Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Purple Plague and the art of hypocrisy

There are few things more likely to raise both a laugh and a sigh of dismay in FatBigot Towers than a pious pronouncement from the upper echelons of the Church of England.

To be fair to the befrocked buffoons they have been admirably consistent in their inconsistency since the day the Church was formed.There is nothing surprising about this because the whole organisation is a bit of a nonsense. It was invented by the tyrannical Henry the Eighth when the then pope would not let him divorce his first wife (Henry's wife that is, not the pope's, wives of popes are a whole different ball park of hypocrisy). For more than 400 years it has claimed to be part of the Church of Rome despite the Catholics, who might be thought the correct people to judge such a claim, not accepting it for one second. Since the time it began the Church has accumulated vast wealth in both land and other property whilst claiming to serve a god rather than itself. That is not a very auspicious background for any organisation, for an organisation which lectures us on what to do with our money it is the worst possible start.

Today we witnessed an almost comic spectacle, the leaders of the Church of England marched in central London to complain about the West not doing enough to eliminate world poverty. The protest revolved around a declaration made in 2000 by the United Nations to half extreme poverty by the year 2015. In reality this is all about Africa. The call from the Bishops today was for the West to spend more money. That was it. Like Gordon Brown, throwing money at a problem is all they have to suggest. I suggest they turn their attention elsewhere. Let me explain where and why.

There are three problems. The first is corruption. Corruption if rife at all levels of officialdom in many African countries. At the lower levels it is no different from much of eastern Europe where those given a little power use it to secure "commissions" in order for the wheels of administration to flow smoothly. Lots of little commissions add up to a lot of cash but, to be frank, little can be done about it. Perhaps more serious is corruption at the highest levels of government. Senior ministers cream-off enormous sums to overseas bank accounts to provide for themselves and their families for the future. Some of this type of corruption is overt through the creation of sumptuous estates for the senior ministers to live in while in office. They defend it by saying it is good for the standing of the country that its leaders can receive foreign dignitaries in style. The standing of the country is enhanced by the leaders living in fine palaces, rather like the Archbishops in the Church of England.

The second problem is the level of population growth. A village with a certain amount of land it can farm is limited by what can be done with the land. The quality of soil and atmospheric conditions in much of Africa are not conducive to efficient agriculture or animal husbandry, if the starving people are to be fed from their own land the productivity of that land must be improved. Much has been achieved in this respect through irrigation projects, the use of fertilisers and new crops which get the best out of the poor soil. Such projects must continue but there is no need for the Bishops to get excited about this because those projects are continuing and their continuation will provide benefits for generations to come. But poor conditions for growing food are still poor conditions for growing food, doubling a very poor crop leaves you with a poor crop. Unless the demands on the land are under control even a doubling of production does little to alleviate the problem. It is for this reason that population control is vital and population control can only be addressed by a change of culture in the country concerned, the idea that it can be imposed by the West is simply absurd.

The third problem is that many African countries are engaged in expensive military actions (both wars between nations and civil wars). These absorb vast sums of money which could otherwise be used to pay for the projects currently funded by western aid. The Bishops suggest meekly that thought might be given to eliminating this aspect of spending but they do not demand it. They only demand things from the West. If the Church wishes to be taken seriously it must take a stand on this issue.

In order for the Church of England to take a truly moral stance it should call for aid to be dependent on proof that corruption is limited, population is limited and military action is limited. Let them choose their own limits by all means, but do not let them call on the ordinary taxpayers of this country to fork out more while their organisation holds billions of pounds of assets and not a single vicarage will be sacrificed in today's cause.

These people really are the Purple Plague.

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