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July 16, 2008

Un-PC Reading 1: Kevin Myers

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'd be curious to hear how visitors respond to three decidedly un-PC articles that I've run across recently. To spill my own reaction to all three: Wowee -- not sure I can go all the way there myself, but what a lot of interesting points and provocative arguments have been made.

Today's non-PC reading: Kevin Myers in the Irish Times writes that Africa ought to be recognized as a lost cause.

A few questions to kick the conversation off.

  • Ever felt that way yourself?
  • Do you experience a strong sense of moral obligation to solve Africa's problems?
  • Myers makes numerous points. Which have some validity? Which don't?

Me, I confess that I don't fully understand the "We must save Africa" stance. Seems to me like a lot of moral grandstanding goes into it, though that may be unjust of me. I wish Africa well, of course, and if you feel like contributing money or efforts I urge you to go right ahead. But why this sense that the entire world must, simply must, make a cause out of Africa?

What's your own response to Myers' nothing-if-not-provocative editorial? Nose-holding and name-calling are hereby discouraged, though the futility of that injunction is also hereby noted.

Related: Kenyan economist James Shikwati wishes that rich countries would stop sending aid to Africa. Perhaps our do-goodism has helped turn the continent into a professional charity case? Hibernia Girl comments here and here.



posted by Michael at July 16, 2008


What we need to do is stop sending them back students educated in Western universities.

Someone once suggested that the problem with Africa was all of the Africans converted to socialism at the LSE. (If memory serves it was Hayek).

Things aren't as bad as they once were -- but that almost doesn't matter given the damage socialist ideas have already done.

Posted by: PrestoPundit on July 17, 2008 1:58 AM

I wish I could get this thread off to a nice controversial start for you, Michael, but...

The only Third World country I've visited is the Philippines, and I discovered some surprising things about daily life there. I've never been to Africa, so I wonder if I might discover similarly surprising things there.

Filipinos in the U.S. will tell you constantly that their home country is desperately poor, and that kind of poverty definitely exists.

The Karaoke Queen's family in the Philippines is, however, jollier than the U.S. version, and the reasons for this are curious. Social mobility and the opportunity to always make more money are not readily available in the Philippines. In the U.S. these things are always available.

Since you are unlikely to make a ton of money in the Philippines, you focus on other things... like family involvement, having a good time with the neighbors, etc. Everybody is a little poor and shabby, and so what?

If you live in the U.S., work and money are always available. So you work overtime or double shifts. Certainly, you've got a nicer house and every consumer gadget known to man. But life is a little grim, a little over devoted to work.

I've never been to Africa, but I wonder if this dichotomy doesn't also exist there? Maybe the dreadful poverty and strife are offset by positives that we can't perceive and don't value. I think that this is definitely possible.

If you enjoy the life of the Old World, a world in which men are revered, religion is dominant and custom holds fast, there might be many places in Africa where people are quite content. In the Philippines, I also discovered that people are generally resigned to co-existing with poverty, corruption and the human condition. There are good and bad things about this fateful attitude, just as there are good and bad things about the American belief in changeability and reform.

I'm going to hold off on judging what life is like in Africa until I go there to see for myself.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 17, 2008 6:44 AM

I hadn't initially realized that this post is directly related to the post about Steve Sailer.

I'd go even further than getting rid of aid. Aid has probably had the same result in Africa that welfare had in the U.S. ... the creation of a class of people dependent on aid.

I'm ready to see world saving retired. World savers are tiresome, self-indulgent people. We've got one right here in Chris White, our perpetually sainted hero of the oppressed, etc. Hell, I was a world saver when I was 20.

I'll direct this at Chris in general, but it's really aimed in a general way at all world savers.

We're on to you. The purpose of all this world saving is stroking your ego and worshipping your halo. The obsession with world saving has no other purpose. It's a con game that you're playing, Chris.

The reason that discussions of Africa get so heated is because it centers on the favorite world saving obsession of all... black people. Chris, as all world savers do, wants you to know that his heart bleeds for black people.

As I've said repeatedly, this is a backstabbing game. Sailer says it a little better when he says that world saving is a status game among whites with blacks as the irrelevant chips.

The issues, I long ago realized, have nothing to do with the personal game being played. Chris, this nonsense is your status game. I do not take seriously your insistence on pretending that your obsession with proving your status is a complex political argument. It's all self-serving vanity.

