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"[T]he lyrics aren't literature; they are only part of the story." — Bono

We're One But We're Not the Same

Bono's Jubilee 2000 Diary For Dazed & Confused
Dazed and Confused

Sometime in spring 1998, Bono received a call from Jubilee 2000 -- the charity campaigning to cancel third world debt -- about a street protest in Birmingham. He thought it sounded like his idea of fun, "the right kind of mischief". One thing led to another and before he knew it, he was talking protest with Bill Clinton and the Pope. Here, in Bono's own words, is exactly what happened.

Spring 1998

Marc Marot called me to talk about Jubilee 2000 who are organising a street protest to surround the G7 summit in Birmingham. Sounds fun, the right kind of mischief. I can sense this is the beginning of a lot of phone calls and a kind of unhipness I thought I'd shaken.

January 1999

A year to our big date -- Ann Pettifor, head of J2K has come to Dublin to strategise. She's South African, this is a justice issue for her. She's brilliant. I'm learning more and more about Jubilee -- the biblical concept that every seven days there's a Sabbath and every seven years the land is to lie fallow and every seven times seven, i.e. in the 50th year, a year of grace, your debts were forgiven, slaves set free, etc. Quite punk rock for God. In fact, there are a lot of squeakies involved in Jubilee (Christians are hard to tolerate, I don't know how Jesus does it...I'm one of them).

Jubilee's mainstay of support turns out to be an anomalous potpourri of church groups and aid organizations, conservatives and militants with as many mothers unionists as trade unionists. Soft bellies ready to storm the Bastille with some hard facts, facts very unfriendly to the bureaucrats behind the barricade of strollers and handbags...

Facts like: Live Aid raised $200 million for African relief. Something of an Everest for any of us who were involved in aid work or music...yet sub-Saharan Africa owes this much in debt repayments every five days, and spends more on their reparations than they do on health care and education.

Facts like: For every dollar in Western grant aid, nine was demanded back on old loans.

Facts like: It would be harder to borrow money on a second-hand Rover than it was for these countries, a lot of whom were run by dodgy despots and propped up by the West for cold war reasons, to borrow billions. Their subjects or citizens rarely received any benefits, just the bill.

Years later these abused nations were not allowed to declare bankruptcy and start again. Debtors prisons had been outlwaed at the end of the 19th century for people but at the beginning of the 21st will still be operational for sovereign states.

Called Geldof. He told me to "f--- off", he's "not interested" and then talked for half an hour about a subject he clearly knows more about than anyone. He admits the appeal of the idea and agrees it's time to challenge the very structure of this inherited poverty and the bureaucracy that keeps it in place. I have an idea for a millennium concert at midnight through the different time zones from Australia to L.A. to lure the politicians into a sense of occasion and the need for a historic act of grace. Amazingly a lot of people want to help out: Smashing Pumpkins, Noel Gallagher, Willy Nelson. Lauryn Hill offered to play Ethiopia, Will Smith, the Beastie Boys all offered their support. Thom Yorke offered to do talk shows nude if it will help. Avril MacRory at the BBC said they'll organise everything from a concert in Red Square to speaking to NASA about the lend of an astronaut. Geldof thought the idea for a concert is crap. It would be too late to influence anything...he was right. The Cologne summit on June 19 is the new target for shenanigans.

Feb 17, 1999

The Brits -- Jubilee 2000 was presented with the Freddie Mercury Award for "outstanding social engagement." They asked me to make a speech, a bold move for the Brits letting an Irishman pour cold water into the beer. I brought the award down to Muhammad Ali in the audience. Amazingly, the young crowd chanted "ALI, ALI," but there is much derision in the music business and the media. Poverty and show business don't mix...I think I agree but I am still struck by the dark cynicism toward such big ideas. I know it's naff but I told the readers of The Guardian that as a pop star I have two instincts: I want to have fun and I want to change the world...Damon Albarn told the tabloids that I'm wrecking his buzz...fair enough but a few days later, Gordon Brown proposed a total debt reduction of $50 billion for the poorest countries -- double the level of relief previously considered. He told assembled journos he is responding to public interest manifest at The Brits. His boss was similarly informed and interested but need the U.S. and the other G7 to really move. Only problem was, this issue wasn't even luke warm in the U.S. and with a refugee crisis in Kosovo dominating the media it would be difficult to make a dent. I had to find a different door. Whose would be open to a musician in the corridors of power? Who's Elvis here?

