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364. Oppression (VI)

My relatives still support Médecins Sans Frontières, I can tell because I see the promotional magazine in the hallway now and again; forgive them Lord, for they are Boomers—and they know not what they do. The whole subscription is probably a long-forgotten direct debit, perhaps signed up for to appease some street-bound charity sign-up worker with a little clipboard and a persistent chatter: “Do you have a few seconds, madam,” they say, eyebrows raised in puppy-like supplication.

Naturally, this is all about blood and iron—mass murder, in fact—although the Boomers never see it that way. I am pretty sure, probably thanks to Boomer politicians, that Western countries do not sell too many machine guns or land mines to Africa; it seems to be a Russian or Ukrainian business—or perhaps there is so much surplus from the Cold War washing around that there is little need for new products. Yet spare the Russians for a moment, because war is not really about guns so much as it is about butter. Napoleon was a great general because he was a great logistician. “An army marches on its stomach.” Vrai. Very vrai.

War not only requires food, it also requires medicine—such as the medicine provided by Médecins Sans Frontières. The Boomers might not provide the guns for Africans to kill each other, but they provide pretty much everything else: food, water, medical centres, and transport. The upshot is that wars that would have been ended relatively quickly in the past now drag on; and they drag on because there is food, medicine, and logistical support to keep the side that would have otherwise lost on its feet. African wars outsource their logistical needs to prosperous but concerned suburbs outside London; and so the wars grind on, funded by pitiful pictures that show little bedraggled orphans squatted in the dust.

The charities do not even have to be technically corrupt—really, all long-distance charity is corrupt in spirit—to have a deleterious effect. Even if none of the staff sleep with child prostitutes or profiteer from the stores, then the charity is still bad; arguably, it would be better if the charity were to be squandered or sold off before it reached its destination. War is an evil; and so the only good war is a war that concludes as quickly as possible—the Western aid complex is evil because it ensures that the wars go on for as long as possible, and it is in their interests for this to be so. Long-distance charity is irresponsible; if you want to give your spare clothes to a tramp you pass everyday from work, do so—then you can evaluate with your own eyes if it is worthwhile. To spew money into a bureaucracy that is not even disciplined by the market to inflict—the correct word—charity on some people thousands of miles away is foolish and irresponsible.

The temptation is to imagine that people a long way from you are better than the people around you; somehow more noble and dignified. Far is beautiful and pure; we are far from Africa and Heaven, so Africa must be Heaven—an afflicted Heaven, damaged by European colonialism, but Heaven nonetheless. In reality, perhaps a particular tribe is better than yours in some way—perhaps it is worse in most others—and in general we speak about, more or less, the same species; the faults are still there, only you cannot see them.

You pay for a charity to build a water pump, and they place it equidistantly between two villages—very fair, efficient, and rational—and then you start a miniature resource war between two tribes. You paid for that little war, but you never see it; or you see it on YouTube and think, “How sad. Perhaps if I send some more money it would be better. It’s rational altruism; I have so much, it’s only fair to give a little more…it’s rational and utilitarian.”


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