Daisy Bateman

Speaking of Holiday Music…

I have a bone to pick with the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band-Aid (which, if you will recall, was one of those collections of famous singers who cut charity singles for Africa, back when it was a place you sent money to, rather than where you went baby shopping), and I feel the need to share.
“But, how can you have a problem with such a noble, worthy cause?” you ask. “Don’t you have any heart at all?”
“No,” I say. “I don’t. But that’s not the issue here. Let’s take a look at the chorus, shall we?”

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life(Oooh)
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Now, breaking that down:

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
Except in the Atlas Mountains and on Mount Kilimanjaro. And, of course, we are ignoring the fact that about half of the continent is south of the Equator, where it is, technically, summer. I hear there’s some good skiing in South Africa in July, though.

The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life(Oooh)
Isn’t that true for all of us? (Oooh)

Where nothing ever grows
Principle agricultural products of selected African countries:
Kenya: tea, coffee, sugarcane, corn, wheat, rice, sisal, pineapples
Ghana: cocoa, pineapples, cashews,coconuts, pepper, shea nuts, cassava, yams, plantains, maize, rice, peanuts, millet, sorghum
Mail: Millet, sorgum, rice maize, peanuts, cotton
Republic of the Congo:cassava, sugar, rice, maize, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa
Democratic Republic of the Congo: coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, cocoa, cassava, plantains, maize, groundnuts, rice
Chad: millet, sorghum, peanuts, rice, sweet potatoes, manioc, cassava, yams, cotton, gum arabic

No rain or rivers flow
Average annual rainfall in the Western Nile Basin: 390 in
Nile River: 4,160 mi
Niger River: 2500 mi
Congo River: 2,900 mi

Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?
Well seeing as how Ethiopia is the second oldest Christian nation in the world, I’m guessing that at least a few of them do. For the forty percent of the population who are Muslim, a better question might be, do they care? And what is this, an evangelical thing?

Okay, so my point, which I have now made at length, is that whoever wrote the song failed sixth-grade geography and based their perception of an entire continent on that one picture of the skinny kid with the big eyes standing in front of the shack in a dusty field. But hey, is that so bad? They raised a lot of money, right? And who cares if you’re a little bit condescending to people if you give them money?

Whew. Thanks. I feel better now.

6 thoughts on “Speaking of Holiday Music…”

  1. I totally thought I knew what I was going to say, but then you totally distracted me with that Rhode Island thing.

    And I am so glad I’m not the only one who has to point out pop culture stupidity in such amazing detail. Like the toothpaste commercial that just came on that basically promised to “protect” my gingivitis, bad breath, and cavities, along with seven other bullet points. Do they have Crest in Africa? Or Rhode Island? You be the judge…

  2. Oh Daisy I’ve always SO hated that song. thank you so much. Because YES it is terrifically condescending (I suspect that yes, even if you are poor and African, if you are Christian you manage to know if it’s Christmas)and yeah, if you ain’t, do you care? And if so, why?
    Given how many Christians there are too in the entire Southern hemisphere, where it ain’t snow and Currier and Ives and sleighbells during late December, the arrogance of “Christmas is all about snow and Santa Claus” has bugged me for quite a while. Do folks in Mexico and other strongly Catholic countries identify with “sleighbells” and “sitting by the fire?” do African Christians really DIG this guy in a fur suit and talk about being all warm and snuggy on Christmas morn – which, as you point out is SUMMER?

    It’s rant season. I just did one myself (about a Catholic anti-diversity statement which was nasty and snide and rude and basically called non-Catholics crazy). Yours was excellent and well done. They’re needed. You may now go claim your reward – I think a foot rub or massage should follow a good healthy well-done rant, don’t you?

  3. Cornelia- They do have Crest in Africa, but not in Rhode Island. That place is a desolate wasteland, punctuated by the occasional clam-cake emporium.

    Andi- Thanks for the support. I bet ranting has some kind of health benefit– releases the toxins or something, so they don’t build up and make you sick or turn you into Geraldo or something.
    And the snow thing is definitely something that’s always bugged me. It isn’t going to be snowing in San Francisco either this Christmas, and I don’t see anyone singing charity songs for me.

  4. are you kidding Daisy? A lifetime of ranting and okay, okay, yes there WAS that broken or something toe after I kicked that thing (okay well barefoot, I mean how stupid- I could do a whole rant THERE) but NO ulcers, NO tension headaches, no “keep it all inside” diseases. Get it, quick. Absolutely healthy. (okay that toe did hurt, yeah. Um, rants should not necessarily get too physical that’s the key.)
    I never really noticed until recently how – please i know this is “politically correct” but really truly – “euro-centric all this Christmas stuff was. I mean I just think about Florida and yeah, California (north OR south) (north is where I lived for 10 years and yeah, we didn’t tend to have to shovel out Christmas morn) and suddenly I’m going – Germany! Sweden! Yeah, SURE but New Mexico? Pine trees and snow falling in decorative heaps? Where does one roast chestnuts on their open fire – in the backyard barbecue pit? And how do you find chestnuts?* And i just thought, do kids relate to all this? I mean I figure it’s kids who need it, right? But hey, going out on Christmas eve wearing your new scarf and boots to go caroling in your neighborhood in Arizona? Not much like the cute little cards with the Victorians on it (or the little groups that seem to show up sprung from the foreheads of Rudolph all dressed and in tune). It’s one of those disconnects that “traditionalists” just will hang onto forever because change is bad.
    Or something.
    *oh god, this is sad – apparently (I tried to find where chestnuts grow) most of America’s chestnuts are gone – due to a huge blight.
    um, let’s see, um, “popcorn roasting on an open fire, er,in the microwave….”


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