Category Archives: Africa

The folly of von der Leyen

A mixture of cliché, slogan, and evasion

The president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is quoted as saying:

The last four years have taught us that simple answers don’t take us far. All that one heard was ‘Close the borders and migration will stop’ or ‘We must save everyone on the Mediterranean.’ We have seen that the phenomenon of migration has not stopped, and that there is a limit to the ability to integrate [the migrants]. Therefore a global approach is necessary. We must invest massively in Africa to reduce the pressure to migrate. At the same time we must fight organised crime so that we ensure that the Schengen agreement [which allows free movement of people between countries party to it] can function because we protect our external borders [i.e. the EU’s borders].

Dalrymple comments:

This evades almost all the difficult questions about immigration. With a superb indifference to practicalities, von der Leyen fails to tell us how either the push or the pull that drives migration is to be lessened, apart from ‘massive investment in Africa’.

Von der Leyen, he notes,

does not tell us who is going to bankroll this massive investment. Is it to be financed via the forced contributions of European taxpayers and be administered by European bureaucrats? The history of massive aid investment on the part of Europeans in Africa has not been happy.

Dalrymple asks:

If the massive investment is not to come from government, with its almost infallible ability to turn investment into liability, who is it to come from, and for what purposes?

The answer

must be the private or corporate sector. But why is it that the private or corporate sector, supposedly ever on the search for commercial opportunity, does not already make such investments? How is it to be persuaded to do so? Is the purpose of its investment to make a profit or to reduce migration?

Dalrymple observes that cliché has

entered the very fabric of von der Leyen’s mind. Surely it must have occurred to her that it is a little late in the day for investment, however massive, to halt the pressure that has led a third or more of sub-Saharan Africans—who will soon be three times more numerous than the Europeans—to want to migrate to Europe.

Besides, he says,

it is not the poorest of the poor of Africa who arrive clandestinely in Europe; it is those who can — or whose family can — pay the air fare, giving them the chance to overstay their visa, or pay people-traffickers (often several thousand dollars) to smuggle them in. Many migrants enter under family reunification schemes inscribed in European law.

A rising standard of living in the emigration centres of sub-Saharan Africa brought about by massive investment, were it to occur (which is far from certain), would

more probably increase than decrease the migratory pressure, in so far as more people would have the means to undertake the migration.

This thought

does not in the slightest inhibit von der Leyen from using the language of the imperative—a way of thinking that might result in the compulsion of reluctant countries to pursue a futile policy at great cost. Moreover, it is very difficult to see how any effective or selective migration policy could be carried out without a closure of borders.

The shoe is on the other foot

The post-colonial looting of Africa (the kind that follows the outdated, colonial kind)

In South Africa, Dalrymple is invited to dinner at an industrialist’s house, in the kind of property that on its periphery resembles

an armed camp.

Among Dalrymple’s fellow invitees are important figures in the African National Congress. He speaks to one leader, a communist. The man wears

a sharp and expensive Italian suit.

The man sticks to the party line, but Dalrymple guesses that his thoughts and feelings are

more aligned with crony capitalism than with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The man’s shoes are

of fine lizard skin, with gilded trimming — more for ornament than use, their soles paper-thin; beautifully made. They can be worn only in the most luxurious of environments; a gravel driveway would ruin them. They are the kind of shoes that Russian oligarchs buy at a cost of thousands in the most expensive shopping street in Zurich.

Welfarism and the debasement of the British

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-22-53-20The condition of many people in relatively degenerate areas of Great Britain is, says Dalrymple,

worse than that which I have seen in Africa.

These Britons

have less pride, less self-respect. They have no self-respect, actually.

A necessary condition of such a state of the soul is

the welfare state.

But Dalrymple doubts that the welfare state is a sufficient condition for such degradation. (There are, he points out, welfare states less bad than Britain’s.) The point is that there has been

an ideological change: things that were once received as a benefit are received as a right. This is a cause of resentment: what people receive — they are being paid to exist — is never as much as what they would like to receive.

Dark days

In Africa one is grateful, writes Dalrymple,

for a president who, however dictatorial, does not eat his opponents.

Who or what is to blame for the continent’s lamentable state of affairs? Some blame the multinationals, but, says Dalrymple,

if there is one thing worse than being exploited by a multinational, it is not being exploited by a multinational.


Jean-Bédel Bokassa: large appetite

Rise of Jellybism

Dalrymple draws attention to the increase in the past few decades in Jellybism, namely 'moral concern in proportion to the square of the distance of the problem from oneself and a tendency to see high-flown and seemingly generous sentiments as the essence of virtue and morality. A virtuous person thus becomes the person who expresses, perhaps with the most conviction or vehemence (which are not quite the same thing, but they are increasingly difficult to distinguish), what are considered to be the right ideas'.

Dalrymple defines Jellybism as ‘moral concern in proportion to the square of the distance of the problem from oneself, and a tendency to see high-flown and seemingly generous sentiments as the essence of virtue and morality. A virtuous person thus becomes the person who expresses, perhaps with the most conviction or vehemence (which are not quite the same thing, but they are increasingly difficult to distinguish), what are considered to be the right ideas’

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Nihilističkom, dekadentnom i samodestruktivnom ponašanju

The cause of Western misery: nihilistic, decadent and self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. As Dalrymple has pointed out often, poverty does not explain this behaviour; in African slums there is greater decorum and dignity than is to be found anywhere in Europe, in any class but especially in the corrupt upper-middle class.

The situation is more keenly perceived in Croatia than in the country of Dalrymple’s birth. This should not surprise us.

How aid workers pay off their mortgages

Dalrymple explains that, with cash saved from his taxpayer-funded salary while employed on an aid-and-development project in the Gilbert Islands (formerly the King’s Mill Islands), he was able to purchase a whole house. And working on such a project in Africa, he found that it

enriched an inefficient British company and its personnel, and those officials whom it bribed, while the country remained poorer than ever, a tropical Merthyr Tydfil.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 17.44.10Aid, Dalrymple argues, is

neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of development. There is no country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid, which is international social security for corrupt governments. To lump poor countries together as if they were in the same category is false, a form of uninterested and morally frivolous condescension.

He describes Britain’s obsession with sending aid to India as

the hangover of a colonial superiority complex.

It is

a manifestation of the national administrative, mental and ethical torpor, as well as incompetence and corruption, that is leading us to economic and social disaster. It is time we stopped such aid, and not only to India.

Hindustan, he points out,

has a long, varied, glorious (and terrible) history of civilisation, with the sophistication necessary to absorb influences from abroad, including Western scientific ones. It is outrageous that we condescend to it with our paltry aid, just to pay the mortgages of aid workers.

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Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932)

Ronald Ross’s poem India (Madras, 1881) is cited:

Here from my lonely watch-tower of the East
An ancient race outworn I see —
With dread, my own dear distant Country, lest
The same fate fall on thee.

Lo, here the iron winter of curst caste
Has made men into things that creep;
The leprous beggars totter trembling past;
The baser sultans sleep.

Not for a thousand years has Freedom’s cry
The stillness of this horror cleaved,
But as of old the hopeless millions die,
That yet have never lived.

Man has no leisure but to snatch and eat,
Who should have been a god on earth;
The lean ones cry; the fat ones curse and beat,
And wealth but weakens worth.
O Heaven, shall man rebelling never take
From Fate what she denies, his bliss?
Cannot the mind that made the engine make
A nobler life than this?