Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Constant Gardener

I am slightly concerned about the post I am about to write, I fear I may alienate many of the people I share common ground with. I am hoping, however, that they can see my point of view and post comments to argue the case for or against my position. So far, this bears no relation to the title of the post, I admit, but hopefully that will become clear shortly.

I have a big problem with Make Poverty History and Bob Geldof’s campaigns for Africa. Not because I disagree with what they are trying to achieve (I strongly believe in their aims), but because of their approach to the problem (or at least, my understanding of their approach) – I also have problems with charity as a fashion statement, but that is for another occasion. This is where the reason for the title kicks in. As you are already aware from an earlier post, I have recently watched Lord of War, an impressive film about the global arms industry. As a member of Amnesty International, it obviously struck a chord with me and touched on subjects that have been desperate for critical coverage by the media. After seeing Lord of War, I also saw The Constant Gardener (you see!!!) and again it touched on ground that resonates with me. The power of global corporations impacting on the lives of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged. Put the two films together and you get the true picture of the problems that face the Third World today.

I have always firmly believed that Africa’s problems should be solved for good. The thing that is stopping this from happening is not debt. It is the arms industry and the power of corporations. We are living in a delusional state if we believe that governments have power….they don’t. That was given away a long time ago to the corporations. They are certainly complicit in the current situation, but only because they do not hold corporations to account. It is the corporations that need to be brought to task for the situation in Africa. We can lobby the governments all we like, if we don’t remove them from the pockets of the big corporations we will never deal with the issue satisfactorily. As long as drug companies can get away with charging ridiculous sums for essential medicines, people will continue to die unnecessarily and drug companies will continue making obscene profits.

What the governments are responsible for is their complicity in the growth of the arms trade. As long as the rich and powerful in the world’s poorest nations can arm themselves, there will be no change. The people will not rise up when they are too malnourished to fight back against the jack boot that hovers over their heads. The cycle will continue unless the power of the corporations to rape Africa for all its worth is curtailed and the arms industry is halted.

No rightly, or wrongly, I believe that dealing with these two issues will alleviate some of the problems (by no means will it solve the problems, nothing is that simple). Clearing debt and making trade fair will certainly help, but they are a small part of the problem. However, they are the only parts of the problem the mainstream media wish to discuss. Now, I want to make it clear I do support fair trade and I do support debt relief but we need to fight the real causes of the problems – arms and corporate power. Then we will see progress.