The Notched Wing

Helen Tara Hughes – Poetry, Fiction, Film, Phantasms

Live8

For all who were watchin’ today, and signed up on the website already, but don’t actually know how the G8 could do things differently to help effect change in the Third World…

Read this editorial from the Globe and Mail:

Live 8: Thumbs down on hypocritical ‘aid’ by UN advisor Gerald Caplan
Toronto Globe and Mail, Wed June 22nd

Let’s stop despoiling Africa and then blaming Africans for their continent’s underdevelopment, says UN advisor Gerald Caplan. Crocodile Tears are not enough…

Everybody must be aware by now of the Bob Geldof Live 8 spectacular coming at us next week. The media have been abuzz with burning questions about where the concert will be held and who’ll be performing, with a sentence occasionally thrown in about saving poor old Africa or ending poverty. This is a serious problem.

Getting it wrong about Africa is a venerable tradition in the rich world, and music has played its role. Remember the great famine concerts of 20 years ago and the giant hit Do They Know It’s Christmas? It’s just been rerecorded, with its inane lyrics of Africa as a land “underneath a burning sun.. where nothing every grows” and “no rain nor river flows.” Get it? natural causes and bad luck are at the root of Africa’s problems.

Television does its share. Who among us haven’t seen inspiring stories about young Canadians who decide to raise pennies for a well or school in Africa? These efforts are invariably motivated by the best of intentions. But I’m concerned with their unintended message. I fear they reinforce wrong-headed stereotypes of both Africa and us. To my eye, they show Africans as helpless, dependent, passive victims, and we Westerners as decent, selfless, compassionate, resourceful missionaries.

Now Paul Wolfowitz has added his explanation for Africa’s plight. Moving swiftly from being a maven about Iraq to becoming an authority of Africa’s 53 countries, the new president of the World Bank has just completed a whirlwind learning tour of the continent ( 6 days, four countries). The problem in Africa, he announced at the end, is simple: “Corruption.” Right. If only Africa’s leaders were more like our own.

These views reflect a common theme: They leave the rich world blameless for Africa’s multitude of problems.

I greatly fear that Live 8 is inadvertently strengthening the notion that we in the rich world must be missionaries to save Africans from themselves. The truth is already being lost – the deep, comprehensive responsibility of Western nations and Western financial institions for so much of Africa’s continuting underdevelopment and poverty.

The real reason the rich world should be racing to deal with African poverty is the central role we have played in causing and perpetuating it. Has anyone told Mr. Wolfowitz that vastly more money pours out of Africa each year, back to rich countries, than flows in? That’s the key to Africa’s development crisis, and it’s almost entirely unrecognized.

The responsibility of the rich world takes many forms.
It includes the indispensable support given over the decades to countless African tyrants and to white racists.
It includes the demonstrably retrograde free-market policies imposed on virtually every African government by ideological extremists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (also known by African pediatricians as the Infant Mortality Fund) and backed by almost all Western govenments, including Canada.
Across West Africa, it’s cheaper to buy a subsidized frozen chicken imported from Holland than to buy one froma local producer. Foreign aid is always tied to buying goods and services inthe rich country or to sending consultants to Africa to make more in a day than the vast majority of Africans do in a year. Rich countries drain off a huge percentage fo the professionals – doctors and nurses, especially – who are trained in African universities.
Western corporations plunder Africa’s natural resources, pay starvation wages and almost no local taxes, bribe anyone in charge (corruption!), pollute hideously, and leave conflict and human rights abuses in their wake.
Western donors demand that user fees be imposed on health services and tuition fees on schooling. They demand that public services be slashed so that health and school systems deteriorate.
The American government and fundamentalist Western religious groups introduce unrealistic and irrelevant moral dogmas to combat AIDS, and undermine evidence-based methods of AIDS prevention.

Anyone who doesn’t distrust the G8 leaders who’ll be meeting next month in Scotland hasn’t been paying attention. Those people lead countries responsible for the economic apartheid that characterizes rich-poor country relations today. Every one of them has failed to live up to repeated pledges about aid, debt relief and agricultural sbusidies, solemnly made and blithely ignored. The recent ballyhoo about debt relief for 14 African countries was wildly over-blown; it was no more than a modest first step. The more Tony Blair and Paul Martin shed crocodile tears and talk about their moral crusade for Africa, the more liberal imperialist rhetoric they spin, the more nervous we should be.

The job of Bono and Bob Geldof and other Live 8 organizers is to let their fans know that Africans need no more missionaries or do-gooders. Instead, Africans have a right to justice and equity to make up for the incalculable harm that we in the rich world have inflicted on them for such a long, long time.

Gerald Caplan works with various UN agencies of African Development issues, including the Economic Commision for Africa.

Author: smallboy

Helen Tara Hughes is a writer, producer and actor. An award-winning theatre performer, she cut her teeth in classical and new work at major theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival. Her first taste of documentary work – a POV radio documentary for CBC’s ‘Outfront’ – gave her the documentary bug, and in 2009 she transitioned into Producing with the feature documentary, Goodness in Rwanda. As a writer, she has been published by Backofthebook.ca, Eros Digest, and TWISI, and has a book of short stories that will be published in the fall of 2012. As a filmmaker, she creates short films based on poetic writing. She moonlights as an Asst Producer and Coordinator for documentary, factual, and independent films, and is developing a slate of her own media projects for 2013.

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