By Rod Liddle
It is a little over 20 years since I embarked upon what might be called “the trip of a lifetime” (in that I hoped nothing like it would ever happen to me again so long as I lived). This was to sit in the back of an expensive four-wheel drive and be driven across the entirety of Uganda by two strident UNHCR women to see the “excellent” work their organisation had been doing in the (then as now) utterly benighted country. My back-seat companion was a man quite possibly known to you: Boris Johnson.
On one interminable journey up towards the (then) Sudanese border, where various bands of psychopathic maniacs were murdering one another, Johnson spent the entire time singing to himself Dire Straits’s Money for Nothing — which of course added immeasurably to my experience. Perhaps it was a subconscious comment on the achievements of the UNHCR.
Uganda was then seen as a kind of bright spot in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s always one, before whatever country it is sinks back into the usual squalor after four or five years, hope is extinguished and the machetes come out again. Bright spot it may have been, but overseas aid still amounted to about 15 per cent of its GDP, there was little freedom or democracy, harvests were failing, life expectancy was a little over 40 and the population was already spiralling out of control.
Who was to blame for these ills? We were, apparently. The West and especially, in the case of Uganda, the United Kingdom. Colonialism had kept them impoverished; nothing else. In this fabulously mistaken belief they were supported by all the supranational aid organisations, and in the wider political sphere few dared contradict them. Without colonialism, one Ugandan MP told me, “we would be as rich as China”.
This epic African delusion — easily disproved by citing the cases of Ethiopia and Liberia (never colonised but still desperately impoverished) or Malaysia and Singapore (colonised for 160 years but now affluent and successful) — is even more deeply embedded today than it was back then and even less likely to be challenged.
The facts of the matter — that African countries have suffered from predatory and tyrannical elites, the lack of an entrepreneurial middle class, poor education, no democracy and so on ad infinitum, pretty much none of it a consequence of our earlier perfidious imperialism — are almost unsayable in this time of terribly thin sensitivities. Colonialism is the fashionable excuse, and we have encouraged them to hunker down behind it.
The depth of the hatred this has inspired can be gauged by the degree to which they are cheering from the sidelines for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Russia, the great liberator. We tell ourselves a little smugly that the “world” agrees with us about Putin’s wickedness, but it patently does not. Getting on for half the world’s population lives in countries that singularly failed to vote in favour of the UN resolution condemning the invasion. Nearly all those countries are former colonies, and many are in Africa.
Take Uganda as an example, where the president’s son, Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, announced: “Putin is absolutely right!” The same disposition is found in South Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Mozambique and South Africa, where — as The Spectator’s Aidan Hartley reported — the radical opposition MP Julius Malema remarked: “We are with Russia … teach them a lesson.” The “them” is rather less Ukraine than the West, of course. I’m not sure if Malema knows where or what Ukraine actually is.
This disaffection for the West is reflected in the supranational bodies western countries set up to promote democracy, equality, freedom and indeed health. The boss of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is of the opinion that we in the West are racist for getting worked up about Ukraine rather than worrying about yet another war in Ethiopia (launched by its Nobel peace prize-winning leader).
We are mugs, and we have handled postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa appallingly by refusing to speak truth to power. Every year Africa receives about £40 billion in aid, virtually all of it from the West and the Gulf states. Pretty much none at all from Russia, which always bungs its aid in the direction of Syria, North Korea and Tajikistan. The more aid we give, the worse Africa becomes and the more it hates us. Isn’t it time we changed the narrative a little and brought some facts into play?
I would be more moved by the left’s howls of anguish over the plan to ship economic migrants to Hotel Rwanda if it could come up with a more realistic alternative than “Let everybody in, all the time”, which is obviously impossible.
The lefties have no answer to the fact that the economic migrants arriving on our coasts are almost entirely young men who have pushed to the head of the queue, leaving behind the really vulnerable — women, children, the elderly, the infirm. There is no recognition of this.
In other words, it is howling for the sake of howling: virtue howling, occasioned by an idiotic refusal to look at outcomes rather than how they feel.
A bunch of Nasa scientists are planning to play the slowest chess game ever with aliens light-years distant, according to the New Scientist. Each move would take hundreds of thousands of years, because of the rather large distances involved.
Well, good luck. But this is to assume that aliens are on the same intellectual level as our own chess master, Dominic Lawson. They may well be as thick as mince and only able to cope with those 1001 Puzzles for Morons books sold at railway stations.
We always make this mistake, assuming extraterrestrial life forms will be exceptionally clever and liberally inclined, whereas they’re almost certainly malevolent, fascistic halfwits.
I had to ring my bank last week because my account had been hacked by some American skank. A machine answered and told me it was experiencing an unusually high level of calls, so the wait would be “longer than we would like”.
Banks and utilities have used that message for the past 20 years. I yearn for it to say, one day, “Well, look at you! You’ve rung at exactly the right time to go straight through to a human being!” But it never will. The next message is a suggestion to inquire online instead, for which I’m always especially grateful when I’m ringing to report the loss of my internet. Liddle’s law: “Every advance in communications technology makes it slightly harder to talk to the person you want to in a big company.”
Credit | The Times