Thursday, February 22, 2007

Developed Dependency

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.


Insane Insomniac said...

Aww, Champers. I must admit, I agree with your Latin Amrican friend. People get so used to aid that they seem to live with the expectation of it.
I think education is the best form of aid.

As for Lent...good thing i'm not religious. I give it two weeks.

Anonymous said...

I think that we're animals. We should migrate, we should adapt. Instead, we've decided to take our territorialism (sp?) to extreme lengths. We can never go back to being that simple again.

How the hell did you write such a coherent post this morning?

And I give you until Saturday to stick to the tequila thing.

*evil grin*

Champagne Heathen said...

Insane - aid comes in many forms - education being one, food packs being another etc.

A problem is, what will be the great great costs at stopping aid. These people are living on land that is not providing them with enough food for themselves, let alone creating a surplus. They are dying from diseases that can be prevented but the governments are too poor or too corrupt to help them with such basic universal rights.

African states need to stay within the global capitalist economy, so not only must governments help out their people in these "worse off areas" but they must also get these people to be productive. This is not easy, and so humanitarian organisations stepped in to help. But we have created an industry as a result, and perhaps have taken it too far. But can we even consider, let alone cope with, the devastation that will result should we revert back!

Jamaloni - wine/champs/amarula hangovers actually inspire my brain! And good to know you don't predict it as soon as tomorrow night! Although...what time on Saturday??

Exactly. Our systems have become too complex, and perhaps we are causing our own eventual demise.

(Now, btwn this post & comments & comments on Peas' post, I am tired. I am off to snooze.)

Anonymous said...

Hey champs,

Among the rainforest of books dealing with the subject, the one I felt that dealt the best with the ambivalance and insolvable circular logic of aid agencies - from an external non-aid worker perspective - was Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari.

Difficult topic...

Champagne Heathen said...

Brilliant. Thanks Paul! I've written it down, and will try to do a run-in-and-buy-only-this-ONE-book to Exclusives soon!

And thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Ah Champs, that brings me back to the days when I was involved with landmine clearence. Was at a UN confrence where they argued for over two hours that landmines don't just kill and maim people, they also have a socio-economic impact.

My favourit was "we can't use military technology" then one guy chirped in, "metal detectors were originally developed for the military".

I am really glad I am out of that circus.

Jam, not all people want to migrate. Some have this strange notion on living on the land of their fore fathers bla bla.....

Anonymous said...

Pig -
I meant we're originally animals, before we started applying all this so called human stuff to our worlds. Staying on the lands of your forefathers falls into this. Tribes used to migrate across Africa, as Champs' post points out. It was just when things became more "westernised" that this changed.

Anonymous said...

Hi there CH.
While you, and most of the people providing aid near or on the ground, truly care about development, assistance, life and many of the other things that lend humans a little goodness (and I salute you for caring), the global aid scene is purely a political power-game. You probably know this better than I do, but seen in this light, there is no point in hurting your heart and brain with questions that cannot be answered or wallowing in moral dilemmas that stem from caring (and I salute you for caring).

Whether it may be better to reduce aid or not is neither here nor there. The aid organisations will NOT go away - they're too politically valuable. And they will NOT be allowed to achieve too much.
No-one (read: the-powers-that-be) wants serious competition from 3rd world countries right now... (or ever). And none of the aid providing governments (or it seems local governments as well) give a damn about the family that no longer has a home, clean water or food. What is important to them is the resources they require and the political power they hold by virtue of their aid.

With true political will to make aid effective, the need for aid would be reduced very very quickly.

So: don’t screw yourself with that particular dilemma and carry on with your humanitarian work just because you care (and I salute you for caring), it suits you and it inspires cynical bastards like me.

PS: CH - I’ve made guesses about what you do and who you are in the above - if incorrect, no offence meant!

# 302 said...

being young and optimistic i say that it lasts for 40 days.

DaveRich said...

Tequila...Lent, I forgot...what a bad Catholic I have become.

Anonymous said...

Not too sure if you can say that the end to migration in Africa is a western thing. There were people that migrated and then there were people that did not. Yes migration was the original way of living for all people, but as they discoverd farming etc. migration becomes difficult.

What the west has done is make a big thing of famine and so on. If you look at what happend in Africa before colonisation people died, that was part of nature.

Lochinvar you are forgetting a huge and important issue, culture. While the west or anyone has the own interestet at heart, what is stopping the 3rd world for saying no? Could it be the need for a R90 Million wall?

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnie - an expensive circus it can be!!

Lochinvar - thanks for commenting on my blog again! And in reply to your comment ....*SOB* I know! And I agree with you completely.

But for my own sanity & ability to continue working, and of what I have made my life goals to be, I HAVE TO to NOT believe you. To delude myself, yes.

But then I also have to question this aid game, because if it is all politics am I not just countering my goals?!?!

