For five centuries, Europeans and their descendants have tried to control the lives of people in Africa. If this was going to work out well for Africa, we’d know it by now.
And yet, the effort continues. Not only in Africa but in much of Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands. And they want to continue forever.
Colonialism still shapes our lives, but today it comes with a friendly face. We call it karma colonialism. Richer countries try to control the others, for their own ends, and say they just want to help. In fact, they want to help themselves. This site looks at many aspects of karma colonialism.
Introductory pages about karma colonialism
Left: It’s still colonialism. Today’s foreign aid and charities look different from colonialism of the past. But the old goals and attitudes haven’t changed. Right: Francophonie. Here’s an example of how it works. By forcing children in its former African colonies to study in French, France thought it was spreading the French language. But students ended up learning neither French, nor much of anything else.
Left: The cholera epidemic: We’d all like to believe the United Nations is run by smart compassionate people. But the UN-created epidemic that killed 10,000 Haitians revealed indifference to the poor, institutional rot, and an imperial attitude of impunity. Right: Aid for the richest and whitest: UK Aid has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars through AgDevCo, a UK “impact investor,” to help white European investors run agribusinesses in Africa.
Left: Charity is not development. The aid industry promises development but does charity. They are opposites. Aid projects are the new, softer face of colonialism, often achieving the very opposite of what they promise. Right: It’s all about control. Development aid is a continuation of colonialism by other means. If that sounds far-fetched, this story in The Africa Report presents six strong pieces of evidence,
Left: Attitudes of racial superiority: Westerners tend to perceive aid as an act of generosity. But in Africa and Asia, our poll found that an overwhelming majority saw it as rooted in attitudes of racial superiority. Right: Where does the aid money go? Those that know best, aren’t talking. But various estimates find that 60-90% of “foreign aid” quickly returns to the donor country — or never leaves at all.
Left: Can aid be decolonized? Many people have proposed ways to address flaws in the aid system. It doesn’t happen, because the system is ALREADY working well — for those in charge. Here’s a look at why reform efforts won’t work. Right: Selling good karma. Aid, in theory, is about helping others. But to a very large extent, it’s about purchasing permission to feel good about ourselves while ignoring unpleasant realities. Want proof? Ask the birds.
Left: Bribes. UNICEF gave vehicles to Zimbabwean officials “to help review the school curriculum.” Nonsense. Thinly-disguised bribes ensure a warm welcome for foreign aid staff, who can then keep drawing big salaries. Right: Millennium Villages Project. The MVP was supposed to prove that Western aid could end extreme poverty in five years. It didn’t. But its failures offer insight into the true intents of Western aid.
Left: What can we do? If you’re reading this, you probably want to do something to stop karma colonialism. Here are seven suggestions. The first two are easy. Right: Cooking the numbers. 59% of 10-year-olds in Senegal can’t read, says a UN-World Bank report. Actually, the number is only about 7%. After denying the problem, now the global agencies exaggerate it. There’s a reason.
Left: Learn! Are you ready to develop a deeper understanding of why we believe so many international charities are ultimately hurting the poorest people of the world? Here are some books we recommend. Right: What would make a better future? There are ways that wealthier countries can genuinely help others, if they want to. Give the aid money directly to the poor, for example. Here are ideas. Other stories about karma colonialism
Left: Chocolate hands. You can buy chocolate hands at shops in Antwerp. So what? Well, one of the colonial era’s great atrocities involves Belgians chopping off the hands of Africans. Right: Cellphones and literacy. UNESCO took money from big tech to publish a deceitful report that benefited the company that gave it the money. If an African president had done that, what would we call it?
Left: Voluntourism sounds like an opportunity to feel good and do good. But the agencies selling these trips prioritize the “feel good” half and nobody really wants to think to carefully about the impact on those at the other end. Right: Does the U.N. actually WANT rote schooling for children in the South? It sounds absurd, but that’s what the evidence says. And with a little thought, we can see how U.N. interests push it in this direction.
Left: Boys thrown under the schoolbus. U.N. agencies and NGOs focus almost exclusively on girls’ education. But girls are faring better than boys, whose needs are ignored and who are falling behind. Right: UNICEF preaches diversity. But for 77 years, UNICEF has ALWAYS had a white USA citizen in its top spot. That’s hypocritical. Racist, too? You decide. And it leads UNICEF to push Western interests.
Left: The origin of modern schooling: Worldwide, children attend schools that use rote memorization to teach for the test, and leave students unprepared for the real world. How did this system become so widespread? Right: Free ebooks. Copyright barriers blocks readers in the Global South from the knowledge that others have at their fingertips. Z-Library offers a remedy, with millions of free ebooks, but the U.S. wants to shut it down.
Left: Cheerleader for karma colonialism. Paternalism, gullibility, and a shallow perspective…. N.Y. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is a leading pundit on aid issues, but he brings all the wrong qualities to the job. Right: Why won’t they hire local talent? World Vision, UNICEF, Save the Children, and others issue frequent reports on how they’re helping people in distant lands. Why do they prefer to hire Western photographers for these reports?
Left: Cash transfers. Why not just give aid funds directly to the people you want to help? This approach has been done, results have been studied — and it proves quite effective. Right: VIDEO: Trojan Aid. The Trojans learned long ago that generous-looking gifts may just cause trouble. This 2-minute video shows how foreign aid pursues the same broad goals as colonialism of the past, but with a friendly-looking face.