Bono On Bono

I’ve never really been a huge U2 fan. I can take or leave most of their catalogue although I respect Bono’s ability to write a lyric. And I’ve always been suspicious about his whole "save the world" shtick, not because of him per se, just because I am suspicious of any celebrity attaching themselves to a cause.

But I saw him interviewed about his work on TV (was it 60 Minutes?) a few months ago and some of the things he said struck a chord with me.

So in the airport yesterday morning, on my way to QLD, I picked up a copy of Bono On Bono Michka Assayas’s 2005 book containing a series of revealing interviews with the guy over the course of the early 2000’s. I’m already about two-thirds of the way through it and it’s one of the most inspirational reads I’ve had in a long time. Almost every page is chock full of quotes that smack you upside the head. Whether he’s talking about U2’s approach to their music or his political activism, it’s just a series of brilliant ideas. Even though he is a very passionate Catholic, and almost every page relates his work in both fields to his spiritual beliefs, which I definitely don’t identify with, the guy has so much first-hand wisdom about success in art and politics that this book is a complete gem.

I feel like it’s almost a personal call to me to grow up in a bunch of ways. He tells this story that he said is responsible in many ways for his political direction at the moment which I’ll relate here, albeit in a paraphrased fashion. The story was related to Bono by Harry Belafonte. HB told of a time when Bobby Kennedy has become Attorney General of they United States and the entire civil rights movement, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, was depressed because Kennedy was a racist and was going to block all of the civil rights efforts. King was presiding over a meeting with a group of his followers and he said something like "do you mean to tell me that there isn’t one nice thing you can say about Bobby Kennedy?". "That’s what we’re trying to tell you, there is nothing good to say about him", his people told him. And so King broke up the meeting and said they were not going to discuss the matter again until someone could find something good to say about Kennedy. Eventually they learned that Kennedy was close to his bishop. So the entire civil rights movement ganged up on Kennedy’s bishop and got him to convince Kennedy that morally he had to support them. And he became their biggest supporter.

So I had always wondered how a guy like Bono manages to get close to guys like Bush and Blair, if he truly represents what he says he does, and they are the worst manifestations of modern Western imperialism. And this is his angle. He finds the one thing they can agree on and ignores EVERYTHING else. He says in the book, when he’s working with them on debt relief, he ignores the Iraq invasion. He ignores all of the other evils they preside over. Because he knows he can only fight one fight at a time. He finds the common ground and ignores everything else. I find that REALLY hard to do in my dealings with people.

I think I can learn a lot from this guy. I’m almost finished the book and I think I’ll re-read it again as soon as I’m done. This time I’ll take notes.

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