Category Archives: AID
Our World is one of rampant corruption and of unmitigated greed, of bankrupt morality and of thriving injustice. Our World is one of disinformation and misinformation, of conflicts of interest and of boundless deceit. Our World is one of celebrated ignorance, of indolent skepticism and of contagious apathy. Our World is one of omnipresent egoism, of distractions both blatant and devilishly elaborate. Our World is one of decrepit institutions, of malfunctioning systems and of an incompetent establishment. Our World is one of political homogeneity, of mass-produced bureaucrats and of depressing hypocrisy. Our World is one of conscienceless capitalism, of deaths both tragic and utterly preventable. Our World is one of counterfeit guardians, of clandestine pogroms and of censored protestors. Our World is one of impotent charity, of scandals too heinous to even believe. Our World is one of the privileged and the unfortunate and of a divide that has now become immeasurable. Our World is one of misplaced respect, of intellectual cowardice and of absent belief. The delusional puppet of the Global Ruling Class, our World is doomed to inevitable failure, regression and disorder.
Enough Is Enough.
“They” gambled with our livelihoods in the hope of inflating their coffers and lining their pockets. “They” refuse to take responsibility for what their avaricious recklessness has created. “They” serve only one another and ignore the demands of the majority. “They” hide behind a serpentine structure that camouflages their fraud and duplicity. “They” maintain that nothing can be changed, that inequality is necessary. “They” prefer to profit than to support social progress and development. “They” mislead and deceive habitually – “they” rarely have time for the truth. “They” gladly sacrifice their integrity in exchange for material wealth and luxury. “They” promote and propagate their secret agendas both subliminally and flagrantly. “They” craft and erect enticing diversions wherever and whenever possible. “They” advocate a culture of self-obsession, of compliance and of consumerism. “They” hail a perverted and disfigured caricature as an example of true democracy. “They” have abandoned substance in exchange for unbelievably tiresome sophistication. “They” promise urgent and fundamental reform but never deliver when they have the power. “They” pretend to be champions of nobility but soon change their colours given the opportunity. “They” manufacture pandemic fear and abuse it for unwholesome purposes. “They” insist that the State be kept as far removed from the Public as is legally feasible. “They” silently amass prodigious fortunes worth millions and billions of any currency whilst thousands perish everyday of causes that are financially preventable. “They” continue to exploit an unjust framework at the expense of the voiceless and the innocent. “They” use land for recreation and entertainment while many are forced to survive without shelter. “They” can afford to bailout broken fiscal systems but pay no attention to the sick or to the hungry. “They” quote national borders as the chief excuse for their negligence and inhumanity. “They” have no desire to improve our lives – unless, of course, they can find a way to benefit. “They” are selling us synthetic freedom and we are giving them international domination.
Enough Is Enough.
The problems of contemporary global society are manifold: biased judiciaries, amoral food and medical companies, an unelected Free Market dictatorship, a self-serving and treacherous Political Class, merciless and ubiquitous corporatism, a spineless and venal Media, a monetarily distended Entertainment Industry, thousands of avoidable quotidian deaths, carefully manipulated news acting as surreptitious propaganda, a veritable dearth of transparency and accountability, ineffective and diminutive taxation for the prosperous, increasingly encroaching commercialism, a Popular Culture predicated on indifference and narcissism, an Economic System that has become cripplingly convoluted, gargantuan unemployment and pressurized emigration, the deliberate suppression of significant public information, discreetly endorsed bigotry and dwindling civil liberties, Multinational Trade Laws that impoverish the disadvantaged, execrable genocides that are uniformly disregarded, spurious democracy and institutionalized inequality, a Global Ruling Class that is both anonymous and totalitarian – the list regrettably goes on and on and on and on.
My friends, this pathetic state-of-affairs has become untenable. From Washington D.C. to Canberra, from New Delhi to Brasilia, from Brussels to Pretoria and from Abuja to Jakarta, too many people are dying, too many children are suffering, too many injustices are going unpunished, too many lies are being told. At present, we live in a world paralyzed by avarice and blighted by duplicity, devastated by vanity and incapacitated by exploitation. Worldwide, the Authorities repeatedly refuse to listen to any of our grievances, to empathize with our predicaments. In spite of our objections, of our calls for change and widespread reform, they have done absolutely nothing to ameliorate the condition of international society.
