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, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America. And they want to continue forever.
In 2015 the United Nations announced that its 15-year Millennium Development Goals had been the most successful anti-poverty program in history – even though the African continent had more malnourished people than in 2000, and while more children attended school, everyone except the U.N. was alarmed that many of those children were learning little, or nothing at all.
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. This site looks at many aspects of karma colonialism.
Introductory pages about karma colonialism
Left: 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. Right: Karma colonialism always looks nice. Here, U.S. Navy Seabees build a school in Timor Leste. But they’re doing it to benefit America, not Timor Leste.
Left: Charity is not development. The aid industry promises development but does charity. They are opposites. That’s why aid projects so often achieve the opposite of what they promise. Right: Francophonie. By forcing children in its former African colonies to study in French, France thought it was spreading the glory of the French language. But students ended up learning neither French, nor much of anything else.
Left: The cholera epidemic: The epidemic that killed 10,000 Haitians revealed more than just sloppy sanitation practices by the U.N. It revealed institutional rot and an imperial attitude of impunity. Right: 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.
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: 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.
Left: 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. Right: 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. Other stories of interest
Left: 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? 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: UNICEF preaches diversity. But for 75 years, it has ALWAYS had a USA citizen in its top spot. It’s hypocritical — and it leads UNICEF to push Western interests and unsuitable approaches. Right: 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?
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: 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.
Left: 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? Right: 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.