Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Bono and U2 on Revolution and The Terror, Liberation Theology, The Bible and Marxism

Posted by NT Wrong on October 2, 2008

    And in leather, lace and chains we stake our claim.
    Revolution once again
    No I won’t, I won’t wear it on my sleeve.
    I can see through this expression and you know I don’t believe…
    And we love to wear a badge, a uniform
    And we love to fly a flag
    But I won’t let others live in hell
    As we divide against each other
    And we fight amongst ourselves
    – U2, Like A Song

From a conversation between Bono and Michka Assayas:

Bono: “When I visited Nicaragua, I was shocked to see how much the people’s religion had inspired their revolt. Here was revolution rooted in something other than materialism. There was a spiritual coefficient. The reason the Nicaraguan revolution had to be put down was because it had caught fire. That was terrifying for the Americas. It could have spread all through Mexico, and up north. There was one church I remember going to, where they had these murals all around the walls of the church, of scenes from the Holy Scriptures, like “The Children of Israel escaping from Pharaoh.” But Pharaoh would have Ronald Reagan’s head on him! [laughs]… I remember just being amazed at how the populace were being taught revolution through Bible stories. All over they were being taught that Jesus preached the Gospels for the poor, which he did. But Jesus did not take up arms… I saw it as a disappointing outcome of the reading of the Scriptures. But I was inspired by the application of the Scriptures into people’s real life… remember saying to the minister [of culture, Ernesto Cardenal]: “But there’s nothing glorious about people losing their lives, and bloodletting.” You may be able to argue for it, facing no other escape route, but it’s never glorious. In Irish folklore, even Yeats talked about “the rose that is made red by the blood of the martyrs, that’s dripped to the ground.” I hate all that stuff.”

Michka Assayas: “I think it’s nineteenth-century Europe, actually. As a teenager in France in the seventies, I was marked by that mythology. We had the insurrection of May 1968 and what they called the “leftist movement” thereafter: a fanatical bunch of young people, often the bravest and most ambitious of their generation, who devoted themselves to the idea of revolution. It certainly was glamorous. It went back to the glorious army of the French Revolution, the nineteenth-century insurrections, and then, of course, the Bolsheviks, the Trotskyist uprising, the Maoist Guerrilla, up to the guerrillas in Cuba and Vietnam. It occurred at a sort of junction of Romanticism and Revolution. I realized that the so-called heroic People’s Guerrillas were mostly glorified on an aesthetic and idealistic basis, that their supporters had deliberately turned a blind eye to planned starvation and concentration camps in Russia and China, not to mention the massacres in Kampuchea by Pol Pot. The whole point was anti-Americanism, which made perfect sense in Europe. But those causes were excuses and fantasies. Dismal fantasies, actually.”

Bono: “It’s not that I couldn’t understand where the Provisional Army were coming from, and it’s not that I don’t understand violence myself, personally. I was just trying to figure out: was there ever any reason to take up arms? On the one hand, you had Martin Luther King saying “Never,” Gandhi saying “Never,’ Jesus Christ, both their inspirations in this, saying “Never.” On the other hand, here were the Sandinistas saying “We have to look after the poor, we have to defend the poor.” That position had to be studied from my point of view, even if I didn’t buy it. I wanted to know more about liberation theology and the Sandinistas. I was very moved by them when I was there. They suffered a lot. Their revolution was very costly, and it didn’t turn out their way in the end. Same with the French Revolution. Ironically, it was the French Revolution that inspired America.”

Michka Assayas: “We have all heard that dreadful phrase: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.””

Bono: “I know. In the end, ideas are not worth as much as people. Whenever you meet a philosophy where that is not true, and where ideas are worth more than people, you have to be on your guard. A dangerous idea that almost makes sense is a very compelling thing. In a way, when the devil gets it right, it’s usually not a wrong fighting with a right, it’s usually two half-truths fighting it out. It’ll do the most damage. Marxism-Leninism was an extraordinary idea to lead mankind out of its squalor. It was a dangerous idea that almost made sense. There are many.”

(Michka Assayas and Bono, Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas with a Foreword by Bono. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005.)

“And let me tell you somethin’. I’ve had enough of Irish Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home…and the glory of the revolution…and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that? Where’s the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where’s the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution, that the majority of the people in my country don’t want. No more!”
– Bono, in the middle of Sunday Bloody Sunday, 8 November 1987, after the IRA exploded a bomb at the War Memorial in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, killing thirteen innocent people, including Gordon Wilson’s daughter, Marie, who died holding his hand and telling him she loved him.

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