I say that now is the time for us to stand up for what is right. To stand up for freedom and to defend equality, to resurrect democracy and to protect our humanity. We, the People – the almighty majority, we do not need a Ruling Class to show us how to live and to tell us what to value. Now, I do not contend that I know the “right” way – that I know the solutions to our many and varied difficulties. But what I do know is that the current approach is failing and that it is not the only approach that we as human beings may take. I believe that if we as a society honourably discuss and analyse our problems, if we permit each and every disparate voice to be heard, that we will be capable of finding a better answer to our dilemmas, an answer that is more democratic and egalitarian. For, I feel that it would be more socially prudent and responsible to take a long time to make the correct decisions than to take a short time to make erroneous decisions. I genuinely do not doubt that we, the Population, can find another way to live, regardless of the assertions of the Ruling Classes that change is ultimately impossible. I refuse to believe that the status quo is unchangeable. There has to be a fairer, more humane structure for civilized government.
But none of this is remotely obtainable in our world in its present state. The Global Ruling Class has all the power and is in complete control of society. However, I maintain that this is only because we, the People, have allowed such a dire and dismal situation to gradually arise. With their influence over Politics and the Global Economy, over Popular Culture and, indeed, over the Media too, they have succeeded in distracting us, deluding us and deceiving us. They have succeeded in neutralizing the purity of democracy. But none of that is important if we stand up today. Please remember that we are the majority and they are the minority. In spite of their weapons and their dominance, in spite of their affluence, together, our force is unquestionably indomitable and unstoppable. Every instrument that they wield in their oppression of freedom and equality is but a product ofhuman ingenuity and innovation. Therefore they can be destroyed. Therefore they can be replaced. Therefore we can make a better world if we remain united and refuse to be divided.
And so now I urge you to take all necessary action, to do everything possible to bring about the overdue demise of the reign of the Global Ruling Class. Whether you are a student in the United Kingdom or a construction worker in Angola. Whether you are a farmer in the People’s Republic of China or an artist in Guatemala. Whether you are black or white, young or old, rich or poor, male or female, of any religion, of any race, of any profession, of any sexual orientation, please remember that you are a human being above and beyond anything else, that underneath all cosmetic divisions we are all in fact one and the same. Ergo, you are automatically entitled to Freedom, to Democracy and to Equality, to live in a respectable community, to a world devoid of treachery. Therefore, go forth and sabotage this disgraceful system, demolish this vile edifice of inequity and inhumanity. Take your money out of the contaminated banking network – boycott every foul pillar of monetary impropriety. Go on indefinite strike and encourage others to do the same. March in the streets and in the squares from dawn to dusk until they surrender. Occupy all public space until they submit to our demands. Put up posters and distribute leaflets informing people of this righteous cause. Saturate the Media with our message – with the Truth. Complain to the Ruling Class until they are sick of hearing, seeing, knowing you. Represent those who are unable to express their despair and dissatisfaction. Tell everyone, everywhere of the struggle for justice in our society. Fight until you can fight no more for Freedom, Equality and Democracy.
It is only via these honest methods that our objectives can be eventually achieved. We will not be presented with our goals – we must procure them for ourselves. There are those among us who believe that we must resort to violence in order to fell the Global Ruling Class, but I feel that we owe it to all lost knights of liberty to give peace one final opportunity to triumph. However, I must warn you that irrespective of who you are, irrespective of what your opinion is, irrespective of where you come from or of the reasons for which you may be demonstrating, I can guarantee that “they” will beat you down, that “they” will penalize you, that “they” will not show you any mercy or understanding should you challenge their authority and defend what is good and what is right. Remember Ian Tomlinson. Remember Scott Olsen. Remember the Martyrs of Syria. Remember the Fallen Heroes of the Russian Federation. “They” are an old institution and have witnessed many unsuccessful challenges to their supremacy. “They” will not be overthrown so easily, so rapidly.
And if your conviction begins to waver, if your resolve begins to dissipate, just glance nonchalantly at the world and it will all come flooding back. Wealthy investors being illicitly bailed out with your stolen taxes. Ordinary people being punished for the greed and carelessness of the Ruling Class. Opulent bonuses, pensions and severance packages for unrepentant financial criminals. Supposed paragons of virtue selling death machines to dictators whilst concurrently abusing the vulnerable indirectly. Whitewashed massacres in Mexico, in Sri Lanka and in South Waziristan, to name but a few. Thousands of individuals dying of fiscally preventable causes everyday as mercenary companies post recurrent profits in the millions and billions of dollars. Mendacious politicians using parliamentary expenses to defraud their unsuspecting people while public healthcare and educational services are blamed for corporate and administrative malpractice and incompetence. Celebrities earning obscene fortunes while children starve and remain shelterless, a media too preoccupied with its own debauchery to report on crimes of greater gravity. And, all the while, none but a few intrepid voices in the dark talk of the truly grotesque nature of contemporary society. Don’t worry, my friends, it should not take more than a moment to remember why our degenerate world is in urgent need of a revolution.
