Bono On The DATA

10 Dec 2001
In the second part of Edna Gundersen's USA Today interview, Bono discusses DATA - Debt, Aid and Trade.

With or without U2, Bono can't be muzzled. On stage, he's the swaggering showman in leather and shades. Off stage, he doubles as a diplomat, bringing focus to world ills that stand in stark relief to a rock star's pampered lifestyle.

His current obsession is DATA, or Debt, Aid and Trade for Africa, a movement to encourage debt cancellation, humanitarian aid and trade incentives for Africa's impoverished nations. Bono hopes enough grass-roots pressure can be brought to bear on leaders of wealthy nations at next summer's G8 summit in Canada. A U.S. endorsement is crucial.

'There's a will to do it in Washington,' Bono says. 'Whether there's a way depends on how much the American people bang their dustbin lids. The only fitting memorial for those lives lost on Sept. 11 is to create a world of equal opportunity. Just letting some of the poorest countries sell their macadamia nuts to Europe and America might be a start. You can't be the great advert for free trade and not let the poorest countries on the planet in the game.'

After assisting a mission that successfully erased some of the crushing debts developing countries owe the West, he's optimistic about this new front.

'I meet people in the administration who are starting to see Africa in strategic, as well as philanthropic, terms,' he says. 'America has, more than any other country, a feel for the outcast, the refugee, the famine-struck.'

While Bono freely volunteers opinions on issues, he backs up the hot air with true grit. He's met with politicians, world leaders and religious figures to lobby for cooperation. Still, he occasionally cringes in the role of celebrity activist.

'Sometimes I find myself apologizing for being in this position,' he says. 'I don't want to be a bore. The first responsibility of rock 'n' roll is not to be dull. Then I check myself. Isn't art the salt of society?'

He argues that art and issues should commingle rather than be segregated as improper strangers.

'In a civilized society, there should always be dialogue between culture and government,' he says. 'It's a worry when that dialogue isn't there. As any civil servant will tell you, they have to look up from the numbers occasionally and see a bigger picture. My job is to get people to look up from the numbers for a minute.'

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