Africa

Feeding Africa

Hello everybody,

just recently I’ve come about an article I wrote for a Switzerland e-zine in October 2008, when the World Economic Crisis, had just started. Actually I might translate it into English some time soon – if I find the time to do so for Swine Flu hasn’t yet locked me indoors. Back last October I declared the World Economic Crisis wouldn’t mean the end to the world as we know it. There wouldn’t be a World War III. Just none of all the horror parcel some people were expecting (and might still be).

One morning as I went through my usual news – Austrian news, as I’ve become lazy with international sources lately – I got reminded that for some it might indeed be the End of the World. The end of their world. Their life. Austrian public news network ORF reported how United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) claimed due to the Crisis there would be too little money to feed the „poorest of the poor“. Only a budget of 2,62 Billion Euros had been granted to WFP – half of what would be needed to feed the top 1% of an estimated 1 Billion starving people worldwide. Aid had already been cut due to that, WFP claimed.

Of course I surfed WFP’s website for additional information: Migdalit’s journalism rule no.1: Get as close to the primary source as possible! And though the article was published by ORF on July 31st – is there a Pagan around who remembered to talk about food on Lughnasad? – I had to scroll down their press section pretty far to find a press release related to the article presented as hot news by ORF. It was issued on June 19th. Really, it’s moments like this, that really give you a clue how the media functions. I wonder how they do it: Do they just save potentially interesting press releases for later on when they might be needed for days without any „real“ news? Or do they keep some kind of a list of „usual suspects“ of agencies that would always have something to report on as „hot news“?

However, back to food and the food crisis. It really is a tough issue and, though I am not too much of a fan of any UN agencies anymore since I’ve had the joy of my own set of experiences with them, I admit that I wouldn’t want to be in any WFP official’s shoes.

I’ve been having some rather vivid arguments with my common-law husband (in Germany regularly referred to as „boyfriend or life partner or spouse or whatever that’s supposed to be“), who used to live in Africa, about Africans and whether Europeans really screwed them up to the point most believe them to. As a 1990ies’ child I sure came of age believing Europe had a historic responsibility to Africa because it was us who screwed them up during colonialism. Later on I realized that, for most African states, actual colonialism lasted hardly a lifetime. Indirect rule systems might have for a century or two, at most. Does it really take so little time to screw up an entire society to the point of it seemingly being unrecoverable wounded? History tells us that most of the time things are rapidly destroyed, in fact, are rather rapidly rebuilt too without devastating chaos following them keeping the place and society from recovery.

Perhaps in the end it’s mostly about the people affected that need to be kept sane and hopeful. As long as they are natural disasters and wars and alike might devastatingly wash over them, they might change lifes forever but in the end society – as a whole entity – will start recovery as soon as the major effect is over. Just take Croatia. Hardly more then ten years after a major civil war there are hardly any sights of it anymore. It’s astonishing how much capacity of healing human society has in the end. Even after two devastating wars in Europe she recovered. Society got over it. People concentrated on other issues then their wounds to tend for. Most major tragedies of history had a beginning and they had an end. But for some reason the tragedy of Africa doesn’t seem to have an ending. Does it have a beginning?

It’s understandable how people would just assume the obvious: Europeans went to Africa and screwed it up. They destroyed their societies, their agricultural systems, their hierarchy and when they were forced out of the continent again by the end of the 20th century they left her in chaos. But why didn’t Africans, other then other peoples, just restart where they ended before Europeans conquered them? Why did things get even worse when Europeans left? There’s quite a list of post-colonial nations all around the world that managed pretty fine (though most do have their issues). Why didn’t Africa do? It’s not like it was a continent naturally lacking resources of any kind. There is nothing Africa wouldn’t have. There’s that story, indeed, of how

God, when creating the world, went this place and that place, putting that little bit of resources everywhere. However when (s)he cam to Africa (s)he would just shake everything that was left her/his hands.