What this movement represents, what this campaign symbolizes is inherently and fundamentally incorruptible and virtuous. Nobody can deny that the idea that every human being has a right to freedom, equality and democracy, that everybody is entitled to water, healthcare, food and shelter is, in itself, unreservedly honourable and indisputably commendable. We must never forget this. Regardless of what the Global Ruling Class may say, regardless of what they may do to us, regardless of how many of us may perish in this most valiant and heroic of struggles, this idea can never and will never be destroyed. This idea can never and will never be perverted. This must always be remembered. No matter how many of us may fall, no matter how hard they may strike us, we shall thrive beneath the scythe of their violence, we shall multiply underneath the pall of their tyranny. The greater their oppression, the grander our retaliation shall be. Nothing shall defeat the purity of our virgin aspirations.
And so now I kneel before you in unprotected supplication. I beg of you, every one of you, to resist fell apathy and insouciant distraction. Turn off your televisions. Put down your magazines. Switch off your computers, your mobile phones and your music players. Forget celebrities. Forget all plastic fantasies. Ignore the football – ignore all of their contrived diversions. Think of the future, think of the injustices of the present. How much more money must they take off us before we decide to do something? How many more innocents must die before we decide to say something? Think of your children – think of the thousands starving as we speak. It will never end until we stand up and make our presence felt. They do not care about our plight, about our difficulties. What must they do before we finally say “ENOUGH!”? What must they do before we finally decide to make it end?
Now, I am not a socialist. I am not a terrorist. I am not a conspiracy theorist and neither am I an anarchist. What I am is a humanbeing who believes that people can do better. That the Human Race is capable of building a world of greater beauty. I have yet to read Milton’s poetry. I have yet to see Van Gogh’s mastery. I have yet to savour Mozart’s brilliance. I have yet to behold all of nature’s wonders. But, nonetheless, I am willing to give my life, to sacrifice everything that I have for what is good, for what is just, for what I know to be pure and true. For the deprived and for the dying, for the weak and for the hungry, for the young and for the old, for the sinless children of the future, I can no longer tolerate the wretched state of our society. I can no longer stomach the dishonesty, the avarice. Please, I beg of you to disregard what cold experience may have taught you. Please, I beg of you to believe once more in the virtue of humanity. Please, I beg of you to solemnly trust that this loathsome planet can be changed. Please, I beg of you to join me in this most decent and noble of campaigns. Please.
For Equality. For Democracy. For Freedom.
The Power lies in Our hands.
Sheila lives in Luang Prabang, Laos. She runs a shop, and has a little dog that is fiercely protective when strangers come around. But the little dog has nothing on Sheila. “Don’t get me started,” Sheila warns. Then she starts.
“The government organizations; the UN organizations; the NGOs — they come to Laos, piss millions of dollars against a wall. They bring their families, they have their four-wheel drive vehicles, and they drive around visiting Vietnam and Cambodia and Thailand and have a wonderful time. Then they go home. And they’re useless.
Countries are starting to tell them to stay away. These organizations are now paying countries to let them in so they can do their great work. Now they’re all leaving Laos for Myanmar — that’s their next big project.
“NGOs send kids over here, lots of good intentions, but without any of the skills or talents that might be of some use. My friend Jane calls them ‘blancmanges.’ They’re just bland, ordinary kids with none of the abilities they require to make a difference — especially in a country like this one that has essentially jumped from the 16th century to the 21st. And the kids don’t last — they’re gone in a hurry.”
Sheila is a 50-ish Australian ex-pat who has lived in Luang Prabang for 15 years. Upon learning that she was conversing with a Canadian writer, she asks not to be identified. “I have to live here,” she says. And she has plenty to say about some of her imported neighbours. “All of these businesses started up by ex-pats that promise to ‘give back’ to the community,” she snorts. “Please. Almost nobody gives back. There are perhaps a couple of good organizations here and the rest are lining their pockets. Like those ‘Western guilt‘ tours, where people pay money to come and paint an orphanage. Does the orphanage get the money? No. The tour company pockets the money. And I talk to the orphanage workers — they say, ‘How many new coats of paint do we need?’ They ask for money to feed the kids instead. But no. They get more fresh paint. And the tour company gets paid.”
Penciled in progress
Ryan Young is not quite so dyspeptic. Young manages Joma Bakery Cafe, one of the few Luang Prabang joints that offers travelers a real espresso and an English language newspaper. The cafe, co-owned by former Vancouver residents Michael Harder and Jonathan Blair, is active in supporting a local charity called Pencils of Promise. And he says they do give back. “One per cent of our sales goes to Pencils of Promise and one per cent goes to Hagar International, which helps women escape from sexual slavery. We also hire those women. And we participate in a lot of projects with Pencils of Promise. This week our staff members, who are from the local community, were out helping kids find healthier ways to prepare some favourite local dishes.”
