14 April 2006

Doing Good Works...Bono's Calling Your Name

I'm a big believer in doing good works. Sounds naive, even simplistic, but there it is. Slowly as we become more and more independent from one another due to technology and what have you, thinking about doing good works is a major event for most folks these days...let alone doing them. It's become far, far too easy to just not find a way to help someone else out...even someone we don't know...in favour of numbing ourselves into oblivion in front of our television. Damn good thing most of the Western countries are long such established, for Lord only knows what each country would have been like if populated by the citizens of today. Find anything, something on a small scale, give it a whirl, and build from there. I don't care if it's even as minor as holding the door for old ladies (which in the South here used to be called 'good manners' and not necessarily a 'good work', but those days are passe), start somewhere and start today.

I, for one, previously never quite understood the fascination of making good works seem 'appealing' to the masses, but after volunteering for years with the likes of everything from a homeless shelter to EMS to Habitat for Humanity, I now have a very distinct picture of why that issue must not only be addressed, but conquered. Frankly a charity or organization needing volunteers to come help has to 'look cool', has to show potential volunteers there's some 'gloss' sometimes to being associated with the cause somehow. Another ugly fact about the state of things, but there it is. If you don't believe me, look at some notable charities and/or causes and their financial support and network...those that have the 'cool' or 'celebrity' or 'it' factor will win out, hands down. The 'celebrity' factor is especially crucial, as we seem almost transfixed on finding out about and following our favourites to an endless degree. And frankly I thought that was what Bono (lead singer from Irish megaband U2) was all about...becoming another celebrity endorsing some other cause I should feel guilty about.

Over the last few years, when he hasn't been giving slightly arrogant interviews about U2's place in rock n' roll history and doing the worldwide mega tour, Bono has instead become the cause. Not in the sense that Whitney Houston has in the warning about the harms of crack cocaine (allegedly), but in the sense that Bono has a vision to help recruit help and money for not just one issue, but for a whole continent, some say world, of issues. I've never been one to watch my rock stars mingle with politicians (images of Elvis and Nixon circa 1973 come to mind and produces a shudder), but I have to admit watching Bono in a news conference with a former US Treasury Secretary, Microsoft creator Bill Gates, officials of the World Bank, and several UN ambassadors of African nations...well, it gives one pause, much like one gets when coming on an 'almost' accident. You cannot turn away, period. You also can't help but stand back and watch in awe, but you also stand far enough back to maybe duck in case things get real ugly, real quick. There is a reason why Bono is a singer and not a politician...diplomacy is not his forte, but power to that, I say.

I cannot even begin to touch upon what Bono and his movement (yes, movement, he was nominated seriously for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and he was a co-winner of last year's "Time" magazine Person of the Year) have been attempting, are attempting, and even have on deck. To say a full-body assault is on with the Western world's consciousness would not be too preposterous a statement. Admittedly I don't have his money, recognition, nor media influence, but there are somedays when the biggest obstacle for me is just finding my shoes and even that can be taxing to my feeble noggin. Bono, on the other hand, wakes up and decides he wants to have Africa's foreign debt forgiven and is making it happen. I don't know which is worse: that my biggest obstacle somedays is finding my shoes or that Bono stands out so much as a maverick for attempting to do this when no one else apparently will. To read more about this and his other goals, go to the following: DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) and ONE (The Campaign To Make Poverty History).

Today I read where he's been at it again and may have hit (in theory, anyway) the motherload: he's found a way to have donations come in on 'auto-pilot' by creating "Red" products that makes donations to African AIDS relief every time the product is bought/used, much like airline miles are accumulated by using a specific airline's credit card. So non-sacrificers can still be shopaholic capitalists yet feel good about helping out the hungry, homeless and disease-infected...and still be cool, hip, and attached to the uber-trendsetting Bono et al. What's not to love? While I'm underwhelmed with the rollout as discussed in the article below (and why not try a major rollout in the US??...I've never heard of this before, anywhere over here, and I actually read up on Bono regularly), I am hopeful that maybe some momentum can be started somehow...and save this idea from the scrap heap of really good ideas that just got ignored by a stupid public. Read more about it in "The Wall Street Journal"'s article: "Products Turn Red To Augment AIDS Fund" ,(April 13, 2006).

To read all about the sponsors and contributors with this program, go read about Product Red.

I think I just found some additional incentive to save up for some new shoes.


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