So this is where the argument starts – and you’re heavily encouraged to join in in your own blogs or simply adding your comments – as my partner has been raising the idea Africa might in fact already have been in chaos by the time Europeans arrived there. Which sure has a point given how Africans do have a history of slave trade pre European arrival, for instance. And assuming chaos wasn’t implemented on Africa by Europe it would be all too natural if she fell back into even more chaos after Europeans left. But if this was true, how could be possibly help? Keeping people dependent on food aid can hardly be the solution but, in my opinion, only adds to African governments keeping their attention on their own business instead of on their starving population. What is the appropriate response, the one that will help most on the long run? Interestingly enough it leads to the same two options I have often seen confronted with as regards the Middle East Region:

  1. Try to teach them, help them, set an example and push them into whatever direction some team of experts thinks will help by means of outside power or
  2. Have the guts to keep out. Debrief them of international attention, make sure nobody else interferes where „Western“ World backs out and have them sort it out on their own, even if it might have things escalating in the first, if escalation is part of a self-regulation process.

Nobody ever claimed making a difference would be easy …

Shalom and As’salama

yours,

Migdalit

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China on the March

Hello everybody,

as some of you might remember I tend to be highly sceptical about China. I remember once I had a discussion with a good Israeli friend of mine about Israel and Europe and Israel and China and she claimed she would prefer an China to Europe for “China at least wouldn’t actively get us all killed.” I objected telling her that China might not get Israel off the map for a reason but they wouldn’t care at all if they helped somebody else doing it as long as it was for their benefit. Well, it didn’t take much more then a couple of weeks until China sold off some fighter jets (at least I think it was fighter jets … has been about two years now) that fascinatingly resembled Israeli ones quite a lot, to – well guess whom – Israel’s best buddy Iran.

For historic reason time goes another way in China. Chinese don’t plan in three or four years – as has happened in Europe lately – but rather in four or five decades, if not generations. Guess why they have been buying pretty much every given resource off the world market for some years now. Guess why they have been constructing giant underground tanks for some time now. Because they managed to think ahead. Which of course doesn’t make them any nicer pals at all. They’re still top 1 when it comes to capital punishments. And I guess when it comes to human rights issues they aren’t far from top 1 either. The thing about China is they just don’t give a damn about anything but whatever they perceive as their greater goal. And men are just as much a resource – one they have plenty of – as coal or oil.

It has its pros too. Lately a reader of an Austrian newspaper I read pointed out how China could be the one element that might keep the global economic crisis from turning into a new wave of global poverty as seen in 1929. Just take the US Dollar, he wrote, China has bought quite a lot of it and they won’t have it loose its value as long as they need it to stabilize their currency. The same is true for their export oriented economy and – of course – their long term plans – what ever they may be. So China might be the one world power that – without caring about any kind of sacrifice they have to make lest any morals – would take every means necessary to stabilize the world economy before the whole crisis reaches some point of no return. And, if we have a look at history, on the long run thereby it might even be China that prevents a World War III.

Of course knowing how many US Dollars China owns also leads to the inconvenient idea of what might happen if China sold off all those US Dollars at once. And now thing what this would mean for the USA. Guess why they, in spite of their wish to be “World Police” again keep on looking the other way whenever China chooses to ignore human rights again (simplified yet not the less true). Mid- to long-term China has already muted the US and, through economic bounds, searches to mute Europe as well. Which, as far as I am concerned, works out in parts as long as the European self consciousness stays as little as it is now (which could change rapidly once Europe is out of the global economic crisis and realizes how well it has done coping with it) and even more as long as Europe is focusing on “soft” (economic) instead of “hard” (military) power and has no interest in taking over the US’ old role as “World Police”. Nevertheless Europe hasn’t shut up as much as China might wish for lately. European remarks on Chinese human rights issues are a matter of regular press attention and the Dalei Lama is treated at least as good as any foreign Head of State in most European nations. Doesn’t change a thing of course but at least it reminds China that the world doesn’t belong to them – yet.

