One of the funniest things revealed by the most recent batch of leaked Hillary Clinton emails is that, apparently, Bono (or someone claiming to be acting for him) got on to the then Secretary of State asking if she’d use her good offices with NASA to have the astronauts on the International Space Station do a live link up with wherever U2 happened to be playing a gig on a given night.
This is apparently how things are done now in that great country club in the sky.
“Hey Hil. Hi, it’s Bon. Ah, fine now, thanks. Yeah. Great stuff on that whole Libya thing. Do you think it’ll be safe to play there soon? Twenty years or so? Hm. What about a press conference telling people they’re not doing enough? Grand. Sure let me know. Did you ever talk to the Pentagon about getting an air strike going on those bastards in South Park? I know, I know. Sure people can say whatever they f*****g like, so long as they’re not in Ireland anyway. Sure who am I telling? Anyway, I was in the loo the other day and I had this thought about NASA, you know, that big thing in the sky, and anyway…”
And there’s real power, you know, the type of thing you and I can’t even dream about, stuck as we are in our linear, rule-driven, non-networked little inequality bubbles. That true power might very well have led to a situation where, months later, a minor panic might have ensued high above the Earth, inside the most impressive monument to itself humanity has yet produced.
“Ah, merde. Ze light is flashing. Another vun already. Ivan, you do it.”
“Vat, no way. I did it last time.”
“You can have mein freeze dried ice cream at dinner.”
“I told you it tastes like shit.”
“Oh, all right. To think I went through fifteen years of astrophysics for this. Ok. Hello?”
And just imagine the type of conversation which ensues to enthral the sixty thousand souls crammed into a football stadium in Buttwipe, Oklahoma.
From space, a sheepish looking astronaut floating in mid-air sees a corpulent little man apparently fully encased in shimmering gold, sixty thousand dim lights at his back. What follows is perhaps the perfect inversion of what David Bowie imagined when he sat down to write ‘Starman.’
“Hello International Space Station. How’s it going?”
“Hello. Uh, fine.”
“You know you guys are just amazing. You’re the real heroes of tonight. Well, obviously I mean that metaphorically. Obviously I’m the real hero, but you know what I mean.”
“Uh. Great, yeah. Thanks.”
“You know you guys are just like us. Just as we blaze new trails in music and figuring out new ways to get people to pay for stuff, you guys blaze new trails in the sky. We all still haven’t found what we’re looking for, but we’ll bullet the blue sky because we’re even better than the real thing (muted cheers from the crowd, who dimly realize that those words remind them of something).”
“Uh, thanks Beano.”
“This is such a beautiful day. Have you any message for the kids down here?”
“Uh… don’t do drugs?”
“No, not that one. Come on Igor.”
“Uh, ah, sorry: (reads) ‘keep feeling pride in the name of love.'”
“God bless you, International Space Station.”
“Uh, thanks. You too.”
“Exactly. And this next song is dedicated to all you space guys.”
“Ok. Can I go now?”
“No. The deal is you stay floating there and hear the song, then tell everyone not to delete our stuff from their phones.”
“Ok.” (Igor mutters a very pithy Kazakhstani curse into his freeze dried ice cream. But it’s ok, because in space no one can hear you silently scream.)
This is the kind of stuff that real money gets spent on. Because once you pass through the economic event horizon Bono and the Clintons (and let’s be balanced, Trump too) entered ages ago, money itself ceases to have meaning. You can remould reality into a kind of monument to your own vacuity, and the resources of NASA itself are redirected towards staging conversations that make Homer Simpson sound like an intellectual.
In fairness, U2 have form in this department. During the height of the Balkan war, they used to do live link ups with people in Sarajevo. Someone, I believe it was the late journalist George Byrne, described this – unkindly but accurately – as the conscience rock equivalent of a drum solo.
The idea, presumably, was to inspire the punters of Buttwipe, Oklahoma with some kind of schtick about the triumph of human progress, or something.
But isn’t it strange how these things inevitably become a kind of hymn to pointlessness? No wonder we just can’t believe in stuff anymore.