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Development in Africa
Il est minuit, docteur Schweitzer
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  • Anthony

    Here’s a complementary view by two Africans (Donald P. Kaberuka and Acha Leke):

  • Ironwrkr

    It might be better to let Africans help Africans.

  • f1b0nacc1

    Years ago, I taught ethics in law school (long story), and I began the class by reminding them that teaching ethics in a law school was “much like pouring a vial of antibiotics into an open sewer… a noble gesture, but ultimately futile.” In some ways, this is what we are seeing here. In the end, only Africans can help Africans, and it can only happen when they advance as a society. They are not doing so (they are the poor and infantilized ward of the developed world), and thus they will not help themselves. When we in the West (and the rest of the developed world) decide to guide/assist them to ‘adulthood’ (and much of that includes a ton of very tough love that rejects the ‘all nations are created equal’ nonsense), things can change….not until then…

    • Matt_Thullen

      If you are interested, I’d highly recommend reading “When Helping Hurts”, which addresses how paternalistic attitudes towards the recipients of aid (either here in the U.S. or overseas) can foster attitudes of helplessness and dependency. It’s Christian-oriented, and it really helps one understand that the best way to help someone is to walk beside them, not parachute in with goodies and advice.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Actually, I have read it…and enjoyed (perhaps that is the wrong word, lets say I appreciated its value) it quite a bit.
        What the developed world can do is to offer a positive example, reward those that follow it, punish those that do not. In some cases colonialism (with all of its flaws, and they were many) wasn’t all that bad a thing…but those days aren’t coming back…

  • lurkingwithintent

    And 100 years from now, the moral superiority crowd will write and speak of how we got it wrong and were arrogant and condescending toward any we helped. I hope that the work that needs doing gets done with efficiency, but these kind of critical reviews of what Dr. Schweitzer or Mother Teresa or others have done are just kind of irritating. More has changed than just that we have “gotten smarter” or more efficient and concerned about progress. Then as today, the danger of good intentions is that they often come with the assumption that the helpers are superior to those they help. That shouldn’t diminish the real help they give, nor ought we expect that such real human beings were without human failings. Celebrate the work they tried to do with its failings, move on and hope that people might do the same for us some day.

  • Andrew Allison

    Shouldn’t the question be whether the “paternalistic” aid is better than none?

  • Lachlan Forrow

    Whatever one thinks about the work of the Schweitzer Hospital today, or about Albert Schweitzer’s work in 20/20 hindsight, it is important to understand how profoundly ANTI-colonialist and ANTI-racist his motivations for going to Africa were — almost unheard of for a white European going to Africa over 100 years ago. As he said in a sermon he gave to the congregation of his church in Strasbourg in 1905, when he had decided to devote his own life to “atonement” for what colonialists and racists had done to Africans:

    “Our culture divides people into two classes: civilized men, a title bestowed on the persons who do the classifying; and others, who have only the human form, who may perish or go to the dogs for all the “civilized men” care.

    Oh, this “noble” culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot, only because they live overseas or because their skins are of different color or because they cannot help themselves. This culture does not know how hollow and miserable and full of glib talk it…this culture has no right to speak of personal dignity and human rights. I will not enumerate all the crimes that have been committed under the pretext of justice. People robbed native inhabitants of their land, made slaves of them, let loose the scum of mankind upon them.

    Think of the atrocities that were perpetrated upon people made subservient to us, how systematically we have ruined them with our
    alcoholic “gifts,” and everything else we have done…We decimate them, and then, by the stroke of a pen, we take their land so they have
    nothing left at all…

    The name of Jesus has become a curse, and our Christianity – yours and mine – has become a falsehood and a disgrace, if the crimes are not atoned for in the very place where they were instigated. For every person who committed an atrocity in Jesus’ name, someone must step in to help in Jesus’ name; for every person who robbed, someone must bring a replacement; for everyone who cursed, someone must bless…We must make atonement for all the terrible crimes we read of in the newspapers. We must make atonement for the still worse ones, which we do not read about in the papers, crimes that are shrouded in the silence of the jungle night…”

    Lachlan Forrow, MD
    Past President (Board Chair), Hopital Albert Schweitzer (2010-2013)
    Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

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