Jewish World Review Oct. 3, 2002 / 27 Tishrei, 5763
How to have fun in Africa
Well, there's another Earth Summit behind us, and I guess we're moving
slowly into a brave new world, chock full of sustainable resources,
organic produce, and Segways for everybody.
But I noticed, thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle, that the event was
marked by some peculiarities: first of all, the attendees ate rather
well, including caviar and expensive wines, which is fine, but kind of a
slap in the face to the hungry Africans surrounding the event, when you
think about it.
They also imported their own bottled water, even though the local water
was perfectly drinkable. And the attendees were offered guided tours of
Soweto, that is, they could observe poverty firsthand, sort of, by
driving through ghettos in an air-conditioned bus. According to the
Chronicle, at least one resident of Soweto, Lolo Mabitsela charged a
hundred bucks a day for delegates to stay with "a real black family."
If all of this suggests what pundits call a "disconnect" with reality,
keep in mind that some got it together enough to heckle Colin Powell
when he gamely showed up at the conference to take the heat for the
United States, and to chide the President of Zimbabwe for giving
white-run farms to black Zimbabweans. I think he also believes that AIDS
is caused by bad vibes, but I'm not so clear about his position on that.
But clearly, America has a role in changing the face of poverty in
Africa, perhaps even a leadership role. We'd probably get some heat on
this, but why not bring Disney into this, and turn the whole deal into a
theme park? Povertyland, we could call it, until a more catchy
pseudo-Zulu name is focus-grouped, Wimoweh Park, Shaka Zone, or
something. I think liberals would flock to it in droves, especially if
jobs could be provided to young black angry poor Africans who could not
only operate the roller coasters at sub-minimum wages, they could pelt
the liberals with handfuls of genetically altered corn as they swept by
on the monorail.
The way I see it, everybody wins.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Ian Shoales