Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
After a trip in Africa (Cameroon), I can't pretend to know antything, but I feel that I can't nor should argue for simplicity to people who often are a meal away from starvation.

I'm really all in favor of simplicity for myself (when I can make it a way of life that I like), but I will not defend it for people so poor that they can't weather the simplest life accident. And my feeling is that there is a lot of africa's misery summed up in "can't weather accidents".

In Cameroon, I met (and worked with) locals who were at the european standard of formation/knowledge and job skills. I also met (and employed) people who were living for CFA 10k a month per person, even when I paid them above the local minimum wage.
I talked to middle class people who were telling me how hard it was to get jobs, and at the same time, I could see basic infrastructures missing, or badly maintained (roads, water, electricity). I had interesting discussion with my fellow colleagues (who I believed quite liked having them) about why houses were not made of stones in mountain countries but in imported cement, or why the city was not employing people to clean sewers (no tax, no money, no job).

I still have problems to understand why, appart the technological side of development, one country doesn't manage to build and maintain structures that could be found in antic India or medieval Mali, like waterways, houses. I feel it is for the lack of legitimate power in these countries (where the gov is often backed by former european colonisator).

In Cameroon, there exist a small city/country where, at the beginning of the XXth century, the local king forced a small scale modernization of its country, some ten years before colonization. He tried to get from a rural village to an urban center, with written-royal acts, simple technologies to better the farm output (like corn smasher), and commercial/political domination of the area.
It didn't work in the end, because he was overpowered by the europeans (french and germans). I'm convinced that there could be african leaders of that kind today, who would make the "enforced simplicity" a chosen one, or more, but not only a european view of what simple (but happy) man should be on the earth.

by Xavier in Paris on Tue Aug 31st, 2010 at 11:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People need sovereignty. The entire point of neo-colonialism and corporate globalization is that corporations (the former colonizer's in the case of neo-colonialism, global in the case of corporate globalization) have sovereignty over all that matters, and people at best have sovereignty over trinkets and meaningless rituals. So, we're all in the same boat, only us 'Westerners' have our rapidly deteriorating but to some extent real sovereignty to sustain us, which most African nations have never had.

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Aug 31st, 2010 at 01:10:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I talked quite a lot about this with my colleagues when I was there. They told me that it was very difficult to embrace any carreer without support from the (local) people above.
If and when the people above are an old lifelong president supported by the former colonizing power, this has some implications.
People outside the frame of this have it very difficult to get a job.
I'll say that the scarcity of jobs is capital. If the economy was going well enough, the power would not have so much importance in giving access to a position. But could you have a thriving economy, when a great part of it consists in harvesting naturale ressources?
In Cameroon, there are 4 main sources of revenues: oil (declining, exploitation shared between the french and chinese), trees (exploited by the french company Bolloré - a close friend of Sarkozy), precious stones (by the coreans), and fish (by the  chinese).
All of them are dependent of "sovereignty" as they need the proper authorizations and permits by the cameroon state. Such documents are a clear source of black money at all levels. I feel that it would take a virtuous gov clerck to favorise its own people access to the resource (which do NOT need permits so no black money, eg: fish) over the money channeling permit to a foreign harvester.
But why? Coreans or chinese do not have a military presence, so why do we see the same colonized/colonizing process taking place?
by Xavier in Paris on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 02:30:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When the institutional set up of a country is thightly conditioned for a specific process, that process becomes the default one...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 03:59:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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