Behind the People’s Republic of Bono

Brendan O’Neill in Spiked:

[J]ust slating Bono misses out what has changed in world politics to allow a silly singer to become a spokesperson for Africa and a major player at the G8. First, Bono’s rise shows the role that Africa plays for many people today. For politicians and celebrities alike, Africa has become a stage for moralistic posturing. Campaigning on African poverty is something that ‘gives me a sense of purpose, something to work for’, as a contributor to Bono’s Vanity Fair puts it (21). Or as Paul Theroux bitingly argues: ‘Because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth.’ (22) Indeed, we could just as easily ask what earthly right the G8 itself has to discuss and determine what should happen in Africa’s poorest countries. Like Bono, no G8 leader has ever been elected by the nations of Africa. For these leaders, the G8 summits have become a kind of moral spectacle, intended to show that they care and they have a humane and giving side; our leaders find it easier to show ‘moral courage’ on Africa than on divisive issues at home. Never mind the fact that their aid proposals for Africa are spectacularly stingy and often place Africa in a new economic straitjacket – just the act of talking about Africa on an annual basis is intended to send a powerful message about the G8 nations’ moral integrity. Bono is only the most successful of many ‘Mr Africas’ around today.

[H/t: Elke Zuern]