Monday, 27 December 2010

Africa & Condoms

 I'd like to make a practical and fiduciary argument for why contraception is bad for Africa.

Anyone who has ever seen the back of a condom has read the following storage warnings or something similar: Store below 40°C (104°F). No long-term exposure to high humidity, direct sunlight, fluorescent light, or ozone. Don’t store near chemicals. Do not store in wallet or other places of high friction. Do not store in an excessively dry environment.

And of course we have the shelf life if all those conditions are met:" 4 years (for USAID-donated; may vary according to national policy)." ( accessed Dec 27. 2010)

Now, think about this. What are the odds of the storage conditions being met in Africa? Lot's of people clap their hands and laud the practice of pushing prophylactics on Africans as though they were doing them a favor. But if I could give them one of those condoms I wonder if they would use it. It couldn't be that bad, now could it?

The condoms aren't the real sturdy kind like you'd get in Europe and America, they're cheaper. They get put into steel sea containers for who knows how long, waiting to be put on a freight liner. Maybe, the condoms ship across the briny sea immediately. But then again maybe they wait for a month or two, or more. Then they finally get to Africa. The steel sea container is placed on a truck and driven out to an aid station, maybe in a desert, maybe in a jungle. Either way the storage conditions are exceeded. If they're in the desert do you think that it just might get a tad bit hotter than 104°F inside the steel sea container as it sits in the blistering hot African sun? And don't you suppose that the hot sun and arid desert might ruin more than a few of the condoms? Well, we have to assume that, don't we? After all, the makers and distributors of the condoms say so themselves, on every condom!

And if they end up in the jungle it's the same story; sweltering heat far exceeding 104°F and unacceptable conditions of long term humidity. How many weeks or months will it take, do you imagine to distribute that many prophylactics? How many months in these totally unacceptable conditions will these condoms sit before they get used?

But aside from all this we have the shelf life warning: "Four years (for USAID-donated; may vary according to national policy)." What exactly does this mean? It means that regardless of the objective expiration date of a condom, some governments might destroy them prematurely, others might just hang on to them for a while. And how do they do this? By subjectively ascribing their own expiration dates, regardless of when they go bad.

So, who would take the gamble? Which one of you would don the condom that has been sitting in a sea container under the blistering African sun for six months? Then, why are we insisting that others do so? Why are we telling them that prophylactics are the solution to their problems? The world sends billions and billions of dollars in condoms to Africa. Why?

Imagine Africa is amalgamated into a single person. What can we hear them saying to us, what can we hear them begging for? "My children are dying of disease because we have no clean water. They are starving to death because we have no food. My family is being murdered and my wife and children are being raped and abducted, because there is no one to protect us. My children have no future, because they have no education. I have AIDS. I am poor. I have no economy."

How shall we answer them?" Your children are starving to death? Here's a condom. Your people are dying of diseases like malaria, dysentery, the buruli ulcer and Ebola? Here's a condom. Your people need clean water? Here's a condom. Your country is torn apart with tribal warfare? Here's a prophylactic. Your kids need an education? Here's a condom. You have AIDS? Here's a condom. You need help building a viable economy? Here, put this on your penis... it's magic."

Instead, of giving Africa what it needs, we give it condoms. We give them condoms that we wouldn't even be allowed to sell in the United States and tell them like a mantra," Use these and you won't get sick and you won't have any kids." Europe and America pander to this magical thinking because they think everyone in Africa is an animal and an idiot, that they don't have the capacity for abstract thoughts, for self control, for understanding what is good for them and what is not. "Just put this on and all your problems will go away." When what they are really saying is," Put this on and all of OUR problems will go away. We do not want to fix you! We do not want you to reproduce! We want you to go away! We want you to die! What don't you get about that?!"

Abstinence programs in Africa are often attacked on principle by many people. They start with all kinds of absurd arguments and try to dismiss it because Bush was for it, etc... However, if it was so ineffective, they'd be certain to prove it with statistical supports. Yet, if anyone hasn't noticed, there aren't any such arguments out there. In fact, the deepest arguments out there against abstinence programs are fallacious, by that I mean that they're bifurcations. "Because of this that... if you don't have this... if you don't do this... if you don't believe this... then this will happen." The statistical arguments against abstinence programs that do exist are taken from the early stages of the programs and are not comprehensive, they aren't followed up either.

The whole argument against abstinence is based solely on the idea that African's can't control themselves. That doesn't sound familiar does it? We need only go back sixty years to hear similar things about African Americans. These kinds of arguments against aggressive abstinence programs are bigoted without meaning to be, but they are bigoted and are constituted by errors of logic. It's a patently unscientific approach to the issue and as Plato was fond of saying," True opinion is knowledge." We all want to have the right opinion. There is a solution out there that is better for Africa, what you might call the right opinion. There is a way that is objectively better than the others.

When the US began their support of abstinence programs in Africa people were infuriated. The condom companies and far left analysts in Europe and American were watching the whole thing like a hawk. As soon as they could comment they did and they tried to railroad the programs into the ground. But as with all programs they take time to take effect. If you search through articles about abstinence programs in Africa, you'll see nothing but sharp, biased, leftist criticism up until about 2007. But it sharply tappers off in 2008 onward and you don't hear anything else about the matter in the way of criticism. Why? Because it works. In the countries that have employed the abstinence programs, they've been able to halt and in some cases reverse the spread of AIDS in their own countries. That's a feat that contraceptive programs can't compete with. I'll also add that condoms were still available to those populations during abstinence programs, but did not constitute the primary focus of the initiative.

If we were to divert the billions of dollars we have been using for condoms toward dams, agriculture, stronger industry relations with modernized nations, and education I think that we could help make an Africa that is capable of helping itself, an Africa with a future. But when I look at Africa and how we "deal" with the "problem" by putting a condom on it, I'm angered at the West. I see the same structuralism that caused the Irish Potato famine, that sick ideology that says some people must be starving, sick and dying for society to have any structure. It's almost seems like the world keeps saying to Africa," Take one for the team!" I say we stop throwing condoms at Africa and find a real solution.

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

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