July 9, 2009

Easy (?) Eradication of Starvation in Africa - the Pournelle Program

Hatched by Dafydd

John Hinderaker -- my favorite blogger on my favorite blog -- has a nice post up noting a rare occasion where Barack H. Obama actually says something coherent, rational, and that I (and likely most of youse) can really get behind.

In Credit Where It's Due, John highlights a talk and Q&A in (or perhaps just about) Africa, where Obama comes down squarely on the side of "democracy and transparency and rule of law, in the protection of property rights, in anti-corruption efforts.... And... a direct correlation between governance and prosperity."

It got me thinking about Africa and starvation, and a conversation I had when I was a teenager, mumblety-mumble years ago.

Back then, I used to hang around at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), a major science-fiction club in North Hollywood, a "city" within the city limits of Los Angeles. Probably the oldest continuously meeting SF club in the United States, having been founded as a chapter of Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction League in 1934 -- the year before my father was born.

Among others who regularly attended was SF writer Jerry Pournelle. He was propounding on starvation in Africa; it hasn't gotten much better... and in places like Zimbabwe and South Africa, erstwhile breadbaskets of the dark continent, decidedly worse.

"All you really need," boomed Jerry, beer in hand (he has since quit drinking), "is food irradiation -- and a crapload of Seal-a-Meals." (Having lost much of his hearing as an artillery captain in the Korean War, fighting a rear-guard action during the retreat down the Frozen Choson, Jerry tends to yell everything at a volume that would bring a jackhammer operator to tears.)

His point was that the problem was not production so much as distribution and storage. But I had my own suggestion of one more plank in the platform -- a policy that would vastly improve both elements of feeding the multitudes. I waved my hand and got his attention:

"And kill all the Communists, too," I added; Jerry paused, then smiled and raised his beer bottle in silent salute.

Alas, today the Commies aren't the only group of people in Africa begging to be exterminated.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 9, 2009, at the time of 11:08 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Now to step on thin ice...

I've always thought a large percentage of the problems in Africa were directly related to African culture. African culture acts as a permenant drag on any sort of human advancement.

Family is central to life in Africa. In Africa a man without a family is nothing. In Africa any relative of your parents’ age who looks after you as a child is a mother or a father. Even cousins several times removed are called brothers and sisters. Famlies are huge, sprawling affairs. Grey hairs are greatly respected and obeyed.

Africans are not tied to land, but are strongly tied to each other. If economic conditions are bad in one area, a westerner might up and leave for a different city, or different area, perhaps with just his immediate family in tow. For most Africans this is impossible. You cannot leave your family, and it is often too big to move anywhere else.

Any money that one member earns is expected to be distributed throughout the rest of the extended family. Share everything within the family.

The respect for age stifles adaption and innovation. Dynamic leaders of 50 are told they are too young to rule.

Theft is not viewed the way it is here. There is not much stigma attached, and if you steal from a family memeber it really isan't stealing. Stealing from a starnger is okay, because they are not family.

Sex is different. Much more open. Men are expected to sleep with many women. Loyalty to the extended family is high, but to the spouse it is relatively low. She is, by necessity, from a different family, and therefore ssupect.

All this adds up to just what you see. Low capitol formation. Low turnover of leadership. People put family and tribe before country, but at the same time are oddly detached from the land itself. Low formation of tight bonds between mother and father. Theft and corruption on epic scales. Inclination toward communism. It is a culture that cannot survive in the modern world.

My own solution, sad as it is, is let many of them die out. Nothing can be changed without changing the culture, and the culture is stubbornly immune to change. We should focus aid on countires that show signs of change, low corruption, some signs of economic development. Let the basket cases utterly fail.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2009 3:13 PM

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