I don't believe politics is the solution to anything, but I do trust ordinary conservative traditional men more than I trust the Chrises of this world. That ordinary conservative man will let you know bluntly that he's pursuing his self-interest. The leftist man is concealing a dagger behind his back while he professes his sensitivity.

Read Warren Farrell, Chris. You've got a moral problem to resolve in relationship to other men.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 17, 2008 9:52 AM

I thought "Live Aid" back in the 80s should've settled that question once and for all. All this money was raised, food shipped in, but the local dictators kept it all and the people starved anyway.

Should we step in when there's a genocide? Maybe.

But if we step in, we should do it in a way that gets the help to the people, which calls for things (like going in with guns blazing at the local criminals who run things) that no one would approve of. Vicious circle.

Posted by: yahmdallah on July 17, 2008 9:53 AM

I've never been to Africa (though I spent many months in Korea when it was in bad economic shape).

I have been to Paris. Walking the rues and boulevards rive gauche I would see from time to time well dressed African families -- sometimes just a couple, other times with children -- loaded down with shopping bags from stores the doorman would politely steer me out of. This does not mean that their affluence wasn't honestly earned. But, not-so-PC me wondered anyway.

I think it was Jonah Goldberg who, a few years ago, idly wondered whether if it wouldn't be a bad idea for Africa to be re-colonized for a while in order for the locals to get their acts together. Ain't gonna happen, probably. But if it ever did, the Belgians shouldn't be invited to join in.

Speaking of France again, some observers suggest that they haven't totally abandoned their equatorial African empire. You know: the CFA currency zone, deployments of troops and aircraft, etc.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 17, 2008 10:28 AM

Back to the comparison with the Philippines, a country which also has its hand out for U.S. Aid.

My American Filipino acquaintances vastly over-exaggerated the plight of the ordinary Filipino back in the homeland. The people living in the shanty towns are enduring a ghastly existence, but that is a small minority. Most people are living in a way that looks to me remarkably similar to the way my grandfathers and grandmothers lived as subsistence farmers.

Why the exaggeration? I suspect that is because they want U.S. Aid to continue. Making the Filipinos who immigrate to America feel guilty so that they will send money home is one of the principal industries of the Philippines. Manila boasts one of the largest shopping malls in the world. Cebu also features a couple of enormous American style malls.

And let me say something completely tactless. The best among Filipinos migrate to the U.S. The ones who stay home... well, let's be kind and say that they are considerably less industrious, adventurous and smart. Living off the hard working Filipino-American relative sure beats getting a job, and there's a lot of that.

Could it be that we are receiving a simimlar song and dance routine about most of Africa? I don't know. Just asking. I know that to most Americans the thought of living as a subsistence farmer and plowing your fields with oxen seems intolerable. Certainly people want to do better. But, there are compensations to that life. And, just maybe, ordinary Africans are living passably better than the propaganda insists.

As I said, I want to go see for myself.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 17, 2008 11:02 AM

I think I like this Myers guy - apparently an equal-opportunity offender. Wonder if anyone's itchin' to sue for this one.

Posted by: Moira Breen on July 17, 2008 11:36 AM

We can get a lot of bang for the buck in Africa. How we spend those bucks is and should be debated, but it's silly to say we can't do anything at all. We just need to think about harm reduction instead of cures.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on July 17, 2008 12:46 PM

I largely agree with everything Myers said in his commentary, although I have to say one side of me (probably my girlie side ;-) ) found it a bit harsh. I think I must've audibly gasped when I first read it.

He and many others are right, though. Aid to Africa has not helped and has probably only caused more problems. I'm all for helping (there's that girlie side again!), but I think we have to be more realistic about what sort of help we give. In one of my posts I wrote about trying to raise sub-Saharan IQ a bit at least through better nutrition. That seems like a good idea.

Also, as I've complained about (on the aul' blog) previously, we have to stop pilfering Africa's best -- if we really want to help them, that is. It doesn't make sense to send all this aid and then steal their doctors and nurses! Where's the logic in that?

From The Lancet: "Should active recruitment of health workers from sub-Saharan Africa be viewed as a crime?" (2008; 371:685-688) [free reg. required]

Posted by: Hibernia Girl on July 17, 2008 1:53 PM

No society has ever been lifted out of poverty by charity. How did Japan develop? Taiwan? South Korea? Singapore?

You know when a society is actually taking off when it becomes a peer competitor (like China and India) rather than an object of sympathy.

How quickly the left has turned on India, now that it is no longer an object of pity! Remember Obama's ad? "Hillary Clinton, D-Punjab".

