Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sweet Charity

When I was growing up it was all about Africa. Every other Blue Peter appeal to our generous, privileged, juvenile, western sensibilities was about a famine in some god-forsaken semi-desert hellhole. Pictures of the bloated bellies of malnourished infants from Biafra then Sahel then Ethiopia were broadcast to play on heartstrings, with the intention of capturing sympathy and pocket money. Parents berated English kids for not eating their greens with the oft-repeated “starving children in Africa would be glad of that broccoli...” I dare say it still happens today.

But sod that, I thought; I might have collected thousands of milk bottle tops to try and buy a guide dog for the blind, or recycled newspapers for some other domestic fund-raiser, but the more I heard about and saw of the situation in Africa, the less I really cared. As Gilbert O’Sullivan sang in 1971 “When I'm drinking my Bonaparte Shandy, eating more than enough apple pies, will I glance at my screen and see real human beings starve to death right in front of my eyes?” Yes, I thought, I very well may. But I’d have had to catch the Six o’clock News and not, like now, have it piped into my head, unbidden, via every conceivable medium, every minute of every day.

I may have been in danger of being converted, but I listened to what I was being told and learned that starving women can’t conceive... and therein lay their salvation. So, what did the do-goody-good west do? We prolonged their misery by feeding them, letting them carry on breeding and increasing their numbers so that the next famine affected far more. And by the time you’ve lived, vicariously, through three or four famines they cease to have any fascination except for the uneasy feeling that it might have been better to have let nature take its course first time round.

I’m pretty sure I’d got to this stage by the time I was around fifteen, at which point playing drums in a rock band took up all my emotional commitment. My pragmatism in deciding to fix my life before meddling in that of others only continued to harden. But here we are, knocking on for half a century later and what has changed? The same old deluded fools in the west, salving their consciences by interfering in other people’s problems, making them worse and then handing down the messy consequences to the next generation for them to deal with.

Back when I was a kid we sent money and maybe some volunteers, but it eventually turned out that the real issues were with them and their environment, their cultures, the way they dealt with their own destinies. It didn’t work. So now the ‘solution’ is to import them, their cultures and the way they deal with things into the west so that, what? So we can hope to dilute their destructive tendencies? Swamp their stupid genes with our gullible ones? From whatever honourable source the motives spring, this river is only ever going to flow in one inevitable direction; downhill. We are building our future society on the shifting sands of a cultural flood plain.

Please give generously - Alms for Islington

One day in the future will Black Blue Peter try and dip into the deep pockets of affluent African children to try and save a dying Europe from famine, war and pestilence? Will a resurgent dark continent once again become the cradle of civilisation and the salvation of the world? I don’t see it somehow, do you? 


  1. The best of intentions do have this frequent tendency to contrive the worst of outcomes.


  2. After 40+ years working in and visiting Africa I agree the problem in Africa is environment and culture.
    It is not as you then say, in contradiction, stupid genes.
    After all European genes came from Africa.

    If it were genes then I might be as pessimistic as you. Africa has great cultural resources. Their culture is adapting to the modern world.

    Africa is as likely as anywhere to become the salvation of the world.

    1. You may not quite grasp the nature of polemic, but well done you for taking part.

      As for Africa becoming the salvation of the world, this will only happen when we have swapped populations.