Sunday, March 14, 2010

If Culture Matters?

The executive summary of the Tuft University project "Culture Matters" (2003) states:
"Although some progress has been made, efforts during the past half-century to reduce poverty and promote democracy and social justice around the world have, with a few exceptions, fallen short of their goals. Growing numbers of scholars and practitioners believe that insufficient attention has been paid to cultural values and attitudes that can powerfully influence for good or for bad the political, economic, and social behavior of individuals and societies."

The principle investigator for this project was Lawrence Harrison, who for example recently claimed:
"Haiti has received billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last 50 years, and yet it remains the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere. Its indicators of progress are closer to Africa's than to those of Latin America. It has defied all development prescriptions. Why? Because Haiti's culture is powerfully influenced by its religion, voodoo."
Michael Fairbanks, who is a close advisor to Paul Kagame, contributed to Lawrence Harrison's project "culture matters", has said similar things in the past, as Herb Talpaert reported at Chicago University back in 2001.

Fairbanks met Kagame in 2001, as reported in Andrew Mwenda's newspaper The Independent:
"The leaders of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, and the country director for Rwanda, his name was Emmanuel Mbi, introduced me to President Kagame in 2001. We arranged to go and give a five-day forty-hour seminar for President Kagame’s entire cabinet. I spoke for 40 hours from Monday morning till Friday evening."
Recently Michael Fairbanks has stepped up his efforts in support of Paul Kagame. Michael has sung Paul's praises in a washington post's article "Kagame Lead's an inspiring turn around". An article which shines like Jerusalem on mount zion for lack of evidential backing for his grotesque claims. The most tangible proof Fairbanks provides for Kagame's supposedly "inspirational leaderhip" is "Umuganda", an idea Kagame obviously stole from Mobutu See See Seeko's "Salongo" (who in turn stole it from the chinese cultural revolutionaries, correct me if I'm wrong): citizens sweeping the streets together every last saturday of the month.

Two days ago Michael Fairbanks published "Communists are back in Africa" in the Huffington post claiming:
"The United Nations has 17,000 peace-keeping forces in Congo costing billions of dollars, but never addresses the underlying issues that caused the war: lack of governance, degrading poverty and intolerance."
The Tuft project "culture matters" mentioned above has, in Michael Fairbank's case, moved from assuming and studying changes that occur to "Changing the Mind of a Nation". An Utopian project based not in reality but on theories that still remain to be proven.

In the context of this own utopian project, Michael Fairbanks therefore obviously states his own views when he quotes President Paul Kagame of Rwanda:
"We should be debating why so little investment is made in the continent, not where it originates."
It's therefore quite insincere when at the end of the article he claims "First, we need to value what Africans say".

When Shanda Tonme published his article "All Rock, No Action" in the new york times in 2005 he said:
"We Africans know what the problem is, and no one else should speak in our name. Africa has men of letters and science, great thinkers and stifled geniuses who at the risk of torture rise up to declare the truth and demand liberty."
However the debate on " aid or no aid" has increasingly become hijacked by individuals who have their own utopian agenda's. In this context Africa reminds me of Christ words
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation."

It would therefore be wise to heed Shanda Tonme's warning in this interview on France24 where he states words to this effect: We should be extremely carefull with theories that set Africa apart because of it's culture and traditions!

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