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Tagged ‘Colonialism‘

The Virgin Fallacy: From the Famine Cotton Board to the Millennium Village Project

Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa (CIHA)

February 13, 2015

by Cilas Kemedjio

 

In this three-part series (we post Part One today), Cilas Kemedjio takes on the ongoing crusade to spread neoliberal dogma and “western values.”  Part Two addresses William Easterly’s call to governments and aid agencies to be “guardians of virtue,” while Part Three moves to the continued efforts of Jeffrey Sachs to create development nirvanas in African (and other) societies.

 

TOE

The cover story in The Economist (June 1997) was “Emerging Africa.” It was a classic display of the arrogant paternalism that has come to be the hallmark of the new humanitarianism. We are told that poor countries, referred to as “swallowers of endless charity,” will continue to make “legitimate demands on the conscience of the rich world.” In order to maximize the efficiency of aid programs, reforming corrupt models of governance should be the priority of donors: “If a country’s government is too venal or incompetent to spend the money as specified, it must be told to allow non-governmental organizations to step in or do without aid altogether” (The Economist 13-14). William Easterly makes the case for this neoliberal agenda in the language of virtue in his book The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. Easterly, a believer in the “Invisible Hand” theorized by Adam Smith, advocates an orthodox laissez-faire capitalism, that, coupled with democratic institutions, is the golden path towards growth. Jeffrey Sachs, in an article (“The Limits of Convergence: Nature, nurture and growth”) published in the same issue, credits Adam Smith for understanding better than modern economists the curse of tropical geography, that is, the link between geography and poverty (or growth). Sachs contends that global capitalism is “the most promising institutional arrangement for worldwide prosperity that history has ever seen.” Sachs claims that market-based policies and “fiscal rectitude” can help mitigate the “disabilities of the tropics.” The Economist, Easterly and Sachs all agree that good governance constitute the most important factor in the march out of extreme poverty: “Good government is not just a moral concern, or a basis for social stability and political legitimacy. Corruption, government breach of contract, expropriation of property, and inefficiency in public administration are found to harm growth.” For Sachs western economic domination may have been built upon the West’s nearly exclusive hold on capitalism. In the era of globalization, he suggests that economic prosperity should become “common property.” Jeffrey Sachs, the humanitarian at the center of Nina Munk’s The Idealist Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, and Easterly, the unapologetic advocate of globalization, do find another common ground: the virgin fallacy.

idealistThe concept of virginity is at the heart of the undertakings of European colonization, from slavery to humanitarianism without borders by way of colonization. The tabula rasa authorizes the colonial project with the attendant exploitation of human resources whose privileged modality is constituted of forced labor. The virginal state presupposes a certain laziness or morbidity of native residents, whence the exotic mythologies of the unused reserves of human energy that precede the enslavement of peoples expropriated from their virgin lands. Allen Isaacman and Richard Roberts, in Cotton, Colonialism, and Social History is Sub-Saharan Africa (1995), argue that programs of cotton colonialism were built upon the empirical observations and fantasies of European visitors, traders, missionaries, and administrators. Their view of Africa’s potential to produce cotton stemmed from the nineteenth-century romantic images of Africa as a beautiful tropical region through the prism of neo-mercantile policies. Most expectations rested on the assumption that African rural societies enjoyed abundant leisure that could be used to fuel the cotton industry. The colonial production scheme was also based on the presumption of an underutilized labor force, the consequence of Africans being “congenitally lazy.” Therefore, it was the divine duty of colonial nations to “heal” this malady by forcing Africans in the cotton fields.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his much-celebrated preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, writes that the invention of the native was a result of the reduction of “the inhabitants of the annexed country to the level of superior monkeys in order to justify the settler’s treatments of them as beasts of burden.” Starvation was only one of the modalities for achieving the complete breakdown of the humanity of the colonized. Isaacman argues that “Mozambican peasants underwrote the Portuguese textile industry with their labor and were forced to sacrifice their own food security” (Cotton is the Mother of Poverty 1996). The Famine Control Board, established by the Portuguese, could be said to represent a Humanitarian Mission at the heart of colonial exploitation.

