Fusion: the giver and the gift

Associated-Rediffusion’s house magazine, Fusion, on ‘America Abroad’

‘America Abroad’ is the title of Associated-Rediffusion s fourth programme in the Intertel series. It was filmed in four countries – Cambodia, South Vietnam, Pakistan and Ghana – all of which receive American aid in one form or another.

Previous Intertel productions by Associated-Rediffusion were set in Asia, Europe and North America. They dealt with South Vietnam (‘The Quiet War’), France (‘The Heartbeat of France’) and Canada (‘Living with a Giant’). These programmes were screened in the four major English-speaking countries in the world through the International Television Federation – Intertel. The members of the federation are the National Education Television Network and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company of America, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

It is planned to show ‘America Abroad’ over the British Independent Television network on Wednesday, May 30, and subsequently throughout the world . . . previous Intertel productions have had an audience of about 42 million people.

The first article on these pages is by PETER HUNT, producer and writer of the programme who also took some of the photographs reproduced here, and the second article is by MICHAEL INGRAMS, director of ‘America Abroad’.

From 'Fusion', the house magazine of Associated-Rediffusion, issue 24 from Spring 1962

When in the course of an earlier Aid Programme manna fell on the hungry Israelites the administrators of the project remained out of sight. The gift was all.

Nowadays the thing is ordered differently. You get the giver – or the lender – and the gift – or loan – in the same package. (As though you were to succeed in borrowing £1,000 from the bank and that night find the assistant manager tucked up in your spare bed, the keys of your drink cupboard safely under his pillow.) Often it goes further than that. The giver is the gift. A poor country is unable to feed its people adequately. Instead of sending food the aiding nation or consortium sends agronomists who teach the farmer how to grow two fat ears of corn where one thin one grew before. This is surely good. It means that the poor country is eventually relieved of begging hand-outs and can stand on its own – at least as far as agriculture is concerned.

American engineers are helping to supervise the Ghana Volta River Project which will provide vast quantities of hydro-electric power.

But have no doubt that this method of aid raises the most severe problems. Imagine a very large and very poor family fast going under in a hopeless struggle to keep noses above the icy seas of starvation. Father is unskilled and cannot adequately support the family. Mother simply cannot cope and consequently wastes much of what little housekeeping money she has. Uneducated and half-starved, the children are both a burden to their parents and a danger to the community.

To get them out of the mess there moves into their home a benevolent, well-intentioned, highly-trained, rich – at least in the eyes of the family – and dynamically purposeful American. Taking over one of their rooms and equipping it for himself with deep-freeze, air-conditioning and hi-fi he begins work with the family, teaching Father new skills, instructing Mother in the domestic sciences and educating the kids. Splendid! However, you can imagine, can you not, there being occasional friction? Add to the household a Chinese expert and a Russian expert attempting to habilitate the family by totally different methods for totally different ends and you have a not unfair analogy to the situation in many an under-developed country in the world today.

Schoolchlidren waiting to greet Dr Nkrumah, President of Ghana.

Such a situation might well appear to be disastrous, especially as it is greatly worsened with the current weldpolitik being what it is. To add to their troubles the impoverished families, the under-developed nations, are in many cases prey to civil conflict, harassment from mightier neighbours, rulers grossly illiberal, the pains of their own birth as separate nations or to a state of poverty and ignorance so entire and so profound that their surgence might seem more properly to require miracles rather than mere programmes of assistance for its relief.

The situation is not disastrous. It is not even unhappy. The aid programmes to the underdeveloped countries, in the initiation, financing and administration of which the United States plays the immensely largest part, are the wonders of the modern world, are splendid and hope-filled wonders however mixed may be their motivation, whatever failures and weaknesses may mar their interpretation. Every American tax-payer can well take pride in the investment he is making in the peace, security and wellbeing of his poorer fellow-humans. Every tax-payer in other rich areas of the earth should take shame insofar as his government is not making a comparable contribution on his behalf.

Prince Norodom Sihanouk, ruler of Cambodia, with Michael Ingrams, the director of 'America Abroad'.

In Asia, Africa, Latin America, India, the poorer areas of Europe, there are countless babies living who would formerly have died of disease or malnutrition, countless children with bodies being decently fed and clothed, brains being nourished, who 20 years ago, 10, five, would have hungered both physically and mentally. Through education, health and housing projects, countless women are emerging from the slavery of centuries. Men without number have work where none before existed, have knowledge and skills and therefore human dignity where heretofore there was only ignorance and waste. There is power where once rivers ran unharnessed, there arc green fields in place of desert, cattle where no animal could lately live, in ancient wildernesses thrive pleasant townships supported by busy factories, connected by good roads and railways to the world beyond.

And the greater part of this – but not to belittle the efforts of the Soviet bloc (again ‘however mixed their motivation’) or the other countries of the West, all of whom must share the credit – the greater part of all this self-propagating wealth is the result of aid from the United States at the current contribution of 15 dollars – five guineas – per citizen per year [£120 in 2020 prices]. What an investment! What could not 30 dollars a year do!

Lahore, now one of the big centres for American aid in Pakistan, was once a bastion of the British Raj. Kipling worked in the building on the right.

The problems are being solved. The chief one from the American point of view must surely have been: ‘How can we engender the good will and co-operation that we hope for as a result of these aid programmes if we appear to be imposing on the benefiting countries to the extent of seeming, in the administration of the various projects, to be dictating, or at least interfering with, the conduct of their internal affairs? “Neocolonialists” will then be the mildest of the epithets flung at us. On the other hand if we merely dump sacks of dollars on the needy nations we shall be failing in our duty to the tax-payer, much of whose money is bound to be wasted, and essentially failing the recipients who by the very nature of their plight arc not equipped to use the money to its best advantage.

The way out of the dilemma – more purposefully trodden it might appear with every succeeding day of the Kennedy Administration – has been to say to the governments of aid-hungry countries: “There is nothing to be had, not even advice, without the asking. You must come to us with your requirements and you must be responsible for carrying through any and every project yourselves. X amount of money, materials, and men is available, but to your direction only.” This policy has worked in the majority of cases. Before it was: ‘The Americans built that factory for us.’ Now it is, ‘We built that factory. The Americans helped with it.’ All the difference in the world, although in truth the Americans may have done every solitary thing except the casual labouring in both instances.

Michael Ingrams

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