I received a mail this week from Amnesty International, asking if I wanted to help out with petitions on a U2 concert that is taking place in Brussels at the 22nd of September. Should I Say Yes?
Amnesty’s “Demand Dignity-Campaign” could use my (very limited) help, and it sure can use Bono’s (which is not so limited). Moreover, the concert will take place at exactly the same day as the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York.
Enough reason, right?
(Not to mention the fact that I can attend the concert for free).
Not so sure, though. I have my questions with Bono’s commitments concerning NGOs, government lobbying and charity works. Oh, I’m not doubting he means well or anything. And I definitely don’t want to be someone who criticizes celebrities just because they have more money than me. It’s just: do they do with their money what they ask us to do with ours?
In 2005, U2 made about 255 million dollars. Divide it over the four band members and you’ll find that Bono has earned $63.750.000 that year. Okay, so, he asks his fans regularly to donate money to those charitable causes he’s the famous face of, but nobody knows whether he himself gives any money and how much that might be. I don’t need to know the exact amount of dollars he gives, but I would like to know whether he gives. What I do know is that U2’s front man has a few giant villas around the world, a fleet of luxury cars and a personal jet plane. Of course you can come up with the argument that other celebrities have all that and more, but they are not speaking for Greenpeace at the same time, are they?
Is this hypocrisy?
And if so, is hypocrisy better than doing nothing at all?
After all, Bono mainly is a spokesman; he promotes Amnesty International, the Burma Campaign UK, DATA, Greenpeace and ONE. And he is successful – he played a leading role in persuading the US to write off a $30 billion debt owed by the poorest countries, he contributed to the US decision to triple foreign assistance to Africa, and much more. His value lies mostly in his talent for lobbying and not in being a donor. As the ONE Campaign said: “We don’t want his money, we want his voice”.
But his voice asks us to donate. And he’s got millions and millions. When he gives up his money, I will do mine.
Am I being a hypocrite now?
Then again, I’m not the one who asks the Irish government to spend more on foreign aid and at the same time relocate my music-publishing business to Amsterdam in order to shelter my royalties from higher taxation – taxes that are used to increase that very aid money I asked for. And my tour this year (maybe just because I don’t have one, but hey…) will not emit a carbon output that equals that of 90.000 people flying from Dublin to London. Is U2 going to plant the 20.000 trees needed to offset their tour’s carbon emission?
What this is all about in the end, is the question whether or not raising awareness on the scale that Bono does it, is important enough to forget about the hypocrisy that might be going along with it.
I read about a U2 concert in Glasgow where Bono started clapping his hands and said: “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies”. To which someone in the public shouted “Well, stop clapping then… you evil bastard!” But the children die anyway, whether Bono claps or not. Only, he is the one who raises awareness by doing so.
So what I might conclude out of this is that even though Bono speaks for them, he is not the brain behind the campaigns, and it’s not about him. In this case it’s about the people that are helped with Amnesty’s action and if Bono raises awareness and gives the opportunity to reach 60.000 people on just one evening, than why not?
I know I haven’t answered my question with this conclusion, but I thought maybe you guys could help me out with that.
And in the end, what would you do? U2-diehards, Bono-sceptics?