LONDON -- As travelers go, I seem to have the worst luck of any since the late Christopher Columbus. He sets out for India and slams into the New World, wrecking his reputation as a navigator and assuring that by the late 20th century, he is blamed for every disorder on the American continents from racism to poison ivy.
I set out for London for a quiet week enjoying the arts and leisure, and what happens? I arrive the very day this class-conscious country's most self-regarding, pompous elites are gathering en masse in Hyde Park to strut their moral superiority and to order us lesser mortals to transform Africa into a middle-class suburb of Stockholm -- I refer to the singers at the idiotically named Live 8 concert.
That is not all. Just two blocks from my hotel, another gaggle of chosen people gathered, to wit, the solemn participants of Gay Pride Day, or was it Gay Pride Week? Whatever it was, it was very noisy. Its mob left a great deal of debris in the street and above the street -- where there were inflated condoms. And it lasted right through lunch, a fine time to dine al fresco even in London in July, but who wants to dine in the presence of a mob scene and amidst floating condoms?
Of the two spectacles, by far the most tolerable was the Gay Pride event. It only lasted a few hours. Moreover, the participants whom I saw did not have the superior attitude lorded over us by the Live 8 megalomaniacs. Many of the young men I spotted leaving the scene of the Gay Pride antics looked like very earnest, middle-class fellows intent on advancing their careers in the white-collar workforce once they doffed the orange hair or angel wings they were wearing for this special day. Admittedly, some wore feathers and women's lingerie, but otherwise, they seemed rather ordinary.
Many shared a peculiarity that I noted in observing Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a few weeks back as he walked along a crowded corridor at Reagan Airport. They studiously stared at the pavement a few feet in front of them, apparently not wanting to make eye contact. I can understand why our wind-surfing, bungee-jumping, he-man war hero would fix his eyes on the ground. But I cannot explain whey these ostentatiously made-up, activist homosexuals would be so self-conscious. At any rate, they were polite.
That cannot be said for the Live 8 eminences. All were boastful and defiant know-it-alls convinced that the problem in Africa is lack of money and neglect from the West, though surely, even the most drugged-up of the rock singers knows that most of the money that has been heaved at the continent since the chaotic end of colonialism has been either wasted or filched.
Britain's Royal African Society claims that in the past 50 years, Africa has received a trillion dollars in aid, 10 times the aid sent to Europe after World War II. However, more Africans live in deeper poverty today than when the aid began to flow. Recently, it was revealed that corrupt Nigerian officials pocketed 220 billion pounds in bribes over the past few years. How much the other corrupt officials throughout the continent have accounted for can only be imagined.
Nonetheless, the assembled rockers shouted -- some called it singing -- threats to the political leaders of the West to take action to end the evils afflicting Africa. None has been supportive of Tony Blair's and George Bush's attempts to end the evils recently afflicting Iraq. Yet, military action against Africa's corrupt potentates is about the only imaginable way Africa's suffering can be alleviated in the near future. Would they like us to commence "regime change" now, or after we have brought democracy to Iraq?
The angry threats sounded by the Live 8 singers were matched by the angry lyrics of their songs, some of which they have been singing for decades. It is preposterous to think that this is the voice of international charity. Rather, it is the voice of modern pop entertainment, entertainment devoid of talent and ravenous for attention and money. In the year following Live 8's predecessor, Live Aid, record sales in the United Kingdom soared 21 percent, twice the rate of increase of the year before or the year after. Doubtless, sales will be up this year, too, in the UK and America alike.
Actually, CD sales have been dropping for the assembled stars of Live 8 for some years and soon will begin to drop again. Unremarked in all the hoopla about this hypocritical spectacle is that rock is dying. The entertainers have grown tiresome. Their fake poetry and angry shouts can only be in fashion for so long, and the evidence shows that the fashion is now moribund.
Perhaps the most tiresome and pretentious of all the entertainers in the Live 8 lineup was Madonna. I have always insisted that she cannot sing. The other night, as she lurched across the stage, pulling her shoulders back and thrusting her belly forward, she proved that she can no longer dance. She has become sclerotic from the waist down. Perhaps she will go to Africa in the Peace Corps, which, with a lot less hype, has done a lot more for poor Africans than the megalomaniacs of Live 8.