Where the streets have no shame

I can’t decide why I’m angrier with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. Is it because Canada’s international aid promises are going unfulfilled despite his unending progressive rhetoric? Or is it because he’s forcing me into the position of stating publicly that I agree with stances made by that political publicity whore, Bono.

Bono, the lead singer of rock dinosaur U2, has become one of the most useless and laughable progressive figures in the media today. During his overstayed run as an international pop star, Bono has actively raised opposition towards any number of fashionable political causes. From apartheid to world hunger and from the African aids epidemic to the Catholic Church, the singer has put his brand on vague, unrealistic political stances. He’s not the first, of course, to use his celebrity to bring injustice to light, but he has used it to define his public character, with few results.

Perhaps in hopes of overcoming his flaccid reputation he’s taken on the beleaguered Canadian prime minister. In a recent interview he blasted Martin, with whom the singer has had a symbiotic professional relationship for years, for Canada’s failure to live up to its pledged aid increases.

Martin is currently suffering voter misgivings about his progressive liberal party due to internal controversy and delays in many promised programs including the aforementioned foreign aid increases. The projected increases, designed to raise Canadian aid level to projected U.N. goals, were tentatively scheduled to be completed by 2015, but delays have caused Martin to publicly doubt the country’s ability to afford it.

This is a completely respectable act. How many other western leaders are willing to admit doubt in the face of falling polls?

Only five countries – Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway – currently reach U.N. standards in foreign aid totaling 0.7 percent of gross national product. Canada’s current aid output hovers around the 0.3 percent mark, which may seem low but is almost double the abysmal 0.16 percent currently dedicated by the U.S.

But that’s not good enough for Bono. The great agitator won’t hear about it. Being the international budget whiz he is, Bono feels that Martin’s worries stem not from financial uncertainty but from a case of nerves brought on by recent political problems. He recently criticized Martin on Canadian radio broadcasts and went so far as to project Martin’s office phone number on one of U2’s obese screens during a recent concert in Vancouver, urging the 18,000 fans in attendance to lobby the prime minister to up the aid allotment.

Fortunately for Martin, the area code of the projected number was inaccurate, saving him from receiving thousands of drunken calls imploring him to “do that thing Bono said, dude.”

I wonder what the overall aid allotment is for the nation that is Bono’s overcrowded ego. Bono has always been overactive concerning global activism, but when did goading Canada precede his work with African AIDS education? And where is the great rock righteous one in the face of the U.S. occupation of Iraq? Is Bono afraid that if he stood against the occupation he’ll reveal himself as the political opportunist we caught waving the stars and stripes in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001? How did the righteous opponent of apartheid go from waving the white flag to waving the flag of the instigators?

This leads me to wonder at the fact that Bono’s criticisms of Martin could ever result in such political worry for the prime minister. Bono is not a real activist. He is a semi-political speculator who creates an ongoing public face for his slackening band by hopping on political bandwagons with heavy fanfare and little follow-through.

Bono is not a force for change; he’s a force for publicity. And as much as it disgusts me to align myself with him, I agree Canada needs to live up to its promised increases in foreign aid. But Paul Martin doesn’t need to suffer for his honesty through the annihilation of his public face by an aging pop star. Rather he needs to enter into a serious dialogue about what needs to be done in order to secure Canada’s role in the battle against world poverty and starvation.

Dylan Tanner can be reached at [email protected]