Today, the Evangelical Outpost has a hilarious satirical jab at the recent Live8 concerts, specifically the comments by Coldplay’s Chris Martin that the concerts were “the greatest thing that’s ever been organized, probably, in the history of the world.”
Then EO quotes event organizer Bob Geldolf as saying, “Something must be done, even if it doesn’t work.” That is the height of idiocy and self-grandizing.
Much of what is done in aid and “relief” for Africa is done to make those of us here in middle-class America and Europe feel better about ourselves. Take the Live8 concerts that all these musicians are so proud of. What did they actually accomplish? None of the money went to Africa. It was supposed to “raise awareness” and encourage nations to give money and forgive debt. This was one of my original gripes about the concerts.
But this begs an even more important set of questions: why do something if it does not work at all? What if by doing something you are actually hurting the people you are trying to help?
Wizbang recently linked to an interview with a Kenyan economists who pratically begged nations to stop sending aid to Africa.
When asked about G8 aid to Africa, James Shikwati said, “…for God’s sake, please just stop.”
Shikwati went on to point out that the nations who have received the most aid are the ones that are in the worst shape. He maintains that all the aid does if fuel corruption by the governments and complacency by the African people. For the most part, the crooked government leaders take the money and the people who actual need the help see less and less of the aid. The aid trains the African people “to be beggers and not to be independent.”
Shikwati says it weakens the local markets and dampens entrepreneurship in the African people. Similar to the welfare problem here in America, the government handouts actually reinforce the behaviors that cause the problems in the first place.
One illustration Shikwati gave was crops in Africa. No one in African wants to or can become a farmer and sell food in African markets because the UN brings in tons of corn. The corn then goes to corrupt politicians who dole out it out to increase support for themselves in elections and to the black market where it is sold at cheap prices. This eliminates the need or market for any African to grow crops. The same thing happens with African tailors and clothing makers. They cannot compete with donated items, so they simply close down their business and rely on hand-outs like everyone else.
That is not to say that we, especially Christians, are to sit back and do nothing. Over at the Wardrobe Door, Louis questioned the good that was accomplished during the Bible clubs that I helped with last week at Memphis.
He asked what difference could be made in “the face of this tidal wave of human misery.” It is tempting to take that position in the face of suffering and realizing that a lot of our good work and good intentions do more harm than good.
But as tempting as it may be to throw our hands up and give up on humanity, we must remember that humanity is made up of individuals, people who have lives and can be touched and changed. Sure saving one life from the poverty of Memphis or Africa may not mean much in the huge scheme of humanity, but it means everything to that one person.
We must simply evaluate our efforts and see if they are reaching people on an individual basis. By the way, we had three site missionaries working with us in Memphis and one of those was a girl named Yolissa, who used to be one of the kids in the Bible clubs. It made a difference to her and it means everything to her, so I would say it was worthwhile.
We cannot simply do things because it may make us feel better about the problems. We have to been informed about situations, pray about what God would have us do and be involved in making the world better for everyone – from the ghetto of Memphis to the huts of Rwanda.
Update: Read this collection of interviews at the Christian Science Monitor. They interview Africans and Live8 concert goers to see where they agree and disagree. It backs up the point that having a concert that makes Westerners feel better or even throwing money at the problems in Africa do nothing concrete for the people there.
My favorite quote that sums up the entire thing comes from a film director in Rome. When asked why he was going to the concert there said, “We really appreciate what Bob Geldof is doing and we want to support him. But also I wouldn’t miss the chance to see Duran Duran.”