It was 1956. I was still an inexperienced, untested, naive, ignorant thirteen-year-old walking back home from school. Along my walk I saw some street peddlers selling tents, blankets and cans of Spam amongst other items. The older ones were sitting down with their wares spread out before them, the young boys were rushing into the streets to hail down passing cars in order to tempt them to stop and buy. Lebanon had just experienced an earthquake, rendering many homeless and destitute families. I would later find out from my school friends that what was being sold on the streets were charitable donations from the US and elsewhere to be distributed to the Needy! Not Sold! Distributed! Given Away! To the Destitute and Homeless! Later on in my life, I would find out from a family friend that the Politicians in charge of receiving those Free Donations were the same ones who hired people to Sell some of them! My Idealistically Naive eyes popped wide open, and thus began my long and arduous drip dripping road to Disillusionment with Politics, Politicians and Corruption! To date, none of my feelings have changed. In fact, and with more knowledge and experience, I am finding out that things are much worse today, not only in Lebanon, not only across the Region, but across our World!
Nowadays, some corrupt Government Officials, as well as some unscrupulous NGO head honchos are facilitating the sale of some of the water, rice, sugar and whatever staples have been donated for their own personal gain! It is a travesty! Another one to add to the many occurring in countless places. Moreover, when Foreign Governments charitably allocate funds for building a school, or a clinic, a library, or any infrastructure project awarded to the “Ins” (in essence those close to the Government Official dispensing the funds) the prices are usually inflated, the material shoddy, the labor underpaid!
How do donor nations and organizations deal with this? How do they stem this blatant corruption and waste of money? A conundrum, no doubt, at the heart of which are greedy individuals who have no scruples, no conscience and no morals. It is disgusting!
China though, from an article I read, seems to have the answer! Whatever you might think of China, whether you might like the Chinese Government, or not, whether you might approve of some things they do, and others you might totally disapprove of, on this issue they seem to have got it! What do they do? Let’s say Country X needs to build a bridge connecting the East and West sides of its city which are divided by a river. The Chinese Government learns of this, so they make an offer to build that bridge. The stipulation is that Country X will repay the costs of the bridge as a loan with interest. Execution: China manufactures all the components of the bridge, down to the screws and nails required, crates them and readies them for shipment. With the materials required, they send their own engineers and crews, their accommodations, food, and everything else to sustain them until the work is done. They do not require anything from Country X. This ensures that no bribes exchange hands and no part of the work is bestowed on any Country X corrupt officials. China has been criticized for executing some of its contracts in this way, and blamed for charging Country X exorbitant interest on the “loan,” however, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank and any Donor Nation charge interest, or some sort of concessions, as well. The difference is that there are no Contractors – private, or government associated – who will erect that bridge and create more corruption, bribery and benefits to the “Ins.” Contrast this with the exorbitantly priced contracts the US Government bestowed on Afghanistan and which involved corrupt Private Contractors – some American, others Afghanis connected to Government Officials – who skimmed their profits and made millions while using slave labor and the cheapest materials. I believe that there is a good argument for the Chinese Way to be made here!
We need A Different Approach for such matters, as well as a lot of other things! Not only here, in the US, but all across the World!
I also remember how in the Nineties, especially, there was a mad, frenzied rush by our American Corporations to move their production to China (and to a much lesser degree to India, Mexico etc.), because manufacturing their products in those places would cost a fraction of what they did in the US, while their profit margins would rise exponentially. En masse they went! Pharmaceutical corporations, steel manufacturers, toys, some foods, clothes, linens, computers, phones, machinery of every kind and on and on and on! China was happy! Corporate Honchos and the Stock Market were happy! Blue collar labor got royally shafted as factories shuttered up and rural America – Democrat and Republican – was neglected. Today, we don’t even produce our own antibiotics, let alone anything else of value! But, what our corrupt politicians tell their naive followers is that China took away your jobs! China impoverished you! Deflecting blame! Shamelessly deflecting the blame from greedy corporations! I am not defending China, but only naming a spade a spade! It is high time to think of A Different Approach! It is high time to put an end to hypocrisy and double-speak whether we talk of Climate, Vaccines, Viruses, or China, or Anywhere and Anything else. As for Ukraine and Russia how do we have the temerity to point the finger at Putin (and I am not defending him either, but again, only calling a spade a spade!) and say that he is meddling in Ukraine and desiring to replace its President when we have a history of meddling, invading, and occupying Everywhere, as well as of toppling Presidents and Regimes? Really? The argument that We are the Good Guys and They are the Bad Guys doesn’t fly anymore these days! There must be a better way to promoting our Democratic Values! A New Approach that does not continue to create a problem and then cry: why are they against us? Informed people in the US, Europe, the so-called Third World (or Developing World, or Emerging Economies or Whatever they call it these days!) are sick and tired of all these crying wolf tactics. And, we’d better be careful here, because crying wolf too often will, eventually, have that wolf howling at our doorstep! Is that what Biden and Blinken want? The Humans of the World are Fed Up with Corrupt Politicians and their Corporate Media lapdogs, with Hypocrisy, with Arrogance, with Greed, with Manufactured Wars, with Promoting and Hyping Divisiveness, Cultural Wars and Religious Mendacity! Enough! However, Fossilized Politicians and an Irresponsible Media Culture benefit from having things just the way they are!
A Different Approach is sorely needed on every level of society, otherwise we will keep spinning out of control! 1956, or 2022: the only difference being that I, and many Humans, are not as naive anymore! When and How do we change this stale Cold War trajectory being promoted by doddering politicians from another era now pushing for war? Together with old pro-war military people and a corrupt media that would enjoy covering the sensationalism of any war rather than telling the true story, just as much as they enjoy hyping up any old thing, especially, by our “adversaries!” Shameless, Senseless Nonsense and Dangerous, too!