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The “Developing Country” Double Standard
This is a guest post by three authors: Tom Murphy, David Week, and myself. It came from a conversation, which I am retelling briefly below:
Once upon a time, David Week read an article in the Washington Post which revealed that Washington lawmakers not only accepted donations from contributors with a stake in the passing of certain laws, but did so while in the process of actually drafting such legislation. Frustrated, he tweeted: “Why is this not called ‘corruption’?” Carol Gallo enlightened him: because it’s not Africa.
David and Carol, then and there, resolved to enlist the help of Tom Murphy and make a list of how the same behaviour is described differently depending on whether it occurs in Washington or in Africa. You know, like those lists of gender double standards in which the same behaviour might be described as “confident” in men and “pushy” in women.
In fact, all kinds of things are framed differently by Westerners depending on whether they occur in the “developed” world or that weird, dark, backward abyss. As Binyavanga Wainaina has famously demonstrated, the Dark Continent is still alive and well in the Western imagination.
So David, Carol, and Tom are pleased to poke fun at this whole farcical epistemology and present a short list of Washington-Africa double standards. Can you think of any others…?
What people might normally call it
When it happens in Washington
When it happens in Africa
|Money received from political sponsors||Campaign contributions||Bribes|
|Uneven spending on public services in different ethnic communities||Social injustice||Tribalism|
|Seeking money in exchange for political influence||Campaign fundraising||Rent seeking|
|Subservience to oil companies||Energy policy||Control by foreign interests|
|Political appointees||The new administration’s team||Cronyism|
|Political families||Tradition of public service||Nepotism|
|People driven from their homes||Homelessness||Displacement|
|No bid contracts||Necessary expedience||Corrupt procurement|
|Government secrecy||National security||Lack of transparency|
|Assistance to the poor||Welfare||Aid|
|Internal security apparatus||Homeland security||Secret police|
|Not funding public schools, health system, infrastructure||Small government||Underdevelopment|
@WhiteAfrican, by chance, tweeted another good one (and happens to have a very excellent blog post of his own on “ICT4D,” which exists in Africa but becomes “civil society innovation” in the US, here):
@kiwanja if that was a story on the US or UK it would be business. It’s only Social Entrepreneurship because it’s in Africa…—
Erik Hersman (@whiteafrican) June 08, 2012