Young, who came to Luang Prabang from Portland, Oregon, about 18 months ago, does not discount Sheila’s points. “If there’s no commitment after the project,” he says, “if it’s just about having a picture of yourself posing with a brown kid to put on the fridge at home, well, that’s always a red flag.”
“When Pencils of Promise goes into a community to build a school we ask for 25 per cent contribution from the community, whether that’s labour or cement or whatever. We make sure the building is one that they want and one that fits into the community, whether it looks good in a photo or not. We make sure there is a teacher in place and ongoing program support, or we don’t do it. Since the ‘Three Cups of Tea’ controversy there’s more awareness and more scrutiny — you need to make sure there’s going to be a school functioning after the builders leave.”
That contrasts with Sheila’s description of one international aid project. “We asked the EU people to come and build a new three-room high school at the orphanage so kids wouldn’t have to leave at age 14 or so. The orphanage people told me, ‘Sheila, come see our new school.’ So I did. I asked, ‘Where’s the furniture? Where’s the electricity? Where are the blackboards?’ Well, the EU people didn’t do that. They get kudos for four walls and a ceiling and that’s the end of it. The orphanage had to raise another $8,000 to get equipment. Same thing when the hospital got built — no equipment. They don’t care. They do their little bit and take off.”
Sheila does mention an organization that she believes does good work in Luang Prabang — Lao Kids, a group that raises money for local schools, orphanages, and hospitals, with all members working for free.
Not every local do-gooder group is volunteer run. Big Brother Mouse is a self-described non-profit that publishes children’s books and promotes reading parties at local schools to help Laotian kids develop reading skills. They sell their books directly to the public, and also ask for donations to fund the reading parties at a cost of $300-$400. They’ve received plenty of great publicity. But when hearing about their work it’s easy to miss the fact that they are not a charity.
“To be fair,” Young says, “Big Brother Mouse never claims to be a charity. And really, the responsibility is on the giver. If you’re not just trying to make yourself feel good — if you want your money to be used effectively — it’s up to you to check out the financial statements of an organization.”
Young is also more forgiving of big NGOs in Laos. Groups like Save the Children and World Vision have to deal with the Laotian government. “I’m told there are 16 different government departments and they don’t recognize each other,” Young says. “There are turf wars — they all want to sign off on the project. They send government representatives out to supervise, and they all have to be paid per diems by the NGO. After a school gets built I’m told that sometimes the costs of hosting government officials is greater than the cost of building the school.”
One of Sheila’s stories seems certain to inspire a mix of anger and pride in a Canadian listener. “There was a Canadian government operation back in the early part of this century — maybe 24 or 28 young Canadians came over here. They were going to promote waste reduction and recycling in Laotian schools. The kids spent the first few months learning the language, and then they were sent off to the provinces. It was supposed to be a two-year program. By the end of, I think, a year, there were only three of the Canadians left in Laos. The others had all run home.
“But those three were wonderful. They had each of them figured out that this program was never going to work. So they decided to figure out what they could do to actually help. One guy asked the locals, ‘What do you need?’ And they said, ‘Water supply systems.’ So he put together a program that not only helped the village water supply but eventually had them making money by selling water systems to other villages. It was great. But all the while he was sending these bullshit emails back to the Canadian government people, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m executing the program, it’s going great.’ And meanwhile he was doing something completely different, but useful.”
Sheila can’t remember the name of the Canadian woman who had been assigned to Luang Prabang. But this young Canadian too figured out that the plan wasn’t working. “She was supposed to be teaching the kids to gather paper waste,” Sheila says. “But then what? There was no place for it. They actually ended up burning the stuff because they didn’t know what else to do.”
‘Can I just vent?’
The Canadian realized that recycling facilities were needed and began lobbying the government. Eventually a plant was built and contracts signed with China and Vietnam, so that today there is some recycling going on, with local women being paid to collect plastic containers.
Little credit for that goes to our government. “At one point they sent over a bunch of consultants to speak to the Laotians,” Sheila recalls. “The Canadian girl told me, ‘Sheila, I have a master’s degree in this stuff. But I couldn’t understand what these people were saying. And they were talking to the Laotians this way — nobody understood a word.’ Then the consultants got back on their plane — probably had a nice vacation as well — and they went home. The Canadian government must have spent a lot of money to send them — more money pissed against a wall. If I was a Canadian taxpayer I’d be pretty angry.
“That young woman used to get so mad at the Canadian government. She would come in here and say, ‘Can I just stand here and vent?’
“That’s the kind of person you need to get something done here,” Sheila says. “Not these wimpy kids they keep sending.”
If the mysterious Canadian ever does return she’ll be pleased about one thing — Joma Cafe has Nanaimo bars.