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Monday, June 13, 2005
Geldof Conference Call Transcribed--Part I

Okay, I wanted to be able to see his words rather than listen to them on that atrocious-sounding MP3 file, so I sat down and transcribed the first part of his speech to the bloggers. I'll continue this tomorrow morning. I've put in the times of various logical breaks so that people can check it against the recording. Any assistance in the few places where the audio was unintelligible to my failing ears would certainly be appreciated. I've tried to avoid editing the words Sir Robert spoke but I did leave out the occasional "ums". Overall, as John Hinderaker and others have commented, Geldof was very articulate and impressive. It'll look a little "run-on", but that's just the way people talk when they're not reading a script.

I skipped the intro for now, but I plan to try to do more of the conference call tomorrow morning. If anybody wants to pick up where I left off, or take a ten minute chunk of the transcription, please let me know in the comments and I'll put up a link. Everything after this is Geldof speaking:


Thanks Joe, thanks John, before all of you came on I was just remarking that it’s precisely this meeting that makes everything so different to 20 years ago, that journey that I started on myself and managed I think to bring most of the UK along with for these last 20 years and I sort of feel like we’re in the home straights now, coming up to the G8 which is hosted in Great Britain and the man who is the President of the G8 this year has got a fresh mandate as Prime Minister and is simultaneously the President of the European Union. So for the period of six months, Britain at least will be significantly politically influential, so for me it’s a time where perhaps we can finally get this thing done that has been promised so often. So thank you for all being here, thank you for asking me to do it, it’s a great pleasure to be with you.


I’ll just take you on that journey I’ve just described, and some of you will have—I’ve got the flu by the way so if I keep sniffing and sound drained, I’m drained because I’m drained and I’m sniffing because I’ve got the flu. Some of you will remember 20 years ago and Live Aid, we did that in response to something I saw one night on television here in London, late October. My band was having difficulty making its latest record a hit and I came home depressed, it was foggy and the foggy lights were on outside, and I had a little baby girl, my first baby girl, she was about nine months old and I sat down to watch the evening news, and she was cuddled up to me and on came something which was beyond extreme. It was a ten minute report on the 6:00 News by the BBC.

And it was 30 thousand—no, 30 million people suffering starvation, 30 million, and the journalist’s voice was choked with rage and anger and you could palpably feel this and he described as Biblical the scale of the horror that he was looking at and indeed that’s what was translated, and I was, probably because of my half depressed state about what was happening like with my record and that and possibly because I had a kid there, I reacted, I cried, and I just thought that this cannot stand in the late 20th century, that in a world of surplus that anyone should die of want, seemed to me to be not only intellectually absurd, but morally repulsive, but more to the point, it ceased to be a question of the left or of the right. If we agreed that it was nonsensical for anyone to die of want in this world of surplus then it follows that we could equally agree this could only be viewed as a moral repugnance and I just thought it demanded something more than the usual charitable impulse of giving a few bucks, it demanded something of yourself, and so I wrote a song and made this record the Band-Aid Record, Do They Know It’s Christmas, and over the United States, Harry Belafonte, heard about these kids in the UK and he got in touch with Quincy Jones who called Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, and they did USA for Africa, which I was present at, directly coming from Africa.


And I just thought cool idea to join all that together and we’ll make Live Aid. Well, 200 million dollars later, that was the most that the world could do at that time. And you know it’s weird on this call particularly to think of 20 years ago when very posh people had faxes no-one had mobile phones and there certainly wasn’t the Net or computerization like we know today. But what we did do with those records, was alert people to this thing that was going on and the emotional culmination of that, the need to stop as many of these 30 million people dying was the concerts, which we did by raising huge, vast sums of money. And we spent the money ourselves, I did not go through any of the governments in order to get to the people involved and none of us spent any money in administration. But what I thought needed to happen in the six months between the record and the concert was that this was so egregious and that we hadn’t really taken notice of Africa, it was sort of this quiet continent no-one really looked at and that we needed to elevate it onto the political agenda. And I think because the concert itself was so huge and the outpouring the manifestation, I mean Nepal, the country of Nepal gave a half million dollars, I mean this really extended everywhere. But this was so huge, that it did bring it up to the political level, and so from 1985, Africa really has not been far off the G8 Agenda. Indeed, in 1986, the United Nations debated Africa for the first time, I mean it seems implausible but nonetheless true, and they debated seriously.


