Sunday, July 03, 2005

Nice concert. But can it really save millions from dying?

I was going to write an article on Live 8, but a fellow by the name of Gethin Chamberlain has beaten me to the punch and written the article much more eloquently than I would have. Some of the outstanding spot-on sentiments:

Had Saturday's protesters and concert-goers all sat down and refused to move until poverty was history, or at least until the G8 leaders had promised to make it so, they might have made more impact.

The world could have marvelled at what might have come to be known as The Tartan Revolution. But instead, the Edinburgh crowd settled for an attempt on the world record for the eightsome reel, then went home for their tea, satisfied that they had done their bit.

"Wearing badges is not enough," Billy Bragg used to sing, "in days like these", but judging by the events of the weekend, a lot of people appear to believe that wearing wristbands just might do the trick.

He continues:

Cancelling the debts of 14 nations is a worthy gesture, but it will only be effective if linked to strict anti-corruption measures. Geldof says that Africa is not mired in corruption, but the evidence is against him. Doubling aid sounds good, but there is no evidence that it works. Hundreds of billions of pounds have been poured into Africa and it is poorer now than it has ever been. The money is mopped up by leaders who use it to place more distance between themselves and their own people. If they know they can rely on western cash to prop themselves up, why worry about making themselves accountable to the people?

But some people do not want to hear such arguments. When Ousmane Sembene -known as "the father of African cinema" - branded Make Poverty History and Live 8 as "fake", it went virtually unreported. "African heads of state who buy into that idea of aid are all liars," Sembene said. "The only way for us to come out of poverty is to work hard."

Finally, he concludes:

Those who marched and partied this weekend can tell themselves that they have made a difference, that the world has changed. But we said that after Live Aid, and Sport Aid too, and it did not do so then, though the will was there, because the wrong solutions were adopted, because doing the wrong thing was considered better than doing nothing at all.

Geldof may not like critics, and he is very good at shouting down those who voice their doubts. But sometimes it pays to listen, too.

Well put.

This whole Live 8 thing is exactly what pisses me off about liberals and/or progressives. To liberals and progressives, the important thing seems to be that you "do something" and that you do that something with the intent of doing a good thing. Whether or not the thing you do is actually a good thing seems to be of only secondary importance. Though it's often questionable whether good ends can justify unseemly means in a given situation, can it even be reasonably debated that attractive means justify unfortunate ends? As near as I can tell, the progressive mind's analytical center works in this manner:
I notice that certain people are in pain and sad. We should do something to correct their pain and sadness. Although the source of their pain and sadness probably result from a highly complex situation, which few fully understand, I'll bet some money would help alleviate their problems. I mean, how could money not help solve their problems? How could money not help make them happier? We should raise some money and use it to help the sad people! Well, I mean, of course we won't actually personally use it! I mean, that would require that we actually go visit third-world countries. That would probably take a lot of time and effort, and might be dangerous. Instead, we'll send it to someone who knows the poor, sad people and who will promise to use it to help them. Why can't everyone else be as enlightened?
Of course, as the liberal mind matures, it learns to translate the above sentiment into something that sounds even more high-minded and intellectual, but in fact, in the liberal/progressive mindset, there doesn't seem to be a problem in the world that can't be solved by throwing money at it. Further, so long as you have thrown the aforementioned money at the problem, you have done your duty and can sleep soundly at night, having lived up to the full measure of your progressive morality.

In reality, of course, very few problems can be solved by simply throwing money at them. Putting resources in the wrong hands is, in fact, worse than keeping the resources where they started out. An illustrative hypothetical: suppose a total stranger asks you for $200 cash, and you give it to him, because he looks like he needs it. From that point forward, you have no control over how those resources are used. He may store the money away and use it wisely to buy food and other necessities. That would be good. He may take the money and spend it all on booze and drugs, making himself very sick. That would be unfortunate and sad. He may take the money and buy a gun and use it on someone. That would be tragic. Any of these outcomes are possible, but the second is probably more likely than the other two.

In a vacuum, the donor of the $200 may be forgiven for giving the money to the stranger even if the most tragic outcome occurs. There is even a naive nobility to the act. Now, suppose that the donor routinely hands out $200 donations to strangers and the strangers routinely use the money to cause violence and mayhem. In that case, the donor's actions, even though well-intentioned, are completely reprehensible from a moral standpoint. Even if the donor is completely ignorant of the results of his actions, he's causing violence and mayhem with woefully insufficient concern for the consequences of his actions. This is simply inexcusable, no matter how well-intentioned the donor may be.

When Bob Geldof recently proclaimed that "Something must be done, even if it doesn't work," he explained squishy-headed leftism in a mere nine words. That's actually quite an accomplishment. Most progressives use more words, owing to the fact that the fewer words you use to express the philosophy, the sillier it sounds. Progressives seem to believe that "doing something" is inherently good, even if the consequences of the thing done are inherently and demonstrably bad. This defies normal logic, but somehow it appears to make sense to progressives. Now, if they were raising money to put out a hit on Robert Mugabe, then they might be moving in the proper direction. Unfortunately, without serious reform, throwing money at Africa won't help Africa's problems, and is likely to make them worse. Then again, serious reform is very difficult, and very messy, and not nearly as much fun as going to a rock concert and basking in your own self-righteousness.


Post a Comment

<< Home