This will sound churlish, but it isn’t meant to be. I think people that have a heart and try to raise money to help the unfortunate poor in Africa are really good souls. They’re lovely people, trying hard to do some real good. Oxfam, Live Aid, Comic Relief – are all extremely laudable. Kindly artists donate their time and skills to entertain, in order to raise some money from other kindly people, to help out the destitute and desperate.
The problem is, they never actually solve the problem at the root cause. Perhaps the artists that set up these charity exercises are reticent about offending anybody – especially the powerful and wealthy. Maybe it’s thought impolite to point out exactly why Africa is such a continent of turmoil, suffering and shame, but unless somebody does, nothing changes. I think it’s more impolite to refuse to name the guilty, to avoid embarrassing them, while children die, to be totally blunt about it. Call me old fashioned.
The facts are that Africa is a net donor to the richer nations. It gives away something like two trillion dollars to the first world, every year! The charities that raise money to feed, water, inoculate, educate and house the poor in Africa don’t raise anything like that amount in aid, annually. They might crack a few hundred million, if they’re lucky. The effect is precisely the same as mugging somebody and taking two hundred dollars from them, while pressing a penny into their palm to aid them.
That’s not all, there’s all the corruption to deal with, we’re told. In Africa, much of the money meant to save lives winds up lining the pockets of the crooked. This, we are told, is a reason to be reticent about helping. Well, there are actually bigger crooks. Somebody, somewhere, on a daily basis, gets up and goes to work, administering the net outflow of wealth from Africa to continents that don’t actually need it. Now that’s a portrait of somebody living in a complete moral vacuum, isn’t it? There’s probably more than one.
In the scheme of things, we ask people that have ten pennies to their name to subsidise those with only one. There’s nothing wrong with that, but where is the guy that got away with the two hundred dollars? Where did those trillions, exported from Africa each and every year, actually go? Nobody owns up. These vast flows of wealth vanish into corporate balance sheets and as interest on international bank loans. But somebody is the net beneficiary. It doesn’t seem to be the kindly people with the allegorical ten pence to their names. If it were, they’d be richer. We know who those wealthiest of wealthy people are, but they shun their duties to humanity and pretend they’re as poor as church mice in the process.
The thing is, the impoverishment of millions is actually a human invention. It’s not a naturally occurring phenomenon; it’s an artefact of a money game that we all play. The rules happen to be extremely unfavourable to millions of innocent lives, which are thereby cut short, but instead of stopping the game and reframing the rules, we play on regardless. To solve the problem, rather than artists entertaining for fees that they donate, we could do something else. We don’t need to do very much, either. We don’t have to solve an intractable puzzle, describe a new law of physics, discover a new element or cure a disease. All we have to do is make a different choice. A choice. That isn’t very much. Choosing is simple.
All we would have to do is to reframe international finance according to a set of rules that leaves the world’s nations in an annual balance with each other. Indeed, before the American negotiator at Breton Woods bullied his way to setting up the existing iniquitous system, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the American’s opposite number, proposed a system of balance, based around an international currency that was not the US dollar. But greed and power won the day and got the better of the negotiators. Consequently, the mild mannered Englishman’s idea was ignored and never implemented. And so we have starving Africans.
Millions and millions of starving Africans. All because one man had to appear to have the biggest swinging d&%k in the room, on the day. One ego was inflated for a brief moment in history, while millions were destined to suffer and to die to pay for it, in perpetuity.
The thing is, those negotiations could be overturned whenever we wish to renegotiate. What compelled the first negotiation was war. We don’t need a war to do the right thing. The bankers, financiers and corporations that uphold the present system, which bleeds Africa dry and kills its babies, all issue the standard denials of wrong doing and compliance with international trade agreements. They just tear another one of their standard denials off a thick, printed pad of standard denials and issue it as a press release. But it doesn’t take a genius to understand that these are nothing more than denials, pure and simple. They might insist that they are doing no wrong, but the evidence refutes the idea abundantly. There are few kinds of wrong doing that could be worse. Just because laws have been framed in such a way that they permit some people to conduct an ongoing, silent genocide, doesn’t mean they have any moral authority or permission, as a human being, to disobey natural law. We all know it’s wrong-doing. They know it too.
I wish Sir Bob and the other sainted artists that get on the television and exhort ordinary people to dig deep and give them their money would, instead, spend some time hunting down those that extract the money from the poorest of continents and people, in such vast quantities and get them to defend themselves, on camera, speaking on their own behalf, not through spokesmen and spin doctors. I’d like to see them justify and explain themselves, before a global audience comparable in size to that which saw Live Aid. Let them tell their story.
Let them state their case and offer their justifications. Let them weigh the morality of having to pay one’s artificially established debts, which are imposed upon entire populations without their consent and without providing any tangible benefit to them, against the morality of killing millions of innocents in unspeakably agonising deaths. Let them feel the opprobrium of most of humanity, directly. Then let them look for somewhere to live, where those eyes would no longer be upon them. There would be nowhere to hide. It’s the anonymity and secrecy that lets them get away with it, year after year. It’s all deniable, even to their mothers. A bit of genuine transparency would stop this crime against humanity in its tracks.
Now that would be a really worthwhile artistic work.