Since that time, unfortunately, Africa has been the sole continent in economic decline. And as the rest of the world leaps ahead, Africa slips further from us. Now that’s a particular problem for Europe, where Africa is only eight miles from Europe, eight miles from us. And of course we suffer the consequences daily. Just like you’ve got Cubans washing up on the shores of Florida, so in Europe we have Africans washing up on our beaches. We spend millions of (?) European armies (?) shores to keep out these immigrants. But they will come in their millions because they (?), they’re hungry, they want a better life. I’m an immigrant, I’m Irish, I live in the UK, I came here for a better life and I got it.


But I was in Rome last week launching Live 8, with the Mayor of Rome, and there was a horrific story on the cover of La Republica, which is like the NY Times for them, and the mayor of (Lampadesa?) an island off Sicily, was begging for some (?) to send a container ship to pick up the dead bodies of the men, women and children from Africa, who were washing up on his beaches. He’d no room left to bury them anymore. Not in graveyards, but anywhere on the island. And it’s come to this, it’s come to this at the beginning of the 21st century, frankly we cannot allow that to stand. So about a year and a half ago, I was in Ethiopia, and the Evian G8 was happening in France, and I’d just gone to the north of Ethiopia, which are perennial (badlands?), you know about 60 years ago it was fairly lush, there was forest, there was game, people hunted, but now it’s really gone into arid, steady desert, and once again, the rains, the second rains they depend on two rains, have failed so the people were facing malnutrition again, and I never thought I’d see myself in a feeding camp again and believe me if you’ve ever seen or been in one, you do not want to ever see it.


And here I was again, people queueing, only this time there was a different phenomenon, there was a group of strolling players. And Africa has more cultures and peoples than any other cultures on the planet, it contains over 2000 separate languages, so it actually uses the repository of human culture in that one continent, but in this neck of the woods, you know there were about 30 different languages, so these miming, strolling players were like in Shakespearian times acting out this mummer's play, and they were talking about AIDS, which they called the skinny disease, and they were being very frank and sort of outrageous in sort of an African sexual style, and so people were laughing, but the reality was that a random test of 20 percent of those people would have showed them affected with AIDS and of course now with hunger, they would die very rapidly. You all know that AIDS takes (?) the young people who are sexually active, thus leading orphan children and worse, orphan elderly grandparents who will die very quickly because there’s no-one to provide for them.


So I was shocked again, afresh, you know you think nothing can disturb your equanimity, until you’ve faced these things, and I went south, in Ethiopia. Now the southern part of Ethiopia’s extremely lush and verdant, everything growing and they grow the best coffee in the world. Indeed the word coffee comes from the province of Kaffa, and so that’s where it was discovered and found and grown. This year, the people in those provinces were beginning to die of hunger again, and the reason was that in a normal year, the people in these areas sell their coffee for good prices, and if there’s drought in the food-growing areas, they buy their food because they’ve now got profit, but because Indonesia and Vietnam have entered the coffee market, coffee prices have depressed by 70% and these people couldn’t sell their crops, so they have no money, so they began to die of hunger as well. And of course, they didn’t know that AIDS was affecting that area—in random testing there was about 18% of AIDS throughout the area, so there was dying in vast numbers and they didn’t comprehend what was happening to them. And of course, we call Indonesia and Vietnam entering the coffee market, and well-done for Indonesia and Vietnam, we call that globalization, they don’t understand what these countries are, they just call them (?).


There are no medicines to deal with AIDS in that part of the world and so they were dying of that. And all about us, was this terrible metaphor, there’s trees there, they look like banana trees, with big (swarms?) of bananas, but nothing ever grows in them so they’re fruit trees that there are no fruit, no nourishment. The women in the hungry years strip the bark off the tree. They bury it for a year, so that it softens, then they dig it up and pound it into a sort of fibrous porridge and then they eat that so that the children’s stomachs are full, but it provides no nourishment, and so it’s food that again, provides no nourishment.

12:22 Transcription continues here.


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