Friday, June 10, 2005

Peter Hitchens

If there's one person more hateful than Christopher Hitchens, it's his brother. Peter Hitchens - that oily, bombastic, pompous, smirking, chinless-wonder - appeared on Question Time last night and really came across as a poisonous creep. He spent much of his time mocking the Make Poverty History campaign and sneering at Bob Geldof and other 'do-gooders' in the Live8 campaign. 'Rock stars', you see, are ignorant little oiks who aren't fit to lecture the rest of us (or - and this was, perhaps, what PH was really getting at - aren't fit to lecture the great and vastly clever Peter Hitchens) about things 'they know little of' - or something like that. Anyone who goes along to the demonstration in Edinburgh, smirked the chinless one, is 'a fool'. Moreover, the puffed-up uber-Tory continued, African poverty is caused, exclusively, by African mismanagement and government corruption, and (I seem to remember - though I could be wrong - maybe this was someone in the audience - though PH almost certainly agreed) Africa was never in trouble when it was under colonial administration.*

The man really is a contemptible little shit.

What about the crippling debt that has devastated Africa and lined the pockets of the Western banks since the early 80s (when the easy money of the low interest rates/high inflation 50s and 60s was dropped and monetarism set in in the creditor nations, condemning developing borrower countries in the developing world to miserable levels of debt)? What about the hugely unfair trade rules** which function to protect western farmers at the expense of third world producers? What about the practices of piratical multinationals which have pilaged their way across much of Africa and beyond? What about the civil wars which have swept across the continent, in many cases encouraged and fuelled by the geopolitical machinations of first world countries? Africa does have many extremely corrupt and nasty leaders - but can this be explained in terms of 'cultural factors' (for cultural of course, read 'racial') as PH seems to suggest - are Africans, somehow, socially or genetically prone to 'bad government'? Could it be that government corruption, nepotism and mismanagement has something (just a little?) to do with the historical conditions of the continent - the fact that it was ravaged by centuries of colonial plunder, held down in a condition of economic backwardness because of the way in which it was inserted into the world economy under imperialism (producers of cheap primary produce for first world masters and captive markets for first world manufactured goods), and, later, ravaged by spiralling debt (induced by first world financial centres) and by the Imperialism mark 2 of structural adjustment and neo-liberalism. It seems to me that had Europe been systematically plundered for centuries by some other continent, we would not, today, be living in stable, relatively efficient liberal democracies.*

*astoundingly, Jenny Tonge (Lib Dem) suggested something quite similar. She said the Africans 'weren't ready' for self-government when their continent was decolonised! They needed more education you see, and the Brits and French should have stuck around a bit longer to civilise the natives. Fucking Lib Dems.
** Socialist qualification needed here - no capitalist trade is 'fair trade', but even so, some forms of capitalist trade is more exploitative than others.
*** And this is one of the great, dirty secrets of liberal democracy, of course - that for all its self-satisfied bombast about how wonderful it is, it's founded (in part) on the systematic plunder of great swathes of the globe.

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