Feb 28, 2013

Memo to Bono and TED fans: look closer to home for poverty

U2 rocker Bono gave a TED talk in California this week addressing global poverty. But has the wealthy TED audience found what it's looking for? California-based Australian writer Jason Wilson investigates.


If you want a living demonstration of American inequality, the details of this week’s TED conference in Long Beach, California, might do the trick.


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22 thoughts on “Memo to Bono and TED fans: look closer to home for poverty

  1. Saugoof

    Come on, Crikey is normally better than this! As much as I hate Bono, this sounds like it was written as devastatingly negative as possible purely because Bono was speaking.

    – Having a lot of money yourself does not preclude you from being worried about African poverty, nor from wanting to do something about it
    – As horrific as being poor in the US/Ireland/Australia/etc. is, and I know, I’ve been there, this is nothing compared to what being poor in Africa is like.
    – Just because there are poor people next-door to where the TED talk was held doesn’t mean you can’t aim to reduce African poverty. There are plenty of problems to solve in this world, luckily there are lots of people looking at a variety of problems rather than everyone concentrating on the same one.
    – Attempting to do something about poverty is imminently more worthwhile than doing nothing. Even trying and failing is more worthwhile. At least this teaches you about what may or may not work.

    I like the idea of there being no discussion at TED talks. Not that I want to advocate for dictatorships, but particularly on topics like poverty, any discussion quickly descends into party politics. I’d rather see action. The tone of this article really should have been “will this TED talk lead to action?” or “are the solutions proposed workable and achieve their goals?” rather than “hey, isn’t Bono just a tosser!”

  2. klewso

    The US “where the top 1% of earners take 23% of earnings”?

    [(Leaving that other 77% to be shared among the other 99% of their fellow Americans)]

  3. Bob the builder

    Well said!
    I’ve always found it hilarious how the rich pontificate about the complex problems of poverty, when the primary cause if not having enough money (or other resources). there’s only a certain amount of wealth around and if you’ve got $600 million of it then someone else doesn’t.
    With all that money a more effective way to alleviate poverty would be to give it to people who don’t have much – rather than talking about ‘the problem’.

  4. Steve Carey

    When rich people don’t give a stuff then the commentariat berate them. When they DO give a stuff then the commentariat apparently feel entitled to complain that it’s the wrong stuff. Not only Shalt Thou, but Thou Shalt As I Decide. No! Don’t help them over there – help these over here. No, not like that – like THAT. What we really need, apparently, is a society where some “US-based writer and academic” gets to tell other people where, when and how to spend their money.

    Utter piffle, from start to finish.

  5. Alan Carpenter

    “….few traces of it will remain” is just not true.

    TED talks remain alive on the web for years and are exposed to a massive audience – many presumably development practitioners like me – always on the look out for new possibilities to improve our life and work.

    I’d defy anyone to view say Sugata Mitra ‘school in the cloud’ at TED 2013 and not conclude that promulgation of such ideas is not good for the planet.

  6. Alan Carpenter

    Sorry – erroneous double negative in my previous – I mean to say TED is a brilliant resource of free ideas for the planet. This article misses the point of it.



    The problem isn’t (usually) that the poor have no money. It’s largely that they have no capacity to generate wealth. If the rich gave the poor all their money, once the poor had spent it they’d be poor again.

    Secondly, you talk of economics as a zero sum game. It’s not. The rich obtaining a lot of money does not deprive others of it. Often it is obtained by creating value that others are willing to pay for (not that I’m saying this is the case for all wealthy people). Perhaps brush up on some basic economics before mouthing off online.

  8. Bob the builder

    Thanks for giving as some stock-standard economic rationalist theory.

    At least you didn’t mention “trickle-down”…

  9. el tel

    Presumably the nearby spectacle this week where millionaires gave other millionaires gold statues also raised some issues about inequality.

  10. Michael Galvin

    So 1,400 people paid $7,500 each to attend – $10,500,000. I wonder where that money went????

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