Monday, 13 August 2012

Hot air, (ba)lunatic debate

I have tried to follow the pseudo-debate about Overseas Aid in the nominally local press without laughing. Really, I have.
It started off when some junior league Ayn Rand groupie asked why we don’t just abandon the whole concept of overseas aid – or at least that individuals should decide for themselves what to give through charity, instead of having their taxes spent by a government committee. Fair enough question, if somewhat belligerently put, and for the next week or so the papers carried exchanges in which the government minister who chairs the Overseas Aid committee put some fair answers. As did the retired PR guru who pretty much bankrolls the One World Centre now that government are pulling out and the business sector have never put in, who…well……didn’t, to be honest.
At this point a local finance sector figure – a real dinosaur who I honestly thought by now was just urinating what few brain cells remain against a wall while leaving younger, sober minds to run his business –decided to have a pop. Predictably he took an obscure example of African ‘misspending’ dredged up from an American ‘academic publication’ produced by and for finance sector throwbacks who never got over the end of apartheid. And predictably he could not equate this to any Manx overseas aid project, because many of them favour faith-based charities and religion is almost as sacred as racism and misogyny to the sponsors of such publications.
I didn’t expect the ‘other side’ would have an answer and they didn’t. A teacher who acts as the Global Poverty Project Ambassador (in between throwing her hands in the air down at Living Hell) did point out that he hadn’t actually mentioned a Manx project before descending into the usual happy-clappy twaddle about helping the unfortunate. We were then promised a letter page full of ‘argument’ in today’s Excrement.
We also got more in last week’s Indifferent about the GPP’s attempt to get up a petition (see Incidentally, as they’ve been putting this about for months and the numbers haven’t risen I suspect the Mannifest crowd took no more interest than the rest of the island.
So, I eagerly open today’s Excrement only to find ..well…just more of the same old really. Hitler’s Grannies (Mothers Union), who’ve bagged £28K from the committee thus far to religiously brainwash developing world kids but are looking for £42K in all, more from other figures who pretty much depend on the committee for a job, but neglect to mention that they advise it…and that was about it. Ho hum!
The funniest thing is that it would take a competent journalist about two minutes to spot a huge joke. 
Out of curiosity, I looked up the Global Poverty Project, and as their main website is vague about their real origins and purpose (which immediately tells me there’s a well-funded practitioner of the grey arts hovering in the background) I looked a little further and got some answers at , which gives perfunctory detail on the real management – or at least the team assembled by others to put the case for the unidentified sponsors.
In particular note PriceWaterhouseCoopers, auditors to some of the nastiest companies and worryingly willing to sign off some of the oddest accounting strategies, Bell Pottinger, founded on Tim Bell’s use of direct marketing techniques to socially isolate and demoralise the miners for Margaret Thatcher and more recently PR merchants to the most sickening dictators, and The University of Western Australia’s Religion and Globalisation Initiative, which is pretty self-explanatory.
What I suspect we’re really looking at is major churches looking to control the aid industry and major business investors in the developing world who are happy for this to happen because faith-based charities (unlike, say, local political groupings or the international trade union movement) never interfere with serious business investors who, in return, cut their tax bills further with token sponsorship of religious charities and their local church partners - who give token relief after the tragedy while also propping up the anti-democratic business and political hierarchies which are keeping the locals dispossessed.
I really wish this wasn’t the case, and that some useful and productive Manx debate about the possible need, purpose, form and methodology of overseas aid was kicking off here, but it just isn’t. If it ever did, all of us should be willing to join in. 
But for now, do we even enter social and moral arguments thus far confined on one side to the type of emotional blackmail which religious groups do so well and on the other to the knee-jerk appeals to personal greed and fear of ‘big government’ by which the ‘New Right’ seek to distract us from discussing real life issues? At this point, I simply do not know.
For now, this seems one of many topics currently destined not to be fully explored until we find the courage to raise them, and of course the time and energy to explore and research far more thoroughly first. Until we do, I fear that on the Isle of Man we may be powerless spectators of pointless pseudo-debates.
I sometimes howl with laughter at the sad, simplistic techniques and agendas of those involved. My only excuse is that (1) if I stopped laughing I could get angry at the deceit and (2) that clampets like this are never that effective in the real world anyway, so no more lives are lost whichever pseudo-side pseudo-wins.

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