He was the figurehead behind the 1985 concerts that are said to have brought in more than $190 million for famine relief in Africa and changed the perception of public fundraising, using what he called the “lingua franca” of rock ’n’ roll. A second similar event, Live 8, took place in 2005.
“We had a huge lobby: 1.2 billion people, 95 percent of the television sets on Earth watched that concert,” Geldof told CBC in a new interview. “Politics is just numbers. They can’t ignore it. … So things do change, but that instrument of change is no longer plausible. Rock ’n’ roll was the central spine of our culture for 50 years. The web has broken down the world into individualism, and that’s easy for authoritarians to use.”
Geldof noted that the “logic of the World Wide Web, this synaptic membrane that wraps itself around the planet, presupposes a hive society. We thought that it would animate an economy. In fact, it sped it up beyond our understanding so the whole thing collapses with greed, puts millions out of work, puts thousands into suicide, wars erupt as a result, millions are on the move to find new work or to escape war and we throw up our walls and our barriers. We’ve reduced ourselves. The 21st century is reductionist, and it’s using the great tool of reductionism, the internet, and we need to know how to use this thing, which is the most powerful tool ever invented.”
He asserted that, 35 years on, “something like Live Aid can’t happen now,” but added, “That doesn’t stop you raging against the dying of the light. That doesn’t stop you acknowledging that all generations fail and some fail more spectacularly than others.”
Arguing in favor of individuals taking real-life action rather than reacting on social media, Geldof explain that “doesn’t mean that you can’t be Greta Thunberg and stand in front of your school silently and just say no. That’s still there. The possibility to steer your world in the direction you need to live in, that’s there, but it ain’t this cyber wanking into the digital void.”