April 1999

President Clinton--Even his staffers refer to him as Elvis.

He's got that Southern twang and he doesn't need much sleep. I like him. I don't normally hang with people that tall. The U2ers have gotten to know him over the years. He has almost total recall and from his Sunday school roots, a moral compass for the important things...Taking the high ground in Bosnia while Europe prevaricated. In Northern Ireland he was the glue. The list goes on and I can forgive, for the moment, the fact that America runs the world like it's a company. I cannot forgive a contribution of point nought one per cent of one per cent GDP as their contribution to foreign aid. Britain is not much better. In the end maybe I'm just charmed. He took the call, he let me sit in the Oval Office in combats and a T-shirt and ask him hard questions, like: Are there any ideas up his sleeve? Ideas big enough to fill the shoes of the date fast coming up, i.e. the Millennium? Or is it all going to be fanfare and dumb parade? Answer: Silence and a smile that meant no and yes and maybe: maybe we should be taking this more seriously. He meant it when he said we can count on his support. I also got the feeling, oddly, that he, Elvis, may not be Elvis on this issue...or if he is, it's the money men that are Colonel Tom.

May 1999

Irish in trouble in America? Call a Kennedy.

Bobby Shriver is the son of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, nephew of Teddy, etc. Sargent was the brains behind JFK and the Peace Corps. Eunice founded the Special Olympics, and in her 70s is still an erudite Hibernophile and U2 fan. She put her son, whom I already know, on the phone to me. He knows the map for Washington and was in the mood to bite the arse of bureaucracy he has studiously avoided. He's going to make some appointments for me.

May 23, 1999

The Berkeley Hotel, London -- Jim Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank with Geldof.

Me and Bob are funny together. I am his fan, he is my friend. Together, it's sort of "Little and Large," good cop, bad cop.

Wolfensohn met us in his suite at the Berkeley Hotel with his son, Adam, who's a musician. I was struck by his easy Australian way and the fact that he too is a musician, a cellist as it turns out, practicing scales in his hotel room waiting for meetings with Deng Xiaoping and the like! Geldof was hardly in the door when the boot went in. He went from one to ten on the clapometer almost immediately. His is a righteous anger. Mind you, the President was up to a row. He invented the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative and while the hoops and hurdles of that initiative have meant only a few countries benefited, you have to credit him for trying. He wants the politicians to stop grandstanding and give him the reserve he needs to broaden HIPC. Geldof was now loafing his host. I have to admit the Australian came off quite well against the tirade. He then asked me about my Knighthood and I realized he thought it was Bono attacking him. No "I'm the good cop, I'm the good cop," I explained. He invited us to come to the World Bank, meet his staff and take it from there.

June 3, 1999

I need a crash course in Economics. Bobby S. suggested I meet Professor Jeffrey Sachs at Harvard. He is Elvis of Economics and Development. He agreed to meet me and, not just backed up the Jubilee argument, offered to put his faculty at our disposal. I started receiving faxes and figures before 9 a.m. every other day, which meant he was rising at 4 a.m.

June 4, 1999

The White House (with Bobby Shriver).

Meeting with Sandy Berger, Chief Advisor to the President. As I walked into his office, there were maps of Kosovo all over the floor. He had coffee stains on his shirt and looked like he slept in his suit, if he slept. This was the day they made a deal with Kosovo. In fact, over the 40 minutes he spent with us, there were calls coming in from the Kremlin, No. 10, the Elysee. He took a few of them in front of us which I thought was very cool, then scrunching up his eyes to refocus on the Jubilee agenda, started asking me some hard questions. How much is it going to cost us? "Harvard will have the figures for you this afternoon, sir," I saluted. "Why are you calling it debt relief? Americans hate the word relief. It reminds them of the welfare debate. You're a songwriter, come up with something better." I offered, "debt cancellation." He laughed.

