Bono’s Three Wishes

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U2’s Bono speaks up. He talked to us at TED via satellite about his goals for cleaning up and wiring Africa. ABC News (via AP) also picks up his story.

He starts out by saying what gets him really turned on about the digital age, the digital revolution. “Technology has closed the gap between knowing and doing. Technology has brought prices down and Imagination has been decoupled from the old constraints,” says Bono. “I would like to see idealism decoupled from the old constraints.”

He speaks of his journey, which started twenty years ago with Bandaid, the summer he went to Ethiopia for the first time. Anyone who has ever given something to Africa gets a significant amount back. Having lived there a few times in my life (Kenya and South Africa), I agree.

“In Ethiopia, a man gave me his child, asked me to take the child back to Ireland with me,” says Bono. Why? Because he knew the child would not survive there and would stand a chance if he left the country. Hard to resist a dying man’s face, hard to pass up and yet he did. Wouldn’t most of us? How many of us would completely change our lives in the face of such a request and bring an African child back with them?

Yet, the feeling never went away. “This is not about charity,” says Bono. “It’s about justice. Justice is a tougher standard than charity. Africa is in flames and I’m trying to call in a fire brigade……we would not allow what is happening in Africa to happen anywhere else.”

Unless it looks like an action packed movie (Tsunami, War in Iraq), we tend not to jump up and say “enough is enough.” He chose his words well when he said to a TED audience, “this way of thinking offends the intellectual rigor in this room.”

We all know that poverty breeds despair and despair breeds violence. Isn’t it better, cheaper and smarter to make friends out of potential enemies than to protect yourself from them later? We have so much to learn.

Bono brings up “Brand USA,” and how damaged it is abroad — too few in this country realize this. Too few realized this when I lived in Europe ten years ago. Too few Americans ever truly know what the perception is because we’re so isolated over here, despite the content that is available if we choose to go digging. It’s always been like this.

He impresses everyone with his articulate and passionate speech. He’s authentic, doesn’t use notes and is dramatic at all the right places…..”Our generation,” he says, “is the first generation that can look poverty and disease in the eye and say, ‘we do not have to stand for this.’ This is the moment you were designed for, the ideas you thought about in your youth. Because of us, we can change not just the digital world, but the physical world.” And this is nothing but honest: “We’re afraid to get too excited about making a change even if we realize we have the potential to, because once we acknowledge that we can, we MUST do something about it.”

Hell, my feeling is that if we know we can fix something this grossly unjust, we must. It is about turning idealism into action. Idealism detached from action is nothing but a dream. Idealism tied to pragmatism is powerful.

“The digital revolution, the war on terror and putting the fire out in Africa are three things we’ll be remembered for,” he closes with before he gives us his three wishes.

1. Help build a social movement of more than 1 million American activists for Africa. This will get the ear of Congress.

2. 1 media hit for every person on the planet who is living on less than $1 a day. We need to get these kinds of statistics out to people so they can understand how serious the issue is…and it must be described as an adventure rather than a burden. Bono clearly understands PR spin as well.

3. I want every health clinic, hospital and school in Ethiopia to be connected to the Internet.

Big dreams and big goals but only by voicing them and empowering people will change ever happen.
If we can, we must.

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