Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Because I need courage to face our world, maybe you do too. I've been losing heart lately. And I'm a LEO! I need to be more lion-hearted.

So I'm choosing to lay aside skepticism and cynicism for a minute and take (COURAGE) from Paul Hewson, aka Bono, and his partner Bobby Shriver. It's been a year since they launched the (PRODUCT)RED campaign. They targeted HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa, through the Global Fund.

Companies GAP, American Express, Converse, Apple and others send 50% of the profit for these target (RED) products to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which uses 100% to fight disease and poverty in Africa. All customers have to do is choose products that are supporting the campaign, such as a red iPod, a (red) Motorola cell phone, a (red) t-shirt from GAP, a (red) American Express card (only in the UK, darn), cool (red) Converse sneakers, etc. Please go here to see the full list of products promoting health in Africa.

In the year since the (RED) campaign was launched:

* $47 million donated to the campaign

* 1 million new people are now receiving daily treatment for HIV/AIDS; 1400 new people a day are getting meds

* 2 million new people are now being treated for tuberculosis

* 20 million new people are now being treated for malaria

Sure, these companies are making a profit. But when companies make a profit, it makes campaigns like this sustainable. Let's be smart, people.

Hey, Bono's Irish, but he knows how to market this campaign in the U.S. He says, America needs to "redescribe" itself in the world.

That's the kind of marketing I like. Let's be gullible and believe we can make a difference. Look at the difference these two men have made.

Click on THE (RED) MANIFESTO below to read it:

I got me a (RED) GAP t-shirt, the (2 WEEKS) one. Gap's contribution to the Global Fund from the sale of each (2 WEEKS) t-shirt is equivalent to the average cost of 2 weeks of antiretroviral medicine in Africa, which, along with appropriate nutrition and care, enables people living with HIV to lead healthy, normal lives. That gives them COURAGE, which is (WAY) more important than giving me COURAGE. But giving them COURAGE also gives me COURAGE.

Be en-(COURAGE)-ed. Don't give up. Please never give up.


Loring Wirbel said...

It's very easy to make fun of Bono, with doubts expressed by many on the depth of his commitment vs. publicity-mongering. Thanks for reminding us that he often DOES put his money where his mouth is.... And give up? Ha. To extend the John Paul Jones quote, "I have not yet begun to fight - and laugh - and love - and dance - and work." Hope to say that when I'm 90!

Ruth said...

Loring, it's easy to discount any celebrity efforts as publicity-mongering. But I guess we'd complain if they didn't use their wealth and fame for good causes if they didn't. A lot of people pay attention when celebrities do and say things, promote and support causes. I guess I appreciate the effort.

I think fame would be awful. Can't go out in public without being recognized and hounded. How I love walking down the street, just quietly, taking it all in.

Raw Kale said...

I like it, I like it a lot! I do believe that the key to change is what we buy or more importantly, don't buy! I think we really need to have a cheap contest.

Ruth said...

And oh yes, Loring, I think JPJ's quote suits you very well. Here's to 90!

Ruth said...

RK, I agree, I don't buy much. In fact, it was quite odd this morning to tell Don I was going to go buy a t-shirt for this cause, we so rarely go shopping. Most people are already buying, buying, buying, and I hope they'll put their money to good use. I agree, the best for the environment is recycling, and I buy my clothes at the VOA or consignment, most of the time.

However, my thoughts about "cheap" are evolving. For instance, I'm aggravated by the American demand for cheap, cheap, cheap - something for nothing. Like huge platters of food for $6.99. Or shirts from China that are cheaper because they're made in sweatshops. I know you don't like that either. I don't mind paying for what something is worth, it's just so hard to tell sometimes.

mystic rose said...

TO say the truth, I dont know what to say to this. Atleast help is reaching where it is needed. That too in a non-political, non-religious, secular way. And it helps to know that in small ways we can benefit someone's life.

and the results are big!! a finge cant do much, but a hand..! and bono i guess, is the thumb. :)

Ruth said...

Actually, RK, thank you for waking me up. This is a consumer promo, and I was a consumer. I bought a t-shirt. I could have just donated money to the Global Fund toward mosquito nets and anti-retroviral drugs. Thank you, RK.

