Monday, October 10, 2011

The Brick Wall

Two otherwise well-respected Congolese civil society leaders met today with a congressional aide. I left the meeting early, though I was to provide translation, on account of the aide telling me (as it slowly dawned on him who I was, i.e., the op-ed writer) that I was "not a journalist or anyone who knows anything about Africa or could be seen as any kind of reliable person at all."*

The civil society folks told me after the meeting that they felt as if they were talking to someone who had been sent to talk up the benefits of Dodd-Frank and couldn't be persuaded by any evidence they could present to the contrary. Two things in particular worried them. The first was the aide's admission that the people who drafted the law knew it would cause short-term pain to the miners. The second was that he seemed convinced that in a year or two everything would work out for the best, but couldn't quite explain how it would. Here we have encapsulated the full folly of DF 1502: US legislators knowingly imposing real pain on real Congolese in exchange for an entirely hypothetical notion of how this will improve the situation.

Once upon a time, we were trying to save Congo from the people exploiting it. Now, it seems, we spend all our time trying to save it from the people who would be its saviors.

*If you're worried about my feelings, dear reader, don't be. I can give as good as I get. And in fairness, said aide has since made sincere efforts to start over.

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