How has this happened? How has the pompous singer of a pompous rock act – who, let’s not forget, were considered painfully square when they first emerged in the post-punkish era of 1979, and who were looked upon as pious popsters in the early Eighties because they kept banging on about God – come to exert so much influence on the world stage? People thought it was bizarre when Queen Elizabeth II gave OBEs (Orders of the British Empire) to John, Paul, George and Ringo in 1964 for contributions to the ‘British Empire’ that mainly consisted of writing nice jangly pop songs and making American girls faint. Yet now we have a pop star who is giving the Queen a run for her money in the international influence stakes, and who effectively oversees his own Empire: poor Africa. Bono has declared: ‘I represent a lot of people [in Africa] who have no voice at all…. They haven’t asked me to represent them. It’s cheeky but I hope they’re glad I do.’ (15) Once upon a time you might have written off such a statement as the deluded rant of a deluded multi-millionaire, who is only the tousle-haired, leather trouser-wearing equivalent of those rich ladies-who-lunch, who have always filled the time in between manicures and wine-fuelled extramarital affairs by carrying out charitable deeds. Yet judging by his role at the G8 summit, Bono really has been elevated to the semi-official position of Cheeky Representative of A Lot of People in Africa.
In Scotland, we were making concrete demands of the G8 leaders to stop imposing their neoliberal policies that have contributed to exacerbating poverty in the developing world. Perhaps our aims were a little too unsettling, a little too unpalatable for Bono and Bob. By ignoring the real issues in the Make Poverty History campaign, and by embracing politicians with uncritical enthusiasm, they have undermined the real movement for change, helping to preserve the cycle that keeps the developing world subjugated to the financial institutions that are making poverty inevitable.
You may wonder why I feel so deeply about these issues. I was born in one of the 18 countries in the debt-relief package; Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the southern hemisphere. Throughout my life I have seen, at first hand, the devastating effect that poverty has on children's lives. Witnessing the death of a child is not just a dramatic click of a finger, it is a terrible tragedy. Bono and Bob Geldof's blind ambition has led them to legitimise and praise Bush and Blair, perpetrators of the objectionable policies that are causing the demise of innocent people throughout the developing world. Although one cannot deny that Bono and Geldof have succeeded in bringing attention to Africa, one feels betrayed by their moral ambiguity and soundbite propaganda, which has obscured and watered down the real issues that are at stake in this debate.