Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Tyrants Love Aid"

Says Malawian Professor of Political Science

James Connolly wasn't a big fan of "charity" and aid organizations, and while reading "Dark Star Safari" (P.Theroux), I came across the insightful words of Georgetown Professor of Political Science and Malawi native, Dr. Jonathan Banda, more or less echoing the same ideas regarding charity and aid (whether foreign or domestic) that were once spoken by the late James Connolly, upon his return to his native Malawi :

"...Dr. Jonathan Banda didn't get the job. He was sure the reasons for his being turned down were political. He said that if he had praised the government and the ruling party, they would have hired him.

Thinking of what the ambassador had told me, I said, 'A diplomat told me there is no political terror anymore. Is that true?'

'Maybe not , but there is political pressure of a very insidious sort.'

He seemed so outspoken I asked him the questions about charities and aid agencies that had been nagging at me. The agents of virtue in white Land Rovers ---- what were they changing?

'Not much, because all aid is political', he said. 'When this country became independent it had very few institutions. It still doesn't have many. The donors aren't contributing to development. They maintain the status quo. Politicians love that, because they hate change. The tyrants love aid. Aid helps them stay in power and contributes to underdevelopment. It's not social or cultural and it certainly isn't economic. Aid is one of the many reasons for underdevelopment in Africa.'

"You said it, I didn't", I said. "There's an awful lot of aid agencies here."

"All those vehicles, everywhere you look," he said, which is precisely what I had felt.
"So how will things change for the better?"

He said, "Change will involve all the old men dying off. Or it might take another forty years."

"What if all the donors just went away?"

"That might work."

Kind of reminds me of what Connolly says in his 1909 essay "Workshop Talks" :

"There are tens of thousands of hungry children in New York today as in every other large American city, and many well-meant efforts have been made to succour them. Free lunches have been opened in the poorest districts, bread lines have been established and charitable organisations are busy visiting homes and schools to find out the worst cases. But all this has only touched the fringe of the destitution, with the additional aggravation that anything passing through the hands of these charitable committees usually cost ten times as much for administration as it bestows on the object of its charity.....Also that the investigation is usually more effectual in destroying the last vestiges of self-respect in its victims than in succouring their needs."

People need self-empowerment, not more charity.

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