People say stupid stuff about development problems all the time, so in any given year it is going to be hard to find a clear cut winner for the dopiest development comment. Fortunately last year, the pop star Damon Albarn said something so daft he won hands down.
In explaining why he didn’t think the latest bout of Band-Aiding (Bob Geldof re-recorded the song to raise money to fight Ebola) was a good idea, Albarn is quoted as saying:
“Having been to many countries and gotten to know many people, it always seems that we have only one view of it…There’s also this assumption that in Africa everyone knows what’s going on…Our perspective and our idea of what helps and our idea what’s wrong and right are not necessarily shared by other cultures. There are problems with our idea of charity, especially these things that suddenly balloon out of nothing and then create a media frenzy where some of that essential communication is lost and it starts to feel like it’s a process where if you give money you solve the problem, and really sometimes giving money creates another problem.” [Italics mine]
Assuming this quote is not being repeated out of context, and is really his explanation of his objections to the song, it is wrong in the extreme. While we can debate cultural relativism (FWIW I think it’s wrong) the ‘cultures’ (and, more importantly, the human beings) being effected by Ebola don’t view the illness as right or wonderful, they desperately want to be rid of the problem (who wouldn’t). And money can help.
The Band Aid 30 song itself is pretty awful, and I prefer Albarn’s music. But really that comment was stupid. Give me Geldof’s ‘charity’ any day’.
Anyhow, I have a longer more considered discussion of the pros and cons of Band Aid 30 over at Devpolicy; in it I also discuss the more complicated case of the campaigning of Invisible Children.