The world however isn’t just Europe and the US – “first world”. It’s the “third world” too. And here China has stared a charm bombing equalling Tom Cruise’s towards Germany with “Valkyrie”. Especially the countries of Africa have been subject to China’s shopping tour for allies. Chinese officials have been travelling those countries and, other then Europeans, made them feel equal. The emphasis might well be “made them feel”, yet for Africans, which have always only been treated as either servants or subjects to be sorry for, it’s no wonder it did the trick. And though China’s bonds with African countries might not yet show a positive balance on the long run they sure will. Just think natural resources – including water and soil -, human resources and – of course – strategic points.

How far China’s Africa mission has already come can be seen here where, pressurized by China, South Africa – still role model to many other African States – has denied the Dalei Lama an entry visa and hasn’t even cared to invent any excuses. It might sound like a small thing but think about it – a foreign nation interfering with who enters your territory and who not – does that still sound like an “independent” country?

Sometimes I feel on a unconscious layer the world is splitting up into pacts again and the Chinese one’s for sure growing fastly …

keep an eye on it!

yours

Migdalit

The Fires are still Burning

Hey  there,

all of us know the good old stereotype of the witch, the devil’s servant. Perhaps no “witches” are burnt in Europe anymore yet in other parts of the world – literal – witch hunts are still common. Take this for instance:

[…] [amnesty international] said the witch hunters, said to be from neighbouring Guinea, were invited into Gambia after the death of the president’s aunt earlier this year was blamed on witchcraft.

[…]

Amnesty spoke to villagers who said they had been held for up to five days and forced to drink unknown substances, which they said caused them to hallucinate and behave erratically.Many said they were then forced to confess to being witches. In some cases, they were also allegedly severely beaten, almost to the point of death.

[source]

Sounds pretty much like what we used to learn in history class, doesn’t it? All those horror stories of whole counties been cleared of women once the panic spread and everybody accused everybody of being a “witch”. It already scared me when I was a teenager and first heard of it but since I could call myself a “witch” (which I don’t but that’d be another topic) it does so even more. I don’t know what’s more frightening: Thinking of the inquisition and witch hunts as something that could have happened to literally everybody if she just had bad luck or a neighbour jealous for her lovely red apples or realizing that you do belong to the very minority group they were going after – thereby likely killing and torturing a hundred times as many non-“witches” then “witches”.

Sure there’s all that crap about “freedom of religion” going on in Middle Europe – though as soon as one takes a closer look there’s little left of it but beautiful words written down in important documents – and, certainly, there are no witch hunts anymore. Yet sometimes, in dark moments, when I read the newspaper and – more alarmingly – talk to people on the streets or just feel myself into the mood of the people and how it is changing, I cannot help but ask myself how much more it is going to take until people will be on the streets out hunting for culprits again.

Unfortunately as people tend to retreat to religion in times of crisis – which is why we do see a greater religiosity within Christians (even though it doesn’t keep them from quitting with the Roman Catholic Church) – and as they tend to become more radical as they do so, I sometimes feel the growing group of “Neo-Pagans” is a likely target for renewed witch hunts. In the end we are the very people who tend to be free-minded (yet certainly not all are), plain different. Different people have always been perceived as dangerous. And of course the biases bread into the very heard of the Christian churches are still as intact as they used to be in 1700, it’s just that it’s not PC to say them out loud anymore. And the worst is that, within a radical Christian’s morals, they don’t even mean bad. They thought and, one day, might think again that all the do is “rescuing the soul” of a person taken over by the devil. If you were really really and 100% sure that there is a heaven and a hell and you loved somebody deeply, wouldn’t you take every means available in order to make sure he or she (or his/her soul) goes straight to heaven? Wouldn’t you risk those few hours of agony if you were 100% positive that you’d buy him or her eternal life in paradise with that? And remember that you love that person more then your own life. As usual it’s easy to claim those people are just f*cked up completely, the truth is more difficult; there is a certain logic behind it if you just think their way. And that means it could happen again.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think it is going to happen. Yet sometimes as I see times getting more difficult (and nobody dares to say where it is going to stop anymore) I wonder whether we Pagans, as unorganized and fractionated within as we are, aren’t all too easy a target … Sure the Muslim would be too yet they are too strong; Panicking people just tend to go after the weakest members of society of whom they can be sure they won’t strike back

the fires are still burning. Deep within …

yours

Migdalit