In today's Independent, Ian Birrell has a go at Bob Geldof. He attacks Geldof's history of promoting Aid for Africa, as well as Geldof's personal decision to move his financial fortune into an off-shore structure so that he pays little of no tax. He does however, praise Geldof's chairing of an international fund which will drive half a billion pound's worth of investment in Africa.
Having read through the article and many of the comments, it strikes me that what we humans are not very good at is understanding how to intervene in a complex system. Most of the comments simply take sides. They either defend 'Saint Bob' or attack the wastefulness of Aid.
But when it comes to what Geldof and Birrell, each in their own way, are championing, change in Africa, they seem to miss the point. A complex, adaptive, self-organising system is remarkably resistant to external intervention. Such systems (which includes almost all human systems) are technically out of control (from the outside).
Whether it is an animal, a child, a community or a country, the only real way to effect authentic change is through appeal to, and successful communication with, the inside of the system. In other words, help with the self-control necessary for self-development.
Whether we stand outside and bomb a community with weapons or with money, any change in that community will emerge from the inside: as a result of the system's local response to our external perturbation.
To the extent that we are remote from that system, our intervention is likely to lead to unintended consequences. I do not believe this is understood by Geldof or Bono, any more than it was by Blair or Bush.
There are powerful ways to help others undergo constructive change (by example, inspiration, affiliation etc), but they typically require that we change ourselves first - and that's tough, because we would rather tell the other person how they should change.
Posted by Nicholas Moore 10:11:23 AM