ADVENT PLAYLIST 2014 | 20. “do they know it’s christmas?”

Welcome to the 1%J 2014 1%J ADVENT PLAYLIST, in which we attempt to reconcile the simultaneously occurring but often contradictory spirits of Advent season and the “holidays.”  It has recently come to our attention that there’s a typo in this introductory paragraph thing, but we are going to leave it because now it is a “tradition,” like that blue streak through the T in “Deckmaster” on the back of Magic Cards.


Things we have learned in the 30 years since the original Band Aid 1984 “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” according to the recently released 2014 version:

  • How to make music videos prettier.
  • There are, in fact, rivers and snow and agriculture in Africa.  Lyrics revised accordingly.
  • We should not refer to Africa as if it were one giant country.  It is a larger and more populous continent than North America.  Seal now knows to refer specifically to West Africa, where the scary Ebola virus is centralized.

Things we have not learned:

  • Christianity is the majority religion in most of Southern and Central Africa, and a significant number of people throughout the continent are Christian, so, yes, they probably do know it’s Christmas.
  • Most West Africans are Muslim and likely do not give much of a shit that it is Christmas.
  • It is really uncomfortable to watch a large group of mostly white American and Western European billionaire musicians suggest that you “heal the world” by buying their song on iTunes.

I would love to rage about all the fucked up implications of releasing songs like this, but it’s such low-hanging fruit.  Come on, you all get it.  Neoliberalism is awful.  This song is the epitome of neoliberalism – mediating goodwill through the market, individual responsibility as the the solution to systemic social problems, unquestioned dominance of the West and our appropriately condescending relationship to all inferior third-world countries.

(Not that it matters much, but this song is also terrible.  Especially the remake.  Why does anyone let Bono do anything?  And how did they get noted iconoclast Sinead O’Connor to participate??)

So I will just say – there is this cool idea in Judaism about a hierarchy of charity.  It’s spelled out in the Talmud that the highest form of giving is when neither party knows each others’ identities.  This makes a lot of sense to me. The more you manage to absent your individual self from your good doings, the more pure they become.  I think this idea exists in Christianity too, in a weirder and more violent form.

This song is the opposite of that ideal.



  1. […] 20. Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” […]

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