Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

On this last day of March 2007, All Panthers Are Black would like to return to a riff from an earlier post; debt.

Debt is a powerful force in this world; in many places debtors can be thrown into prison. Certainly being known as a debtor is apt to bring shame upon the heads of individuals; surely the same is true for nations too. Throughout recorded history, debt has been used by powerful nations as a cudgel with which to beat weaker ones.

Just under three years ago, APAB focused on this aspect from the tale of Haiti and as an allegory Haiti is still a perfect example even today; the mighty toy with the dispossessed. This same example scales down to the individual level - where everyday citizens are told of their obligations (debts) to the society in which they live - and on up to the self-named "Worlds Only Remaining SuperPower", which uses debt to finance its wars of expansion (sorry - pre-emptive democracy giving). Truly then, debt is an awesome and fungible force. Physicists should weigh it in comparison to gravity.

But whereas gravity is a natural phenomenon (not created by man and not dependent upon man for enforcement of its bylaws and precepts), debt exists entirely at the will of man; more precisely, it exists at the behest of the arbiters of our societies (btw - that is a lovely word).

An exercise is left to the reader to further investigate these questions:

  • Who decides what the terms are for the assignment and the repayment of debt?
  • Who decides the penalties for the non-repayment of debt?
Know this and you will know whom are the arbiters.

And yet is not their judgment - almost by definition - arbitrary? It is always their choice (the powerful) to determine which of their edicts to endow with the nomenclature of "debt". Indeed, to state that someone owes you a debt is to simultaneously state that you have power of them. And that is the way the world works. To hold a man's debt is to hold that man's life in your hands; to hold a nations debt is to hold that nations fate in your hands.

Today, there are many people who believe that the nations of Afrika are "debtor nations"; i.e., nations in debt to other nations. Without even knowing the source of those debts, accepting the very adjective as a befitting description colors the thoughts of the listener and the speaker with all of the saddlebags of debt. Most commonly, these "third world" nations (to use an ancient, 20th century nomenclature) are debtors to "first world" nations (and one begets the other). Should the history of that debt be examined, however and it becomes apparent that many assets have been left of the audit trail and that a full accounting has not been done.

If it has never been stated anywhere before, let it be stated here today that the nations of Afrika - and her people wherever they may reside - are creditors across the world over. All of the wealth that exists around us was created by the extraction and the exploitation of the greatest resources Afrika contained: her people. Across the span of centuries hundreds of millions of the strongest of her children, were abducted and taken on the most arduous of journeys - where tens of millions of them died in the passage - and where the survivors were forced into perpetual bondage, even down through generations of her descendants - whereby the theft of one or two was turned into the theft of 10 or 20. To this day - almost a full four hundred years after the arrival of the first 20 Afrikans to the continent now known as North America - a full accounting of this horror has not been done. Indeed, the mighty shy away from calls for this accounting, as they surely know what is obvious to any CPA: the ledger is unbalanced.

The Accountant of Justice strokes with a mighty pen and as it is true for the smallest of households so it is for the grandest of nations: the books must balance.

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