Bono vs Amanda Palmer

That’s a stupid title for this discussion, but it’s all I could come up with for the moment.

I watched two recent TED talks last night, one from Amanda Palmer and one from Bono. In a sense both were asking for help. Bono was touting stats to show the difference we’re making towards global poverty and essentially begged us not to flake on the final hurdle. Amanda talked about forgetting the sell, and asking people for help, and how it had worked for her career.

So what troubled me?

Well, why is it that I couldn’t engage with Bono’s talk at all, whereas Amanda’s captured me? Bono’s is indeed a noble cause, and he’s a person who I’ve followed for years and respected, musically. Amanda Palmer, on the other hand, is not someone I’ve followed. My understanding of her is limited to a few data points: singer, married to Neil Gaiman.

I took this unease to friends on FB and Carl Lenehan made a salient remark:

“IMO What he [Bono] is talking about is more uncomfortable for us, as we can only relate to a limited number of people at once (120-150) and Bono asks us to care for the whole world and most of them we naturally feel to be ‘the other’. Amanda Palmer asks us to care for one person at once and communicate with that person. That is natural for us. 

In addition, we also have a degree of cynicism and overload with his subject matter and he is an icon using established communication channels. She is iconoclastic and is asking us to create a new paradigm of contact.”

I absolutely agree with Cary’s viewpoint, but still there is more. And it goes way past this present example. What I’m saying is, that these two talks are really a glimpse into where we are failing as a species – and where we are succeeding. Amanda is talking about a paradigm shift, don’t SELL – try ASKING. But her shift is based on the most basic and most essential of human needs – to engage, to genuinely communicate.

Although my upbringing probably wouldn’t have allowed me to take my host’s beds (see Amanda Palmer TED talk), I can see her point. Barter at the most basic level. You give to my family, you value my family – I give to yours, I value yours.

So simple and yet so overlooked by commerce, politics and religion.

What troubled me was that Bono wasn’t operating at that level. Jokes about his own God complex and flipant remarks about Brazilian models, though witty, were not real. They were rehearsed and delivered that way

It makes me want to shout … while we continue to paractise not speaking from the heart, we will continue to struggle as a race. It’s only when we genuiniely engage that there is room for change and growth.

You can see Bono’s TED talk here:

You can see Amanda’s TED talk here:

I would welcome your thoughts …


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Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
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 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

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