If colonies were the grounds for the first Humanitarian missions of modern times, the battlegrounds of the Nigerian civil war, otherwise known as the Biafra war (1967-1970), became the theater of another experimentation: partisan humanitarianism. This new brand of humanitarian intervention, popularized by Doctors Without Borders, has recently become the cornerstone of the new ethical order world order. The Right to Protect, as it is known, institutionalizes the sovereignty of human rights over State sovereignty. Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have been, for better or for worse, targeted for this humanitarian experimentation. Jean Ping, the former President of the African Union Commission, laments how Libya is in chaos, after the NATO bombings that left the country in shambles and more than 50,000 deaths according to various estimates (Éclipse sur l’Afrique. Fallait-il tuer Kadhafi? 2014). Côte d’Ivoire has yet to recover from the disastrous French and United Nations military intervention following what amounted to be nothing more than a post-electoral dispute (Laurent Gbagbo selon François Mattei. Pour la Vérité et la Justice. Révélations sur un scandale français, 2014). I argue that this transformation of Africa as a ground where new experiments in international affairs are conducted proceeds from the Virgin Fallacy.

Easterly, in the name of fighting poverty, ends up casting Africa as a virgin land waiting to be molded by the conquistadores of morality and democracy, this time charged with the mission to protect the rights of the poor: “If you wonder what you can do about global poverty, here is virgin territory for action” (Easterly 34; emphasis added). The salvation of the poor, this theory surmises, will only come as a consequence of the spread of individual rights that are “Western values.” Sachs would probably agree with the assessment about the failure of development in Africa, but contends that it’s because foreign aid has been insufficient to generate satisfactory results. Sachs’s humanitarian approach to fight extreme poverty takes the form of the Millennium Villages Project while Easterly’s relies on the neoliberal dogma of free enterprise, globalization, and political freedom. Easterly is critical of Sachs’s philanthropic approach that seeks to create islands of successes in a sea of failure. Sachs’ humanitarianism is an experiment designed “to test his theories about ending poverty, and to demonstrate that his proposed series of interventions could be used on a grand scale to eradicate extreme poverty across Africa” (Munk 213). These theories, manufactured in Western laboratories, do not account for the complexities of African communities. The inability to learn from failures and successes that are written into the long history of fighting poverty in Africa calls into question this experiment that inevitably resurrects the tabula rasa mindset. In this sense, it does remain trapped within the paradigm of Africa as virgin territory.

 

[Cilas Kemedjio is Director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester and co-editor of the CIHA Blog.]

Bill McKibben of 350.org Schooled by Amanda Lickers of Reclaim Turtle Island

Submedia

Published on Sep 9, 2014

“Amanda Lickers is a queer, cis, Seneca Haudenosaunee woman and organizer. As a member of the turtle clan of the Onondowaga nation, she uses her experiences as an indigenous woman to speak about bio-centrism as anti-oppression, and how earth liberation is  about intergenerational healing – honoring ancestors who have come before us, and those who are yet to come.” [Source]

Listen to the full show here:
http://ckut.ca/c/en/node/1031

 

Unist’ot’en Call To Action: Pipeline Construction Has Begun

The Unist’ot’en People Will Stop the Northern Gateway

ALERT, CALL FOR HELP

WKOG admin: Stop supporting the very organizations financed and dependent upon the very corporations and very system we claim to oppose. Stop supporting the appointed false prophets of privilege who have sold out our children and living ecosystems in exchange for 6-figure salaries, ego and celebrity. Start supporting real activism and the people on the front lines who refuse to bow down to power. These are the real heroes we so desperately need as we cross planetary tipping pints. If you cannot support real direct action physically, please send a donation. Even a small donation will help. 