I am not exactly a development workers anymore, but I know I will get back to it, get very cynical & depressed, get out of it, and so continue. Till I rule the UN & change it all.

For the moment, and as long as I can remain idealistic, I fight against the political power games. Even just by refusing to do tasks that I view to have no benefit, so a waste of my time, and only are being asked for as a formality to a beaureucratic system. Luckily my current office agrees with me on this and so allows me this. In a previous job, I have been pulled off a project for speaking against some higher level person in Europe.

If us aid workers are serious about it all, then we should fight against this power play, even though I do not see it ever allowing itself to go away - as you say.

So I will keep inspiring you, and you keep me motivated to stay as ideal as possible for as long as possible! Thanks.

Numero - here's hoping you win!

DaveRich - I am not even Christian & I knew! Granted I was only told last night. You are one day late, but still, pick a vice & let the games begin!

Guinnie - back to you...aah, the corruption of many of the developing world's leaders. They are corrupt, so aid agencies are called on to stop assisting that country until corruption is brought under control, and it is the citizens who are punished.

It is not Africa who is not willing to say no, it is this rich developing world elite who is not willing to say no. They benefit. When will the impoverished people stand up against to these corrupt leaders - only when pushed to extremes...which is only when aid agencies let them reach the extreme, through no longer helping. But how do you watch people suffer, so as to HOPEFULLY one day SOON help themselves. (ie. Zim!)

My thoughts are getting twisted...I need coffee & a snooze...I'll be get back to all of you...

DaveRich said...

Tequila is a great excuse, reason. I am looking for a cop out on that one. I think thats it. SAB wouldn't stay open much longer if I gave up beer so Tequila it is. YAAY!

Anonymous said...

Guinness Pig - Great reference to "The Wall", but you seem to be associating corruption/greed (can't seem to find the exact word here...) with culture - a dangerous generalisation - however close to truth it may or may not be.

Nevertheless, while I concede your point - as the trend in SA today seems elitist and focused on individual greed for power and or money - there have been rumblings in the last years of "No" linked to the African Renaissance thing.

Then again, would a person of any culture say "No" offered money and power for a price to be determined in the long-term future - beyond our lives?

Revolving Credit said... the point, I'm gonna have to write my first instalment of the 'Stalkers Guide.'

It'll not be on how to stalk but rather how to evade stalking with a few anecdotes based on how people have slipped up.

Anything else you think I should include??

Anonymous said...

Culture is a difficult thing to define. No I was not equating greed/corruption with culture. What I was referring to was a culture of "the leaders can't do anything wrong".

Not mentioning names, but a certain political party still has not gotten near delivering what it promised in its first term. Fine everyone deservs a second chance, but how many terms has it been and there will be no change any time soon.
That said, all political parties are the same, they just have a different name (I have been called a jaded liberal and I agree with that).

See JZ, he gets caught time and again, and there are parts of the population that insist on forgiving him.

Now my personal view. I think the culture of Ubuntu is a fantastic thing (I try to live by it), however there are the Yingenis {insert more names here} that exploit it by adopting a sick mix of western and traditional cultures.

This is moving into a political debate, but to end off in a really contraversal note.
Can one really trust a popularist politician? Since, how many people that vote actually ever look or understand their manifesto?

The states are brilliant at voting in ex-actors and other glam looking "leaders".

Champagne Heathen said...

DaveRich - excellent! First to break Lent owes the other one a tequila cocktail come Easter Monday! Cool?

Rev - surely none of these ancedotes could be about me!! Not recently I reckon. Now you have me paranoid!....

Dear cynical Lochinvar - but it is their job to be working for long term goals they won't be around for!...stated the idealistic young girl with so much frustration at what she knew to be real versus what SHOULD be real if people followed the rules of community living!

Guinnie - you should be reading the current post of someamongus! It is also on this theme about accountability of that particular party.

Good point about a popularist many people to please, that he ends up not pleasing any! Kinda like that US system, where if the one party is for this issue, then we must be against this.

Political parties, like aid agencies, will do as much as it takes to keep themselves alive, when often they should be trying to work themselves out of a job!

Anonymous said...

For fear of some of our subtle laws
I will refrain from futher comments on said party.

Tequila on easter monday? What is this silly lent thing about anyway?

Revolving Credit said...

Gotcha!!....well, kind of. I think. Maybe.

Was off sick for 2 days, had time to revise tactics and got a prospective hit immediately. Does take perserverance though.

It's all still a work in progress.
Note though, that multiple test subjects are being simultaniously stalked. Some are easier to stalk than others.
Some are hard targets, others are soft targets. But targets, none the less.

....{insert Adams Family tune here}


DaveRich said...

You're on on like Donkey Kong.

# 302 said...

when dealing with an idealist a little optimisism tends to go a long way - here's hoping the flesh is as strong as the spirit.

