Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas by Michka Assayas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The reason this book stands out is because Assayas doesn't keep his journalistic distance but presses into his friend and asks him the tough questions. He presses Bono on not speaking about Africa for over a decade and points out to him that colonialism in France was left-wing and championed by humanitarians. Bono doesn't really respond and dismisses the idea of irresponsible borrowing by African nations at one point but he does admit that aid created worse conditions and has propped up despots but he says that can be avoided by placing strict conditions on the money. At one point Bono says that he's not for a paternalistic attitude concerning Africa but later talks about rewards systems that sound paternalistic to me. He asks that we not see him as some wide-eyed idealist and then says we've got to starting bringing Heaven down to Earth now. Not surprisingly he's a bundle of contradictions.
At first blush it appears that he has reachable goals when it comes to charity: he explained to economist Robert Barro, and others, that the Jubilee 2000 debt cancellation was a one-time happening and would not encourage default on future debts; so why is there still a Jubilee campaign? Because not all debt was cancelled so just like all collectivists this is a plan that can never be fulfilled so these groups will never be satisfied in their social agendas and demands. One of my favorite passages is where he says that if you believe that aid is investment, that debt burden is unjust, in other words all his liberal suppositions, then the conclusion is that Africans will be able to take charge of their own destiny. Even if you follow all his rationale the conclusions don't follow from the premises. He believes that the West's treatment of Africans is the last bastion of inequality that we allow, says that we essentially have them chained to the ground, and insinuates that it is our racism that prevents us from giving more.
Bono claims that he's tired of begging for "crumbs" from the table of the rich but he sees giving almost exclusively in terms of governments-to-government transfers. He dubiously claims that a) America is at the bottom of spending on the poorest countries and b) that even if you include private philanthropy that America is still abysmally behind. In fact, in 2006 US charitable giving was $295.02 billion, which is twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. As percentage of GDP the US ranks 1st with 1.7% and Great Britain is 2nd at .73%.
He admits that the Sandinistas fascinated him because they were a majority and he was seeing liberation theology in practice. He was interested in socialism that didn't attempt to put down faith and used religion to inform the people of their rights. He was exploring his pacifism too and knows that Gandhi would say it is never appropriate to take up arms. He doesn't seem to know that Gandhi advocated that the Jews surrender to the Nazis in WWII, but this is a guy who praises the character of Bill Clinton at one point.
While this book contains the clearest presentation of the Gospel by Bono in any venue it still has the smirking nonsense he is known for. What is Christianity: "My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love...and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion." Who is the Gospel of Jesus Christ for: "Jesus preached the Gospels for the poor." How to interpret the Old Testament: "the Old Testament is more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects...those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend." Theological typology: "the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across as Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross." He's into deeds not creeds, spirituality and not religion. And like many of the topics outside of music, he holds sometimes interesting, sometimes quirky views but generally lacking wisdom or insight.
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