My “e-pal” Segue placed a comment on my BONO post, wherein I gave kudos to BONO for using his fame for good. Segue raises some very good counter-points. And, I hate that his comment is locked away in a “comment vault”, instead of out here for all to see. So, here it is:

I am hesitant to comment on this post, because I am curious what you have brewing in your mind.

But you posted, and I’m commenting.

Bono’s heart is in the right place. No one is denying that. But his fame does not give his voice any particular credibility, other than that people will take the time to listen. His lofty goals are followed up with no real plan of action… ever.

He is basically saying “spend the money and fight the disease”. Yeah, sure, good idea. But he’s missing the countless steps from here to there.All diseases are already manageable in every first-world country, with the possible exception of HIV (more on that in a minute).

The reason that these diseases persist is a lack of public knowledge, not a lack of medical advancement. Malaria is an entirely preventable disease caused by a parasite… Cheap drugs currently exist that can not only prevent the disease, but CURE the disease. Even in areas where overuse and irresponsible use of these drugs have led to resistance of the parasite to these drugs, new combinations of drugs have been developed that can prevail (in the same way that “cocktails” of HIV drugs have been so successful). The problem isn’t technology, the problem is poverty and education. Mothers are afraid to immunize their children because they’ve been told by their own goverments that it causes sterilization. Mothers are even skeptical that the stuff works.

The battle the Doctors Without Borders is fighting is not one of medicine, it is one of information.

HIV is quickly becoming the third-world plague. I won’t bother to cite any statistics but one that I know first-hand: A friend of mine spent a year in South Africa, and the city of Johannesburg is being run amok by gangs of children, orphans of AIDS victims, that have lost everything and survive by banding together and robbing city people for money. That’s not a story you’ve probably heard on the news, but it’s true.

I’m going to be blunt with my opinion on HIV: “Treatment” drugs are a frightening waste of time. While it may improve the life of an individual that can live an extra HIV+ ten years of his or her life, that’s 10 years of being an active carrier of the only unstoppable virus on the planet… And by “unstoppable”, I mean that it can’t be stopped by traditional medical means. The only cure to AIDS is education and personal responsibility. Every healthy day an HIV+ person spends on this earth is another day they may spread it to someone else.

Am I being cold and cruel? Yes. But I am not talking about individuals here, I am talking about global health, which is EXACTLY what Bono apparently cares so much about. But his vague plans to throw money at the problem need to be worked out in detail, and put into action.

The current Bush administration, with its narrow world view through a third-grade reading level of understanding, is literally cutting off funding for any world health program that promotes condom use for religious reasons… which happens to be proven as the single most effective measure to prevent the spread of HIV. Since Bush took office, any humanitarian group that promotes free or cheap condom distribution has been cut off from any funding from the U.S. aid programs. Instead, they will only support the head-up-the-ass concept of “abstinence”. Great idea, guys… Take the plans that are PROVEN TO WORK and throw them in the trash on the order of an Evangelical Christian that doesn’t know a damn thing except what another Evangelical Christian told him was “God’s Will”.

I won’t be a simple pundit. I’ll give my view of a solution (to AIDS, anyway)… And Bono can be a part of it.

1. Get the Evangelical righteous bullshit out of government affairs; When they rule a Utopia, they can make Utopian judgements. Until then, we need governments with open minds.

2. Teach the entire world about safe sex. Pass out condoms on every street corner. Teach kids early about the responsibilities.

3. Stop spending money on drug research to prolong the lives of people with HIV, and start finding a cure.

And to back up and talk about disease in general…

1. Stop spending $1 Billion a week on a war we never needed to fight, and start ending world poverty… which is THE cause of disease, terrorism, and general world disagreement.

2. Give LONG-TERM incentives for drug companies to develop cheap cures for disease. At the moment, the capitalist market leads companies to drive out competition simply because they (literally!) need to recoup their money on drug research.

I’ll stop ranting. That’s enough for tonight… You get the idea.

I truly respect Bono’s motivation… But the “political capital” of a Dublin rock singer is limited to his TV appeal. Realistically, he’s not a figurehead of a movement, he’s a guy on the corner with a clapboard sign over his body that says “The World Is Ending”. The fame of his band has zero significance compared to the money and power of a major pharmaceutical company.

It needs to happen. He could make it happen. We better damn make it happen.I’m not insensitive… If you think I am, consider this: Statistically, every person on this planet that is HIV positive will be dead within 10 years. That’s 40 million people.That’s 40 million people with families, with jobs, with lives, with lovers.

That’s the entire state of California… dead.

Better take away their condoms! They might have sex!

As I said, Segue raises some great points. To his credit, you can tell he a) knows what he is talking about and b) feels passionately about making a difference for the world. Agree or disagree with his logic, it doesn’t matter. That he cares is what does matter.

Alright, now you’re thinking, “there’s no WAY he’s gonna let him off that easily”. Well, deep down inside really I’m just a big softie. Really. The brazen curmudgeon Jamoker persona is really just an act. Really.

To Segue’s suggested solutions, I’m in general agreement. I agree that religion and politics should not share space at the same, “how we gonna fix this?” table. I agree that a condom could and does neutralize the entire thrust (made you think about it…) of human nature. We are (most of us) here to propagate. Any attempt to legislate or guilt that human nature away surely does and will fail. And, I agree that a billion dollars spent on food and medicine for the less fortunate would go a long way toward improving security in the world, instead of using the billion for guns and jet fuel.

Here’s why I still like BONO for the Muse role, though. 99% of the people in the world probably aren’t going to put the same level of thought and extent of effort into improving the world that Segue has obviously done. Part of the reason why we are in this situation as a species is that too many either can’t get engaged or won’t get engaged. Lead, follow, or get out of the way? The “followers” and “get outta the way’ers” are that 99%. And, admittedly, I’m probably in that 99% too. I haven’t done the research. I don’t have all the answers.

And, this is the root foundation for the split between the right and the left. The unengaged of the world don’t respond to logical persuasion as well as they do the emotional persuasion. Christ only convinced 12 through his logic. He persuaded 5000 with some stale bread and raw fish. The unengaged need a leader/inspiration that will grab their heart (or stomach)…or else their brains will never follow. (Consider cigarette smoking as a logical vs. emotional argument.)

BONO can inspire the masses. BONO can serve as a voice. True, he’ll probably not have all the answers. But, he’ll inspire those that do…or those that will pay for it…or those that will put in the effort…the 99%…to do the right thing. He does inspire. His fame does draw attention to the issues. His lofty goals don’t need to be followed with a plan. The plan will need to be developed by the politicians and the people (and he did just meet with George 43…doubt it did any good, though) anyway. If he does run for office or starts working at the UN, then he should be expected to produce a plan. Short of that, he should use his fame to inspire.

And, hopefully he’ll inspire a whole lotta Segue’s in the world…the people with the plan…to just get ‘er done.

P.S. – I’m the guy with the clapboard on the corner shouting, “The World Is Ending.” BONO certainly has more “capital” than a silly Jamoker.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Jamoker. All rights reserved.

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