On Anger, “Love Voices”, and “Divisiveness” In Their Environmental Movement

October 27, 2013

by Kat Stevens

On Anger

Notes:

I do not speak for every non-white person, nor am I attempting to. I speak from my experiences, the experiences of my loved ones, and through personal analysis of white supremacy, systemic racism, and intersectionality.

I do not equate being an indigenous person of this continent with being a person of color who is present in “America” for other reasons, even those whose ancestors have been forcibly brought here. Being a person of color or even an indigenous person from another continent does not negate the fact that we (now I speak as a POC settler myself) are living, breathing, and struggling on stolen and occupied native lands. I don’t know the best language to use. When I say “POC/indigenous,” I mean racialized peoples, including people of multiple ethnic and racial identities which may include white. I explicitly encourage us to begin to create our own understandings and language around these concepts.   

Reflections On Power Shift 2013: An Impromptu Interview

Groundwork for Praxis

October 27, 2013

powershift collage

See Also: “Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?” By Kat Stevens.

*Notes Via Kat Stevens: “This piece originally appeared as part of a series called, “Millenials Take On Climate Change” on the website, Policy Mic. The title I had wanted to go with for this piece was, “How  Big Green NGOs Are Harming the Environmental Movement”. Only 800 words were allowed. Policy Mic asked me to become a regular contributor after this piece but I declined once they repeatedly told me that a piece featuring an interview with a frontline indigenous organizer fighting tar sands pipelines wasn’t relevant for their readers.”

 

Emasculation of the African with Awards, Grants and Prizes

From where I sit

October 25, 2013

by Sophia Tesfamariam

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Image above: “This past weekend, Hillary Clinton hailed Banda for taking charge in introducing economic reform. Banda passed an austerity budget permitting, Kwacha (Malawi’s currency), to devalue by about 49 percent in order for the IMF to loan it $156.2 million to help the country meet its payments. Clinton also promised to spend over $46 million in the coming three years in the agricultural sector.” “Malawi’s Activists Turned Politicians”, August 7, 2012

 

Iam always amazed at how much time and energy is spent by those of European decent discussing “Africa’s development”. Birgit Brock-Utne, an astute European educator of Norwegian origin, wrote the following in her book[1] about those who insist on preaching to Africa about development:

“… when Europeans came to Africa toward the turn of the fifteenth century, they found a prosperous civilization and enormous wealth. Agriculture and cattle rearing, iron-work, pottery, fishery, salt-mining, gold refining and ornament making, weaving, hunting, and long-distance trading were well advanced at a time and Europe was still relatively backward…From the fifteenth century on, however, the fate of the two continents reversed….Africa stagnated for over three centuries as a direct result of slavery and colonial conquests. This part of global history, for the sake of maintaining a correct historical perspective on Africa and Europe, must always be kept in mind when looking at the contemporary African situation…The bulk of the African people fought heroically against the imposition of slavery and colonialism, though there were some Africans who collaborated with the white slave-hunters and colonialists as well…”

History of post-colonial Africa is replete with shameful stories of African collaborators who worked to undermine the progress and development of their own peoples. The west’s “divide and rule” tactics resulted in intractable conflicts, destruction and devastation of Africa, leaving its people at the mercy of the neo-cons and their political and economic systems that have sustained poverty through poverty perpetuating programs. The Structural Adjustment Programs of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are an example.

Friends of Syria or Friends of Imperialism?

what’s left

October 23, 2013

By Stephen Gowans

FriendsofSyria

 

The Friends of Syria—an 11 country coalition ranged against the Syrian government—favors what it calls a “democratic” transition in Damascus. There are multiple problems with this.

The coalition says that the current president, Bashar al-Assad, must have “no role in Syria.” How odd that an ostensibly democracy-promoting coalition should dictate to Syrians who it is who can’t be president of their country, rather than democratically leaving the question up to Syrians themselves.

