Debating the DRC’s Development

I’ve been reading a lot more about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recently (more on this to come, I hope). To that end, there has been a fascinating debate in Foreign Affairs about the plight of the DRC. It has been a while since the last time I summarized a development debate, but I think it will be helpful to summarize what is going on here.

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“The Winners Write the History Books”

My high school history teacher always said, “If I meet you in 30 years and you tell me you remember only one thing from my class, I want it to be that ‘the winners write the history books'”.

Here is an interesting graphic recently shared by Chris Blattman and originally displayed in Bloomberg Business:


This graphic reminds me of a passage from one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past few years, Chuck Klosterman’s “I Wear the Black Hat”:

Everyone knows history is written by the winners, but that cliche misses a crucial detail: Over time, the winners are always the progressives. Conservatism can only win in the short term, because society cannot stop evolving (and social evolution inevitably dovetails with the agenda of those who see change as an abstract positive). It might take seventy years, but it always happens eventually. Serious historians are, almost without exception, self-styled progressives. Radical views–even the awful ones–improve with age.

Needless to say, I will always remember this cliched association between winners and writers. Cheers Mr. Berg!

Rwanda 20 Years

It has been 20 years since the start of perhaps 100 of history’s darkest days. I was only 3 at the time, hopelessly unaware of world events. Over the weekend I mentioned to a collogue here in Kenya that Monday is the 20 year “anniversary” of the Rwandan Genocide. He, being much older than I, remembers the events more clearly, responded, “Has it really been 20 years already!? It seems like it was yesterday.”

If this is the response of a Kenyan whose has a more or less indirect connection to the events in Rwanda, think about how heavily this history must weigh on Rwandans who lived through the genocide. Rwandans who, perhaps, participated in the tragic events and Rwandans who, perhaps, lost loved ones during those 100 fateful days.

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