Friday, December 09, 2005

Bad Sista: An African Fem

Note: I've cleaned up and done some editing of this, one of the best if not the best writing on the way crazy white liberals "help" poor mudpeeps, in this case Africa, but it could just as easily have been Asian, Pacific, Latino, or Native mudpeeps. How she echoes my thoughts and feelings... Some of the links may be dead, but this writing, so intelligent, vibrant and alive, is a testament to the no horseshit attitude I admire and wish were the norm amongst so-called progressives.

Here then, in all her glory (save for the first line about crazy liberals - that's from my original posting), is "Blacklooks," a Bad OG - how I wish her blog were still in play!

-jp, November 7, 2007

Crazy liberals... it's about time someone called them out!

We are not whales!

The response from the liberal blogosphere to any criticism of the Live 8 concert and the ideology of paternalistic simplicity espoused by Geldof et al has been "at least they are doing something" or "its better than nothing" or a comment I read on African Bullets & Honey [note: Just re-checked for dead links; this is a defunct blog as of 11/07] "Pennies on the dollar are better than no pennies at all" or some other naïve variant. Statements such as these contain a loosely concealed self-congratulatory, paternalist and arrogant attitude towards Africa and Africans.

My argument is that No It is not better than nothing and that what they are doing is actually damaging to African countries. Furthermore the Live 8 concert reinforces racist stereotypes and like most liberal projects fails to challenge the status quo or address the real issues. It is as if people so much want to believe that Geldof's agenda for Africa has and will make a difference that they cannot see the wood for the trees. There is a desperateness about their rush to believe the superficial explanations offered to them. I can only conclude that the truth is just too much for people to bear. The bleeding hearts of liberalism cannot face the reality that their liberalism will solve nothing, that it colludes with the maintenance of the status quo and actually will cause more harm than good.

One of the pro-Geldof copouts is that Westerners are deprived of information about African countries and therefore something like Live 8 will give them the missing information. Rubbish. Westerners and other non-Africans do not need to live in Africa or live in any other part of the world to understand what is happening there. The information is available; Americans and Europeans have much more access to information than the rest of the world; if they choose not to read the available information that is because they have no desire or interest in doing so.

My prediction [note: ibid] that the presentation of African countries during Saturday's concerts would be a negative pitiful one was correct. We were presented with Africa as the scar of the world; passive, starving, diseased, dying and helpless. This was a conscious decision by the organisers of the concert to make the crowd sympathetic to their cause and at the same time make them feel good, make them feel as if they had made a contribution to saving Africa. I am reminded of an American TV programme we watched as children in Nigeria: The Lone Ranger. At the end of each programme after the Lone Ranger had fought off the baddies and saved the poor defenseless people his horse would rear up and he would shout "hiooooooo Silver"; and then ride into the wilderness till the following week. And so to we are all asked to give "thanks and praises to the great white chief Geldof on his shining white horse.

Madeleine Bunting writing in today's Guardian quotes Cambridge historian, John Lonsdale's description of Blair's Agenda for Africa as

a construction that infantilises not only Africans, unable to fend for themselves, but us too, like babies demanding the instant gratification of self-importance.

Not only does it infantilise Africans and Europeans, it also facilitates the continued appropriation of all things African and all things in Africa including our problems [note: yet another dead link] and reduces the issues to cheap sound bites and meaningless nauseating rhetoric that go down well in the kindergarden playground of liberal politics. She goes on to say

It is almost as if the west can't accept African agency: we want the simplification of the four Ps (picturesque, pitiful, psychopathic, and above, all passive) because it so neatly caters for our fears, derived from the colonial history of the "dark continent" of Joseph Conrad fame. Is this the price that has to be paid for an instant of western attention?

I would add that the Blair/Geldof agendas aim to reduce western guilt, fulfill the chronic need to "feel good" and reinforce western feelings of superiority towards the other all of which are underpinned by an insidious racism. A prime of this example is the lack of any "visible participation of Africans" in this whole enterprise which Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem describes as "trying to shave someone's head in their absence".

As I have said, the Live 8 crusade and the response that "at least they are doing something" will damage African countries in a number of ways. Firstly Live8 and its accompanying ideology has served to undermine the anti-globalisation movement and any real challenge to changing the status quo. John Pilger critiquing the "unrelenting sophistry of Geldof, Bono and Blair" explains how the spin works:

The illusion of an anti-establishment crusade led by pop stars," which is in reality, "a cultivated, controlling image of rebellion - serves to dilute a great political movement of anger.

Secondly the crusade has managed to completely ignore the realities of the recent so called "debt relief" to the 30 countries in the world. Geldof and Bono both hailed the announcement as, a victory for millions.

An historic deal to free more than 30 countries from the crippling shackles of debt to the West was hailed by Bob Geldof yesterday as a "victory for millions"..... The $55billion settlement, which will immediately benefit countries from Ethiopia and Uganda to Rwanda and Mozambique, was the beginning rather than the end, the campaigning rock star said......The Observer.

...a little piece of history...

What we have here today is a little piece of history," the U2 frontman told Britain's Sky News television after the G8 agreed to wipe away $40 billion ($52 billion) of debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest nations, most of them in Africa.

The truth is however very different.

First of all only 18 countries are covered of which 16 are in Africa when in fact there are some 60 plus countries that should be relieved of their debt.

The IMF and World bank will "monitor the indebted countries progress and decide if they are to be relieved of the debt burden". In other words the debt is dependent on the IMF/World Bank and it is in their interest for the debt relief to take place as slowly as possible.

For each 1$ of debt relief, each country will loose 1$ in new aid from the International Development Association/World Bank. So what they give with one hand they take away with the other.

The worst aspect of the debt cancellation are the conditionalities imposed on those selected countries. "the reality is that the finance minister's proposal has the potential to deliver to the wealthy nations more money than they have written off" What is presented as "charity" is in fact more money for the West:

By a) boosting private sector development and b) good governance meaning privatising the public sector such as electricity and power, health and education; allowing foreign investment; removing obstacles to foreign investment (eg be less stringent on pollution requirements than in the west, allow foreign companies to bring in their own staff or staff from outside the local community in which they operate.); cooperation with the "war on terror"; purchase of Western goods (nearly 70% of US aid money is tied to the purchase of US products and in Italy 100% of aid is tied to the purchase of Italian goods).

These are the same IMF/World Bank/G8 policies that have been killing Africa in the past. Arms sales from Britain to Africa amount to more than $1 billion. So on the one hand Blair is advocating cancellation of debt WITH conditionalities that benefit Britain and on the other he is selling $1 billion worth of arms to African countries. How do policies such as these alleviate poverty and where is the justice? Whose victory are we celebrating here?

The new deal for Africa is the same as the old deal - nothing has changed. "The G8's interest in Africa is summed up in a 2003 World Bank report that identifies sub-Saharan Africa as the most profitable place in the world for direct foreign investment" - that is where the truth lies.

For a fuller explanation of the impact of debt relief on the 18 countries see:

Africa: repudiate foreign debt (no link)
Raised Voices