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Bono On Bono is a terrific read
Sachin Rajan |
August 10, 2005
Bob Dylan: 'Spending time with Bono is like eating dinner on a train -- feels like you're moving … going somewhere; He's got the soul of an ancient poet but you have to be careful around him -- he can roar till the earth shakes!'
In June 2004, Elevation Partners, a Silicon Valley venture fund that eyes investment opportunities in media and entertainment companies disrupted by the Internet and other digital technologies, made an announcement. To raise its profile, it was inducting a new director: the singer and anti-poverty activist Bono.
What's more, the company planned to raise $1 billion for buyouts of companies grappling with how to exploit the Internet and cellphones, while stemming the piracy that such technologies enable.
For a man who has sold some 130 million albums with his rock band, and recorded the most downloaded album of 2004, Bono should know a thing or two about surviving and riding new technologies, and figuring out where it's at.
Perhaps a first-time peep inside his mind, Bono On Bono (by Michka Assayas, Rs 700) is a series of conversations between Paul Hewson (aka Bono), vocalist of U2, and Michka Assayas, friend and music journalist. In Bono's words, this book is the moment, the time to tell the stories that are not songs.
The second coming is discussed in his role as world ambassador for DATA (debt, trade, AIDS and Africa), an organisation co-founded with Bobby Shriver, nephew of John F Kennedy.
Describing it as a journey of equality, this mission begins with a post-Live Aid camp in Africa, to which he and his wife Ali 'quietly disappeared to' in 1985.
It's here that Bono reveals some of his most soul-wracking moments, like the father proffering his son to him at the camp... 'Take him with you, if he stays here he will starve, if he goes with you he will live.'
Describing AIDS as the biggest pandemic in the history of civilisation, an equivalent of two 9/11s every day in Africa, and worrying about countries paying back more in IMF/ World Bank loans than their combined spend on health and education, Bono is clear about the way forward for the continent: trade, not aid.
The point is to help the poor manage their own destinies. For this, Bono wants to see African goods on American shelves, instead of fizzy drinks in starving African villages.
This is the essence of 'Bononomics', as others sometimes call it, though it still takes a lot of energy to convince people of its value to the world at large.
'I know we can be the generation that ends extreme poverty, the kind of poverty where a child can die for simple lack of immunisation or having food in its belly... God and history won't let us get away with this.'
Bono walks the talk, too. It's a tale of perseverance, even down the corridors of power from the Oval room in the White House with an enthusiastic but less effective Bill Clinton, to a surprisingly supportive George Bush Jr, who Bono sees as already having committed himself to the cause, and who inadvertently conceded to him that the situation in Africa was the equivalent of genocide -- a reference that the White house press staff hastily attempted to 'take the edge out of' even as Bono gleefully relayed the message to the press corps at the Rose Garden.
There are other leaders too. Tony Blair, Gerhard Shroder, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, the late Pope John Paul II -- whom Bono presented with his trademark blue fly shades (which the good-humoured pontiff promptly wore). Bono is in their face, mildly irreverent, but intensely passionate about the cause.
Finally, Bono has a mantra for the new economic order (and encouragement to the 'middle earth; as it were): if the world doesn't go into recession in 2005, it will be largely because of two things, India and China.
Some 400 million people in India and China now have disposable incomes, he says. It's a new middle class... 'they like our music and our movies in India, but they prefer theirs.'Now that's one market insight one can live with. In all, Bono On Bono is a terrific read for the U2 fan and the welfare economist alike … even if he still hasn't found what he's looking for.