Bono and The Edge were back in the terrestrial armchair with Tubridy on Friday night showcasing a few of the reasons that had them anxiously jumping the download queue and straight into the arms of Apple. Then dragging the unsuspecting iTunes subscriber into a non-consensual threesome. In the weeks following the release of the album, an immoderate amount of criticism has been levelled at the band. Wagging fingers shot up waving the consequences of their desperation to stay relevant on standards of artistic integrity. Listening to the unplugged offerings on Friday, it’s not hard to understand why they felt they could do with a leg-up from a sturdy pair of clasped corporate hands.
In Shane Hegarty’s excellent piece on the comparison of Bono’s subsequent apology with the sentiments of Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan, parallels were drawn between the desperation afflicting both parties. Flanagan’s anxiety was born out of a need to earn a sufficient amount to live, and generate sufficiently good material to attract an audience. Bono’s arose from the need to cling on to a sizeable pre-existing audience. As Hegarty observed, “..the band’s privilege blinded them from the truth most artists, of whatever hue, know all too well. You have to earn both. Each and every time. Both men generalised – Flanagan about writers, Bono about all artists – but only the former sounded sincere, as if reflecting a universal truth that will never change. Bono, unfortunately, sounded as if he were really just talking about himself.”
Listening to the latter’s reflections on the criticism, he remains as impervious as ever to such truths. “You know, I’ve got an umbrella, and when the shit storm happens, I just put up my umbrella”. Which is the multi-millionaire musician equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears while shouting I CAN’T HEAR YOU until the other person goes away. Presumably he pays someone else to hold said umbrella. “The truth of it is, the music business, the model for it was broken”. Can’t argue with that. Rock n roll is dead, embalmed and playing the eponymous lead in U2’s production of Weekend At Bernie’s.
Last time I remember seeing Bono with his hands up was on stage in 1998 sandwiched in another threesome with John Hume and David Trimble. Back in those heady days of hopeful peace-building in Norn Ireland. A year had passed since Mairia Cahill was raped by a known IRA leader. The kangaroo court was yet to process her hearing. Her traumatic reunion with the perpetrator as part of the medieval style reading of body language would take place two years later.
In the rush to shelter Gerry Adams from the ensuing shit storm this week, prominent members of the party faithful clamoured forth with offers to hold his umbrella. Commentary from all directions has been shrill and unrelenting. Definitions of justice and judgement are being tug o’warred with back and forth over the unmistakeable line of truth.
Like U2’s desperate determination to wade through the current ‘noise’ clutching their mid-life crisis album, Gerry and his comrades swerved by the truth with their fingers rammed into their ears chanting I CAN’T HEAR YOU in the vain hope everyone will just go away.
Sinn Fein doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth of the matter. And sadly, the victims and survivors of sexual abuse and rape among the nationalist community do not have a monopoly on the horror and trauma of that experience in that warped part of the world.
In their rush to throw enough legitimate shit at Adams that will stick, the fulminating establishment are at risk of dismissing the notion of ‘context’ in its entirety. In a thirty-year conflict, characterised by dysfunctional daily living with the state functions of law and order substituted by grassroots rule, a brow must surely be arched at the shock and surprise that has greeted the revelations.
This year saw the first tribunal open in Northern Ireland addressing institutional child abuse. Given its stunted standards of accountability, it is only now that efforts are able to be directed towards the legacy of victims and survivors in the broadest meaning of those terms. Given the Southern establishment’s pre-occupation with Sinn Fein, and that party’s amnesiac approach to bleaching history, there is a danger in ignoring the fact that it is not just Mairia Cahill who is being denied the right to truth. It is all those victims of sexual abuse during and immediately following the Conflict, irrespective of the colour of their flag or the cut of their God.
The likelihood that there were women on all sides who were condemned to ‘community’ police investigations shouldn’t raise a brow, but many questions. Long before now. That’s one shit storm that would have everyone scrambling for cover.
Pop and politics is a heady mix. There have always been political songs; U2 have even penned a couple. But I do think that politicians who align themselves with Popstars of the Day are deluding themselves if they think we can’t see it for the cynical move it is. I wouldn’t begin to comment on the politics of Ireland, as an outsider it’s simply not my place. I can only say that as with every conflict, neither side comes out of it well.
I would hold U2 largely responsible for killing off the protest song. It has been effectively reduced to a ring-tone.
Great post! Bono and Gerry Adams in the one post, though. That’s enough to make my head spin 😉
Well spotted. My husband reckoned it couldn’t be done hehe.