Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where is Africa?

Annie and I heard an interesting interview on TV today with Harvey Goldsmith – the person who is responsible for booking all the Bands for the Live 8 concert next weekend.

Mr Goldsmith made an interesting comment as follows:

“The average American does not even know where Africa is”

I feel this is a generalisation from Mr Goldsmith that cannot possibly be true.

The wonderful links I have built up with my many new Blogging friends in America leads me to believe that many Americans are indeed very aware of current world issues.

According to Mr Goldsmith maybe I am mistaken.

I have often heard it said that Americans are rather insular and this comment from Mr Goldsmith seems to promote that view. I am not convinced!

I would be very interested in comments from my American friends about this.


Tony May / Mayday Media said...

Yes, Harvey is either a complete knucklehead or he's trying to 'stir the pot' to get some reactions out of us...which would draw more attention to what's going on with Live 8 - and then hopefully draw us into supporting the cause. From a PR angle, it's not bad - just not great. If he's just running off at the mouth - then I don't think much of him.

Anyone who received passing grades in school surely knows where the entire CONTINENT is. I mean, please. Now...the exact locations of countries like Chad, Nigeria, etc. very few (including myself) will be able to offer up latitude and longitude locations - but that wasn't Harvey's point.

For as much support as he's got to be hoping for from us (Americans), that's not really a way to encourage us. Ripping on our general knowledge about the general location of a massive land mass isn't going to do it, sir. I'll pass on a clue to him - appeal to our "Good Samaratin" sides. It's what causes us to continue to support organizations like World Vision (another group Bono has a history with).

Great post, Trev.

Mary Schmidt said...

As much as I would like to agree that Harvey is a complete knucklehead...I'm compelled to acknowledge that there is some truth in his statement. There is an appalling amount of ignorance in the U.S. - and we do tend to be very insular. Historically, the combination of our size and the natural barriers of two oceans separating us from much of the world has made it easy for us to ignore much of what goes on "out there."

There have been surveys where people couldn't identify their own state...or Europe on the I'd bet some people can't find Africa either. New Mexico has been a state since 1912 (and is squarely between Arizona and Texas - so not hard to find) and people still ask, "Do they speak English in Albuquerque?" Ouch.

Passing grades are no indication of knowledge - or for that matter, literacy. For every aware/caring/thinking person such as Tony and - ahem - me - we've got at least two people that just don't get it. Our own president chooses to be insulated and ignorant...which sets the tone for our entire country.

All that said, we're also one of the most generous countries in history - IF you get our attention and appeal to our Good Samaritian side. As Tony notes, ripping us isn't going to make us change. We'll just get on our high horse ("damn foreigners")and get defensive...or worse yet, ignore it all.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Tony and Mary for two excellent and measured responses.

I have never visited America - although one day I hope to. I would never therefore be so arrogant as to make comments about the intelligence of American people.

I suspect Mr. Goldsmith was probably saying this 'tongue in cheek' to gain publicity for the cause.

Seems a strange way to me of making friends though :-)

Since starting my Simplicity Blog I have 'virtually' met many really nice American people all of whom have interesting and wise things to say.

I would however say I have always found your American football damned difficult to understand!!! – You really should try to get into REAL football which I think you refer to as SOCCER …just joking!!

Annie said...

Hello, I'm Trevor's other half, partner in work, often, and partner in love, always.

These are great postings Tony and Mary. I couldn't possibly comment on the geographical knowledge of the 'Average American' because it's a subject of which I have no knowledge. Unlike Harvey Goldsmith I would rather not make a sweeping statement.

Trevor and I watched a TV drama on Saturday called "The Girl in the Café". It was about a painfully shy middle-aged civil servant and his growing friendship with a young woman he met in a café. We assumed it to be just a love story but as the drama progessed, we realised the romance was merely a facade. The setting of the drama moved from the café to a G8 summit conference in Iceland, which the civil servant attended with the Prime Minister and other government ministers. The new girlfriend also attended and she rattled a few cages with her heartfelt and honest opinions on one of the items on the agenda: Poverty in Africa.

That was powerful PR - it certainly hit us between the eyes.
If Mr Goldsmith watched the drama, I hoped he learned a few lessons in effective communication.

Annie said...

ps. I have a fantastic photo taken on board the Columbia during its last mission on a cloudless day. It is of Europe and Africa when the sun is setting. I can e-mail it to you or post it on Trev's blog if anyone is interested.

Errol Saldanha said...

I am Canadian who has heard a lot of American bashing (sometimes from other Canadians). It just seems too easy to make these broad statements.

I think America is like a person. It has good qualities and bad qualities. However, I would say mostly good. Nobody is perfect.

Generalizing the entire population is just ignorant (if not racist). Some Americans know about what is happening in Africa, some don't. Some care. Some don't.

At this very moment, there are many Americans working in difficult and dangerous conditions for charities around the world. They are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and making a real difference. These people do not need to hear such derogatory statements.

My advice to Harvey is not to generalize. Judge people as individuals by their individual actions.

People do good or evil based on their own character -- not where they come from.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that Errol - I completely agree with you.

Generalisations never help any argument.