This report by K. Myers appeared in The Irish Independent.
No. It will not do. Even as we see African states refusing to take
action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the
begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us, yet again.
It is nearly 25 years since Ethiopia's (and Bob Geldof's) famous Feed
The World campaign, and in that time Ethiopia's population has grown
from 33.5 million to 78 million today.
So, why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic
demographic growth in that country? Where is the logic? There is none.
To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn't count.
One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of
another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the
camera,which yet again, captures the tragedy of . . .
Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially.
Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have
stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there.
The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic,
Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring child whenever the whim takes him.
There is, no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory
and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system; but I do not know
what it is. There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a
column like this.
It will win no friends, and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of,
well, the self-righteous, hand wringing, letter writing wrathful
individuals, a species which never fails to contaminate almost every
debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority. It
will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like
John O'Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire
enormously. So be it.
But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of
our own Irish Famine, with this or that lazy analogy. There is no
comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was
down by 30%. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the
Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules, Ethiopia's population
has more than doubled.
Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness. Somewhere,
over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent,
Kalashnikov-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently
Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive,
illiterate indigents, with tens of millions of people who only survive
because of help from the outside world.
This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense.
Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the president
of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap
water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against AIDS
Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not
prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia,
Broad brush-strokes, to be sure. But broad brush-strokes are often the
way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters. Japan,
China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the
20th century have endured worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part
They are now -- one way or another -- virtually all giving aid to or
investing in Africa, whereas Africa, with its vast savannahs and its
lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.
Meanwhile, Africa's peoples are outstripping their resources, and
causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of
Ethiopia will be 177 million; the equivalent of France, Germany and
Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly Protein-free
wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.
So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult
population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally
devastated and economically dependent country?
How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation
today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty,
hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children,
with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? Of course, it might make you feel better,
which is a prime reason for so much charity.! But that is not good enough.
For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It
has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed.
It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is
inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when,
in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease
is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now
If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would
otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts.
Oh good: then what? I know, let them all come here (to Ireland) or
America. Yes, that's an idea.