I have a prediction to make - just a small one - and I hope I'm wrong. I predict that on July 2, 2005, somebody (I don't know who) in the giant crowd of people at the Live 8 festival in Barrie will come out feeling exhausted, sweaty and maybe even a little bit sore. Not unusual for a rock concert, you say? No, but here's the kicker: this person will also feel a twinge of something he or she isn't used to feeling. The feeling will be a lot like guilt.
At the same time, I can almost guarantee (but not quite) that whoever is selling beer at this awareness-raising event won't feel a bit of guilt. Right on - why should they? Selling beer at a rock concert is like canvassing at an election: it's fine for the occasion. Likewise, no one should be ashamed to let loose for a few good hours of music.
I'm not sure what kind of awareness the organizers of Live 8 wish to promote. Potentially, this is a big concert that will create more awareness of big concerts.
On the other hand, 35,000 people can do a lot of good. One thing I've learned as a promoter of benefit concerts is not to underestimate your audience. In all honesty, it's worth aiming high at an event like this.
We know that individuals can change the world. Our rock stars and politicians won't shut up about it. What they don't say is that each of us has the responsibility to act in a way that reflects what we think Canada's role in the world should be. We can't leave it up to our leaders. The people on stage at Live 8 need to say this loudly and clearly while they have everyone's attention.
Many people are cynical about this concert (members of the press perhaps more than most), but make no mistake, artists do have a role to play. Rock rarely fits the bill, but when it does, it's a treat.
What the responsibility to act means will be different for each of us. But we should be motivated by the idea that we are accountable for what we say we want, and for what we actually do. For example, if Paul Martin says he wants to commit 0.7 per cent (a tiny fraction) of our GDP to eliminating world poverty, we should ask him two things: first, how will it eliminate world poverty? and second, when is he going to do it? He's been organizing our nation's finances for 12 years.
Unfortunately for Martin, the biggest obstacles to Canadians' making a meaningful contribution to this global battle consist in our mostly illusory dependence on the U.S. and our support for barbaric global trade rules. Not until we admit and set about changing these things can we say that we're making an honest effort. Governments have been ignoring us on this front while claiming otherwise for decades.
The concert on Saturday has the power to bring more meaning into mainstream culture and politics at the same time. Who could be against that? Call me optimistic, but I can picture politicians being invited to the next Live 8, not to glad-hand or entertain, but to answer the difficult questions about their record and their role in the exploitation of poor people around the world.
It's okay to feel guilty, but it doesn't help. If you've known what causes poverty as long as I have, and haven't done anything about it, you don't have to say so out loud. Just pitch in. We must transform guilt into the responsibility to act.
If you care about how your actions affect others, I urge you to demand real change. If you don't care - and I mean this from the bottom of my heart - shut up and enjoy the show. You definitely won't be a part of it, but you won't be fooling yourself either.