Have we forgotten We Are The World?

Last night I watched the documentary on Netflix for the “We Are The World” song collaboration. It was fun to see some of my favorite artists featured and to have their insights on the making of the song.

Was it the “greatest night in pop”? Possibly. No doubt it was iconic and a novelty for the time in the United States (it had already been done successfully in London with the Band Aid effort).

What struck me most, though, is there was more time and attention given to the discussion of Michael Jackson’s pets than Bob Geldof’s mission. (The mission of humanitarian aid for African famine relief).

Interesting how even in a film about a concerted effort to help change the world, the focus was more on personalities and artist’s vocal ranges than the impact of the event.

It’s nice to see behind the scenes of the music production. But how much more powerful would it be to hear from the lives that were changed?

To hear from the audience on how the song influenced their lives or journeys. To hear from the artists if it changed their trajectory and influenced them to do more charitable work with their talents.

Imagine connecting the dots to see a family flourishing, that would have otherwise starved. To learn how their life was altered by the charitable record sales. Did this happen? I’d love to know!

One likes to give a pat on the back to those who do good in the world. Charity is often a thankless job. However, the point is to be selfless.

It’s great that as artists, a great song was written. Nice that egos were checked at the door (though the documentary does show some were certainly not)! Awesome that you used your voice for good rather than for compensation. (Not knocking compensation at all here folks – people should be paid for their talents and hard work).

But why do we care so much about lauding accolades on the celebrities and less about whether or not it actually helped relieve famine and improve lives?

I think it’s indicative of the time we live in now, where everything seems to be hyper-focused on self and self-congratulations, rather than the greater good.

The documentary certainly had its merits, but it missed the most important piece. We merely got a glimpse of the true impact of the effort via a series of short text overlays as the film wrapped up.

Now find I myself wondering if that’s the message the artists who came together for this collaboration really want to convey? When you watch the footage, it’s unclear why most of them are really there other than because they were invited and thought the song would be a hit.

It would have been far more powerful and meaningful to hear less about their insecurities as artists and more about how the experience perhaps made them a more charitable person. How they got involved further after their participation. If anyone shared with them the true impact of their efforts that night.

As someone who grew up in the time of the Band Aid and USA for Africa efforts were produced, I’m dismayed that what we are left with now is merely a documentary of celebrities. These songs touched our lives, they gave us hope, they inspired me in high school to get involved with the community charity club.

The documentary left me wanting. Wanting to go backwards a bit, to this time where people were encouraged to band together for a greater cause than themselves.

And wanting to move forward. At what point do we progress from “I am the world” to “WE are the world?” Our media and everyday lives are saturated with celebrities, politicians, influencers, and a slew of self-centric people who are more concerned with how we identify them, than how we, as a group, can identify with a meaningful cause.

How we have the power to collaborate, to band together to truly effect positive change in the world.

Reflecting on this made me realize I need to volunteer in my community even more. So, while the creator of this documentary probably didn’t anticipate this reaction, I’m thankful regardless. After indulging their well-crafted piece that was lacking true depth, it was a catalyst for change in my own life.

I know the covid pandemic threw us all for a self-centric loop by enforcing isolation rather than interaction. But it’s time for us to figure out a way to get out of focusing on “ourselves”. It’s time to turn our attention outward, into the world in more meaningful ways.

We are the world. So, let’s start giving it our all!

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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