Let’s ask the question more vividly: Shall we be concerned with the misery of millions of people in Africa where every few minutes a mother without hope or a kid is dying just because of the shortage of one glass of water or a slice of stale bread? Or shall we be concerned about the economic malaise of the US and Europe that occurred because the profits of multinational giants are being squeezed, their banks are “too big to fail” and the public sectors are troubled by excessive debt levels.
People almost everywhere in Africa and a good part of Asia and South America are living in shameful poverty and with immeasurable human misery. In the West, however, the quality of life in terms of any criteria that one wishes to consider and the means and tools of tackling problems are much better than that of the poor areas that I mentioned. In terms of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and distribution of income; the quality of governmental organizations, institutions and structures; access to high quality infrastructure services such as communications, transportation, health and education; the availability of nutrition, a well protected environment and fresh air; care for child, mother and older people; and the use of developed products that increase the quality of everyday life such as computers, cars and phones, the West cannot obviously be compared to Africa, Asia and South America.
What is striking, even shameful, is that in such a world of deep and unfair asymmetries, we are still continuously talking about the economic headaches of the West. We should ask two timely questions at this stage. First, are we deceived in defining and deciding our real or more humane priorities in this world? Second, how did the Western exploiters of the world come to this stage of systemic collapse and economic bankruptcy?
The answer to the first question is, in my view, quite obvious: Our perceptions, priorities and human sensitivities are molded, shaped and manipulated by modern media outlets, mostly under the dominance of the West. Maybe more interesting is to find out a plausible explanation for the current “tragedy of the exploiters.”
As a matter of fact, the argument or thesis for the exploitation of the world by the Western imperialists is not an artificial chimera or a pure Marxist ideology. It is the most visible fact of Western development and enrichment. The West has been the principal enslaving nation of the modern world and the exploiter of other material resources and undeveloped governance in needy areas. For example, profits from the slave trade, sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco, palm oil, petroleum, copper, chromium, platinum and in particular gold were and are crucial to Western development. As Richard Drayton said in his earlier article in The Guardian, (Aug. 20, 2005), only South America, at the zenith of its silver mines, outranks Africa’s contribution to the growth of the global bullion supply. What mattered was how the pull and push from these industries transformed Western Europe’s economies. English banking, insurance, shipbuilding, wool and cotton manufacture, copper and iron smelting and the cities of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow multiplied in response to the direct and indirect stimulus of the slave plantations.
Let us come to current facts. Remember that the G8’s debt-forgiveness initiative was spun successfully as an act of Western altruism. Let me continue with Drayton: “No one considered that Africa’s debt was trivial compared to what the West really owes to Africa. [Professor Robert] Beckford’s experts estimated Britain’s debt to Africans in the continent and diaspora to be in the trillions of pounds. While this was a useful benchmark, its basis was mistaken. Not because it was excessive, but because the real debt is incalculable. For without Africa and its Caribbean plantation extensions, the modern world as we know it would not exist.”
Therefore, the West, today, has inherited its wealth from such a past. There are many who like to blame Africa’s weak governments and economies, famines and disease on its weak leadership, internal conflicts, collusion and corruption, etc. However, the fragility of contemporary Africa is a direct consequence of two centuries of slaving, followed by colonial despotism. Nor was “decolonization” all it seemed: Both Britain and France attempted to corrupt the whole project of political sovereignty.
Let me continue discussing in another article how Western exploiters ended up on the current tragic avenue of collapse after such a long history of cruel exploitations.