Monday 1 July 2013

Foreign Aid. Charity to warm your heart

One of the great freebies the US offers to third world countries is democracy, but it seems neither Iraq nor Afghanistan want it, those ingrates! So Barack Obama has decided to roll out an entirely new gift for backward countries: gay rights. What’s the response? More ingratitude, not to say snark. Senegalese President Macky Sall had the nerve to offer the US a gift of enlightenment in turn. He pointed out that his country has abolished capital punishment, hinting that he’d be willing to share this practice with the US (, 28 June).

So maybe it’s better to stay away from ideological gifts and offer more practical freebies, like Jason Sadler who wanted to send a million T shirts to Africa in 2010. But that turned out to be another dud. Apparently Africans don’t want free T-shirts. They prefer to make their own and be paid for the job.

Why are these people so difficult? What DO they want? Volunteers maybe?

Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises thinks that’s where it’s at: voluntourism. The line offers passengers the opportunity to spend a few hours as volunteers at a Dubrovnik old folk home. I think that’s a dynamite idea – I mean what can go wrong if the good folk of Dubrovnik don’t speak English and the volunteers don’t speak Croatian? There is no fear of cultural misunderstandings as long as everyone keeps smiling. An even better solution would be to visit only old folk who are in a coma. That way volunteers can go away with the warm feeling that they haven’t intruded on or disturbed anyone.

But no, some cynics think that volunteers are only doing their good deeds for something in return. They point to the Pergau dam scandal, when England promised aid to Malaysia in return for an arms deal. Come on people, that was twenty years ago! Nobody does that anymore. Granted the Canadian aids agency CIDA is now only a splashpage on the site of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Globe. 28 June) – but that doesn’t mean that there is any connection between aid and trade.

And look at the selfless help celebrities are offering to Africa: Jolie and Clooney in Sudan, Oprah in South Africa, 50 Cent in Somalia. Oh, wait. I see the rapper is pushing an energy drink on his Facebook page, although you don’t absolutely have to buy it. Not at all, you can look at the ad and “like” his meal plan for Somalia completely free and without any obligation.

You think those celebrities get something in return for their charity— like attention? Please. Save your suspicions for Al Quaeda, who is bringing its charity to the US, offering training camps to young people in South Carolina and Michigan absolutely free. They promise to teach them such valuable skills as kidnapping, murder, and setting explosives. Check out the Soldiers of Allah in the video on

You don’t like this kind of summer camp? Okay, there are other manifestations of charity -- countries that open their arms to refugees and offer them a home, like Ecuador which offered asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden. No, wait. That was yesterday. Today they are backpedalling. Could it have anything to do with the US waiving preferential trade rights, you ask? Oh, you sad, sad cynics!  I just hope Canada won’t be backpedalling on its plan to offer refuges a welcome package: a free GPS in the form of a handsome set of ankle bracelets in case they get lost in Canada before their immigration hearing (Globe, 28 June).

No, I for one continue to believe in human goodness. Every day I get the most generous offers from people in Senegal who want to deposit millions in my bank account, and from writers all over Europe and the US who offer to enlarge my penis, although I suppose I’d have to grow one first.

To all these charitable folks, I say: Thank you for your kind thoughts, but I’m one of the lucky ones who can do without your help.

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