August 29, 2007


You hate being affluent? Then swap with us: A Ghanaian filmmaker who toured the UK with a documentary on debt relief was shocked to find so many Britons down on development. (De Roy Kwesi Andrew, 8/29/07, spiked)

I was particularly stunned by two big supermarkets called Tesco and Asda. I was amazed to see so many varieties of food from different countries at affordable prices, all in one shop and kept in hygienic conditions. In Ghana, one has to wander around every nook and cranny of local markets just to gather basic ingredients - and they’re expensive. There’s none of the convenience of readymade food, which is affordable for most people in Britain. Why don’t NGOs campaign for Ghanaians to have easy access to cheap and nutritious food?

In people’s homes in the UK there are washing and drying machines for dishes and clothes. There are freezers and widescreen televisions. Many Ghanaians trek daily for miles, scrambling for firewood, water and foodstuff, carrying heavy loads on our heads and our backs. Yet scientific, technological and industrial developments have given our peers in the West enviable and unparalleled freedom, choices and opportunities in life. The labour-intensive work in Ghana is intolerable.

Given all of the conveniences that exist, it is not surprising that people in London seem to sleep very little. The bars, pubs, clubs and cinemas fill up in the evenings. People wine, dine and dance through the night, enjoying themselves with their friends and loved ones. In Ghana we rarely have time for such entertainment. When our daily activities consist of so much unproductive manual labour, how can we have time over for leisure? I never saw my father taking a stroll with any of his four children, let alone going on holiday. It was not because he didn’t love us or did not desire to do those things, but because there was no money and there was no spare time for relaxing activities. Lack of development in Ghana has denied us the vital pleasures and comforts of life; our activities are geared towards survival.

Yet, as I started my speaking tour in British schools, colleges and universities to promote the WORLDwrite documentary Damned By Debt Relief, which was filmed in Ghana and which I worked on, it soon became clear that all that glitters is not gold. The great ideas that spurred on pioneers to make life easier, more bountiful and pleasurable for those in the West are now under attack. The culprits in the dock are affluence, ambition, science and technology - and strangely, the jury prosecuting these benefits of modern life are those who already have and enjoy them.

I was surprised by the views of some quite cynical audience members during a discussion of affluence at the Battle of Ideas, a festival of debate in central London at the end of last year. This was the first time I heard the suggestion that flying abroad should be rationed, or worse still, banned. The denunciation of material comfort is so widespread in the West that even schoolchildren seem to think affluence is an evil. Many people I met in Britain told me that there is less happiness and laughter in British society due to economic development. Some said that Africans are happier than Brits even though they are poorer. I thought that freedom from toil was the centrepiece of economic development, handing anybody the ability to unleash their potential and gain unlimited opportunities: most people in Britain have that freedom; we in Ghana do not.

If Westerners are not happy with such great things, perhaps they should swap with us Africans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 29, 2007 5:33 PM

It used to be that socialism was promoted with claims that it was better than capitalism at industrialization and delivery of consumer goods to the masses. That turned out not to be the case. So now socialism is promoted with claims that it is better at preventing industrialization and delivery of consumer goods to the masses.

The definition of those things as bad is a logical consequence of the assumption that socialism is good.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at August 29, 2007 6:23 PM

May we now all join the insight that the anti-progressive (note absence of quotation marks) impulse is a spiritual disorder?

Here's what I intend: reason consigns both socialism and economic lollardry to the outer reaches of oedipal neurosis.

Not only do these atavisms fail to provide progress, they fall short of the degreee of productivity required to sustain humanity. The inefficiencies non-market systems mandate privation.

This is why the so-called, self-proclaimed "progressives" are so unabashedly anti-life. Their solution for the demands that life
places on material reality is that we must have life less abundantly.

How odd this looks to the Ghanian traveler written of above. He needs to understand that the anti-growth, anti-progress "progressives" he encounters in Britain are trivial poseurs. Their final solution to the population problem is always for others. They are sure to continue to enjoyment of the fruits of the civilization they excoriate. It is always someone else who is to do without.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 29, 2007 7:07 PM

It's always amusing to listen to self-styled "progressives" rant on about their opposition to anything resembling "progress" even if for people like these Ghanans. Not coincidentally, I've noticed that they are also usually devout Holy Mother Dirt worshipers.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 29, 2007 8:18 PM

To the contrary, they're pluperfect products of reason.

Posted by: oj at August 29, 2007 9:54 PM

Poseurs is the operative word here.

Posted by: erp at August 30, 2007 8:47 AM

There's a reason why the poorest states are the reddest.

Posted by: msmary at August 30, 2007 11:11 AM

... if true, the reason would be? What? They aren't socialist enough?

Posted by: erp at August 30, 2007 3:12 PM