Reformism, Indigenous Activism, the Global Crisis, and System Change

Wendy Lynn Lerat

Dec 21, 2012 in Ottawa -Thousands of IdleNoMore protesters marched on Parliament Hill to demand a meeting with kanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Dec 21, 2012 in Ottawa -Thousands of IdleNoMore protesters marched on Parliament Hill to demand a meeting with kanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

 

The following first appeared on the persynal Facebook page of grassroots Native activist Wendy Lynn Lerat. It has since also been made available by the comrades over at the Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood. As usual posting here should not be taken as a sign of total endorsement or affiliation.]

 

Since December 2012, the social media phenomena Idle No More (INM) has been front and centre and in the spotlight as THE authoritative voice for the grassroots movement of the original peoples of Turtle Island. Over the past nine months, INM has spread its influence across Turtle Island and beyond; moving into areas of established local activists advocating unity under its brand of Pan-Indianism and reformism. In many cases, its messaging advocating for one voice for all has resulted in division not only within its own ranks but among Indigenous activists.

Decolonizing Together | Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity Toward a Practice of Decolonization

briarpatch magazine

January 1, 2012

by Harsha Walia

Illustrations by Afuwa

 

Canada’s state and corporate wealth is largely based on subsidies gained from the theft of Indigenous lands and resources. Conquest in Canada was designed to ensure forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their territories, the destruction of autonomy and self-determination in Indigenous self-governance and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples’ cultures and traditions. Given the devastating cultural, spiritual, economic, linguistic and political impacts of colonialism on Indigenous people in Canada, any serious attempt by non-natives at allying with Indigenous struggles must entail solidarity in the fight against colonization.

Non-natives must be able to position ourselves as active and integral participants in a decolonization movement for political liberation, social transformation, renewed cultural kinships and the development of an economic system that serves rather than threatens our collective life on this planet. Decolonization is as much a process as a goal. It requires a profound recentring on Indigenous worldviews. Syed Hussan, a Toronto-based activist, states: “Decolonization is a dramatic reimagining of relationships with land, people and the state. Much of this requires study. It requires conversation. It is a practice; it is an unlearning.”

The (Illusory) Green Economy – A Critical Analysis by Dr.Joanna Boehnert

The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP will give scientific authority the project, but the important decisions will have already been made. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets. On a macroeconomic level “the subordination of social and environmental considerations to macroeconomic policy imperatives” is the fundamental basis of neoliberalism (Nadal, 2012, p.15). Once “macroeconomic objectives are determined, every other policy target is chiseled in accordance” (Ibid., p. 15). The lessons of the recent economic crisis in regards to the fallibility of the financial sector are entirely ignored.

 

The architects of the project have failed to acknowledge the most expansive systemic dynamics of capitalism and ignored the political and historic context. Despite claims by the UNEP, the UN’s GEP is not policy neutral (Ibid., p. 23).

 

The UN’s GEP is supported by the financial and corporate sectors because they recognize the programme as a continuation of the neoliberal model, an expansion of the scope of market and also an exceptional opportunity to create entirely new financial instruments. Similarly to the financial deregulation that set up conditions for the dramatic plunder of public wealth during the current economic crisis, the UN’s GEP establishes new markets that will lead to new avenues for financial speculation. The speculative bubble during the 2008-2009 period has been estimated to cost governments globally at least $12 trillion (Conway quoting IMF, 2009) leaving several bankrupt national governments and severe economic austerity in its wake. This is the context in which the UN’s GEP is operating. The designers of the project have closely aligned themselves to the same financial institutions that played leading roles in the economic crisis.

 

Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP. …The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.

 

The Indigenous People’s Kari-Oca 2 Declaration describes the UN’s GEP as ‘a continuation of colonialism… a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in on Creation by privatizing, commodifying and selling off the Sacred and all forms of life and the sky’ (2012, p.1-2). The programme of re-visioning of the commons as sets of commodities ripe for exploitation is diametrically contrary to the environmental rhetoric used to sell the project.