Ruth said...

Mystic Rose, perhaps you have mixed feelings too, like RK. I hope you will express your opinion if you wish. I am feeling like a sucker for a consumer promo. Maybe I shouldn't have put my skepticism aside. I hope you will share your thoughts if you can put a finger on them, your opinion is valuable to me.

Ruth said...

Dear Readers, we have so much power in this country. We are devastating the world with our power. It breaks my heart. When I heard about this campaign, my heart lept up to help, because economic power is one way we as Americans can help, and not hurt.

For years we have heard about non-profit organizations that have misused and misappropriated funds. Too much money goes to administrators, too little gets to those who need help. We as Americans tend to mistrust these philanthropic organizations.

I guess I trust Bono, I have no reason to mistrust him. He's done nothing but impress me with his campaign against poverty. I know we can't solve all the world's problems, but I want to help where I can. It takes constant thought to figure out the best ways to do that.

As the RED Manifesto says, if it makes good business sense for companies to get behind solving some problems in Africa, and more get onto the scene because it's beneficial to them as well as the diseased, then I think it's a good thing.

Please tell me your thoughts, agreeable or contrary. This is important, I think.

Catherine Mary said...

Ruth, I admire your generosity and compassion. Any way one gives of oneself, it is a positive, life-affirming way of being. For me, I've given up giving to large organizations after donating and receiving tons of mailings and lots of intruding phone calls. I just wondered, where did my money go? To people who really needed the money or paper and office supplies? I try to seek out small local groups where I can see my money being used for practical purposes. I suppose I should think more globally.

R said...

Oh my goodness, when I said be cheap, I didn't in any way mean that you should not buy this T-shirt. Of course, as you say, just outright donating the money may make a bigger immpact, but who knows? Whether or not Bono is legit, he is bringing awareness and that is priceless. If it were not for him, people would not even be thinking about it, right? You may not be blogging about it. Unfortunately, you and I can't afford the fancy marketing campaigns to get all of our brilliant ideas across the globe, so we just support what we can in hopes that it will inspire more of the same!

There are people who go right to the source, though, and donate their time and money to actually giving the shots, etc. I'd kind of like to be on this end- doing the real work, touching the people, affecting their lives personally.

My friend, Julie, who grew up in communist Russia thinks the sweatshops are heaven for those people, because they don't know any better. Now that's different.

Ruth said...

Catherine Mary, I think we are badly mixed up if we only give and contribute to other parts of the world. Yes, we have tons of resources, and we should provide them. But if we don't look after our own people in need right here in our home towns, states, country, we are pretty screwed up. I admire your perspective. Can you believe what we just learned, that one out of four homeless people in the U.S. is a war vet? My god. We have so much to do right here, you're absolutely right. But we also have enough to provide economic resources around the world.

Ruth said...

R, I was serious, I really hadn't even been thinking about the fact that I was going out and buying something I wouldn't normally buy. But after I was grateful that you had brought that to my attention (not that you meant it directly that way), I also realized I wanted to contribute in a way that encouraged companies to keep doing this. I just had to think it out. And I thank you for helping me do that.

I'm actually a little skeptical of skeptics sometimes, and that includes me. I appreciate skepticism, and we have to scour and dig. I tend to be more skeptical than not. But I also think it's easy to criticize people in the public eye. We need to keep our eye on them, but when they're devoting time, energy and money to good things, they also deserve our support. Doesn't mean we think they're saints. And sure, who knows what their motives are? But Bono was already pretty big, I don't think he really needed to sell more albums when he started this poverty campaign, you know?

Did you know Uncle Bennett went to Nicaragua to assist after the earthquake of 1973 (I think that was the year). He spent a week with the Salvation Army. It changed his life. Well, he was already compassionate, but as you say, touching, talking, meeting, showing respect, this was a life changing experience for him.

And yeah, a lot of people would be without work if there weren't sweatshops.

Is this a complicated world, or what? As uncle rauf says, it's good vs. good we have to make decisions about often, not just good vs bad.

Ginnie said...

