Sunday, March 9, 2008

Welcome To The Machine

It gets tiring. The bad news. Last night I had dinner with a dear friend/investment banker who's moved to Paris to combat his discontent for this country. He's taken all his money out of the market and advises his clients to do the same -- gold, cash, T-bills. He says we're headed for a depression. This would bother me less if three years ago I hadn't called him a lunatic for claiming we were going to go to war with Iran...

Maybe that's why today I was drawn to a story by Bob Geldof in the London Times on-line. Sir Geldof accompanied President Bush to Africa last month, rode on Air Force one and writes to tell about it. It sounded like fun.

I should say from the outset I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan. More, perhaps, Roger Waters than the rest of the crew, though I'm listening to "Wish You Were Here" in deference to those who may prefer Syd Barrett. Couldn't have done any of it without Geldof -- and he's gone on to do much more. I say this because what we are drawn to -- our admirings and private loves -- these our our biases.

I teach my journalism students that to write a really good profile you have to fall in love with your subjects. Not in a weird romantic way -- just in a way that allows you to absorb them -- with patience and respect -- in a way that allows you to be the conduit for their words and the experiences of being around them. This is a dangerous set up, though, as you have to work ever harder to let them speak for themselves -- where very often an interviewer will get caught up in the romance of the moment... these stories often do very well, but I can't stand them.

I'm sorry to say I found the article that way. Geldof is dazzled by Bush's wit, boyish enthusiasm for the USA and with the autographed M&Ms from Air Force 1 (Bush has his own M&Ms. You can order your own custom printed M&Ms here. Mars, please feel free to support the arts.)

"At one point I suggest that he will never be given credit for decent policy like here in Africa because many people view him “as a walking crime against humanity”. He looks very hurt by that. And I’m sorry I said it because he’s a very likeable fellow."

He is impressed by Bush's initiatives in Africa; says he can't understand why they don't get more press; thinks this president has done an enormous amount of good there. Sir Geldof was invited along because of his own work for the region -- which began, I believe with the "Feed the World" tour he organized with Bono in the late 80s.

"The Bush regime has been divisive. But not in Africa. I read it has been incompetent. But not in Africa. It has created bitterness. But not here in Africa. Bush can’t do oratory. He can in Africa. Here’s why. His administration has saved millions of lives and has helped 29m children to go to school for the first time."

Geldof quotes Bush: “Human suffering should preempt commercial interests.”

90% of Africa's exports to the US are oil.

Funny to think that we needed to move away from the foreign press and into the local leader to get look at our country a bit more critically...

The NYTimes ran a story on February 15 about Bush's trip to Africa -- it ended this way:

The United States is increasingly interested in Africa’s substantial oil reserves. Some see Mr. Bush’s visit as a means of countering the rising influence of China on the continent. On Wednesday, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, delivered a message to China to invest responsibly in Africa.

“Obviously, the continent is rich with resources,” Mr. Hadley said, asked if the United States is concerned about China’s influence there. “We think those resources need to be used in a way that enhance and accelerate the development of the continent, and we think countries need to be responsible in their activities.”

1 comment:

elisa.mart said...

Geldof's not alone. Lots of African leaders and citizens feel the same - check out Tanzania's welcome to Bush last month! Many activists despised Clinton for his neglect of rights issues in Africa, and among Sudanese expats, Bush's push for a comprehensive peace agreement is the only reason the country's North-South war was paused, if not ended.

And yet, there's always more if you dig:
http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/46221

It's complicated...