Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Africa" is apparently "giving nothing to anyone."

I like independent thinking, and hate conventional wisdom. I'll talk for an hour with a crackpot I meet on the street, but, never have time for the Economist. Both sources may be equally wrong about their latest prognostication, but the crackpots are interesting-wrong, as opposed to conventional-wrong.

Of course, when the crackpots start penning opinion columns in major newspapers, the results are mixed. Sometimes, it becomes an even more regular source of entertainment. Other times, the results are neither entertaining-wrong, nor conventional-wrong, but a third category, disgusting-wrong.

Take this column in the (Irish) Independent (courtesy of a colleague).

The short version:

"25 years ago, we helped the Ethiopians to appease our consciences, but then they survived and since African men are gun-toting sex machines, they had more babies, who grew up to be gun-toting sex machines. Malaria is great because it controls the population a bit."

Of course, the author pre-emptively dismisses comparisons with his native Ireland -

"But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Famine, with this or that lazy analogy. There is no comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30pc. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules, Ethiopia's has more than doubled."
So that this post doesn't grow to gargantuan proportions and devour the internet, I'm going to pretend a number of things.

I'm going to pretend, for starters, that the title of the column wasn't "Africa isn't giving anything to anyone, besides HIV." This will require me to pretend that African economies aren't export driven, providing the world with cocoa, oil, coffee, aluminum, or God knows what else we need to get our SUVs to Starbucks for a Moccachino, or to sustain a consumer economy with a $738.6-Billion trade deficit.

I'm going to pretend that Ethiopia's agriculture sector hadn't been at all affected from 1996 onward by its government's acceptance of an IMF strategy called "Agricultural-Development-Led Industrialization (ADLI)." which planned to support itself "by tapping the demand for its products in overseas markets."

I'm going to pretend that all the developed countries send Africa is humanitarian aid, and that all weapons sales and transfers to African countries, along with the American-backed "regime change" in Somalia were all done with noble intentions and to good effect.

Let's pretend that the Ethiopians are to blame for the situation they find themselves in.

Now, let's discuss this Ireland parallel.

If the Irish had been given aid, (or, alternatively, been allowed to keep the food the British took away), and had been spared the famine, are we to believe that they would have "smartened up"?

Are we to believe that they would have thereafter controlled their base urges, and started behaving civilized, so that the next time they found themselves short of food, they'd be prepared?

Yes, those are the two things the Irish are renowned for - contraception and level-headed long-term planning.

The Irish, however, didn't get help. Instead, a British civil servant by the name of Charles Edward Trevelyan declared his view of famine relief by saying:
‘The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. …The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people’.
Which sounds a lot like:
"Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness. Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent, Kalashnikov-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts."
As I said just a few days ago, the "poor" countries are all partly responsible for the situation they find themselves in, thanks in part to their own failure to resist. Ethiopians might do well to manage their agriculture better, and control their fertility with a bit more circumspection.

For the rest of us, the choice lies in whether we want to be their brothers, "wanting for them all that we want for ourselves," or whether we want to be Charles Trevelyan.

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Kelly said...

I like this one! Great citations too. Why don't you send it in to the Independent?

Organdough said...

This is bang on. In Ireland, they don't even come close to realizing how much their actions are inconsistent with their historical experience. I agree, send this into the Independent. This person in particular seems to need outside help to realize his idiocy.

simsim said...

awesome, I'm going to have to reread this man. I saw the article on kelsy's page and I didn't know how to react, but your knowledgeable post 's good start to digesting the independent's entry.