Two 9/11s a Day: The War on Poverty That Never Was
Posted by NT Wrong on November 5, 2008
Bono, lead singer of U2:
“Right now there is the biggest pandemic in the history of civilization, happening in the world now with AIDS. It’s bigger than the Black Death, which took a third of Europe in the Middle Ages. Sixty-five hundred Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease. And it is not a priority for the West: two 9/11s a day, eighteen jumbo jets of fathers, mothers, families falling out of the sky. No tears, no letters of condolence, no fifty-one-gun salutes. Why? Because we don’t put the same value on African life as we put on a European or an American life. God will not let us get away with this, history certainly won’t let us get away with our excuses. We say we can’t get these antiretroviral drugs to the farthest reaches of Africa, but we can get them our cold fizzy drinks. The tiniest village, you can find a bottle of Coke. Look, if we really thought that an African life was equal in value to an English, a French, or an Irish life, we wouldn’t let two and a half million Africans die every year for the stupidest of reasons: money. We just wouldn’t. And a very prominent head of state said to me: “It’s true. If these people weren’t Africans, we just couldn’t let it happen.” We don’t really deep down believe in their equality.” (Michka Assayas and Bono, Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas with a Foreword by Bono. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005: 81.)
Bono is then asked by the interviewer whether poverty is simply the fault of Africa itself for not addressing these issues, and if Africa is just behind Europe in terms of ‘civilization’:
“This is a fifteen-year-old’s geography textbook. I was looking at this today, and it tells about it exactly. [Eventually finds the passage and proceeds to read out] “Income gap. Two hundred years ago, it appears that very little difference existed in living standards between the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. Today, a very wide income gap exists: the North is many times richer than the South. What brought about this gap? The answer seems to lie in colonialism, trade, and debt.” They’re explaining to this fifteen-year-old kid how the reason why Africa is still in the Middle Age is largely to do with us, and our exploitation through French and British colonialism, but also in their present exploitation of unfair trade agreements, or old debts. You can’t fix every problem. But the ones you can, you must. To the degree we are responsible, we must fix. When you ask me to just accept that civilizations are just at a different level, there is a reason why they are. That is my answer.” (82-83)
And here’s a video of what could have been in poor, black New Orleans. Call me an old romantic, but this is a beautiful vision:
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