A Noose, Not a Bracelet

On July 2, a few days before the G8 summit in Scotland, the
Make Poverty
History campaign
wants thousands to form a ring around the
Edinburgh city center — a reference to the organization’s
emblematic bracelet.

Inside the city center, world leaders have pledged to put debt
relief, primarily for African states, on center stage. ‘With all
this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa,’
Naomi
Klein writes in The Nation
, ‘It seems like a good time
to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history.’

Ten years ago this November, the Nigerian government sentenced
to death by hanging Ken Saro-Wiwa, an Ogoni activist whose group
demanded Shell compensate the Nigerians from whose land it had
pumped $30 billion worth of oil.

Saro-Wiwa lost his life fighting for the idea at the heart of
every anti-colonial struggle in history, Klein writes. The concept
is simple: Resources of a given land should benefit the people of
the land. The mandate underlies every anti-colonial rebellion from
the Boston Tea Party to the expulsion of the Anglo-Iranian Oil
Company from Abadan, Iran.

The concept directly conflicts with neo-liberal economics, ‘an
ideology so powerful it tries to pass itself off as ‘modernity,”
Klein says. The prevalent discourse is replete with privatization;
contracts, agreements, and constitutions favor multinational
corporations and leave people broadly disadvantaged. Seventy
percent of Nigerians still subsist on less than a dollar per day,
while Shell continues to profit.

But there is evidence neo-liberalism is loosening its chokehold.
Nationalization, the process by which a state rejects privatization
and reclaims resources for governmental control, is taking place in
Bolivia and Iraq. French voters rejected the EU constitution, and
Russian majorities have no kind words for profiteers of disastrous
1990s privatizations.

As world leaders prepare for the G8 summit in Scotland, Klein
pushes a timely issue. The ‘tremendous profitability of the current
arrangement’ is what keeps Africa in debt, she says. ‘Africa is
poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably
rich.’

Debt cancellation might ease a burden, but leaves states subject
to the same ‘lethal economic policies’ that allowed multinational
corporations, not people, to benefit from the resources of a land
in the first place. — Julie Hanus

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A
Noose, Not a Bracelet

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