I’ve had a bit of a sledgehammer to the conscience recently whilst reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, the level of oppression that he and Black South Africans faced beggars belief. Even before the apartheid the oppression existed in very real yet much more “manageable way” for the ruling government. Black South Africans were thought of as savages and mentally unable to do the same things as white South Africans, and the only way they could “develop” was according to the ideals of Europe and already developed nations. The Apartheid brought with it a whole new level of oppression that squeezed and restricted the rights of Blacks even further.

This attitude to develop our way or suffer is a form of oppression that still exists today. The interruption of developed nations actually serves to slow down development. I am not trying to regurgitate existing arguments about foreign aid ruining, it is more the hypocrisy of giving aid and then expecting crippling debts to still be repaid. We didn’t save the banks in the financial crisis by giving them bailout funds, only to then charge them unmanageable levels of interest. We give this foreign aid as developed countries but are not prepared to remove the crutch (the debts) that makes the poor countries reliant on us.

Why developed countries choose to maintain this economic crutch is morally inexcusable, as it often comes down to things like access to cheap raw materials and cheap labour. There is a real economic advantage to keeping the poor poor for the rich. Now to a lot of people this will sound like a lot of socialist and almost communist nonsense, but my arguments are not for that but for a balance in consideration of the hardships that developing countries have been put through by rich countries. The UK would not be the country it is today without it’s Empire, the extraction of raw materials and use of cheap and often enslaved labour of its colonies played a pivotal role in our economic development. And now we play a pivotal role in theirs.

Economic factors like those come hand in hand with the social factors and often it is difficult to separate the two, Mandela talks about South Africans believing that they were just second class citizens and that was just the way things are. Social oppression creates and maintains this stigma; making it difficult for change to occur. Mandela mentions his own struggles to get on in a white man’s world and how he tried to change his fellow South African’s opinions about the way they should be treated. Now there aren’t many “colonies” out there that are still under oppressive regimes at the hands of the British, however there are still plenty of former countries around the world, especially former Soviet states, that are in that situation and whose people are still denied basic human right. And who, although being technically free of their imperial rulers, are still very much debilitated by attitudes that view the people as inferior citizens (think Chechens and Bosnians).

Advertisements