Thursday, 12 November 2009


Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal,  Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire.

That's what you can see in this picture courtesy of ESA's satellite network.
  • What you can't see is a per capita income of $200 per year, or $80,000 for the wealthiest
  • What you can't see is a life expectancy of 40 years
  • What can't you see is infant mortality rates of 154/1000 versus 3/1000
But they are all there...

There is enough food to feel all 460 million inhabitants of the countries pictured, sufficient safe water; if divided fairly, a nominal GDP per capita of $21000 per person (man woman and child), healthcare and the basics of human life could be available to all of the inhabitants of that small vestige of our planet. 

When I ask myself what entitles me to expect the privileged life I have, the geographical serendipity of my birthplace seems a woefully inadequate justification.

Mankind has created borders, abstract constructs, not visible from near-space; borders are responsible for poverty and death. Territorial preservation, greed and the protection of national identity, our unique way of life if you want, has led mankind to kill millions in war and in peace. Pictured from space are the wealthiest and poorest of nations, in a snapshot of a small area of the Earth's surface we see the lack of humanity, a laughable word, and shocking iniquity of our doomed race in stark relief.


  1. To a large extent the inequalities you mention are, for the people getting the better deal, the product of centuries (if not millennia) of striving to improve their existence. Lower mortality rates are not an accident of geography but the result of having invested in medical training and improved sanitation.

    Scots don't inhabit the choicest part of the planet. Indeed they maintained their independence for a long time just because it wasn't worth taking. Mostly mountain and moorland, with some marsh and meadow - the only reason the English invaded was to prevent the French opening up a second front from which they could invade.

    Never-the-less, the Scots endured. In medieval times they encouraged learning - setting up universities, encouraged industry and trade -inviting whole communities from Flanders to come and set up lace manufacturing. This attitude and these kinds of choices are the basis for the prosperity now enjoyed there.

    Poorer nations remain that way because they made the wrong choices. However, being the kind of people we are, we share the wealth sending billions in medical, industrial, and food aid every year to these poor nations.

    But lets look at some of them. There was once a country truly blessed. It had a good climate, rich agricultural land, well developed infra-structure, a good system of education, and one of the best standards of living in the world. Today it's a basket case - it's called Zimbabwe.

    The whole world could become Zimbabwe - all that is required is to wallow in a misplaced sense of guilt and open the borders.

  2. All of the countries listed in Africa were previously held as part of empires - Spanish, UK, France Portugal etc. They were deemed sufficiently rich to be exploited for their men to serve in armies and natural resources to be exploited, then raped and left to their own devices.

    What you are suggesting is that despite us having the means to have a world of equality we should go backwards and further de-integrate. Zimbabwe should have been the focus of 1st world intervention - but wasn't, why don't you pick the worst example in Africa - it might help you sleep better at night, I personally take no solace from our neglect.

    The fact is Ethnicity & Nationalism and the territorial pissings of those who hold power in their "nations" coupled with the disinterest of those who are advantaged are directly responsible for death and disadvantage elsewhere.

    Despite us being in the position to stop hundreds of thousands of Human Beings (emotively: women and children) suffering by dint of the geography of their birth (not a choice they make), we self aggrandise, standing idly by as we observe them dying in intolerable numbers of water shortages, starvation and easily cured health disorders - For what? To bolster our pride in being born in the 'right' place and misplaced self-credit for the achievements of our ancestors. Those ancestors and their bullying leaders who monopolised on the best land and natural resources - is that humanity?

    It is within our gift to stop this - but as Claude Lévi-Strauss observed we are destined to fail - and their deaths will be ours one day.

    One reason why nationalism, not patriotism, is despised by many.

    I'm reading Thomas Hylland Eriksen's "Ethnicity & Nationalism" currently, I can recommend it.

  3. "What you are suggesting is that despite us having the means to have a world of equality we should go backwards and further de-integrate."

    Well you got it half right. I welcome the prospect of a "world of equality". My needs are few - never having developed a fetish for collecting objects. So I don't mind the idea of lowering western standards of living to help the rest of us out of squalor and abject poverty.

    But what is it you're proposing? A New World Order? If so - no thanks. You imply that the west is to blame for all the ills of the world, and that the dreadful conditions some folks find themselves in is the fault of nationalists. Utter tosh.

    My view is that folks should have the power to make the decisions that affect them, to change things to accommodate their aspirations, to order their lives as they think best. The integrationist movement, so loved by transnational corporations, thinks otherwise. Posing as a great leveler and bringer of prosperity they seek to remove power from local populations and put it into the hands of accommodating politicians - often unelected - in far away places. Its Kafkaesque use of layers of bureaucracy to screen the truth of what they are up to - the conversion of free men into serfs - should chill the hearts of all those who cherish freedom.