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnie - you were meant to eat pancakes on Tuesday cause it was Shrove Tuesday. Christians were meant to attend mass yesterday & have the ash of palms put on their foreheads in the sign of a cross. The most serious of Christians start fasting now until the Easter w.end, in the same way that Jesus did so in the desert before he was crucified. The less serious or completely unchristian but still find it fun - like me - give up a few vices for 40 days. To see how long we can last. It teaches you about strength & appreciation.

And I have not been appreciating tequila as much as I perhaps should have. I have been cursing it far too much as of late.

Anyone willing to improve on my heathen interpretation...

Rev - am I a soft or hard target?!?!? And is a soft target a blogger who makes it too easy to be discovered, OR who means less should their ID be discovered??

What prospectively hit you now?!??!

All in all, those flu meds seem to be treating you brilliantly!

DaveRich - excellent!

Champagne Heathen said...

Numero - let's hope the spirit is as enduring as the flesh!

Anonymous said...

Well my parents tried to bring my up as a Protestant. We did sometimes eat fish on Friday, but as far as I remember that tradition was only introduced but the Catholic church during a famine with the intention of saving food. (Can't find a link at the mo but let me know if interested). So as you can see I know nothing of lent.

Let me guess, this tequila fast was thought up last night over a fish pie.

Damn what is it with all this fish?

Peas on Toast said...

Good luck for the tequila thing. I've given up Pringles.

It's a problem.

Revolving Credit said...

Soft targets {bloggers}, through their provision of direct identity data, make stalking easier. Hard targets do appear to take some precautions.

When people mention their day to day activities, possibilities present themselves.

PS. It really helps if you're camera shy!

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnie - religious people are meant to eat fish on a Friday?!?! Yeah, the Catholics have all the fun celebrations! Why did they have to eat pancakes then?? Def. send a link if you can track that down.

The decision was made before. But it was voiced and so set in stone over a very very tasty fish pie!!

The fish are trying to make us aware that they are in a global shortage!

Peas - Good luck to you!! And just don't pop!

Rev - luckily I am fairly camera shy. Unless... Uh oh. I did just realise how you could find my identity after certain banter & postings in the past few weeks. And those are such bad bad photos!

Fck fck fck. Surely not.

Anonymous said...

More than that was thought up over fish pie.

Anonymous said...

Oh pray tell Jam.

Not exactly sure about the pancakes but apparently it has something to do with the fact that they are made from egg and milk

Revolving Credit said...

I believe the term is...BUSTED!!
{No reference to breasts intended}

So how do you think I may have busted you???

Phlippy said...

OK, this is another one I need to think about before commenting. Been so hectic today I only got to read now... SIGH. SOrry Champers

Champagne Heathen said...

Jam - :) Inspirational that fish pie was!

Guinnie - milk & eggs?? Aren't pancakes all about the syrup?? Thanks for the link!

Rev - Na aaah. You mail me any pics you THINK you might have found of me, and I'll confirm or deny. In case you are simply leading here, so making me let down my guard cos I THINK I have been defeated!

(Such bad photos. Damn.)

Phlippy - not a worry at all! Rather ponder Jam's question earlier: How the hell did you write such a coherent post this morning?

Anonymous said...

Oh, is that what syrup is used for. I always wondered whey it was sold at P&P and not adult world.

Mommy said...

I've become camera shy too. Very camera shy.

Champagne Heathen said...

Unless you already have alternate address for me?? That would be perfect!

I await with baited breathe, fascination, and applause should you have defeated me!

Champagne Heathen said...

Guinnie - this is ringing similar to a convo has one evening last week! The multifaceted nature of syrup...

Jam - Ha Ha! Not enough!

Anonymous said...

Champs, you know how I like sticky things......

Champagne Heathen said...

What?!? I know nothing about your like for sticky things!! Unless you mean sticky situations, as in figuratively sticky!

Revolving Credit said...

You got mail!

Anonymous said...

Yip I know,

Champagne Heathen said...

Rev - No mail as yet...I am still sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation...

Guinnie - Good that we cleared that up! I was worried my tequila memory loss was more than I suspected!

Anonymous said...

Well I was made last night. Not that it was too hard for them to do :-)

Champagne Heathen said...

You were made what now Guinnie?!?! I assuming to drink tequila, and so now you are horribly hungover, and so can barely type straight?!?

Ha ha - shame!

Anonymous said...

Drink I did, twice last night. Once for fun, and another with a friend who left me thinking, is it worth all the pain?

Champagne Heathen said...

It's the second one that is the killer! Sorry for yooooou!

Anonymous said...

Well I was just the shoulder to cry on in this case. said...

Y'mean Hush Puppy pics?

Yeah for that he deserves to be Rickshae Adonis with Champers for 72 hours.

It looks as if Champs has no say in the matter now!