Bob Geldof on globalisation

The musician and activist speaks to ING about the importance of social change in today’s hyper-connected world.

During the years of his breakthrough as a pop star, Bob Geldof already knew he wanted to use his fame to make a change - and he did. Years later, through the Band Aid singles and Live Aid and Live 8 concerts he proved that by rallying mass public support around a single cause, real change is possible. Today, Geldof can still be the provocative and outspoken child of the 1960s when discussing his views on the state of the planet and on globalisation.

Geldof’s interest in politics began at a young age, out of a burning desire to be engaged with the world and to understanding how it works. He laments that newer generations have become more skeptical about their ability to change things for good, even though the reason to do so are stronger than ever.

“Young people are indifferent,” he says in an interview with ING. “The cynic says: it doesn't matter, nothing ever changes. So the indifferent say: if nothing ever changes, why should I engage? (…) In the sixties music articulated the politics of our time. I think music has got very little to do with politics now.”

The impact of Band Aid demonstrates that long-lasting social impact is possible, he says, because it is still relevant today, 30 years after the event itself. The need for change has become even more relevant in today’s highly globalised world, which has not always brought the benefits that people expected.

“Globalisation has meant the removal of national power, in effect,” he explains. “That's why you see these fringe parties - they are a reaction against globalisation (…) you become furious and impotent because your government can do nothing. The truth is that globalisation has also meant a reduction of power of national government because the problems we face are global.”

“Businesses forget that markets only work when they are embedded in the community,”

When considering the role of business, Geldof argues that it is vital that companies remain active as members of their local community, he says. Only then can they truly benefit those around them, and themselves, in the long term.

“Businesses forget that markets only work when they are embedded in the community,” he says. “One of the great mistakes has been that they forgot, in their hubris and their greed, about global reach. Why? Because markets are simply an expression of being human. They are chaotic by nature, like humans are.”

Businesses can change the world, says Geldof, one has only to look at Microsoft, Google and Apple. The problem is that they are often incapable of changing themselves. They are entities that live, die and multiply in the economy, in the same way as nature does in the environment.

Inequality and a lack of true poltical leadership go hand in hand, says Geldof, who belivies that today’s crisis will be remembered by humand for centuries to come.

“Seventy seven percent of the one percent live in Europe and America (...) our politics is all about trying to protect that,” he says. “There's a dearth of leadership. Not only are we in a key historic moment for humans, if we survive, we will be discussing (this period) in 300, 500 years. I don't think there's any question of that.”

The View is the online magazine of ING Wholesale Banking