G8 Summit 17-18 June, 2013, Lough Erne Golf Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

A Common Good Message to the G8 Leaders on Poverty, hunger, injustice, Africa and more: Why Justice matters

Once again, some of the world’s most powerful leaders will be gathering for their annual G8 meeting. This year they will come together at the Lough Erne Golf Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, during 17-18 June. For sure, as in the previous meetings they will look like a bunch of well-dressed people standing around a car that won't start, has a rusty body and a defected engine. This car since the late 1970s has been running with a very harmful and poisonous fuel, called, neo-liberalism and speeding in the wrong roads of individualism, selfishness and arrogance. Both the car and the drivers are exhausted and out of breath, totally lost, so to say. But, they are not brave and honest enough to say so. They tell us that they will be looking for ideas to revive the spluttering engine of economic growth, create more wealth, to strive for peace and justice, searching for moral compass and a bit more decency and honesty. I wonder if anybody still believes them?

One of the stated purposes of the G8 conference, hosted by David Cameron next week, similar to the one hosted by Tony Blair at Gleneagles in 2005,  is to save the people of Africa from starvation and hunger. David Cameron's purpose at the G8, as he put it last month, is to advance "the good of people around the world". To this lofty ambition, I say, Good Luck Mr. Cameron. Hope you can succeed, where the one before you, namely Mr. Blair, failed so miserably. 

 The question thus is, can the G8 leaders really, truthfully address the problems of Africa, poverty, hunger, injustice, unfair terms of trade, militarisation, exploitation, wars, conflicts, and environmental degradation, to name but a few?

I say categorically, no. As long as they still hold the “White Man’s” mentality.

For a better understanding, we need a different way of thinking. Thus, see below:

First, let us have a bit of background reading, so to say, a bit of honest history and good education, very much lacking these days.

 Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa: The Colonization of the Continent by European Powers

"The Berlin Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African continent. By the time independence returned to Africa in 1950, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily.

In 1884 at the request of Portugal, German chancellor Otto von Bismark called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate questions and end confusion over the control of Africa. Bismark appreciated the opportunity to expand Germany's sphere of influence over Africa and desired to force Germany's rivals to struggle with one another for territory.

At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under traditional and local control. What ultimately resulted was a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divided Africa into fifty irregular countries. This new map of the continent was superimposed over the one thousand indigenous cultures and regions of Africa. The new countries lacked rhyme or reason and divided coherent groups of people and merged together disparate groups who really did not get along.

Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884. The countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time.

The initial task of the conference was to agree that the Congo River and Niger River mouths and basins would be considered neutral and open to trade. Despite its neutrality, part of the Congo Basin became a personal kingdom for Belgium's King Leopold II and under his rule, over half of the region's population died.

At the time of the conference, only the coastal areas of Africa were colonized by the European powers. At the Berlin Conference the European colonial powers scrambled to gain control over the interior of the continent. The conference lasted until February 26, 1885 - a three month period where colonial powers haggled over geometric boundaries in the interior of the continent, disregarding the cultural and linguistic boundaries already established by the indigenous African population.

Following the conference, the give and take continued. By 1914, the conference participants had fully divided Africa among themselves into fifty countries.

Major colonial holdings included:

  • Great Britain desired a Cape-to-Cairo collection of colonies and almost succeeded though their control of Egypt, Sudan (Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), Uganda, Kenya (British East Africa), South Africa, and Zambia, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and Botswana. The British also controlled Nigeria and Ghana (Gold Coast).
  • France took much of western Africa, from Mauritania to Chad (French West Africa) and Gabon and the Republic of Congo (French Equatorial Africa).
  • Belgium and King Leopold II controlled the Democratic Republic of Congo (Belgian Congo).
  • Portugal took Mozambique in the east and Angola in the west.
  • Italy's holdings were Somalia (Italian Somaliland) and a portion of Ethiopia.
  • Germany took Namibia (German Southwest Africa) and Tanzania (German East Africa).
  • Spain claimed the smallest territory - Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni).”*

Now let us note some prevailing historial, cultural and racial attitudes, as for example noted  by Rudyard Kipling in “The White Man's Burden”:

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

“Rudyard Kipling is here justifying and celebrating colonization of non-white races by claiming that what these white men are doing is “profiting” the other races and allowing for these other races to have certain “gain”. Because these races are more primitive, they are suffering and need the white men to help their societies profit. Through this description, we can see how diabolical Kipling’s word choice is. Kipling describes the white men as being noble and generous when they are actually just seeking their own profit and/or being racist in their conquering.”