    Poverty in Africa is not going to be solved by further centralizing power into the hands of faceless elites in Europe, but by local folks controlling their population growth to match the carrying capacity of the lands they inhabit.

    And then there is Zimbabwe.

  4. I'm not suggesting anything in particular, just highlighting an unjustifiable situation that speaks volumes of our indifference to suffering. Suffering which we choose to ignore at our peril - but nevertheless feel justified by inward looking small world politics being inflated into an ethos of righteous "look after yourself and yours" when the reality is all mankind on this little front yard planet are "yours".

    The use of "New World Order" & "Zimbabwe" as brickbats (amongst other beloved fear weapons) in the the attempts to justify our superior right to life is a cheap tactic. We could, and should, be concerned about the plight of ordinary people throughout the world (China, North Korea, Indian sub-continent, South America, Middle East, African nations - take your pick). The lazy western approach, taking solace in our rightful privilege will be the end of our civilisation. We have to learn to share before others who have learned not to, by emulating us - motivated by the acquisition of our advantages, attempt to punish or dispose of us in the same unconcerned manner we treated their ancestors in their time of need.

    The second and third world countries will have their day, soon - and they will be entirely justified in leaving us in the 'old world' to swing for our indifference. They learned it from us, we set the standard...

  5. As for "New World Order" conspiracy theorists, I have yet to meet two believers that have the same interpretation of that term, you use to your discredit.

    How's the "Current World Order" working out for you? I think it sucks, and looking around the bloggysphere, new and old media it looks like we are all pretty much in agreement that it both sucks and blows - at the same time.

    What is wrong with a desire for a "new world order" - that provides for liberty and equity?

  6. "The use of "New World Order" & "Zimbabwe" as brickbats (amongst other beloved fear weapons) in the the attempts to justify our superior right to life is a cheap tactic."

    I refer to the NWO as the apotheosis of your argument and the exact opposite of nationalism. I refer to Zimbabwe as an example of a nation that has lavish resources and yet has failed to provide for her people to illustrate that it isn't necessarily the lack of resources that leads to failed states, poverty, and famine.

    Moreover, I have never tried to justify a superior right to anything. The only right I support is the right of peoples to make the decisions that affect them rather than some bureaucrat or politician in a far off place.

    "How's the "Current World Order" working out for you? I think it sucks ..."

    Me anaw.

    What is wrong with a desire for a "new world order" - that provides for liberty and equity?

    You'll forgive me for being skeptical (or not) but you'll have to provide nuts and bolts on that one before I would agree to hand power to some global organization. My jaded view of the world informs me that the bigger the organization they greater the danger of despotism and corruption.

    That is not to say that I reject fraternal relationships between peoples. I would welcome an EU that was based on such an approach - where nations aided and assisted each other to make life better for all. Instead we get a centralized bureaucracy governing by dictat (or directive).

    Aye - go wee - stay free.

  7. @scunnert - of course I forgive - I don't have the answers, just feel fragmentation of an already destructively fragmented society feels wrong to me, agree to differ? Just completely disillusioned, and when doing my trawl of websites that offer our species only long-term hope; technology, space and the colonisation of other worlds, fusion power etc. I came across an image that was poignant reminder to me that we would just f**k that up as we have here.

    If you lose all hope; as I have - do you support what you believe is a destructive fragmentation grenade of an idiotology?

    Or just give up?

  8. I look forward to a world that has far fewer people - through choice and wisdom. A world that is lived locally but is globally aware. One where folks really do care for each other and will aid and assist others in adversity. A world where folks develop in a way that is important to and benefits them rather than a global economy. A world of friendly nations.

  9. The Problem with scunnert is he believes the 'White mans version of history'

    "When we Indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots, we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes. When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don't ruin things. We shake down acorns and pine nuts. We don't chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. ... the White people pay no attention. ...How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? ... everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore."

  10. Niko says:
    "The Problem with scunnert is he believes the 'White mans version of history".

    White man's history? All peoples seek to advance a view of history that absolves them of wrong doing while presenting an idealized view of their contributions to humanity.

    Niko - you may be surprised to learn that I'm a staunch supporter of first nations rights and could give you chapter and verse regarding their despicable treatment on this continent. That doesn't prevent me from noting the attempts by first nations to suppress anything that interferes with their view of human colonization of North America: