Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
I have written before [here
] on the harmful, corrupting effect the actions that Western nations can have on the possibility of progress towards a prosperous, peaceful, democratic Africa. This argument centred on the regressive impact of government support for the arms trade, in particular, but not limited to, the accepted manner in which companies pursue contracts. In short, bribery, which cannot help but play a role in the levels of corruption and kelptocracy in developing nations. If we add in the effect of increased arms levels on internal security situations and external regional relations, we can quickly see how the Western arms trade is a blight on developing nations.
I have been unfortunate enough to be exposed to people who argue that the ‘democratic revolution’* of Afghanistan and Iraq must now sweep through Africa. But this, frankly sickening, and dangerous, piece of neo-imperialist thinking reminded me of an edition of The Daily Politics
I watched a few weeks ago. On this, Andrew Neil
and his guests were discussing the problem of Africa, and the consensus seemed to be that Africa’s corrupt leaders were the obstacle to development, peace and freedom. What was to be done about this was not agreed, though none seemed to go so far as to suggest violent, bloody, regime change from without. Some commentators did appear to use this situation as a justification for decreasing the amount Western nations give in foreign aid, a hopelessy ahumanitarian non-solution.
However, one guest on the show, the only African guest on the show, pointed out that for every kleptocratic ruler, there were banks, bankers, traders, dealers and the like who enabled his kleptomania. Many of these will be located in the City of London. If we, in the West, are seriously concerned about the effect that Africa’s corrupt leaders have on the welfare of their people, we should start with their ‘fences’, the people who are within what is our democratic remit to regulate.
This suggestion was met with scoffing laughs from Andrew Neil and his guests. ‘As if!’ was the tone of their comments. In other words, capital is not to be questioned, certainly not when it has been accumulated by men with white skin in the City from the robbery of the poor people with black skin in Africa. Rather, we shall pass the blame that our nation bears onto a handful of individuals, and if these too have black skin, then all the better. We must personalise the problem, because if we see it as a product of a system or structures we will be forced to change what has served us so well. At the expense of others.
How do we reform regimes in Africa? Do we invade and enforce democracy and responsible government from without? That is a costly, destructive solution, and is morally and theoretically dubious. Do we cancel foreign aid in some primitive and ahumane expectation that forces of social Darwinism will bring about change through hardship? Or do we at least begin with restricting and reforming the aspects of our societies, upon which it is undeniably legitimate to act, which enable the regimes that are so criticised by Western governments to exists and prosper?
Only the last option is off the table, it seems.
*The idea that these invasions have been part of a ‘democratic revolution’ is laughable. Democracy must be the action of the people themselves. Other actions can enable this, it is true, but if these actions were not intended to enable democracy then they can claim the title ‘democratic revolution’ little more than the Black Death of the 14th Century can claim to be the ‘illness of emancipation’.