Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Critical Analysis of America's Philanthropist Champion Poster Boys


In the eyes of Bono, Corporations are good because they donate money to philanthropy, and Capitalism by means of multinationals is on the verge of fulfilling its good-natured potential of eliminating poverty and rescuing the peoples of the underdeveloped world. The singer turned goodwill benefactor has a very simplistic and convenient view of the world, and of how he thinks it should be changed. He strongly believes that the West's self-righteous, hypocritical intentions towards the third world are actually sincere and altruist ones. Altruism; an arrogant term used by the industrial nations that attempts to glorify the "selflessness" and "generosity" of capitalism, and the naive cover of a confused and contradictory theory on how to transform the world. I drew my examles from Bono's foreword to a book entitled "The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time" by an American economist named Jeffrey Sachs, and from a few basic premises in the book's preface and introduction.

Collaborating with the Perpetrators

In this three page foreword, Bono quotes, of all people, Colin Powell. He highlights something that was said by Colin Powell, a statement very typical of a high ranking U.S. official, a simple-minded, speech-written, Bush doctrine emblematic declaration; "The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty." And this is what Bono has to say about it: "Who said that? Not me. Not some beatnick peace group. Secretary of State Colin Powell. And when a military man starts talking like that perhaps we should listen." For the foreword to a book about saving humanity, Bono quotes one of the world's leading warmakers, a facilitator of imperialism, he chooses a statement that doesn't even have any real substance to it, and praises it as if it was a profoundly insighful notion. Moreover, he completely confuses and distorts Mr.Powell's statement by saying that "In tense, nervous times isn't it cheaper-and smarter-to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them?" First of all, this last sentence has absolutely nothing to do with any type of development or theory on development, and secondly, it says the complete opposite of what was meant by Mr.Powell's statement, which is to make war as a first resort, and to negotiate and ask questions later. Mr.Powell's fatal logic is to utilise the elimination of poverty as just another pretext to legitimize the use of institutionalized military aggression in the war against "terror".

Maybe what Bono believed Mr.Powell was trying to say, is that the best way to avoid terrorism is to combat poverty first. The logical reality is exactly that; the seemingly unbreakable cycle of endless poverty is one of the root causes of anger motivated terrorism, and so it must be addressed first. Unfortunately, what Mr.Powell meant, and the way the United-States operates, is to focus on terrorism first, and to worry about poverty later. Today, the United-States spends a daily total of $200 million on the war in Iraq. President Bush has requested an additional $800 billion for war-spending in Iraq in 2008, $600 billion of which has already been approved. The cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for a year in Iraq is $390,000. These figures are for the war in Iraq alone, not considering involvement in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, or other military spending commitments in Turkey, Israel, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Colombia to name only a few. It is interesting to wonder what our world would look like if the U.S. were to use this money to fight poverty instead of making war.

Bono and Mr.Jeffrey D. Sachs are advocates of a new school of thought, one that is bent on the belief that our generation is the first to possess the potential and capacity to eliminate poverty and to change the world for the better. Bono writes, "we are the first generation that can unknot the whole tangle of bad trade, bad debt, and bad luck." On the contrary, every single generation of capitalists has always had the capacity, and the wealth, to make the world equitable, to alter "the whole tangle of bad trade" and "bad debt", they simply choose and strive to do the opposite. And, to blame severe international class disparity on bad luck is a dangerously ignorant, black and white conception of how the world works.

Whatever fraction of our world philanthropy manages to repair imperialism ravages and despoils tenfold. Just as it would be unreasonable to expect a murderous, corrupt druglord to be the social saviour of his neighbourhood at the same time, it would be just as futile an appeal to request that capitalism cease the plunder and exploitation of our planet. The relationship between Capitalism/Imperialism and philanthropy is much like that of a large mafia paying off the crooked police force to continue on with their activities unabated. An economy based solution to fix a human problem is simply not viable.

A Human-Human Misperception

As one of the opening statements in the preface to his book, Mr.Sachs writes, "When we fight poverty and disease in any impoverished part of the world, and thereby bolster the world's shared commitments to human dignity and survival, the lives we save may truly include our own and our children's in some future turn of fortune." To that we must respond that if "we fight poverty and disease" to "bolster the world's shared commitments" only because "the lives we save may truly include our own and our children's in some future turn of fortune", then we are simply doing it for all the wrong reasons. Saving humanity should be about a genuine desire to establish human dignity and entrenched equality, not about good karma. It is a very sad and unfortunate reality that westerners need natural disasters or genocide to slap them in the face in order for them to realize the equal value of all human life.

One of Mr.Sachs' closing remarks in the preface is this: "Our politicians, in the final analysis, will follow our lead, not vice versa." What Mr.Sachs fails to understand, however, is that in the final battle, we will follow our own lead; a proffessional paid class of bureaucrat politicians is not a part of the equation. We, the humans, are the managers of humanity. We do not need arrogant millionaires in suits and ties to try and tell us how to govern.

But perhaps the statement which best exemplifies the major contradiction in Mr.Sachs' philosophy is this: Bono asks, "Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring soflty in our ears?" Instead of waiting for capitalism-based initiatives to save the day, we should urge the working class and desolate masses of the world, and even the middle class beyond them to realize that the West and the whole idea of the "West" needs to be dismantled. We must realize that the notion of the "West" and the "East", the class nature of this world, is the undeniable cause of the persistant inequality and poverty which characterizes our planet in the first place. So it is not a question of the West fixing the rest of the world, rather it is a question of the rest of the World fixing the West.

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