Monday, September 27, 2010

Not to get all academic, but I just had class and we had discussion which I was, of course, to afraid to speak during and I am going to go talk to my professor because it is just something I should do more and because I actually have things to say. But I need to organize them and however stupid it is to use a blog to organize thoughts, it is what I am choosing to do.

What is conditionality and is it morally acceptable?
The concept of conditionality is fairly simple, in principle: the giving of aid based on policy changes: giving aid and then making rules about how it should be used. In theory, I suppose that is moral enough, as was brought up in class when someone gives you money, they usually have rules about how you should use it, and it being their money, that seems relatively reasonable.
However, Africa is so fucking complicated, so unfairly so. The first problem being that "we" (who is we, is always a fair questions, I mean western cultures and political units, I mean the democratized/capitalist world) are partly responsible for Africa being in the position in which it needs money in the first place. So we reap the continent of many of it's resources, we take over and completely muddle with the systems of government and economics that are established there (now whether or not these systems were good, "moral" systems is besides the point), which really messes up everything and then we act as though we are being oh-so-generous to give money? So perhaps under normal circumstances it would be fair enough to have conditionality but this is more like someone robbing you, then giving you a chunk of money but only if you promise to use it to buy what they think you should own.
Another problem is that when giving aid we are either giving it with full agenda to spread our idea of democracy, which seems a little questionable on the moral side or we are giving it with the intention to do what is best for everyone, but assuming that what we do is what is best for everyone. We are not in a position to decide what is best in African countries, being as we do not live there or have a particularly good understanding of what people want, need, etc. Perhaps part of the problem with aid is that we give the money to the wrong people, like the government's which are run by big-men who have only their own interests at heart and will use the money to increase their military, or to buy themselves an airplane or something. So perhaps the distribution of aid needs to be studied much more closely.
Now, democracy works for us ( well, that is obviously arguable, but we will just run under that assumption) but that doesn't mean that it works for all countries or that other systems don't work, and yet when aid is given, that is the assumption. As the western dominant world tries to get to create a global market and spread the idea of free trade etc, countries in Africa have trouble competing. People assume that this is because of some structural short-coming etc etc and decide to try that when we give aid we should encourage African countries to try to come up with ways to make their economy so that it can be incorporated into the global trades. But why? Perhaps someday, that will work, but it hasn't proven to work so well now, and why do we feel it needs to? Can't Africa just have a smaller scale economy for now and not be pushed into competing in the global market?
I am under no authority to dictate what Africans should and should not want, but in same way or another, just as we have been, they have been conditioned to want and strive for western material things and to try to make their economies work in such a way that they can have these western material things. While all of this technology is great in certain ways, it also has many downfalls, and we have too much idle time which means that we are often more unhappy, and as unfair as it may sound, perhaps Africa shouldn't want these things, but the areas that have the proper environments should take a page from the days of yore and survive off of food they grow and hunt. Now it's not fair for me to decide this, and I would never try to impose this idea but it is something that should be talked about, by everyone, just to remind us that it is an idea that exists. Perhaps aid being money is the problem, because money is also something that is very western, an idea that colonialism brought to Africa (of course there was currency and ways of trading things, but colonialism brought a whole new concept of money).

Oi vay, I could keep going, but I am making myself dizzy/exhausted and I am likely boring the crap out of you.

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