I’m seeing that a lot of people, in their intemperate rush to “get back to normal” before things have really changed much, have suddenly discovered a conscience about Africa and the developing world generally, warning us of dire consequences, not from the Covid-19 epidemic, but from the efforts to reduce its spread – a blatant attempt to play on the social justice sensibilities of those of us who have habitually and historically cared about such matters. I don’t know – I guess the argument goes something like this: Millions of Africans will starve to death if African governments follow the same social distancing and shelter at home procedures that we currently have in place, so we should return to normal and risk the lives of our own at risk populations because…because what, exactly? Because it will keep Africans from starving? In a pig’s arse, friends.
Here in America, any short term shortages in food simply reflect supply chain issues related to the over centralization of food production for efficiency reasons, and the fact that such big agriculture processing points are an ideal locus for disease transmittal. There is no shortage of food, and if the legislature was doing its job under Article 1, Section 8 of the constitution, and protecting those directly suffering from the economic effects of this situation from scavengers, bottom feeders, and financial institutions standing in the wings preparing to “save us” by reducing us to indebted penury, we’d still be tightening the national belt some, but experiencing little real suffering. If we had a real safety net and a rational healthcare system, we would be even better off than that.
In Africa, though, there is a genuine food problem, but Covid-19 measures will not much affect the decentered production of food, though it does make getting food to those millions who have abandoned their villages to come to the cities and try their hand at acquiring the educational and economic dreams inspired by the full-time propaganda mill of America, Europe, and China, designed to transform them from stalwart peasants into cheap laborers, while throwing a few bones to those who best succeed at gaming the system, or who are most willing to defend post-colonialism, rather harder.. There is a genuine food supply chain problem in keeping these cities fed under epidemiological conditions, mostly because of infrastructural and cash flow issues. Unfortunately, this year, hard on the heels of two years of disastrous bad weather and last year’s locust plagues, it is far worse than it otherwise might be. This is true. It is going to be bad. But Africa also has the world’s largest reservoir of people in the highest risk category for this disease, and the fewest hospital beds – it already has the highest death to confirmed case ratio in the world, higher even than Italy. Shall the governments there simply write off these millions along with all the millions who will need care for other diseases and be unable to get it? You see – this is an epidemic. One simply cannot wave the magic wand and make Covid-19 go away.
So let me make this clear – I was raised in Africa, and have many dear and beloved friends there, a substantial number of them living in near penury. I have a part time job I work 20 hours a week solely so I have money to help my African friends and the youth there. So please don’t lecture me on the disaster in Africa! I already feel it in every bone in my body, and some of those who die won’t be freaking numbers to me – they will be friends, commemorated on my patten for as long as I live. I’ve already sent $1500 in food relief money from my own and my parish’s meager stores, and I will send more. But telling everyone to stop social distancing and go back to work in the ghettos and slums of Kampala, Nairobi, Lagos, and Johannesburg isn’t going to reduce deaths…it is going to trade those who could be saved, by local action, for those that cannot be. For those who are starving, world aid is going to be needed; and with the monied classes of the world already whining because they can’t go to their favorite restaurant, get their nails done, buy the right brand of toilet paper, travel internationally, or get massages regularly, it is kind of doubtful they are going to get it. I certaonly don’t see food aid for Africa being a very high priority for this administration, do you? I don’t think Biden, with his neo-liberal economic advisers, is going to be any better. In short, the situation is as it has always been. As long as we can extract all the resources from Africa we want, and pay the Africans pennies on the dollar for what we take, everything is fine. The only change since I was a kid is that the Chinese have fully gotten into the game with the Europeans and Americans, and that the Africans are so accustomed to the situation that they have a hard time even getting angry about it any more.
So – enough of this sudden faux concern for the starving masses of Africa that most Americans never gave a tinker’s damn about or even noticed until it suddenly became a useful ploy for “defendin’ ma freedums!” I’m not buying it, and it makes me very, very angry.
On the other hand, if you are amongst the lucky ones, and still have a job, a home, a car, and your health, and would like to do something for someone else, let me know. I can get food to hungry people in Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. I’d love that, regardless of your views about Covid-19. Or click here St Barnabas Orthodox Orphanage and school in Kenya that has over 250 children to care for and send them some help. Seriously, though, write the check first, and then we’ll talk.
You can also talk to Fr Jm Kariuki (the director of the orphanage) through his Facebook profile here.
written by Fr Cassian Sibley (of Texas USA)