Down the corridor I met Gene Sperling, Clinton's Senior Economics Advisor, Lawrence Summers, the Secretary of the Treasury, and Sheryl Sandberg, Summers' Chief of Staff. This is the boardroom of USA Inc., the corporation. Larry Summers has just taken over this most prestigious post from Robert Rubin. It's gonna be hard to get him to take any risks, to look up from the numbers. He sat drumming a samba on the blotting paper while Sheryl Sandberg got ready for any broken bottles from the rock star. Someone on the inside had explained to me that I might not leave this meeting with a warm fuzzy feeling, so when Larry gave me the hairy eyeball I decided to listen rather than talk. He made a committed speech about malnutrition, malaria, AIDS at the time of the internet and boom economy. He wasn't messing, neither were we. This was good value for America, I argued. It wasn't one of my better speeches from the dock, but they were listening. His edginess, I now realized, was shyness. Mike Tyson type shyness. It turned out he was the youngest ever tenured professor at Harvard. Boston is home to U2. I kept pushing, and he gave me the kind of look that said "we all want to get to Heaven Bono, but I live in the real world" and left. I was downcast. Gene Sperling was very awake and encouraged me to keep nagging them. As Larry Summers walked down the corridor he told Sheryl Sandberg, who later told me, "we have to help this fella."

June 5, 1999

Telephone conversation with Orrin Hatch.

June 7, 1999

Les Gelb Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, NY (with Bobby Shriver).

It was explained to me that there are about 20 people in the U.S. who can stop this idea and, while some of them are key politicians who control Congress, they are mostly bankers and I should meet them...I again explained to my guides that I am a musician in the middle of making an album, I asked them are there any short cuts...i.e. who's the Elvis of banking in America? After they adjusted their set they gave me some names: David Rockefeller, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin -- the latter being the dynamic duo Americans credit for their current prosperity -- and the legend Paul Volcker.

June 8, 1999

Meeting with Paul A. Volcker (with Bobby Shriver).

Volcker ran Reagonomics and is credited for playing chicken with OPEC and winning. The price was the recession in '76/'77. A giant, he burst out laughing when I asked him will he support debt cancellation. He told me it set a very bad precedent and undermined a country's credibility for new lending, which they will need. I told him this was a one off, hanging as it does on the hook of the millennium. He muttered something dismissive under his breath and asked me do I fish. I muttered something under my breath about making him a fisher of men. As we leave he offered us an introduction to some key players including the Japanese. A muted, but as it turned out important, blessing from the great God Atlas...

June 10, 1999

Online chat on debt relief for Jubilee 2000.

June 11, 1999

Jeffrey Sachs Op-Ed piece, New York Times.

Jeff Sachs tells America what's going on. We're off.

June 19, 1999

G8 Summit in Cologne (with Thom Yorke, Perry Farrell, Youssou N'Dour and 50,000 other people).

Thom Yorke has zero tolerance for politicians. That video where he looks like Johnny Rotten in a shopping basket is closer to his personality than the choir of street angels that haunts your ear. He was bristling with nervous energy and I wonder if that was a rocket launcher in his bag. Perry Farrell is a genuine mystic, he's been through the fire of all kinds of addictions. He's come out the other side a zealot for truthful experience and a bit of a Hebrew scholar, student of the Kaballah, he informed me that Jubilee comes from the name, Jubel, Noah's son the musician who brought the instruments onto the ark.