How decisively the left has turned on China, now that it has abandoned leftism in all but name for capitalism!

Posted by: blah on July 17, 2008 2:24 PM

I'm hoping that someone reading this entry has actually been to Africa and has actually stayed there longer than a nature safari time span.
These "I've never been to "Mars" but I've been on Earth, so I'll discuss that stretched-to-the-max connection here and make the Mars-Earth connnection" comments are screaming for someone with actual experience on "Mars" to say their thing.

I've never been to "Mars" although I've been to Morocco several times. Morocco has nothing to do with the Aid to Africa discussion Michael started.
So, I'll just shut up and eagerly await a posted comment from someone who's actually experienced the topic.

Posted by: DarkoV on July 17, 2008 3:54 PM

The problem with Africa isn't Africans in general, it is a particular subset of Africans and their white enablers: that is, the ruling elites and the tranzi liberals. And China, which openly collaborates with the vilest regimes in Africa. So did France under Chirac; maybe Sarkozy is better.

As to Myers' thesis: Do As You Would Be Done By. The failure of unconditional aid to fix social problems is not justification for genocide, active or passive.

Which isn't working anyway; the black African population is still growing - as he notes.

A different program is needed, obviously.

Rot spreads. If Africa continues to rot, it will contaminate the rest of the world.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 17, 2008 4:17 PM

It turns out that Myers is being Steyned (via John Derbyshire at the National Review):

The other day I noted an article by the fine Irish opinion journalist Kevin Myers in the center-right broadsheet newspaper Irish Independent, commenting on the pointlessness of giving aid to Africa.

Now it looks as though Kevin is going to get Steyned:

Immigrant body lodges Garda complaint over Myers article

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) yesterday lodged a complaint at Pearse Street Garda station, Dublin, and with the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) about the article, which was published in the Irish Independent last week with the heading, "Africa is giving nothing to anyone — apart from Aids".

ICI chief executive Denise Charlton said in a statement that the council believed the article breached section two of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 …

The Garda is the Irish national police force. The NCCRI is a gang of totalitarian busybodies dedicated to stamping out freedom of speech and association. Full news item here.

Posted by: beloml on July 17, 2008 5:10 PM

This was posted by someone at another blog. I'm neither endorsing nor rejecting this comment. Kinda makes its point plainly, doesn't it:

"Africa is not so much a continent as a huge baby-making machine whose purpose is to Africanize the entire world in due time. [...] many African countries’ populations have grown well past sustainability. Aid to Africa only accelerates the rate at which the machine spits out spores -- spores which the wind blows all over the world to take root and gradually turn the rest of the world into one big Africa."

Posted by: PA on July 17, 2008 6:21 PM

Well, I suppose he could have been a little less mean about it, while making the same points.

I'd say in general Africans and the African continent are ill suited to the modern world. I'm sure 400 years ago - before European intrusions - life below the Sahara was perfectly fine - probably no worse than anywhere else for the average person. But life-saving medical care, high speed transportation and firearms have only led to lots of people surviving childhood in order to face starvation, deadly incurable diseases and roving bands of murderous youths, while modern extraction techniques provide irresistable temptations for the talented few to exploit the land's riches and the mayhem for their own enormous profit. If the word 'hopeless' doesn't apply to Africa, the word has no use whatsoever.

Posted by: ziel on July 17, 2008 7:48 PM

There are two main schools of thought on Africa:

1) The problems in Africa mainly due to causes other than genetics.

2) The problems in Africa are due to genetics.

The first question you need to ask yourself is where you stand on the genetics. If the problem isn't genetics then you need to come up with a plausible explanation about how so many different countries can all be so incredibly poor.

Free marketeers claim a lot of markets. Others claim corrupt rulers. Others claim rapacious capitalists and colonialists are at fault (though these left wing explanations have gotten awfully old and more implausible with every passing year).

Some economists try to be cute about it and claim the problem is a lack of human capital and let others fill in politically correct explanations for why that is.

We aren't going to have a realistic debate about Africa until DNA sequencing costs fall another order of magnitude or so and the genetic question can be answered in great detail.

Posted by: Randall Parker on July 17, 2008 9:14 PM

Grandstanding to help people far removed from your immediate relatives apparently violates some sort of biological order.

I heard this described once on an episode of "House," where House is waxing cynical about a doctor out to save the world, and he explains why this is repulsive to him. Charles Dickens also made fun of this in one of his books, having some old woman send all her aid far away, while stepping over the poor children in her 'hood.

