Live8 is a push by Bono to pressure the G8 into helping African nations by “doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa.” It is a noble action that in the end might be too idealistic to actually help the poor and hungry Africans that it is striving to affect. The poor rural African who feels the repercussions of this debt and poor trade agreements is at no fault directly, but feels the weight much more heavily than the ruling aristocracy.
A Lesson in Irresponsibility?
A good friend of mine became very sick a couple of years ago. He had to go spend a week in the hospital, and with the help of the medical staff, was able to recover. Since he had no health insurance, he was personally given the bill of $26,000. After he picked his jaw up off the floor, he told them that he didn’t have the money to pay them this bill, that’s why he didn’t have health insurance. What if he were to pay them as much as he could right now, $10,000, instead of trying to pay the original amount off over the next 15 years. They gladly took his $10,000 and he went on his way.
I believe the core of this story applies very well to what is happening in 3rd-world nations around the globe. For differing reasons they get into financial difficulties, some of it is their fault through bad management, some through corruption and greed, and others through happenstance and bad luck. Whatever the reason for their position, there is still a need to be responsible for past actions, even if it was by a previous regime.
If the G8 just forgives all of the debt and they are able start at ground zero what kinds of repercussions does that action ultimately have? What kind of message would have been sent to my friend if he was told that his hospital bill was being zeroed out because they realized he was to poor to pay it all? Would he have learned his lesson and started to buy health insurance, or would he have repeated his previous actions? Will these African nations learn their lesson and start behaving responsibly, or will they continue their habits of bad management, fiscal irresponsibility and will the deeply imbedded corruption continue?
The answer to this indemic problem in Africa, and in other poor 3rd-world countries, is found in having each nation be responsible for their actions, but decreasing the sting of it. Instead of wiping the slate clean, can we think of an option that would allow them to pay us back some of what they can pay back and forgiving the rest?
Who really benefits?
As noble of a cause as Live8 is, I can’t help but think of what I know about Africa. In reality, there is a ruling elite that runs the show. Though the corruption might not be as blatant as in the past, the fact is that favors are done all the time that cause the international aid money and public money to line the pockets of politicians, their friends and family. Does this happen in the US, Europe and Japan? Of course. Does it happen to the same extent? Not at all.
My biggest problem with Live8 lies in the fact that the problem with Africa is not that they have debt or that they have poor trade arrangements with the G8 nations. The problem with Africa is that the politicians are corrupt, the ruling elite will gain the most from Live8’s actions, and the extra money that they now have will still not see its way to the poor rural and urban African. The masses that Bono and his followers hope to help will still have the same problems 5 years after debt relief as they do right now.
Until the citizens of these countries take it upon themselves to force change within their government, peaceful or violent, the same actions will continue to be repeated. In the end, the ruling minority is just that: a minority. The vast majority, the poor rural and urban African, can take action to change the way their leaders operate. It’s not about us helping them, it’s about them helping themselves.