Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GAP save Africa, globalization is evil, appease the fools.

Africa: Gerard Baker on yet another tiresome look at who good we are and you will be too if you buy our crap campaign.

GAP, America’s still-trendy mass-market clothing retailer, is winning plaudits over here for its new campaign, imported from the UK, designed to generate awareness and money to alleviate suffering in Africa. The company has joined forces with Bono and the Product Red campaign that has signed up some of the most blue chip of names such as American Express and Motorola. It is pledging to give half of the profits from its iconic red T-shirts and leather jackets to Aids/HIV relief. The campaign was launched here last week, with the always crucial imprimatur of Hollywood. It features stars such as Steven Spielberg and Penelope Cruz in red T-shirts with one-word messages that say, with a modesty that doesn’t fit quite as well as the clothes, INSPI(RED) and ADMI(RED). The message is that, by buying these products, ordinary mortals such as you and I (well, all right, you) can look like Hollywood stars and save lives in Africa too. You can almost taste the pity and charity oozing from Ms Cruz’s pouted lips, the love pouring from Mr Spielberg’s dewy eyes.
Its the thought that counts not if it actually works in the long run which it won't because it takes a bit of a hardnosed approach that Hollywood types would scream imperalism!
"...In a complex world we all operate in a division of labour. Companies make profits. It is what they are designed to do. It is what they do best. When they depart from that mission, they lead their employees and their shareholders down a long, slow route to perdition. You think that is over the top? What is most troubling about campaigns such as Product Red is that they represent an accommodation with groups who think the business of capitalism is fundamentally evil. By appeasing people who regard globalisation as a process of exploitation companies such as Gap are making the world worse for all of us. They are implicitly acknowledging that their main business — selling things that people want for a profit — is inherently immoral and needs to be expiated by an occasional show of real goodness. Rather than resisting it, they are nurturing and feeding an anti-business sentiment that will impoverish us all. What’s more, this encroachment by companies is fundamentally undemocratic. Companies should not collude with interest groups and non-governmental organisations to decide on public priorities. That is for free people, through their elected governments, to do. "
But at least you feel good about yourself! This warped version of charity to Africa will never work because its more for show than substance for many of these Hollywood stars. Unless you stop the aid and work from the inside out, Africa will continue to be rich in resources and poor in everything else.

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