The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

AFRICAN DEBT: I’m sorry, but I know I haven’t been paying as much attention to the foreign news as I ought to; the world seems to be in a uniformly bad state these days, which is more or less the condition it was in when I stopped paying attention to the nouvelles de Outremer back in 1977. The world is in a terrible state o’ chassis, said O’Casey’s Paycock back in the day, and so does General Electric’s nowadays, except with high definition and stereo sound where available. This is actually a bit heartening, I think. In this our postmodern age, where change comes as fast and furious as a scared acid-stoned chameleon trying to climb a tree before some tenth-rate predator has it for lunch on the Discovery Channel, it’s comforting to see that some things are pretty much the same as you remember them from all those years ago; it gives one a sense of continuity, I think. But I trust you will forgive me if I am a bit hazy on some of the specifics; I haven’t really been keeping up as much as I should.

Now there’s been an awful lot of press coverage these last few months about the problem of African debt relief, the concept behind this being that the poorest African countries would get to write off the loans they’ve made without the bank repossessing their car, which is a sweet deal if you can get it. I wish I could’ve gotten in on it; I’m about four payments away from finally paying off my Ford Taurus and I wouldn’t mind not having to shell out the money while not having the bank shred my credit rating to confetti at the same time. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though; in my experience bankers are rarely this charitable, although I’m sure there are a great many honorable exceptions to this rule, so please don’t email me telling me what a great guy your banker is and saying that I shouldn’t be maligning people like this. I’m sure your banker’s the salt of the earth, the cat’s meow, and the bee’s knees; I’m just going on my personal experience here and in my personal experience bankers tend to be fairly hard with a buck and not all that fond of hearing that they aren’t going to get their money back, plus interest compounded daily.

But the issue at hand is African debt relief, not my debt relief, a subject only I and my bank have any interest in, and in the past few months the pundits have pontificated, as if you could stop them from pontificating, often and at length on the subject, tut-tutting their political masters’ sudden fiscal caution on this issue, pointing out that it’s not like these very same governments haven’t dropped more money than all of Africa owes combined on any number of domestic boondoggles they'd just as soon forget over the years. Popular music stars have gotten into the act as well, generally bemoaning the pitiful efforts of the rich nations to alleviate the scourge of African debt in the same apocalyptic tones as Ezra Pound’s denunciations of usury (With usura hath no man a house of good stone…and so on and so forth; you get the picture) and demanding that the rich nations do something, anything, to solve the problem. Many of these pop stars believe in the cause so fervently that they’ve staged mammoth concerts all over the world dedicated to the proposition that if they sing long enough and loud enough someone—who that someone may be remains a mystery, but I'd bet on Guy Lombardo fans—will pay them a lot of money just to shut the hell up, and they could then donate this money to debt-ridden Africans.

Now, as I understand this, and please correct me if I am wrong, we, we being the rich nations, are cynically exploiting the debtor masses of Africa, enriching ourselves on whatever it is we are enriching ourselves on. The rich nations, from what I understand, could not be as rich as they are without exploiting to the nth degree whatever it is we are exploiting in Africa and denying the Africans the right to exploit whatever it is we are exploiting that they are sitting right on top of and then making them pay huge amounts of money that they don’t have in the first place to buy whatever it is we exploited and turned into something else and shipped back to them. Africa is a cornucopia of something or other, and the sooner the rich nations stop their exploitation of whatever it is they are exploiting in Africa the sooner the Africans can exploit it, whatever it is, for their own benefit, unless it, whatever it is, damages the environment all of God's, assuming that you believe in God, creatures must share in some way, such as putting the collective nose of some species of migratory water fowl out of joint because African exploitation of it, whatever it is, will damage this water fowl’s breeding grounds in a manner that soft lights, romantic music, and an extra bottle of good wine can’t solve. Environmental damage is never permissible, even if tens of thousands of Africans starve because of it, the it here being environmental damage and not the it the Africans want to exploit for their own benefit, whatever it is. So instead of Africans using and exploiting it and paying their debts with the profits brought by it, whatever it is, they, they being the starving Africans and not some hitherto unmentioned they like the Salvation Army, the Navajos, or the Rockettes, must listen to rich pop stars by the dozen sing song after lugubrious song about how miserable they are, this they being the starving Africans who can’t pay their debts and already know how miserable they are without any musical assistance from rich pop stars who can pay their debts, or at least one assumes they can pay their debts, the they here being the rich pop stars who can pay their debts (we think) and not the starving Africans who can’t, although I would imagine that singing about debt relief is not what you could call a surefire moneymaker that'll head to the top of the charts with a bullet, if you see what I mean; it's not at all the sort of thing your average fiscally conscious record company would bet a large advance on like gangsta rap paeans to the joys of gratuitous sex and pointless violence. Anyway, I think that’s about right, or have I missed something along the way?


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