We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
This satirical video is intended to show that much of Western aid to Africa " is more about making donors look good than about doing good for the needy."
Aid campaigns implicitly promise guilt reduction and ego inflation for donors. The grinning Radi-Aid singers perform the same sleight of hand, selling scenes of snow, and their own exuberance, as a reason to pitch in.
More subtly, the video recalls “Kony 2012,” a slick short film produced by Americans about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda that broke records for viral views. The film is the most recent and prominent of Africa-framing fictions produced by nonprofit organizations. Some call the genre “poverty porn,” others call it marketing. Whatever the name, it relies on giving a narrow impression of a person or place from a vast, diverse continent. Such “assistance” turns extraordinary hardship into an ordinary event and ignores the ordinary folks just getting by, or better.
The Radi-Aid stunt parries this trend effectively. Its creators remind viewers of the limited portrait they are painting. The site asks: “Imagine if every person in Africa saw the ‘Africa for Norway’ video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?”
They would think Norway is cold. (I hear that it is.) But it is other things as well.
Michael Ledeen’s Darfur post from yesterday has stuck in my mind all day. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve read on this site, and it’s entirely correct:
The killers largely operate from helicopters and small fixed wing aircraft. We could destroy them all in an hour or so. But that would be “wrong,” because it would violate the current hymnal.
Go tell the victims. Explain why sanctions are better, because it makes the Western politicians feel pious.
Recently I interviewed Don Cheadle, who starred in that marvelous film Hotel Rwanda a year or two back. He’s now written a book about Darfur. Very nice fellow. But he doesn’t seem to appreciate that the big lesson of Rwanda is that the thugs understand very clearly that whenever the west starts working through the UN it sends the message: We’re not serious. Indeed, we’re so unserious we’re going to “solve” this problem through a process which gives mass murderers the one thing you need if you want to kill hundreds of thousands of people – time.
So Cheadle’s book proposes all kinds of things you the citizen can do for Darfur – write your Congressman, send a letter to the local paper, etc. There’s a lot of it about. A week or two back, the following caught my eye:
On Sunday, April 29, Salt Lake Saves Darfur invites the greater Salt Lake community of compassion to join with us as we honor the fallen and suffering Darfuris in a day of films, discussion and dance with a Sudanese dance troupe.
Very nice. But wouldn’t it make more sense to try the Ledeen solution and save the Sudanese dance troupe for the post-victory party? “Salt Lake Saves Darfur” looks like doing wonders for “the greater Salt Lake community of compassion” but rather less for the people of Darfur. There is a grotesque narcissism in the determination of the Save Darfur campaign to embrace every strategy except the one that would actually save Darfur while there’s anyone still left to save. The reality seems to be that these groups prefer to go the ineffectual dance-troupe route because it makes them – the “community of compassion” – the focus of things.
Once upon a time I worked for a large and very prominent university which spent huge amounts of government research funds to support the spread of technology for the benefit of cottage businesses in underdeveloped or "underserved" countries. One of these efforts, in the west of Africa, is within a country almost completely supported by US/foreign Aid.
Some of the participants in this program were invited to a symposium in Norway. We arranged for everything for the meetings; the participants only needed to foot the bill for their airfare. Those participants who arrived from this African nation literally arrived with the clothes on their backs and their papers to allow them to get into the country. These individuals had grown so used to everything being arranged as a handout through one or another aid society that it never occurred to them that they were responsible for their clothing and personal care items for the week. They truly thought their every need would be attended to. The event coordinator had to take these individuals shopping to purchase what they needed as they had arrived with no money of their own.
I'm sure Don Cheadle's efforts are well-meaning, but as highlighted above, unless the spigot is turned off, these nations will never rise above panhandler status.
We tend to confuse the words 'nice' and 'kind'. I read somewhere recently that the word 'nice' actually has roots in a Latin word which means something that is not so nice. Sometimes being kind to an individual can actually have the result of appearing as not 'being nice'. Sometimes the greatest kindness one can perform for another is to admonish them with the hard truth, to correct their actions out of genuine human love, and hold them to that commitment.
Teach a man to fish, he eats the rest of his life.
The West, for all its 'nice' and 'africa-guilt', have forgotten this tome, and are doomed to their further hand-wringing and lack of progress in Africa.
Utterly amazing how, after the West managed to end Apartheid and the horrors of Rhodesian rule, Africa is not better, but much worse off. But, it makes the self-guilty 'feel better', helping them shake off their 'oppressors', and giving them their lives.
Utopia is a great though, but human nature screws it up at ever attempt.
Speaking of Kony, this brings to mind something I saw on 60Minutes (which has rarely crossed my tv screen for some time now): a laudatory puff piece on the Canadian brothers Kielburger who run what appeared for all intents and purposes a scam and a cult rolled into one under the guise of getting 'the children' involved, incorporating 'social justice'. The piece focused on the children's current work in Kenya.
The major activities they run are Free The Children and something called Me to We.