I love this post, Ruth. This is when I wish we were in a group discussion together to talk about the issues. But I think it's been said well in the comments already. Being sensitized is often the most important first step! And if you talked to Nathan, he'd tell you that Bono is definitely for real.

Loring Wirbel said...

Abby and I are touring Pitzer College in Pomona today, and Bono was just here three nights ago - so (RED) t-shirts are everywhere on campus, it seems. The opinion pages of the campus paper were filled with four or five op-ed pieces on Bono and this campaign, covering much the same ground covered here. Some were questioning how he mixes altruism and celebrity, but many more were criticizing the student body. It seems that even in a PC campus environment like Pitzer, many students don't want to be bothered with concern and care. Bono. "Whatever." Feh. That is a factor I worry about much more than Bono's sincerity.

Ruth said...

Boots, that's right, Nathan met Bono, and I know he thinks a lot of him.

Awareness starts it all off. And then we have to search, search, and research again. It's a full time job. And you have to choose what you're goint to monitor. And . . . and . . . and. Blogging has sure opened my eyes about many things.

For instance, what Loring blogged about today, about Hugo Chavez:

Ruth said...

Loring, you are so right. Gotta keep perspective. I don't wanna sound like an old geezer sayin "dem were da good ole days" but I wonder if young people will ever rise up again the way they/we did in the '60 and '70s.

This passion has to come from within. But the question is, how do you spark the passion in the first place? Sometimes the message has to be played and replayed and replayed before people start to hear it, esp. here in the U.S., I think. It's appalling how unaware we are of the world generally in this country.

Raw Kale said...

also, I couldn't read the entire link to copy/paste it about Chavez.

and, thanks for sharing about Uncle Bennett. what a righteous dude!

Raw Kale said...

looks like you didn't get me first comments. can't remember them all, but what stopped the momentum of the 70s activism? Swede and I often contemplate this question together. We're too young to remember:D

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

RK, you can click on Loring's name in the first comment and get to his blog. I'll paste his blog URL, not the whole post one, hopefully it won't get cut:

I'm sorry some comments were lost!

I can only answer your question about what stopped the momentum of the '70s out of my head. I haven't studied this.

We should ask Uncle Nelson (He's a Sociologist), or my poet friend Diane Wakoski. Actually I'm pretty sure uncle rauf and Loring have some ideas.

I wonder if a better question is why was there so much momentum in the '60s and '70s? I'm guessing it was the combination of the Beat movement rising up against "The Man," and then US involvement in Vietnam. The Hippies sort of took over from the Beats, and it was cool even for non-hippies to participate in protests. By the time we pulled out of Vietnam in '73, we had gone through Watergate. Imagine G'ma and G'pa and me sitting in front of the TV through that whole Senate investigation for however many months.

I dunno, disco happened in the late '70s. I mean DISCO! Is there anything more opposite beat/hippie/war protester than DISCO? The '80s we had Reagan, ok? Our country became more concerned with Nancy Reagan's choice of china in the White House than the needs of our country or the world.

I'm trying to understand the sense of helplessness I feel facing "the Machine", and maybe it's that sense that keeps people from being active. I have VERY "progressive" friends who just look at me and say, we're helpless. When you feel helpless, it's hard to fuel momentum.

Ruth said...

I should be sure to mention here that while the Hippie movement was happening, so was the Civil Rights Movement. It was every bit as "counter culture" and also had a major impact on our culture, obviously.

mystic rose said...

OH nO..Ruth, I am glad you supported it in whatever you could, and that you posted this.
I am happy help is reacing where it should, so often, for many of us we want to help, but life is such that we cannot. That is BIG money being raised and wisely spent, on health care.

i feel the same way as you sometimes, that these big companies have latched onto a 'good thing' when they saw the profitability of this trend.... when I am in ShopRite and there is this board saying Help feed the Hungry, 2$ feeds so many and 5$ feeds..., it is not too much to contribute. I contribute to Doctors without Borders, and I would like to think everything I give is being used for international aid and not partly to feed the giant organisation of a charity.
I know some feel this aiding needs to stop, and its kind of an elitist idea. But at hte same time, one cannot but help think of little children suffering and if they do grow up, its with emotional scars and physical disabilites, a whole society/country like that would not heal.

