Sep 16, 2015

The Global South Marches on the Global North

via Henry Dampier

It used to be that you had to fly all the way to Africa to get the perfect selfie. Some time in the near future (and in the present within many cities throughout the Western world) there’ll be no reason to travel terribly far at all to get the right portrait partner.

Where we should be concerned is that there might not be much of a home country to be able to support that kind of short distance humanitarian tourism.

When you select for an administrative, bureaucratic elite based on how maudlin their essays are about their trips to Africa and South America — along with how crowded their extracurricular schedules were, and how well they filled in bubbles on exams with no. 2 pencils — you may discover that you’ve selected for a group of feckless and sentimental morons who are nonetheless disproportionately good at lacrosse and cheating on take-home exams.

This group will be completely immune to persuasion that it might be a bad thing for all the nice people who posed so nicely in those photos when you were on your international community service trip might be less than compatible with the countries that you have been charged with ruling. When the only pilgrimage you recognize as valid is the one taken for community service hours to buffer your application to Harvard, it’s going to be hard to empathize or understand cultures that take things like pilgrimages to Mecca seriously.

It’s hard to impress upon people not familiar with religious trends in the temples of high progress as to how different the march of the global south must look to them as it does to people with less elevated affinities. To the undereducated, it looks like an invasion. To the enlightened, it appears like the deserving poor on the threshold of attaining justice. These two worldviews are irreconcilable.

If, your whole life, you have been raised to believe that your highest and most sacred mission is to shower money, attention, and resources on the third world, it’s not terribly likely that it’ll be possible to persuade you out of it. This is more frightening than the conspiratorial vision of elite behavior, which tends to interpret self-destruction as part of a hidden plot instead of dreamlike self-annihilation. Rational evil can be dealt with in rational terms, through argument and persuasion. Holy insanity can only be opposed directly or survived by hunkering down.

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