last night, the UK has never been more generous - or critical.

This is an understandable viewpoint; huge swathes of Africa are still suffering from diseases eradicated in the West decades ago, while something as simple as a mosquito net is nigh impossible to come by. Other more developed sectors suffer from a horrific inequality between the rich and the poor, while failed governments use their brutality to keep a broken population in check. In terms of landmark change, Live8, Red Nose Day, and many other charities and telethons aside have failed to change anything and forever will fail to change anything. Despite 25 years of giving and half a billion pounds, the UK has not been revolutionised. Africa has largely been changed by political maneuvering.

However, this is a hugely reductive statement to make - Red Nose Day is not about changing the system, from shaking up a nightmare of human need that sits next to thriving nations like South Africa, Nigeria or Algeria, because it knows it never will. Red Nose Day is about changing individual lives; not out of some moral obligation or colonial guilt trip, but because we have the means to make a few small changes, and if that's all that can be achieved, then so be it. Red Nose Day will never save the world, and the money it earns is dumped down a hole never to be seen again - but it will make all the difference to several hundred thousand people in a continent of a billion people.

It is easy to be dismissive of Africa as a lost cause, but with many nations now proudly generating considerable GDPs despite political turmoil, it is not that simple. Anyone who does five minutes of research could find it is a continent as diverse as Europe or America, in topography, geography, politics and society. To dismiss it as a 'lost cause' is as productive as not giving £5 because it 'won't make a difference, and it hasn't in 25 years', because Africa, like questioning the effectiveness of giving to Red Nose Day, isn't that simple.

NB; there are many other issues with RND besides whether it's worth it, but I'm not addressing them here.

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