The Frontman: Bono (In The Name of Power)

Bono the philanthropist is nothing but a crony of bankers and neocons, argues Terry Eagleton



It is no surprise that Bono and Bob Geldof, the two leading celebrityphilanthropists of our time, are both Irish. The Ireland into which they were born in the 1960s was caught between third and first worlds, and so was more likely to sympathise with the wretched of the earth than were the natives of Hampstead. 

As a devoutly Christian nation, it also had a long missionary tradition. Black babies were a familiar object of charity in Ireland long before Hollywood movie stars began snapping them up.Bono himself was a member of a prayer group in the 1970s, before he stumbled on leather trousers and wrap-around shades. 

Scattered across the globe by hunger and turmoil at home, the Irish have long been a cosmopolitan people, far less parochial than their former proprietors. Small nations cannot afford the insularity of the great.

Besides, if you were born into this remote margin of Europe and yearned for the limelight, it helped to have an eye-catching cause and a mania for self-promotion. Rather as the Irish in general were forced by internal circumstance to become an international people, so men like Bono and Geldof could use their nationality to leap on to the world stage.
Bono belongs to the new, cool, post-political Ireland; but by turning back to the old, hungry, strife-torn nation, now rebaptised as Africa, he could bridge the gap between the two. 
Even so, he has not been greatly honoured in his own notoriously begrudging country, or elsewhere. Harry Browne recounts the (perhaps apocryphal) tale of the singer standing on stage clapping while declaring: "Every time I clap my hands, a child dies." "Then stop fucking doing it!" yelled a voice from the crowd.
Paul David Hewson's rise to fame also coincides with the postmodern decline ofpolitics into spectacle. What more suitable politician than a rock star in an age of manufactured sentiments and manipulated images? 
Having strayed in from showbusiness, Bono can present himself as outside the political arena, speaking simply from the heart; but his fame as a musician also means that he has a constituency of millions, which means in turn that the political establishment are eager to have him on the inside. 
For all his carefully crafted self-irony (how ridiculous for me, an overpaid rock star from working-class Dublin, to be saving the world!), the inside is a place he has never betrayed any great reluctance to occupy. Since an outsider is unlikely to know much about global economics, he is likely to take his cue from the conventional wisdom of the insiders, which is why Bono is both maverick and conservative.