articles from 2005

Voters of the world, rock on!

If music hath charms to soothe the savage beast, imagine what it could do to politics

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, Sunday Times, 26 June 2005

Is one wrong to believe that the power to change the world no longer lies with politicians but with pop stars?  Singers can soar where civil servants fear to tread.

Rock stars boogey on broken glass. Legends commit themselves, albeit ever so briefly, to an issue and the focus of millions freeze for a second in time. And miracles can happen.

During the 1960s, when the haemorrhage of the Vietnam War was colouring the American landscape crimson, the Woodstock generation took up the anti-war anthems and people started thinking the unthinkable. That politicians were wrong!

The Live Aid explosion in the 1980s rattled bureaucratic cages and tore the window-dressing off many international civilised facades. The youth of the day were touched to take notice. It made a difference.

While South African president Thabo Mbeki and his minister of health diabolically divert a nation's attention from the HIV pandemic and into the confusion of diets and denials at the cost of 700 lives per day, Nelson Mandela rallies an army of international talent to stage his 46664 concerts worldwide, focusing on HIV/Aids awareness and finding personal commitment from these middle-aged gods on their pop-Olympus.

And yet the terrible wars are still happening, countless people keep starving and millions get infected. Nothing terrible just goes away. Not because the people who care stop caring, but because the politicians in charge look the other way.

Re-enter the scruffy knight on his limping charger. Bob Geldof proves once again that a lifetime of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll can preserve a unique clarity of vision and a shocking commitment to life and passion.

July 2

On July 2 the concert tsars will strike again. Across the world, certain venues will pulsate with the roar and rhythm of the disciples of rock.

It will be live on television, which means everyone in the world will see it. That audience will include the present leaders of the civilised world who are preparing themselves to meet in Edinburgh for yet another dazzling show of international gesture-politics.

None of the G8 leaders will need to take this new Geldof onslaught seriously. They know where he's coming from. Some of them were teenagers sitting in the audiences of his legendary Live Aid concerts 20-plus years ago.

They know from experience that for a glorious 48 hours millions of people will focus on the needs of others.  And then it will be over and life will go on. Money will have been raised. Funds can then be allocated. People might be fed. And everyone will feel better for it.

July 2 2005 is different. Behold the Bashes of 722005! These concerts worldwide are not there to raise money. They intend to raise awareness.

Not just of the problem of starvation, corruption, disease and degradation in Africa, but to remind the millions on board that not so long ago the emperors of the first world promised to do something about these problems and didn't.  Their small gestures have filled much space in the media. But typeface just gets bigger and so less needs be said.

Today, wherever there is a camera — and this means anywhere and everywhere in the world where a mobile phone lurks — there is an audience of potential voters.  News breaks like burps at the bar, like waves on the beach.

So our e-Knights round the G8 Table are no doubt even prepared to make compassionate and convincing statements on the toilet if discovered there by a prying Nokia.

Geldof puts across his passion so simply, even when live television requests the removal of his purple glitter of profanity.

Bob G hopes that the huge international audience created by the concerts of July 2 will send a message to the politburos of capitalism in Edinburgh.

"You promised to alleviate African debt. You promised to restructure trade tariffs. You promised aid against HIV/Aids. You promised. You didn't deliver. You've got three days to do it. If you don't, you will just not be voted back into office!"

Great empty words that have in the past swirled around the foundations of every democracy, but like mist, will evaporate as soon as the sun shines on another day of slog and stagnation.

It doesn't have to evaporate this time round.

Imagine if Sir Bob and Emperor Bono and all the other straight-talking mega-icons of the new generations encourage their supporters to do more than just watch the shows on July 2.  And please, let them make it very clear as soon as possible:

"If you support what we stand for on 2 July 2005, go and register as a voter!"

Go and register as a voter!

Most of the millions of young people so passionately caught up in this magical pageant of pop and politics don't realise what they each have in their grasp: the ultimate weapon of massive change. They each have the vote!

Many have as yet not used their vote. Millions have not bothered to register as voters — because they have so little respect for the system.

And rightly so, for to look at recent elections in the G8 is to spit on the sidewalk and move on. But these young footsoldiers of democracy need to be reminded that without being registered as a voter, they cannot vote.

And to wait after July 2, will be too late.

Register as a voter now!

Imagine the chilling sense of foreboding, even terror, that will spread like a virus among the leaders of the free world in Edinburgh, when they suddenly focus on the unbelievable fact that within a few days before and after the concerts of 722005, millions of young people worldwide have registered as potential voters. Not hundred! Millions!  Angry citizens of the world who will all use that vote when their next election is called.

That's a revolution! That could be the renaissance of democracy.

It could also save Africa and the world.

Pieter-Dirk Uys is a South African satirist and Aids-activist. His one-man presentation, For Facts Sake, is a self-funded Aids-awareness entertainment that has taken his message of survival and hope to a million South African schoolchildren during the last 5 years. The struggle continues.