I couldn’t help myself. Comments are mine.
Africa – An Irish Perspective
This essay recently appeared in The Irish Independent:
Somalia is not a humanitarian disaster; it is an evolutionary disaster. The current drought is not the worst in 50 years, as the BBC and the entire aid organisations claim. It is nothing compared to the droughts in 1960/61 or 73/74.
And there are continuing droughts every 5 years or so. It’s just that there are now four times the population;
Comment: up to this point the facts seem to be OK. Somalia’s population has increased by 4 times in the past 64 years supported by pretty significant reductions in infant mortality. In that time Ireland’s population has doubled (although infant mortality is unchanged), the US population has doubled, and Australia’s population has nearly tripled.
…having been kept alive by famine relief, supplied by aid organisations, over the past 50 years.
Comment: The assertion that Somalia’s population growth is the result famine relief is unsupported, and frankly quite unlikely. The key factor in countries like Somalia in population growth is that death rates are high, social safety nets are non-existent and to compensate (and ensure someone might be able to look after them in their old age), women are encouraged to have very big families. If you want to have another view on why Somalia’s people are unable to feed themselves SOMETIMES, have a read of what someone with some empirical evidence has to say: http://www.globalresearch.ca/somalia-the-real-causes-of-famine/25725
So, of course, the effect of any drought now, is a famine. They cannot even feed themselves in a normal rainfall year.
Comment: this seems to be an incorrect assertion of the facts. Somalis seem to have no real difficulty producing enough food to feed their population in normal rainfall years. Their challenge is the lack of viable government and the constant civil wars which are rooted in some fairly dark European and Saudi historical interventions.
Worst yet, the effects of these droughts, and poor nutrition in the first 3 years of a child’s life, have a lasting effect on the development of the infant brain, so that if they survive, they will never achieve a normal IQ. Consequently, they are selectively breeding a population, who cannot be educated, let alone one that is not being educated; a recipe for disaster.
Comment: This whole paragraph is gobbledegook. It is simply illogical. To assume that all Somalis have poor nutrition in the first three years of their life, that the result of that is that all have sub-normal IQs, and then that the weakest get to breed (where did that idea come from?) just sounds like pure racism.
We are seeing this impact now, and it can only exacerbate, to the detriment of their neighbours, and the environment as well. This scenario can only end in an even worse disaster; with even worse suffering, for those benighted people, and their descendants.
Eventually, some mechanism will intervene, be it war, disease or starvation.
Comment: What we are seeing the impact of now is of war, social upheaval, destruction of culture, poor colonial practices, and lack of education and support from the Western world coupled with the evils of fundamentalist religious beliefs. The results seem quite unlikely to be anything to do with “survival of the weakest” as you suggest.
So what do we do? Let them starve? What a dilemma for our Judeo/ Christian/Islamic Ethos; as well as Hindu/Buddhist morality. And this is beginning to happen in Kenya, Ethiopia, and other countries in Asia, like Pakistan.
Comment: What do we do? We educate, we nurture, we support, we set an example. We attempt to snuff out religious extremism through teaching and demonstrating a better way. We share the obscene wealth that we have been granted through a sheer accident of birth.
Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation?
Comment: I doubt it.
AFRICA is giving nothing to anyone outside Africa — apart from AIDS and new disease.
Comment: What a stupid statement! By any measure this generalised claptrap is nonsense. The continent of Africa shares rich culture, immeasurable natural resources and a rich and vibrant pool of talent. It is also, some believe, the very cradle of the civilisation which we enjoy today.
Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the Begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us out of Africa, yet again. It is nearly 25 years since the famous Feed The World campaign began in Ethiopia, and in that time Ethiopia’s population has grown from 33.5 million to 78+ million today.
Comment: Why should the African states take action to interfere with the sovereign state of Zimbabwe? They have their own challenges and Zimbabwe seems, by any measure to be slowly pulling itself out the mire that Robert Mugabe dragged it into. Interference with sovereign states by others is never a good idea. Look at Somalia.
So, why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country? Where is the logic?
