Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bono, Vanity Fair and African Good News Stories

Bhí cóirghruaig ag mo dhuine sular oscail Bonó a ghobAn Spailpín Fánach was interested to note in his New York Times yesterday that Bono is to guest edit Vanity Fair magazine. This comes as news – An Spailpín’s Writers’ Market 2007 tells your humble and penurious correspondent that Vanity Fair magazine does not consider freelance submissions, so why they should consider a freelance editor seems puzzling.

Bono is to edit the July issue, and his aim, according to the NY Times, is to re-brand Africa. “We need to get better at storytelling,” he says. “Bill Gates tells me this all the time. We’ve got to get better at telling the success stories of Africa in addition to the horror stories.”

Doncha just love the way he drops Bill Gates in there?

AIDS is, of course, of great concern to Bono, specifically the devastation the disease is wreaking in sub-Saharan Africa. “What is more interesting to me is that we are losing the fight against AIDS in Africa,” says the chanteur. “There are still 5,000 Africans dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, dying for lack of drugs that are available at any corner drugstore.”

So Bono has two agendae in his impending editorship of Vanity Fair – positive African success stories, and doing something about a “preventable, treatable disease,” viz, AIDS.

Allow An Spailpín Fánach to help, and kill two birds with one blow. Not only is there a positive African success story, but it is a success against AIDS itself and it does not involve adding to the largesse of the multi-national drug companies at all.

The President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, announced last month that he has found a cure for AIDS. Having no truck with those corner drugstores beyond in America, His Excellency has cooked up a herbal potion that does the trick just fine. What exactly is in the stuff? His Excellency is being coy about that, telling Sky News reporter Emma Hurd that he would not tell her “in a million years” what’s in his ointment, but let’s get a little perspective here – while President Jammeh wouldn’t give the time of day to some bint from British TV, what is her moth-like presence compared to the supernova of an Irish rock singer?

An Spailpín is quite sure that once President Jammeh meets Bono he’ll do a twenty page colour spread for the July issue of Vanity Fair on his AIDS curing ointment – the best way to grow the herbs from which it's made, how not to get it on the sheets, and what were his favorite tracks from The Joshua Tree.

It’s exactly the sort of positive spin on Africa that Bono is looking for. Life expectancy in The Gambia is 56, according to the CIA World Factbook. That mightn’t sound like much in comparison to Ireland at 77, but how much better it is than Zimbabwe, whose President, Mr Robert Mugabe, must be a very poor man with the hoe indeed – life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 39 and dropping as AIDS lays waste to the former “bread basket of Africa.” Peter Godwin’s recently published When a Crocodile Eats the Sun gives a harrowing account of contemporary life in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, but that’s not the sort of positive “success story” that Bono is looking for in his rebranding of Africa. So piss off, Peter, don’t call us, we’ll call you. Now Mr President – do you think if we dropped in a few turnips with the herbs we’d have a cure for the freckles?

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