That is why I like the work that Rakesh has been doing, and I would prefer to see more of them, I woudl support such smaller organisations in any way I can.

Bono is acting in the best way he can think, using his image, contacts and popularity to support a charity on a massive scale.

mystic rose said...

Have you seen Motorcycle Diaries, Ruth? It is a wonderful movie, beautiful actually and held me spell bound. It is a true story of a very young Chavez traveling South America on a old motorcycle.

all of these revolutionary ideals and groups started with a sense of justice. I or rather my family used to know Kondapalli Seetharamiah, the founder of naxalism in south India, when it was started it was with passion to undo some of the generations of wrongs and attrocities by landowners on tenants, poorer peasants, the system was deeply entrenched, no one could question them, women were raped , children forced into bonded labor, some families were bond inot labor for generations.. it was truly barbaric. In those days he commanded a lot of respect and support from the intellectuals because even the government woudlnot intervene and for the politicians the continuation of the system was convenient. But soon the organisation ran rampant, split into groups, he lost control and now they are little more than terrorisits.

Chavez is someone I really admire, just his sense of compassion is immense.

mystic rose said...

oops! Ruth, thanks for correcting me.
I meant Che Guevara.. not Hugo Chavez. :P

Ruth said...

Mystic Rose, yes I did see "Motorcycle Diaries" and also loved it. I think your friend Rakesh, and Seetharamiah and Guevera are the best kind of models. What I mean is that when you get involved on a personal level, then the passion gets into your heart. Then what you do is from that place, and not from a place of obligation, "charity," or relieving guilt. Sometimes a single person's passion turns into a movement with major impact.

If I contribute money to appease my guilt, and don't connect personally, it all feels pretty empty. I still want to contribute to the groups who seem to be making an impact, such as Doctors without Borders.

The task is big, and whether or not my single efforts would make a big impact, it's about being in relationship with other people in my community and the world.

Thank you so much, Mystic Rose, for your comments.

Loring Wirbel said...

Regarding questions about 70s activism, I see three things killing it:
1. Sometimes, things synchronize on a global level for reasons we don't understand - the 1968 global uprisings, the 1989 collapse of centralized socialism in Eastern Europe, etc. Conspiracy theorists always assume there are deep unknown human forces at work, but I think there are some kind of resonant forces beyond our understanding that happen apparently randomly at certain times, then won't happen at all no matter how hard individuals try. The Feb. 2003 pre-war protests and the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and elsewhere also fall into this category.
2. The 1960s were highly unusual for both political protest and music, in having a media that was obsessed in discovering "youth culture" ("Youth culture killed my dog," as They Might Be Giants would say.) There were organized protests against nuclear power in the late 70s, against nuke weapons and Reagan Central America policy in the 80s, etc., but by that time the media was making fun of protest culture, not glorifying it. And I would also insist that various forms of indie and punk music were just as good in the late 70s, the 90s, and this decade as they were in the late 60s, but they weren't as fawned over by the media.
3. The combined rise of self-help and me-first philosophies in the mid-70s, and the rise of identity politics of gender, race, GLBT, etc. in the progressive community, led to a fragmenting of what once was a very cohesive community.

All that being said, a good activist should keep to hollerin' even when it is the LEAST popular thing to do. And not get discouraged when no one pays attention. And be absolutely sure that there will come a magic moment, unpredictable in advance, when something WILL resonate with a huge amount of the public. We saw it happen in Colorado in 2002 with the nuns who poured blood on a missile silo and their trial became the cause du jure for no apparent reason. So magic happens.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oops! In my "three reasons for the Movement collapse", I forgot a fourth (and fifth?) that was pretty obvious:
When the FBI used COINTELPRO and other dirty-tricks programs to set movement leaders against each other, and when other movement leaders moved into hyper-radical nihilism (Weather Underground, Spartacists, RCP, etc.), it turned off thousands of political activists from politics, and they all moved back to the woods to smoke dope.

Raw Kale said...

Thanks so much for your insight- it's nice to hear from someone who was there and can remember! Also, I guess everyone is extremely content and thinks this is how life should be.

Loring Wirbel said...