Comment: Hang on, I am not clear how we got from Somalia to Ethiopia. The two countries have very different histories and very different economies. Their population demographics are quite different and their GDPs are markedly different. Ethiopia’s population has doubled in 25 years but its infant mortality rate has fallen by 60%. Infant mortality rates are influenced by clean water, good food, and education and healthcare. Seems like a bloody good investment to me! BTW Australia’s infant mortality rate has changed very little in those 25 years and in the aboriginal population is still amongst the highest in the world)
There is none.
Comment: Well I think we just disproved that
To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn’t count. One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of children starving.
Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a low IQ, AK 47-bearing moron, siring children whenever the whim takes him, and blaming the world because he is un¬educated, poor and left behind.
Comment: Racism and generalisation. Pure and simple.
There is no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system but I do not know what it is.
Comment: I don’t think anyone has asked you to prolong anything. Perhaps you should look a little more closely at the work that the charities you support do before you make these wild assertions.
There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a column like this.
Comment: There sure is… This guy’s writing is to journalism what Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were to leadership. Looks good on the surface but evil, misguided, racist and deeply disturbing underneath.
It will win no friends, and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of, well, the self-righteous, hand ringing, letter writing wrathful individuals, a species which never fails to contaminate almost every debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority. It will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like John O’Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire enormously.
So be it.
But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Irish Famine, with his or that lazy analogy. There is no comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30%. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules planes, Ethiopia’s population has more than doubled.
Comment: … or because of peace, a level of prosperity, good water, education and improved healthcare. Either way, because Ethiopia’s population has doubled (like Singapore’s has) does this make them less deserving of assistance now?
Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness. Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent, AK 47-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts, and housing pirates of the ocean.
Comment: Bear in mind the evidence that those pirates are funded and supported by European crime syndicates, some operating directly out of London.
Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive, illiterate indigents, with tens of millions of people who only survive because of help from the outside world or allowances by the semi-communist Governments they voted for, money supplied by lending it from the World Bank!
Comment: More generalisations, and we’ve suddenly jumped from two countries in sub-Saharan Africa to an entire continent.
This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense. Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against AIDS infection.
Comment: South Africa’s president is ignorant about STDs? Tut tut. Surely an upper class South African should have a deep and intricate knowledge of such things. I’m sure the Australian prime minister could give you chapter and verse on how to avoid STDs. He doesn’t seem to know much about anything else.
Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, etcetera. Broad brush-strokes, to be sure. But broad brush-strokes are often the way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters.
Comment: The author seems to be under the incredible misapprehension that poverty, hunger and societal meltdown are factors in discouraging wars. Could he really be any more stupid?
Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 20th century have endured worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part of Africa. They are now — one way or another — virtually all giving aid to or investing in Africa, whereas Africa, with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.
Comment: …. and coffee, and livestock, and copper, and manganese, and gold, and tin, and cobalt, and iron ore, and oil, and gas, and diamonds, and tourism, and fishing and spices. But what have the African’s ever done for us?
Meanwhile, Africa’s peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million; the equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly Protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.
Comment: The population may reach 177 million and more, especially if we reduce aid, education, and healthcare. The facts speak for themselves. Lower mortality rates, better education, better healthcare, over time slow down population growth rates. Fact. We have made a start, and in some countries we have had fantastic success, it seems just a little silly to advocate stopping now.
So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country? How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them?
Comment: It makes a great deal of sense for us to promote health, education, better food, water and humanitarian efforts in countries like those in many parts of Africa. The alternative is a world most of us don’t want to be part of and a legacy of ignorance and continued evil that we don’t want to leave our kids.
Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity! But that is not good enough.
For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed. It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates’ programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.
Comment: There is one answer to population control that we know works. You, dear author, Idi, Joseph and Adolph have had your turns. Now fuck off to whence you came and let those who know what they are doing have a go.
If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what? I know, let them all come here (to Ireland) or America (not forgetting Australia!).
Yes, that’s the idea.
Comment: …and welcome.
Kevin Myers (born 30 March 1947) is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish edition of
the Sunday Times, having previously been a columnist for the Irish Independent and a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the “An Irishman’s Diary” opinion column several times weekly. Until 2005, he wrote for the UK Sunday Telegraph.