I suppose this “White Man’s” mentality has not ended and it is very much present in the current bankrupt foreign policy of the western world: witness the justification of the “White Man” invading many sovergin lands, civilising them, whilst conquering, plundering and looting their lands and resources.

And now our Common Good Message to G8 leaders on how to tacle poverty, injustice, and enviromental degradation, based on the following simple belief:

We need to explore ways that we can serve humanity in its deepest sense, rather than creating a poverty of spirit as well as an ecological wasteland – develop an awareness that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the energy we use are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth. Then we are making a real relationship with our environment. This needs a spiritual awakening, not more of the usual mubo jumbo of the need to learn from the market forces!

(In April 2005, the GCGI held its 4th Annual Conference in Kenya, Nairobi and Kericho. Based on our debate, analysis, and deep conversation and dialogue with many African participants, we issued our Kenya Declaration.

In June 2005, empowered by our Kenya Conference, the GCGI sent An Open Letter to the G8 Leaders meeting in Scotland. The words of that letter remains just as true and salient as ever today, if not more so.

Thus, one again, the GCGI is sending the following Open Letter to the G8 leaders meeting in Northern Ireland, in the sincere hope that they maybe inspired to act in the interest of the common good.)

 AN OPEN LETTER TO G8 LEADERS:

 WHY WORLD POVERTY IS A JUSTICE ISSUE FIRST AND THEN AN ECONOMIC MATTER

 Prof. Kamran Mofid, Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative

 Friday, June17, 2005

Dear Honourable Presidents and Prime Ministers, Gleneagles, Scotland

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.-Nelson Mandela

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.-Albert Schweitzer

The continuous existence of such high levels of abject poverty in Africa and elsewhere in the world in its very nature is an affront to God and humanity and thus can never be justified. You, the leaders of the G8, have an opportunity in the coming weeks to begin to reverse this inhumanity and injustice, once and for all, and leave your mark on history.

This open letter is a message from Africa, the Africans, in association with their non-African brethrens who recently attended an international conference, Africa: the Quest for Justice and Peace, which was held in Kenya:

Conference Programme: Kenya 2005

Kenya Declaration:

GCGI Kenya Declaration 2005

The right way to eliminate poverty and heal our broken world:

1- To make poverty history is mainly mobilized around the concept of justice. In many cases, challenging injustice is the first step towards the elimination of poverty. To do justice is to feel the pain and to become one with the sufferer; is to ask fundamental questions about the roots of injustice and to fight for their removals. It is then that poverty can be eliminated.

2- All manners of policies and theories have been tested on Africa. All failing and all bringing Africans a bitter harvest. This is so, because what has been tried has not been in harmony with Africa’s civilization, spirituality and culture. Without a deep understanding of these, we cannot begin to find development strategies that are going to work in Africa or any where else in the world. “One size fits all” economic strategy of development- obsessed only with economic reform, an ever expanding free-market liberalism, structural adjustments, privatization, deregulation and more of the same- has been nothing but a global tragedy. It would be an affront to our humanity and decency to ignore this.

3- Material wellbeing, economic growth and wealth creation are important. But, to create a world of true happiness, peace and wellbeing, wealth must be created for a noble reason. Economics, commerce and trade, without a true understanding of the aspirations of the people it is affecting, cannot bring justice to all. Social transformation can be achieved only when unselfish love, spirituality and a rigorous pursuit of justice are embraced. Moreover, Millennium Development Goals, Commission for Africa recommendations and more will only be achieved when unselfish love and the pursuit of justice guides the motivations, not more free trade or more privatization for example. Here the wise words of Albert Einstein ring true: “The world cannot get out of its current state of crisis with the same thinking that got it there in the first place”.

