''Trust Capitalism,'' says Bono, ''we''ll find a way.'' We will in our arse, say the rest of us...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010 13:38

Bono cultivates a strange image. The recent photograph of him when he did an op-ed for the NYT seems to portray an aggressive counter-culture figure, hostile and glaring through those signature coloured glasses. The imagery of his shows (as fa
r as I can judge from photographs) is of strange expressionist creatures, alien spaceships, and, again, those, hostile counter-culture figures, while the music has, to my ears anyway, a somnolent rhythm and banal lyrics (see text box). In their publicity photographs Bono and his band are the very image of modern anomie. To this mix, add his vast wealth, his championing of causes, his tax-avoidance strategies,

It was a cold and wet December day
When we touched the ground at J.F.K.
The snow was melting on the ground
On B.L.S. I heard the sound
(Of an angel).
New York like a Christmas tree
Tonight, this city belongs to me,
(Angel).

Soul love
Well this love won''t let me go.
So long
Angel of Harlem.

his explicit commitment to capitalism (see 3 below), his religious mania, and you get something like a psychotic George Soros at a Karaoke party.

Bono''s New York Times op-ed column is a good example of the kind of infantile thinking that holds the whole mash together.


Billed as ''Bono''s Ten Ideas For The Next Decade'' it was a strange list.

  1. 1.Redesign cars to make them sexier (no more SUVs).

  2. 2.Protect intellectual property (music downloaders beware).

  3. 3.Shift from reducing carbon emissions to giving everyone the equal right to pollute (this one contained the bizarre admonition to the developing world to ''trust capitalism - we''ll find a way'').

  4. 4.A man studying blood-vessel development may have the cure for cancer (this may be a runner for all I know).

  5. 5.Another man studying tele-porting may be proving that ''God is a nerd'' (Haven''t a clue - don''t ask me what it''s doing here).

  6. 6.A breakthrough in the Middle East Peace Process (so-called) may lead to a Festival of Abraham (Nobody has noticed much of a process apart from the Palestinians who are in the process of starving and dying of preventable illnesses because of the blockade, but the phrase does trip off the tongue).

  7. 7.The internet will bring people-power (yawn).

  8. 8.Rotavirus vaccines should be part of every country''s vaccination programme (an end to diarrhoea).

  9. 9.Non-violent revolution is coming to North Korea and Myanmar (but not, I notice, to Afghanistan or Iraq).

  10. 10. The World Cup in Africa is going to be great (and so say all of us).



Apart from the feeling of looking through someone''s pockets and coming up with the things they collected in the course of a week-long binge of coffee-mornings, what holds this list together? It sounds like the ramblings of an enthusiast for the prophecies of Nostradamus. You know the kind of stuff – A white Louse will steal food from the population of BIngen; A man studying teleporting will meet the angel of the eastern hobnob factory in Ballydehob; the world cup will take place on a Wednesday; the peope will turn out to be Hitler''s son (eh?).  There are two heartfelt items though: clearly, illegal file-sharing has got up his nose, and clearly he wants the developing world to abandon its suspicion of capitalism. Perhaps we could add to that the heartfelt hope that tele-porting will turn out to be the way to heaven.


Illegal fire-sharing is the inevitable response of a music-loving public to the extortionist music-publishing system. If now, musicians have to go on the road more, play live concerts (and consequently be more likely to be actually able to play an instrument or sing), that has to be a good thing. That, after all, is what music was about for the past five thousand years or more.


As regards, capitalism and the developing world, what Bono proposes is that rich countries can continue to pollute (and generate wealth) by buying the right to pollute from people who aren''t in a a position to pollute (because they''re too poor). Thus, fresh air would become the developing world''s ultimate cash crop. These countries, he suggests, could then use the profits to ''deal with the effects of climate change'' (by which, presumably, he means desertification, catastrophic floods, famine, the spread of epidemic diseases, displacement, etc). It is difficult to see how this could be accomplished. Your country has become a desert, here''s a machine that will turn it into the new Dubai?


But even assuming that it could be done, is it likely that capitalism will share its discoveries with countries impoverished by natural disaster? Isn''t it, rather, the other way round, that capitalism has a history of creating or exploiting ''natural'' disasters (see my piece on The Great Victorian Famines)? Bill Gates may sincerely want to give away a portion of the billions he can''t spend, but he''s not giving his computers away to Africans.


Bono''s ''idea'' is, of course, the common stuff of right-wing ''think''-thanks, the kind of dodge beloved of the Bush Regime. Why the NYT paid any attention to it, or any of the other ''Ten For The Next Ten'' is difficult to understand. The only conclusion I can come to is that the editor read the piece, thought ''What a plonker'' (or the American equivalent) and decided to run it so we could all have a good laugh.


And by the way, you can sign a petition to make Bono pay tax in Ireland here. The visitor stats say 112 people have signed the petition so far. The figure probably accurately represents the number of people who think he''s likely to do it.