Monday, July 04, 2005


"Are you ready to start a revolution? Are you ready to change the world?"

Whatever. Right behind you, Madge. Oh, and pass me some of that cake, would you?

I'm sure the intentions were good but how could it help but be misunderstood? How could it have avoided becoming just another part of the whole elaborate web of half-truths, misinformation and spin?

I keep asking myself just what it may have achieved. Beyond getting Pink Floyd back together again, I can't come up with one, single, solitary thing.

Awareness has been raised, eh? An awareness of what, exactly? That there are problems in Africa? That the G8 nations should "do something about it"? That people can make a difference and influence policy by attending a concert? By signing a petition?

There are problems in Africa. Yet most people would still, when asked, state dictatorship, corruption, war, drought and famine as the main ones and might make vague noises about debt relief if pushed. These are problems and very real ones but I can't help feeling that an awareness of probably the biggest long term problem that Africa faces is as far from most people's awareness as it ever was.

This is the simple and unalterable truth that it is not in the economic interests of any of the G8 countries to do anything which might place the fate of Africa in the hands of Africans themselves. G8, if it is anything, is business pure and simple. A club of the rich and powerful the job of which is to ensure the continuation of its wealth and power. A charitable organisation it most certainly is not.

The European Community's Common Agricultural Policy is probably more of a long term threat to Africa than Mugabe et al and yet somehow, I can't quite see France turning its back on its farming lobby. Votes lost there would far outweigh any gained by the opposite course of action.

G8 countries, or more exactly the corporations based therein, control a huge slice of African economies and we aren't talking technology here, we are concerned with the G8 control of agriculture and staple foodstuffs, cocoa in the Ivory Coast and maize in South Africa. Countries rich in natural resources and minerals like the Congo are at the mercy of the G8 companies who control them. No amount of debt relief is going to make any difference to these situations whatsoever.

And as for the debt relief itself. Oh dear. Unconditional it isn't. Proposals at the moment make any debt relief contigent upon taking steps recommended by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, institutions with an excellent track record of protecting the interests of donor (G8) countries and with no interest whatsoever in handing any degree of economic power and control to those countries forced to follow their directives. Free trade is not an issue as long as it cuts only the one way. Their markets must be opened to our multi-nationals while protectionism thrives at home. Tony Blair, our touchy-feely Uncle Tony, so concerned about ethics and foreign policy that he threw his weight behind the privatisation of the water supply in Ghana and made a lot of British investors very happy indeed. He listens alright. Just not to Joe Soap is all. The British trade in arms to Africa has been worth over 1 billion. How many stealth taxes would Gordon need to introduce if that lot disappeared? And we still want to stop the wars?

Another proposal, as I understand it, is that for every dollar 'given' as debt relief, that self same dollar will be taken out of the country in question's aid budget. A wonderful little bit of legerdemain that probably won't make the headlines.

And the G8 itself? More like the G1 plus 7. I would trust about 70% of the population of the US to make the right decision on just about anything you care to mention but as long as these people have no voice, as long as they are removed from the democratic process and their views remain unrepresented, our trust will have to reside in that chimp George W and his neo-con cohorts. Does that thought fill you with optimism?

My biggest gripe with the whole Live8 thing is that it has given people the luxury of allowing themselves to feel that they have in some way made a difference and can salve their consciences with the thought that by attending, they were expressing their solidarity with the people of Africa. Well, maybe they were but let's not kid ourselves that the things that may have been achieved are anything other than minimalist window dressing.

When Africa decides to follow the examples burgeoning right now in South America and says, "No mas", only then will I allow myself to feel a flash of hope and optimism.

Until then, "Put your hands in the air!"

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