4- We need a “Spiritual Revolution” so that as Archbishop William Temple once so eloquently remarked, “The art of government in fact is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands”. If we truly want to change the world for the better, all of us, the politicians, business community, workers, men and women, young and old, must truly become better ourselves. We must share a common understanding of the potential for each one of us to become self-directed, empowered and active in defining this time in the world as an opportunity for positive change and healing. We can achieve a culture of peace by giving thanks, spreading joy, sharing love and understanding, seeing miracles, discovering goodness, embracing kindness and forgiveness, practicing patience, teaching tolerance, encouraging laughter, celebrating and respecting the diversity of cultures and religions and peacefully resolving conflicts. We must each of us become an instrument of peace.

It is worth remembering the centuries-old wisdom of the Persian poet, Sa’di:

Human beings are like parts of a body

Created from the same essence.

When one part is hurt and in pain,

The others cannot remain in peace and be quiet.

If the misery of others leaves you indifferent

And with no feelings of sorrow,

You cannot be called a human being.

 Ideals into practice: Healing the Scar of Africa: (Kenya Declaration)

The acknowledgement of God, Ultimate Reality, or the One. Our lives are grounded in an Ultimate Reality, the source of the sacredness of all life and of the spiritual power, hope, and trust that we discover in prayer or meditation, in word or silence, and in our striving for just relationships with all existence.

The investment of Spiritual Capital. The most powerful way for faith and spiritual communities to influence beliefs, norms and institutions is through prophetic voice and public action. Highly visible faith and interfaith affirmation of the great spiritual truths of peace, justice, and the sacredness of the Earth and all life can make a tremendous contribution to Globalisation for the Common Good. Action and service by spiritual and faith communities and groups can provide a vital source of inspiration and energy for the healing of the world.

The practice of selfless Love. The most important point of convergence shared by the world’s great spiritual traditions is to be found in the practice and power of selfless love for all humanity. It is the wellspring of the best hope for a better future.

The cultivation of interfaith Dialogue and Engagement. It is absolutely vital that religious and spiritual communities come together with one another in honest and open dialogue. It is also essential that these communities enter into dialogue with secular groups, organizations and governments working for a better world. Religious and spiritual communities - in mutual respect and partnership - must engage the critical issues that face the planetary community as the 21st century unfolds.

The nurturing of cultures of Peace. True cultural evolution is perhaps best measured in the growing rejection of violent approaches to conflict resolution in favour of the cultivation of the infrastructures of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. Our greatest contribution to the future lies in ensuring that our children grow to maturity in cultures of peace.

The struggle for Justice. Justice is the heart of all creation. It is the profound feeling of oneness with all other beings in the universe. Today, it finds its most vital expression in social and economic fairness, concern for others and the vigorous defence of human rights.

The realization of Gender Partnership. Challenging the assumptions and infrastructures of patriarchy is essential to cultural evolution. Women and men, living and working together in harmony and equity, can build stronger, more creative religious communities and societies.

The path of Sustainability. In this rapidly changing world, our reverence for the Earth will determine the fate of the entire community of planetary life. This deep, visionary and unconditional caring for what is yet to come, is the love of life embedded in ecological sustainability.

The commitment to Service. Service is our link to spirit. Personal action for a better world is the discernable manifestation of the divine in the human. The essence of service is the grace of giving. We give because giving is how life begins and how it continues. This process will enhance personal responsibility for the common good.

We affirm that economics is, above all, concerned with human well-being and happiness in society and with care for the Earth. This cannot be separated from moral and spiritual considerations. The idea of a “value-free” economics is spurious. It demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a human being.

The choice is yours. Please make it happen.

Kamran Mofid, PhD (ECON), Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI)

www.gcgi.info

*Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa

http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/berlinconferenc.htm

*The Scramble for Africa: Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa

https://kasieconomics.com/2013/03/30/scramble-for-africa-berlin-conference-of-1884-1885-to-divide-africa/

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