Does anyone know anymore about the "House" episode or why humans who look beyond their families are apparently crossing some line?

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on July 17, 2008 9:38 PM

The genetics guy, simply doesn't know anything about molecular biology. Anyways, as an African myself, I blame the rejection of British colonial rule for the failure of my part of Africa. You can blame black american Nationalism for this problem. These days, I have come to view Africa as what it now is: NEW CHINA. The Chinese will use it to dump populations, and arm themselves with the resource rich lands they have bought. They will then attack what we now call North America, in the later part of this century. The winner of this war will control the world. Right now, My money's on china

Posted by: Emann on July 17, 2008 11:18 PM

The African guy posting above me simply doesn't know how to use a comma.

As for genetics, Parker's right about sequencing costs. It's a pity to base your ideology on such an easily falsifiable lie. You can't kill every truth teller, and that is what will be needed to preserve the legitimacy of the regime in the next decade.

Posted by: blah on July 18, 2008 2:16 AM

The best action for us as westerners, is simply "no action". No matter what we do, we're damned.

If we provide all sorts of aid to Africa, we're considered "racist neo colonialists", interested in meddling with African affairs, that we have some evil capitalist exploitative agenda at hand.

If we don't do anything, we're also considered "racists", in that we only help out those who "look like us", we're only interested in helping Europeans, we're "racists" for not helping out Africans.

From my perspective, why not take the later approach - Do nothing! We're still going to be called "racists", but at least we don't have to spend a single dime in order to receive all the nasty names!

Posted by: Wade Nichols on July 18, 2008 8:37 AM

Hibernia Girl, my girlfriend is a nurse manager at a Boston teaching hospital, and she tells me stories about the friction between the working class American nurses and their African collegues, who think they have some sort of exaulted status because they're "educated".

Posted by: Brutus on July 18, 2008 3:03 PM

Holy cow. I'm late to this party. I assumed that the article was another Africa can't be saved by aid. It's not. It's a like out of some white-power demented nightmare!

The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.

another fine land of violent, Kalashnikov-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts.

Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive indigents

Is this guy sexually obsessed by Africans or what?

I'm sorry Michael. This isn't controversial, this is simply characterizations on par with those of Jews or Japanese during WWII.

I'm frankly a little saddened you considered him worth attributing. I'm certain there are others that might have brought forward the same ideas without the need to engender as much hatred towards Africans as possible. What's next? Using Nazi characterizations of Jews to frame a debate about Israel settlement policies?

Posted by: Tom West on July 22, 2008 8:14 PM

This was published in the Irish Independent, a kind of middle-brow centre-right broadsheet, not the Irish Times as stated in the original post, which is pretty much the political equivalent of its New York namesake (although it did at one point publish Mark Steyn as its token wacky neocon).

Posted by: ashenman on July 22, 2008 10:27 PM

I have never paid any attention at all to the bleed heart liberals and their ranting and raving about how we "must save Africa". In fact, I never pay any attention to the bleeding heart liberals on any issue at all. I think they are full of it. The best thing to do with people who are full of it is to simply ignore them. That is what I do.

The whole concept of foreign aid is a farce for the gullible. Countries like Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, and the like have never relied on aid. China never did either. India relied on it some. But their recent growth has been inspite of whatever aid it has received, not because of it.

Even noticed that the countries that were once poor and now are or have developed did not receive much or any aid at all? And the countries that receive aid never seem to develop? Even noticed this pattern? You have to be pretty dumb or purposefully ignorant to not notice this pattern.

By noticing this pattern, it should be obvious that foreign aid is as useless as tits on a boar hog.

Foreign aid is a fraud, period. It has no use and exists only for bleeding heart liberals to salve their consciousnesses.

Posted by: kurt9 on July 24, 2008 8:29 PM

Is this guy sexually obsessed by Africans or what?

Nice inversion. Myers points to the insanity of the prevailing wisdom on Africa - and you slur him as mentally defective.

I'm frankly a little saddened you considered him worth attributing. I'm certain there are others that might have brought forward the same ideas without the need to engender as much hatred towards Africans as possible. What's next? Using Nazi characterizations of Jews to frame a debate about Israel settlement policies?

some white-power demented nightmare

Would that you were as concerned about the engendering of hatred towards Whites. It is far more common and you engage in it yourself.

Posted by: Tanstaafl on August 5, 2008 3:41 PM

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