If Bono really knew the history of his own people, he would be aware that the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s was not the result of a food shortage. Famines rarely are. There were plenty of crops in the country, but they had to be exported to pay the landlords’ rents. There was also enough food in Britain at the time to feed Ireland several times over. What turned a crisis into a catastrophe was the free market doctrine for which the U2 front man is so ardent an apologist. Widespread hunger is the result of predatory social systems, a fact that Bono’s depoliticising language of humanitarianism serves to conceal.
Browne’s case is simple but devastating. As a multimillionaire investor, world-class tax avoider, pal of Bush and Blair and crony of the bankers and neo-cons, Bono has lent credence to the global forces that wreak much of the havoc he is eager to mop up. His technocratic, west-centred, corporation-friendly campaigns have driven him into one false solution, unsavoury alliance and embarrassing debacle after another. The poor for him, Browne claims, exist largely as objects of the west’s charity. They are not seen as capable of the kind of militant mobilisation that might threaten western interests.