During one of my lightening 24-hr business trip to Maputo (GREAT city. You have to go & party up a storm there! And you get to do so until far too late after sunrise. Crazy Mozams!) I had dinner with some fellow humanitarian workers. The one man was caught in the notorious personal dilemma of the aid world.
What the hell are we doing here?
Are we just ensuring our jobs stay put, or are we actually causing any worthy benefit to people’s lives.
This Latin American man, now based with family on the eastern coast of Southern Africa, after a time in Asia, and aiming to end up in Europe, was questioning this career choice to grander lengths.
He was inquiring from us if the world would not actually be better off if we all just stopped our jobs, pulled down our industry, packed our bags and went back to offices parks in our respective countries. Just in this one nation were a 101 non-governmental organisations & humanitarian relief agencies distributing food & temporary housing, mosquito nets and inject-able vaccines, to those impoverished people stretched out across the expansive rural country. The same was and had been happening for decades, from here to Ethiopia to the Niger delta to Angola and back to Mozam.
Our industry was in actual fact not developing the continent, but rather allowing the status quo of dependency. If we were not there, people would migrate to lands that did have soil rich with nutrients, so that they could finally produce edible food & sustain themselves. Or water that could be glugged on without fear of attack by diseases or vicious animals. People would not live in areas wrecked every few years by tropical storms or some other natural disaster, having all they know to be flooded away, and have to continue the circle of life by giving birth in the fork of a tree. They would find the higher grounds, and settle on more suitable lands. They would pull themselves out of destitution rather.
Our ‘efforts’ allowed these people to remain at risk. Allowed them to know that dry food rations would eventually make their way through the mud and mountains and lack of roads to their tiny villages.
….Actually, I don’t think that these people think this way. They just continue from one long day to the next, and find ways to get by, whatever those ways are. But not having researched this, and being the idealist I am, I easily allow myself to be wrong in my assumption.
….But would they come up with personal survival solutions if us “humanitarians” allowed them to reach extremes of staying alive. There are only so many World Food Programme bags. And only so many years on a food line. …or are there!? (Ha! See! The Debate.)
Of course we did not have answers for him. Eventually, as always, someone changes the subject – in this case it probably was about some conference on this exact concern held in Washington DC or some other swanky 1st World town. Or some 500pg hardcover book written up on just this worry.
Not having read the thousands of pieces of paper on this subject (for avoidance & denial I think), I cannot claim to be intellectualised on all the factors at play in the debate. But while eating my yogurt & muesli this morning while watching SABC Africa and seeing scenes of a drenched Mozambican land, I let this consideration run about…
Imagine all the people of the Zambezi province up and headed for “higher ground”. But this higher ground could very easily be in a neighbouring state (and very sorry for them if that state is Zim!), with a new government not so ready and willing to accept new inhabitants, rather than a “handful” of temporary refugees. Surely battles and wars would break out – and so start to shake our very precarious global peace. And what most worryingly would be shaken would be the acceptance of our current world order - of countries with sovereign borders & laws. At present, Migrating is only accepted if you are an educated First World-passported global citizen. Or Nigerian.
Do we accept that in an over-populated world, we need some people to live in the shoddier areas, and we help them out while we beg people to stop pomping so much & reproducing.
As incredibly beautiful as Southern Africa is, perhaps it just is not meant to be inhabited any longer?? Hell, with Global Warming lightly knocking on the door, perhaps we need to accept the human race’s time limit. (Yeah Yeah, the debate always needs to be pushed to the limit of crazy assumptions and possibilities.)
I could keep questioning, going back and forth with ideas, debates, countering myself, but I don’t think it really would be worth a grain of flooded salt come this afternoon, as I sip on my afternoon tea, when the next tropical storm hits the already devastated areas of Mozambique. And the people who know that stretch of soil as home fight for their lives.
Fcking sad & screwed up… all in all.
Happy Thursday! And I gave up tequila for Lent. Bets are now open to how long I will maintain.