Sunday 19 November 2017

Myers's Africa article utterly dismaying

I did not want to write in about Kevin Myers's recent article (Irish Independent, July 14), and held off for some time. However, in the meantime, two letters appeared in this paper concerning the article -- one demanding that Africans start "helping themselves"; and the other coming to the defence, not of the Somali people, but of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Mr Myers can be difficult to refute, not because of any strength or evidence in his arguments, but because he raises such a mountain of assumptions and baseless claims that one fears to refute one claim for fear of giving the impression that one takes seriously the assumption underlying it. To give a few examples: the assumption that "Somalia" and "Ethiopia" can be spoken of as if they were individuals rather than huge and diverse nations; that Africa is poor and will remain poor forever, making all aid futile; that the primary feature of the famine-afflicted region, nullifying all other factors, is that it is a "population base" for al-Shaabab.

From this, Mr Myers concludes that the "primary outcome" of aid efforts will be a strengthening of this organisation. I would have said that the primary outcome would be the survival of many who would otherwise have died -- a strengthening of al-Shaabab, should that even happen, would be at most an unpleasant side-effect. However, part of the bedrock of Mr Myers's assumption-mountain is that all any Africans will ever do is get AIDS and join al-Qa'ida.

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