I was only there by indirect osmosis, since I'm a year younger than Ruth, but I decided at age 7 I wanted to be a hippie when I grew up, and I became a card-carrying Situationist at age 14.

Ruth said...

Loring, thank you so much for your thoughts on the end of that momentum. That factor of unknowable reasons behind the congruity has to be true.

It is hard to be a loudmouth when it's not popular. I'm surrounded by progressives at work; I wonder how bold I'd be if I worked with a different kind of colleague.

Thanks so much.

Ruth said...

RK, I had a talk with Inge last night, about the class she teaches at MSU. She said she is amazed at how aware her students are about the problems we face. But knowledge is not enough. It's a start. People are aware of global warming because of Al Gore's movie. There are these popular trends, like Loring said, that pull people in. But the students in her class also said it will be up to them to fix what our generation messed up. She said they weren't resentful, just resolved.

Rauf said...

Ruth, honestly, i don't understand this debate and where it is taking the reader.

first, U2 don't need any publicity.
Hewson has been sincerely involved in many such campaigns for years. i understand it better as i worked and took pictures for CAN-STOP (stop Cancer in children) They had similar products, t shirts, coffee mugs, but it died its own death due to lack of Celebrity backing which i thought was necessary. if i sincerely start a campaign, perhaps no one would listen to me, i'll have no support.
It is indeed very necessary to use the support of the celebrities because people stop and listen to them. i would stop and pay attention to what Arther Ashe says.
People like Britney Spears and Madonna need to be in the news unlike U2. their support may have negative effect. i can be skeptical about their involvement. For me there is not even a trace of doubt in Hewson's intentions, not because i love their music. i can only say that it is a brilliant marketing idea with all good intentions. The Beatles were involved in a campaign against world hunger. Oxfam started right after the 2nd world war. No one knew about Oxfam or their activities until The Beatles supported their name. After that Oxfam went full throttle and the money came pouring in. So powerful is the celebrity influence.

Rauf said...

oh sorry Ruth, what i want to say is that there is no debate for me. i would blindly support this marketing and buy the product if i can afford it.

Ruth said...

Thanks for clarifying with the second comment, rauf. Yeah, a debate wasn't intended. And as it turns out, I think I was the only one really debating, within myself. But it was important for me to work that out. So I'm glad.

And thank you too for your support of the campaign philosophically. As I've said, I agree with you that celebrities can do a great deal of good by attaching their names to such things.

Ruth said...

Oh, and I thought of Audrey Hepburn, rauf. She was the face of UNICEF for me growing up. She gave the organization a compassionate face, which was important to me.

Ruth said...

I mean she gave it a human face. Of course the organization was already compassionate! Well and human. Ah! You know what I mean.

mystic rose said...


you've expressed my feelings exactly in your words.

mystic rose said...

And Ruth, Im terrible at names.
Shortly after I was married someone asked me my husband's name(it was an arranged marriage, which means I did not know him at all before marriage) and I could not remember for a few seconds! he laughs about it, thankfully!

Ruth said...

Mystic Rose, oh my goodness, that is the best story. I've heard lots of stories about arranged marriages, but this is the best. Oh, I would love to sit down and talk with you. Your husband sounds like he is a kind soul, understanding, the kind of mate everyone hopes for. A sense of humor is one of the key components of a long happy marriage.

lesleyanne said...

what a great post mamma. i really was clueless to this campaign. i see ads everywhere, climbing up buildings, all over subway stations, on the sides of bus-stops. but i never stopped to really find out what it was. maybe it was the Gap too - i just thought it was another brand name i had to ignore. but this means so much more.


is that on one of the tshirts? i like that one.

and i find uncle Rauf's comment very interesting, about celebrities backing up organizations, and different causes. it really does force the viewer to stop, if someone is recognizable. very good point.

i'm glad you bought that shirt. and i'm glad that you shared this, because i might go and buy my own shirt. or maybe a pair of red chucks. i've always wanted a pair of those.

Ruth said...

Lesley, I saw the GAP windows a year ago and didn't have a clue either. I didn't know until this one year marker!

Yes, that's one of the shirts. I like it too. I thought of you when I saw the Converse hightops.