*Oxfam critique by Jeff Churchill FWD (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (wy497@victoria.tc.ca)
Sat, 3 Apr 1999 10:28:07 -0800 (PST)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 03 Apr 1999 09:50:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
To: HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK list <HPN@aspin.asu.edu>
Subject: *Oxfam critique by Jeff Churchill  FWD

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FWD 01 Apr 1999 via Food Not Bombs list
CC Replies To: "jeff churchill" <jc126@hotmail.com>

Subject: Re: Oxfam

I can't deny that Oxfam does some good work, particularly in that they
do much to educate the general public about issues that us "radicals"
are not so good at. However, their concept of "development" for those in
less priveliged parts of the world is pretty narrow. There are some
Oxfam ads around lately that show magazine covers and news headlines
from the future, after "development" has taken place in Somalia,
Ethiopia, etc. They show people in those countries living as, well,
westerners. They are dressed as western middle class people, and one
even shows a smiling family behind a white picket fence. One shows
Rwanda landing the first man (yes, "man") on Mars. It seems that your
country can only "develop" along a straight line. You start in the stone
age and eventually achieve space travel. No choices along the way.
Worse, "development" seems to be measured by how much you can be like
us, which contradicts anything else they might say about encouraging
diversity and supporting peoples' rights to live according to their own
culture. This is a form of racism, in my opinion. They're saying that we
are civilized, and we can help you be like us. I wonder if the rest of
the world knows how many poor and homeless there are in the affluent
western countries. Besides, the so-called third world is kept
impoverished largely because of our own excessive consumption habits. I
think we ought to be downshifting our own lifestyle, not promoting it as
the only possible form of progress.

And that's my next point. Oxfam (in Canada at least) was trying to push
an Oxfam Visa card??? You consume more and a portion of the money goes
to Oxfam... yikes. I haven't heard anything about this in a few months,
so i don't know if it flopped or what, but this is a terrible idea. Word
is starting to get into mainstream media now more and more regarding
sweatshop slavery and that sort of thing. For anyone sitting on the
fence, maybe unsure of what they want to support or not, this is
basically a green light saying its Ok to buy those Nikes because you're
supporting Oxfam. Again, we need to downshift... drive our cars less (or
never), buy stuff second hand, etc., not consume more.

I have more specific examples, like some friends of mine did a cross
country tour with this puppet show educating people about AIDS and one
of the main points was supposed to be to spread word that the federal
government's AIDS strategy was almost expired and they hadn't yet
promised any more money. However, they couldn't mention this through
most of the tour because the tour was funded by Oxfam, who are funded in
part by the federal gov't. I don't see how you can expect to change
gov't policy when the gov't is paying your bills.

Oh, and this is in Canada again, but like I said Oxfam is funded by the
federal gov't here. If the gov't spends money on setting up a
corporation in an "undeveloped" country, they count this as "foreign
aid" or something to that effect and add it to their statistics when
they are telling everyone how nice they are. Translation: corporate
welfare counts as money for development. Organizations (like Oxfam) have
been exploited in this sort of thing, but to be completely honest I'm a
little hazy as to the details. (And just wait until this Kosovo business
is over. After NATO bombs their economy and infrastructure into the
ground, you can bet that western corporations will be moving in. Here,
let us set up a factory for you now that our military was nice enough to
blow up the one you used to work in, and you can work for us at half of
what they used to pay you. Hands up, your free. But that's another

If the work Oxfam does saves lives, great. Individual Oxfam employees
here have been very supportive of us and different things we've done
locally, including letting us use their building (even if we couldn't
mention it on our outreach material because they would have gotten in
trouble for letting a bunch of filthy anarchists use thier resources).
But there are some serious problems with the organization I think.

St. John's Nfld Canada

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