What a triumph, what a fiasco. Today we managed to surround central Cologne. 55,000 people turned up and formed a human chain. We were to hand in 17 million signatures to Gerhard Shroeder who was hosting the summit. After a lot of scuffling and attempts to reroute us, we eventually turned up on the steps of Museum Ludwig in Dom Platz to meet the Chancellor who was very supportive but not prepared to break rank. The status quo was that they're prepared to drop half -- 100 billion expressed as 90 per cent debt cancellation. This is not arbitrary as most of the loans are written down at 1/10th of their face value -- i.e. it won't cost them. It wasn't a scam but nearly. The G7 were planning to announce this as history, we were party pooping. Geldof wasn't here. I tried one of his wobblers and said that I wouldn't turn up for my meeting with Blair in protest. Molecules in the air started vibrating. Very quickly, people were getting upset. Bob arrived and talked me into it. No sooner in the door and Geldof was haranguing the Prime Minister and his right hand man, Alistair Campbell with a combination of sharp critique and expletives. This is the 100th anniversary of the so-called party of the poor. We went through the argument. Tony Blair has a great gift for explaining complex positions with clarity and simplicity. I know he and Gordon Brown want this. Why the incrementalism? He released himself from the headlock and asked me, "How's the Best Of doing Bono?"

July 1, 1999

Meeting with David Rockefeller, New York (with Bobby Shriver).

Sept 2, 1999

Meeting with Robert Rubin.

It took a couple of months doorstepping him, but today we met in the Council on Foreign Relations. He was about to rejoin the commercial world as a banker again. I realized that for bankers cancelling debts is against their religion even though they do it every day. Worse still, we wanted to tell the world. He conceded that if there was ever a time when we could get away with it, it would be this year. If he helps us I think it'll be behind the scenes. It turned out the First Lady had had a word in his ear. Nice one, Hillary.

September 1999

The money we got at the Cologne summit will not come through if Congress won't pass the bill. It's very important that this doesn't become a liberal cause celebre, because then the Republicans will squash it. Have to go to Washington and meet with key Republicans, but hell, Bobby Shriver's sister is married to Arnold Schwarzenegger, a well known supporter of the Republican party. He suggested a phone call to John Kasich, a presidential candidate for the Republicans. When I called, someone in his office asked me whether I preferred The Bends to OK Computer. It turned out to be Kasich himself. He also prefers Achtung Baby to The Joshua Tree, he told me. He won't make any appointments until he has further researched the issue. Fair enough. Three days later, Kasich called, not only will he give me the names, he will personally introduce me when I arrive in Washington. The Republican bugbear is bureaucracy. They have an inherent distrust of the World Bank and the IMF. We don't want to get caught in the crossfire. It really annoys Kasich, that red tape and accountancy are turning America into the bad guy. I like him.

Sept 8, 1999

UNDP Awards -- If Elvis is King, Duke Ellington the Duke, the artist is Prince, Quincy J. is definitely the President...I love him. He introduced me and I got to make a speech at the UN. This was a big deal as they don't normally have pop stars here. Ali couldn't make it, she suggested Christy Turlington as my date...maybe she can make these numbers look sexy. Then Wyclef and myself did our tune, he taught the United Colors of Benetton to get down.

Sept. 9, 1999

Lunch with Kofi Annan -- Kofi Annan is a poet. Over lunch he freestyled a rhapsody on greed..."when man lived on the land, he lived by the rules of the land. Nature re-seeds itself...you can't till the land without replenishing it. As men moved from the country to the city, they have forgotten this."

Sept. 23, 1999

Meeting with Pope John Paul II at his summer palace in the Alban Hills with Ann Pettifor, Quincy Jones, Bob Geldof, Tavis Smiley (Black Entertainment TV), Randall Robinson (Trans Africa anti-apartheid campaigner), the Mayor of Rome, Luca de Fraia of the Italian Jubilee 2000, Charles Aniagolu (J2K U.K.), Laura Vargas (Jubilee 2000 Peru), Julian Filichowski (head of Cafod), Duncan McLaren (Head of Caritas).

