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"Bongo-Bongo Land" - the Democratic Question

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(Godfrey Bloom - Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

A crusty old UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) MEP (Member of the European Parliament) by the name of Godfrey Bloom was speaking at a meeting near Stourbridge, in the UK recently, saying, "How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month - when we're in this sort of debt - to Bongo-Bongo Land is completely beyond me. buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid. F18s for Pakistan. We need a new squadron of F18s. Who's got the squadrons? Pakistan, where we send the money."

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It raised a bit of controversy in the UK, with some people calling his comments racist to which he responded that if the UKIP leadership asked him to apologise he'd "say right-o, sorry. If I have offended anybody in Bongo-Bongo Land, I will write to their ambassador at the court of St James." 

That'll help.  Godfrey's talent for diplomacy should soon put the UK back on top of the world's popularity poll - right up there with the US.  But he was calling foreign aid "treason", and maybe he has a point, especially during these difficult economic times.  He has me harking back to a blog I did in May last year (2012).

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), provoked a rant from me when she said, "I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens." 

I remember chiding myself at the time for my cynicism.  It's quite possible, (although improbable) I thought, that Christine's concerns were entirely philanthropic, albeit that her charitableness was backed by EU taxpayers and doesn't come directly out of her personal account.  (That's not to say that personal accounts have any true value anymore - due to the debt-based shenanigans of her friends in high places who gave her the job.) 

Anyway, at that time, I couldn't resist googling:  Christine Lagarde, IMF and Niger - (or googles to that effect); and a glance at the IMF site, explained things.  The area is awash with oil and uranium. 

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On the other hand, the only natural resource it seems Greece has to offer is olive oil - since the auctioning of all other assets to pay the debt.  It's a case of "old lamps for new", or, to put it another way, tangible assets for fiat currency.  We might question therefore, how much of international development is about developing profitable opportunities for corporations and how much of the proceeds go to the needy of the world.  We might hence wonder if our tax money goes towards improving the infrastructure of parts of the world where labour is cheap and natural resources are ripe for the picking by elites - who never discriminate, except, of course, on class grounds - using public tax takings to better facilitate private profit.  It would seem a bit ironic (although not surprising) were we to find our infrastructure in the erstwhile "developed world' crumbling in order to fund the infrastructure of developing countries - for as long as labour there is cheap and there's a free-for-all in assets. 

Godfrey might be a bit of a card - a little Englander type trying to siphon votes away from the Tories, but he does have a point.  That's the trouble with these demagogic politicos; much of what they say has elements of truth.  Ordinary voters - the sort who might still be audacious enough to hope that democracy still works - might well share Godfrey's bewilderment.  It might be beyond most people brought up to believe that their government loves them like doting parents and hence wants to protect them.  After all, that's the impression one might get from their rhetoric.  They would have us believe that everything they do is to benefit the British people.

Yes, there are people in this world who are much worse off than those of us in the (albeit quickly declining) "developed world' and yes, it behoves us all to strive for fairer distribution of the Earth's bounty, but it's a question of how we go about it:  Are these to be plutocratic or democratic decisions?  Christine Lagarde is quintessentially of the revolving door fraternity.  The French people might have initially elected her democratically, but that's hardly how she earned her IMF position.  The EU, along with the infamous troika, represents as much democratic credibility as the defunct Soviet Union once did. 

When we listen carefully to the elite, (or those who orbit the outer circles) we might detect ominous glimpses of the sort of future to expect if we don't take much more interest in the political and financial manoeuvrings of today.  Mind you, the difficulty with proving or disproving conspiracy is clear enough in the definition of the word.  Conspiracy or otherwise isn't the point; most people do what they have to do to advance their careers.  Whatever the ism; they're only human.  They know what will please the people who can make or break them.  That seems essentially the life-blood of corruption.  Even the most principled person appreciates the necessity to compromise:  Poachers become gamekeepers; workers become bosses; revolutionaries become the establishment.  "The more things change; the more they stay the same". 

Another thing that struck me around about that time was the words of a hedge fund manager called Hugh Henry who went through what seemed a well-rehearsed mantra of self-justification, in response to a BBC interviewer's suggestion that what we require now is a "just form of capitalism".  Hugh worded his response to the effect that 1.3 million Chinese sweatshop grafters were as entitled to no less a quality of life than we, undeserving slackers in the de-industrialising world.  Only a bigot would argue with that, but we might get some inkling, reading between the lines, where things are going.  Is this what the elite deliberate about over dinner in their distant tax havens?  Is this the ingenious philosophy of some head outsourcing honcho?  Will our illustrious leaders cast us aside like a smelly old used sock?  You bet they will.  Look around you. 

Then on BBC Newsnight one evening, Jeremy Paxman hosted a philanthropic Bill Gates along with the head of a big pharmaceutical company and someone Godfrey might've described as a top Bongo-Bongo Land politician.  The set centred on something reminiscent of a medieval dais on which Paxman's elite guests sat swatting away the misgivings put forward by the representatives of the peasantry like pesky flies from the rear of an enormous destrier.  One by one, in turn, they approached gingerly, onto the dais looking, to all intents and purposes, prostrate before the Emperor and his council.  They said their piece, before being haughtily gainsaid and then dismissed.  Bill's ingenious scheme was to sell the pharmaceutical company's drugs at a higher premium to the hoi polloi in the "developed' countries in order to make the drugs more affordable to developing countries.  Good idea, but it seemed most of the cost was to be borne by the taxpayer.  If that's the best we can do to alleviate world poverty, then so be it.  It's better than doing nothing, but these corporations seem nothing if they're not opportunistic and too often, we find taxpayers/customers/clients money, (call it profit if you like but don't forget 20 percent of that is VAT) transferred at the whim of the unelected.

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David McBain wants people to read his articles and blogs. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1948, one month before the start of the National Health Service (NHS UK) and fears now that he will outlive its usefulness to future generations. (more...)

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