Friday, September 30, 2005

World Leadership...really?

Author: Peter Friend

The leaders of the World met in New York at the UN to try to solve some of the most challenging problems we face. Issues like poverty, inequality, racism, health, and even the great distracter of terrorism.

John Howard naturally attempted to stride (even in micro power walking steps) the stage and made a huge commitment to increase Australia's aid donation. Sorry it was not a commitment but a goal, or was it a target or intent that he may not quite be able to see in the distance, as he won't be around to implement it? Naturally linked to this idealism is the sharp edged sword that says that if anyone wants our help they'd better learn to tow the line, create political institutions that mirror our 'open democracy' drive out threats to national security like peace activists and sign up for free trade. Again John was unable to recognise that in our 'Lucky Country' there is a significant proportion of the population that has terrible life expectancy, poor health, lousy housing, massive unemployment, drug taking as an escape from misery and a level of incarceration that makes the Deep South look positively benign. These people of course are our Aboriginal brothers. Where's the concern for them?

Tony Blair then repeated this bizarre logic of the rescue of the poor through trade. So, Countries of sub-Saharan Africa can solve their problems by turning their arable land over to the production of cash crops such as coffee for us in the West to buy. This leaves the populations with less land to grow subsistence food crops and will drive them increasingly off the land into the overcrowded Cities. Some hasn't worked yet in Ethiopia where most of the beans for Heinz baked beans are grown and bought at prices that are controlled by the buyer who has power over the producers. The other great trade saviour is of course the oil industry with its appalling record of corruption and environmental damage as seen in Nigeria.

Nothing was said about solving the scourge of AIDS that threatens to depopulate such Countries as Zimbabwe and South Africa of their African peoples. Naturally, the religious right won't permit a solution to this problem for a range of reasons. First, the black people of the World are simply reaping the whirlwind they sowed themselves and in the way of 'Third World' politics, where everyone is responsible for their own outcomes, if they caught this disease they earned it and must pay the price. Secondly, they don't have the capacity to contribute to the hedonistic societies that abound in the USA or here, so they have no economic capital that is worth saving, and finally if the drug companies cannot make a profit selling anti-AIDS drugs to Africa then they simply won't sell them at all.

Sometimes I just need to vent my frustration. If things are working out the way they look to be in this country I expect my phones to be tapped and maybe have to explain why I should not be deported back to the land of my birth, despite having lived here for 40 years.

Peter Friend

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