Far be it from me to attack InstantKarma.org, a charity organization doing necessary and noble work advocating for peace in Darfur. And given John and Yoko‘s legacy as activists, maybe this is an appropriate salute and relief fund raiser all in one.
But this ad, and the project’s title, remind me again why I’m suspicious of entertainment activists:
“Imagine. The greatest artists of our time. United to save Darfur. Now.”
In an unrelated political commentary, The Dark Age Blog condensed a good definition for “Instant Karma” that sheds a positive light on the possible message:
The relationship between action and consequent reaction has, in the interconnected world of the Global Village, become almost instantaneous by comparison with earlier times. This is what is meant by “time compression”, and it is what John Lennon recognised in his song as “Instant Karma”. Instant Karma is time compression in which the lag between our actions and their inevitable reactions virtually disappears as we approach instantaneity [sic.] and light speeds. It means that the past and the future now converge on the Now — on the present.
This is an interesting analysis with a powerful relevance to the Save Darfur mission. But when I hear the term, I think “Karma, Now,” which is the worst possible message for artists to broadcast if they sincerely want to contribute to serious issues normally beyond our professional scope. It reinforces the questionable impression that buying an album or attending a concert (or performing in one) is a political act, rather than another consumer choice.
If they plan on using a sound system, Al Gore‘s climate change concert will consume energy more directly than it conserve it.
Bono‘s very public activism can be a little messianic, but it’s hard to doubt his sincerity after years of lobbying governments and NGOs for aid to Africa, and it’s hard not to admire his perseverance. Individually, I’m sure most or all of these artists deeply and sincerely want to help those in need. But how will this endeavor stop the Genocide?
As the NYT’s David Carr put it:
If you are a rock star with a touch of the messiah complex, saving the world one song at a time has its limits. Even John Lennon didn’t make much progress on world peace before he died.
Here are a few big name previews:
U2 – Instant Karma
R.E.M. – No. 9 Dream
Green Day – Working Class Hero