January 03, 2005


Check out what these leading British liberal lights think about the world's reaction to the tsunami tragedy and whether ... 2005 might see a new determination to tackle global poverty:

THE RIGHT REV TIM STEVENS, Bishop of Leicester

I am hopeful, but we must see a real commitment to changing the economic relationships between the West and the poorer countries. As well as charitable giving, we need to tackle these fundamental issues.

I'd like to think he's advocating free trade, but sadly, I doubt it.


On an individual level, it is not just about what we are prepared to give, but what we are prepared to give up. Having left Afghanistan and Iraq in their wake, can our leaders be trusted to fight a war on poverty?

What we are prepared to give up? So one's commitment to progressivism is now measured by how regressive we need to be? Bloody freedom, overrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, in't it guvner? To paraphrase California's governor in Commando, "You're a funny man Rory, that's why I'm going to kill you last."

KANYA KING, Founder, Mobo awards

No longer can we exist in isolation when we see lives and livelihoods being destroyed. All of us need to be pro-active to change things, but we have shown that public opinion and the media can influence government.

No longer must tens of thousands of people die for this vise-like grasp on the short and curly hairs of the obvious to take hold in Kanya King's brain.

STEPHEN TINDALE, Executive director, Greenpeace

It seems churlish to say it, but while it's relatively easy for most of us to give 50, it would be much harder for us to make the changes in our modern lifestyles that are needed if we are to move to a fairer world.

Seems? No, I think you've got churlish spot on old boy.

DR GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, Leader of Muslim Parliament

Compassion, care and concern for mankind joins each of us - whatever our faith or ethnicity. The tragedy has shown there is a formula on which all mankind can be united to help each other. Mankind has moved forward.

Bloody hell, how'd that bit of common sense creep in here? But let's hope it doesn't always take a world class tragedy to get us to work together.


It was the same after 11 September. Everyone said it was a great opportunity to try to understand the world but it was used by the US as a reason to go on a rampaging adventure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Note: Why the Independent keeps turning to "comedians" for serious geopolitical commentary is something I haven't figured out yet, though apparently liberating Afghanistan and Iraq seems to have taken the piss out of a number of them. Have they been deprived of a source of material or something?

MO MOWLAM, Former cabinet minister

I think most people will simply forget. Some charities say people will even forget how much they pledged to give. I wish it would change our attitudes to other people in other countries, but I'm afraid that it won't.

That's the spirit, bloody proles can't be bothered to remember how miserable their existences are. No Mo-mentum here, though Mo's got that whole Right Said Ed "other" thing down pat. What's the matter, did the Independent lose Clare Short's number?

SIR JONATHON PORRITT, Environmentalist

The response reveals a deep sense of empathy that could be of lasting value. If it is just a philanthropic flash, then we have seen those before, but if people gain a sense of their interdependence, we will be better off.

"We are the world, we are the children..." Uh huh.


Western capitalism demands that people must be impoverished. I cannot think that anything will change this year, because we are the ones who have made the world the way it is. I don't believe in altruism.

No, no, western capitalism only demands that small-minded, self-centered artists be impoverished. But Dinos' last comment indicates he's somewhat confused about this whole philosophy thing.

LORD HURD OF WESTWELL, Former foreign secretary

The danger is that resources which might have gone to Africa will go to this instead. While huge publicity continues to be given to the tsunami, human beings are killing each other in Iraq, and places like Darfur.

One of which is in fact in Africa! I am reminded of something Ian Hislop once said in reference to his Lordship on Have I Got News For You, "Rhyming slang, rhymes with turd." Of course, being a politician and having to prioritize your actions given limited resources is such a bitch.

SIR MAX HASTINGS, Journalist and historian

We have to bear in mind that we have been here before. There have been tragedies before, and many fine things have been said, a lot of them by the US. We just have to hope that in this case they will follow through.

We've been here before? And Sir Max is a historian? Sure, journalist I can understand, but an historian? I can think of three things in the last sixty years that killed more than one-hundred thousand people in as short a time, and the first two involved the use of atomic weapons and were not immediately followed by an outpouring of sympathy from the American people. One thing you should remember about the US though Sir Max -- when we decide to follow through, we can follow through.

J G BALLARD, Novelist

It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs mankind has ever experienced if we pooled our wealth in order to look after the poorer people of the world. Sadly, I don't think it will happen.