The summer palace is beautiful. We were eventually brought in to what we considered the inner sanctum. A large room with a throne at the end of it. Not so. There were another few to go, each getting smaller. It was Tomb Raider. There are priceless tapestries on the walls, it struck Quincy that the gesticulations of the apostles at the Last Supper are very hip hop. We were laughing but not relaxed. Especially for Irish people, the Pope represents a lot of contradictions, his stance on contraception, gay rights are more than a worry. His travails, his travels, his tireless and tacit work to pull back the iron curtain, an inspiration. I didn't expect to be so moved by the Pontiff. I saw a frail, holy man determined to overcome his age, gravity...in fact, any obstacle. The missal he read out was incendiary, the sort of thing you'd get fired for if you were a priest in Latin America in the '80s. "With private property comes a personal mortgage as with the intellectual." Very sharp. I noticed him staring at me throughout the proceedings.

At first I thought it was a spiritual bond but then it dawned on me that I was probably the first person in his presence wearing wraparounds. When we were introduced by Bishop Diarmuid Martin (Irish -- yes, pushover -- no), I took off my shades and made a little speech about how, as well as being a great holy man, he is a great showman and offered him my fly shades and a specially bound book of Seamus Heaney's poetry. The room was winded when St Peter's descendant tried on the glasses with a fly smile.

He is close to God who makes his friends laugh -- Koran

Cameras popped and I could see Jubilee on the front page of every tabloid and broadsheet. The Vatican could see the t-shirt...and unfortunately edited the photos. However, the Pontiff's unequivocal support travelled around the world and we were way ahead of where we were yesterday.

Oct. 9, 1999

Net Aid, Giants Stadium.

November 4, 1999

A walk through Capitol Hill with the so-called bad guys. John Kasich has not just introduced me to key Republicans, Senator Dick Armey, John Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, he came with me on our rounds. We saw about 20 people that day. Orrin Hatch was fun. He was still campaigning for Presidential nominations. I had seen him looking fierce on CNN but in his office he was a perfect gentleman, listening attentively as I ranted, only interrupting to tell me he would come on board and we could use his name when and where he wanted. It seems he has a lot of respect for Ted Kennedy and the Kennedys in general. He then threw me by suggesting we listen to his new CD. It turns out that Orrin Hatch is a songwriter. Turning up the stereo in his office to 11, he played what sounded to me like a hit...I suggested a pseudonym.

November 5, 1999

Meeting with Michel Candessus, Chairman of the IMF, Washington. Some people would call this man Satan. There are many who see the IMP as a colonising force. I find him to be very sweet, we trade rosary bead stories. I got mine for a pair of fly shades, he swapped his for the Dalai Lama's.

December 31, 1999

White House New Year's Party. Sang "One" with Danny Boy Lanois. A paparazzi asked me today is all this leading up to you entering politics? I told him I wouldn't move to a smaller house.

The White House is oddly close to civilian life on Pennsylvania Avenue. A picket fence away from a rocket launcher, you can't help thinking. Tonight there were bomb scares all over Washington. So we were travelling from the rose garden to the Lincoln Memorial where there's a concert, in heavily armed school buses. "This is not a mood settah" to quote Bobby DeNiro from the back of the bus. I was invited to a very posh dinner with scientists, politicians and astronauts called The Creators of the 20th Century. I said I could come if I could bring my enitre family including in-laws, they agreed and now I've ended up singing for Jubilee's supper. Rather obviously, I chose a version of "One" which Dan Lanois and I performed for 300,000 of our closest friends on the Mall at the foot of the Lincoln memorial. The backing band was Quincy's orchestra and two choirs who sang hallelujah at the end as I segued into I really want to know you Lord but it takes so long, for George Harrison, stabbed the day before. "One" was the first song on after midnight and the speeches, it was live on CBS TV and I used the opening bars to lecture America on not forgetting its roots, its impoverished past. I'm amazed I get away with this s---. As the song built to the chorus we're one but we're not the same, we get to carry each other the outside broadcast closed-up on the First Family and stayed on them. It was poignant beyond the soap opera that these people's lives have become.

(c) Dazed and Confused, 2000.