Strange Brouhaha

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Where Do I Start?

Okay, so there's a campaign out called "Make Poverty History." Brad Pitt plugged it in his Primetime Live interview two nights ago in which he made Diane Sawyer visit Ethiopia in exchange for being allowed to ask him about Angelina Jolie. (And by the way, that link is a REALLY smart and insightful piece of media analysis by Dana Stevens.) Anyhow, Make Poverty History is a campaign to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by the year 2015 (and eliminate extreme poverty completely ten to twenty years after that).

Now here's this individual writing in spiked-online who says that we should reject Make Poverty History because its goals are too SMALL. Merely ensuring basic food, shelter, clothing, and sanitation for the Third World is not enough, says Brendan O'Neill. Development by micro-loans merely serves to make Third World poor people resigned to their fate. "Real" industrial development is needed and should be our goal.

Uh...yeah. Look. Considering that the rich nations won't even pony up enough cash TO provide subsistence-level food, shelter, clothing, micro-loans, etcetera for the Fucked of the World, how exactly are we going to find the funds to develop INDUSTRY for them? By looking under the couch? Plus, ain't no rich country on earth gonna hand over the means by which Ethiopia and Laos could become economic competitors. We're having enough trouble with China, India and Iran. And China, India, and Iran, still pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, might have something to say about it too (such as, "Fuck no, we're not letting Ethiopia cut into our market share!!").

I mean, obviously, yes, it would be much better if Laos and Ethiopia could seriously develop industry. But given the ongoing human emergency in the Third World, we really do need to aim low. Even aiming low is aiming too high. I bet you an overpriced latte that Make Poverty History will fail, and twenty years from now, someone is going to come along singing the exact same song ("We can ELIMINATE poverty IN OUR LIFETIMES!!") that people have been singing since the Peace Corps (remember the Peace Corps?) and the original Live Aid (when we were ALSO going to eliminate extreme poverty). In both cases--Peace Corps and Live Aid--it was well within the realm of possibility to meet that goal. We HAD the resources back then the same as we do now. And we failed.

Because you know what? Hyper-rich people PROFIT from poverty. They do. It's that simple. And the people who REALLY control the world like things just the way they are. So the World Bank is going to go right on blocking any truly EFFECTIVE anti-poverty campaigns (i.e. spending by the governments of these countries on health, family planning, and education) and then blaming socialism. And claiming that if those slacker poor countries would just cut the rest of whatever public spending remains to them, and put more money to their international debts and their expatriate bondholders, poverty would magically disappear.

So nothing will change.

Here's hoping I'm wrong.


Post a Comment

<< Home