LETTERS: Implementing Fadi’s Advice and Questioning Afro-Economics

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Implementing Fadi’s Advice

Fadi Amer’s column (“Improving Arab/ Israeli Relations,” September 11, 2003) provided a refreshing, rare and extraordinarily personal perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and correspondingly the unproductive dialogue (or total lack thereof) underway both abroad and here on campus. Not only is it rare to hear the voice of someone more intimately involved than most of us on campus can claim, but, importantly, someone who despite his national identification with the people on one side of the conflict, nevertheless is able to rise above such arbitrary distinctions, and to articulate the contradictions and hypocrisies inherent in the logic presented by both sides of the debate. Regrettably, such neutrality, objectivity and honesty is often lacking, even amongst those who do not have the kind of ethnic affiliation embodied by Fadi.

More regrettably, I found it distressing, even outrageous, that although groups for either side of the conflict are represented here on campus, one for the Israeli position, the other for the Palestinian, an ethnically-neutral, or put another way, ethnically mixed group advocating for reconciliation of the two sides is entirely nonexistent. As Fadi aptly pointed out, if such a group, or if such dialogue between the two existing groups, cannot be found here on the Harvard campus, then where? It is difficult to imagine a more fertile ground for inspiring productive dialogue than from within the safe, thought provoking, detached and intellectually privileged walls of our ivory towers.

I would challenge Fadi, however, to expand upon his promising vision by more specifically delineating the ways in which productive dialogue can be engaged, and further, to more clearly define the Israeli contradictions that he believes are counterproductive to the cessation of the current violence. Doing so, with good faith [i.e. not with the intention of scoring points] will at the least illuminate hot spots of contention and, importantly, offer highly valuable advice from someone who is not necessarily unbiased, but is undoubtedly good intentioned and open minded.

In the meantime, I wish (or plead rather) that the respective on-campus student organizations would take Fadi’s advice to heart, and thus, begin a process of self-reflection, thereby reevaluating their goals, agendas and motivations. Ultimately, I think Fadi got it right. If we take a step back and look at the big picture it seems clear that ‘What is good for one side may also be good for the other as well.’

– Chrystie Flourney, 2L


Questioning Grundy’s Afro-Economics

Garry Grundy, in his article “Afro-economics,” (9/11/03) shows he knows much about Zulu culture but very little about African history. Grundy makes the hollow claim that “the African way of life has become vastly disjointed at the hands of market forces.” Such a statement inaccurately presupposes that all Africans experience the same “way of life.” Prior to colonialism, thousands of African societies existed with distinct social structures and governments. And today, one African’s experience in Lagos is different from another’s in rural Madagascar. In making such grandiose statements, Grundy falls into the colonialist mentality by ignoring Africa’s vast cultural complexities.

Grundy, in claiming that “market forces” cause African disjointedness, assumes pre-colonial Africa did not experience such forces. In actuality, many African societies had capitalist tendencies. In West Africa, African merchants competed with Europeans in complex markets. The Songhai Empire in the seventeenth century was wealthier than most European countries because of its ability to use “market forces” to its advantage. Similar market economies existed in East and South Africa. And prior to colonialism, even the most communal of African societies had classes of “haves” and “have-nots,” often determined by cattle or property ownership.

What’s so striking about Grundy’s use of the word “natural” to describe “Afro-economics” is that it also served as a colonial code word for African inferiority. Grundy is obviously not a racist. He, however, like the colonists, is using the term to further his political ends. The colonialists generalized Africa as a “natural” place in order to justify enforcing its “civilizing” foreign norms. Grundy is generalizing Africa as “natural” in order to justify his own economic agenda. But, unlike the colonists, Grundy is trying to pass off this economic system as “African.” In actuality, his vague Afro-economic system is no more African than Victorian morality.

Grundy also misunderstands South Africa’s economic system. He argues that discrimination and capitalism are the cause of African poverty. To be sure, discrimination is continuing to cause major problems in South Africa. Blaming South Africa’s income disparities on world capitalism, however, is a mistake. The primary reason black South Africans remain impoverished is that the South African government continues to engage in the same corrupt regulatory practices as the apartheid government before it. Large South African businesses, such as De Beers, continue to scheme with the government to maintain control over their monopolies. The results of such big business pandering are massive tax breaks and regulations that prevent upstart black entrepreneurs from competing. Therefore, government complicity with apartheid-era monopolies, not “market forces,” is responsible for crippling any upward movement by the poor. Grundy admits this point when he argues against agricultural subsidies, which are not “market forces,” but attempts by government to control the market in a manner that keeps the poor in “their place.”

Thus, when Grundy’s “global masses” arrive at America’s “twelve-foot wall,” Bush should lift the wall of agricultural subsidies and, in his southern drawl, advise: “Go ask De Beers.”

– Ryan Hecker, 2L

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