By Brendan O'Connor
NO DOUBT the usual cranks and begrudgers will be bitching about Bono over the Christmas. "Man of the Year?" the taxi-drivers will say, "Time fecking magazine? I'll give him Man of the Year. And Time magazine. It's far from it he was reared."
It's easy to have a pop at Bono. It's practically an instinctive reaction at this stage. "Oh, he might fool that crowd of Yanks at Time magazine and that George Bush fella, but he can't fool us. We knew him when he hadn't an arse in his trousers."
Frankly, that kind of thing reflects more on the people who say it than it does on Bono. Because, if you think about it, Bono hasn't actually done anything wrong. And it's not as if you could disagree with most of his causes. He's often compared to Jesus, in a negative kind of smart-arsey way. But, in fact, he is a bit of a Jesus - though in a good way.
Whatever your personal opinions about Jesus, it'd be hard to disagree with most of his messages: Don't kill people and be nice to the poor and so on. And Bono is pretty much the same. The message is inherently sound: Cure Aids, be nice to black people and eliminate poverty. You can't fault that kind of thing.
And in fairness, his heart seems to be in the right place. There are people who claim that he does it all as a big PR thing to sell even more records, but that doesn't really stack up. If anything, the preaching is probably putting people off the records.
But for the other members of the band it has a musical benefit. Larry Mullen broke ranks recently to say it was handy when Bono headed off out of the studio and let them get on with theirwork. He'd go off and meet George Bush or whatever and they'd get on with making the album, and when it was all nearly ready he would come back in and do his singing thing.
And it's not easy being some class of a living saint. In fact, if you listen to Bono properly he actually spends a lot of time trying to tell us that he's not a saint. In fact, he goes to great lengths to try and convince us that's he's only a human being - and a flawed one at that, a bit like the other Christ. He's always telling us what an eejit he is and how he lets people down and how he goes on the piss and doesn't have time for his friends and how he's insecure and hugely egomaniacal.
But still people think he goes around thinking he's a saint. But he doesn't. People are just projecting.
And the fact of the matter is that the rest of us haven't really got time to think about world peace and curing Aids and poverty and the environment and all that other stuff. Most of us have jobs and just need to try and look after our own little corner of the world.
And we could easily forget that all those big problems exist and we could sleepwalk our way into a situation where it all falls apart for future generations.
But Bono has the time and the money to be thinking about it all and doing something about it. And it kind of takes the pressure off us a bit. He's kind of like our nagging conscience. And of course he's the nagging conscience of the politicians as well. If he wasn't bugging them and embarrassing them they'd probably happily enough ignore the whole saving-the-world business as well.
The other thing to bear in mind is that he doesn't have to do all this stuff. He could happily sit around on his arse out in Florida, make one album every five years and be loaded.
But he's taken this job on himself. And what a job it is. He could have taken on something simple, like paying for an orphanage or a school or something. Instead, he decided to try and solve the insoluble, to do a job that is as wide as it is deep, a job that often seems to have no tangible results, and a job that he gets the complete piss taken out of himself for doing. It's not only impossible, it's thankless.
So, for the New Year, we should thank him. We should start ignoring the knee-jerk reaction to seeing him mugging around the world with the Nelson Mandelas and the George Bushes and all that. We should remind ourselves that he is doing a good thing.
And, not to be cliched about it, but he really is a great ambassador for this country. He'd actually make you proud to be Irish.
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