Friday, July 15, 2005

The Modern Hippie

Just as in the 1960's, when hoardes of idealists took to the streets to confront evil they often couldn't accurately define without hyberbolic absurd rage, rockers took to the stage to protest poverty in Africa throughout the western world.

What causes poverty in Africa. In a land resplendent with vast natural resources, low costs of material and labor, and piles of foreign aid, what holds back what should otherwise be a relatively healthy land. Jean Claude Shanda Tonme argued in the New York Times that the starvation is directly linked to bad governance. What Ms Tonme realizes is that Africans, like every other human in the world, are capable of rising up to meet their needs and fix their economies.

Sadly, Ms Tonme's call for African revolution will probably continue to go unhearlded, and she will probably be shot for writing it. The reason is actually buried in her own text. She said the G8 promise of more aid will likely bolster the existing regimes. She is correct: the dictators will pass out the food themselves, claiming credit for every last dollar, every grain of rice. The African Union claims they will be more transparent in the future, but they have no track-record by which to make such a claim. Chances are they will take the bulk of the aid and skim it off the top, enriching themselves and strengthening their grip on power. They will dole out food and cash to supporters in their own populations, starving the opposition. Cynical? It's what they've consistently done in the past, so why assume otherwise?

Ms Tonme's call for democratic revolution will fall on ears wholly unfamiliar with the concept of democracy. She is a minority in a population of ill-educated people primarily concerned with finding tonight's dinner, not tomorrow's promise. Sitting in cosmopolitan Yaoulande, far from the hinterlands where 75% of the landmass and 50% of the population lies, Ms Tonme doesn't see her suggestion for the farce it is. Unfortunately, as the G8 prepares to send more food to Africa, they don't realize she is 100% right.

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