No, it won't. But sadly, I don't think J G has a clue as to why.

SUE MACGREGOR, Broadcaster

I hope politicians will take note of the public reaction. But it is difficult to tell whether it will do anything to change the way politicians see things, when our own Prime Minister chose not to break his holiday.

Nose to the grindstone Tony, never let up. Isn't it funny how poorly understood democracy seems to be, even amongst those who claim to be its protectors? Gosh I bet Sue's just the life of the party down at the pub.

TONY BENN, Former cabinet minister

It may make people realise that the UN needs to be well-equipped and funded. If people diverted money from weapons and war, we have the technology and money to be able to help - if we decide to do that.

Thank goodness his title starts with the word "former." How about we start with the IRA and Al Qaeda, eh Tony?


I think that politicians must realise that people do care about these issues and want them to do more. If 2005 could become the year when people make a real effort, then it could make a real difference.

Paraphrasing Homer Simpson: "Stupid fake efforts of the past." Suddenly, picking Sir Richard for the 2005 Dead Pool doesn't seem in quite such bad taste.

Listen, all of you. Get up off your collective asses and do something about the problems in the world around you instead of wringing your hands and expecting your government to do it all on your behalf. When you grasp this subtle nuance of how Americans approach problems, perhaps we'll all be able to work a little more closely together in the future. Until then, sod off.

Oh, and Rory, "I lied."

P.S. Note to Rory and Sir Richard, its a bloody joke. Ok? Feel the irony. Embrace the irony. Be the irony.

Posted by Charles Austin at January 3, 2005 11:28 PM

God, these people, they're so... the word "useless" comes to mind. Not to mention "narcissistic." In the actual meaning of the word -- as someone who couldn't recognize their own selves to keep themselves from drowning. It's not as if they ever include their own beautiful souls in their reflections on human inadequacy -- no, it's always "we, our" (in other words -- meaning "mankind," not the speaker's own self or close circle of like-minded friends -- not while they are in the same room, anyway...) or else it's some proscribed pariah group -- "politicians," "corporate bigwigs," "Americans." I'd like to take them all out to the middle of the ocean andput them in a life raft with a toothbrush and one pair of clean underwear.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 09:52 PM

If these are our 'betters' it does much to explain the state of the world.

Amazing how much twaddle can be expressed in so few words.

Posted by: aelfheld at 10:07 PM

What really, really, really sucks is that what ends poverty is, uh, capitalism.


I know it must be counterintuitive to many, but allowing people to own property and generate wealth actually makes their lives better. Not that I would argue with an actual artist or anyone like that, who obviously possesses a far deeper understanding of the world than I do. I mean, hey, I just work for a living.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at 12:10 AM

Same old, same old. Most of us get over our socialist tendencies after we leave university or at least after we have graduated from kindy. It is actually the ability to make money, afford a decent education, be healthy etc etc that is the solution. Let's face it, women, for example, are far better off in capitalist countries than they are in too-bit tin-pot dictatorships and so called socialist utopias.

Posted by: Darlene at 04:15 AM

"He is like the rooster who thinks the sun has risen to hear him crow."

Posted by: Parker at 10:38 AM

Narcissus, meet Echo.

Posted by: cj at 02:34 AM

I have a solution to the problem of the third world. It is called trade. Yes, the same sort of trade that people decry because it leads to things like Nike paying ridiculously low wages to furriners to make shoes at rock bottom prices. There's a reason that those jobs at those factories are always filled, people like those jobs. They might not be the kind of jobs at the kind of pay that rich folks in the developed world would like but they don't have to be, they just have to be better than the local alternatives. And they are.

To people who say that international trade takes advantage of the developing world I point to South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. At one time these countries were as poor as any in the developing world today. And yet through trade and hard work they have managed to make great leaps and come into the modern, industrialized, developed age. South Korea and Taiwan are by all rights first world nations today, they managed that leap in only a few decades by extensively cooperating with the "explotation" wrought by international trade. A century ago Japan had the same level of industrial development and per capita wealth as India. I don't mean Japan then had the same level as India now, I mean it had the same level as India then. Yet Japan too managed to pull itself up from its bootstraps (twice, in fact) and into the first world.

The ranks of the rich, developed, first world are not exclusive, this is not a zero sum game. Any nation that has the moxie to do so can become as rich as we are, it's really that simple.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at 02:17 PM