Paul Johnson and the “North-South” Economic Dialogue
On January 12, British historian Paul Johnson passed away at the age of 94. Johnson authored many books, including A History of Christianity, A History of the American People, Birth of the Modern, and Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties. In this book, widely considered to be his most influential work, Johnson exposes one of the many attempts to divide the world into an oppressor class and a victim class:
In due course, the term “Third World” began to seem a little threadbare from overuse. The Paris intellectual fashion-factory promptly supplied a new one: “North-South.” It was coined in 1974 when French President, Giscard d’Estaing, called a conference of “oil importing, oil-exporting and non-oil developing nations.” The idea was to link guilt to “the North” and innocence to “the South.” This involved a good deal of violence to simple geography as well as to economic facts. The so-called “South” was represented by Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zaire and Zambia. The “North” consisted of Canada, the EEC powers, Japan, Spain, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. Eleven of the “South” states were actually north of the equator, and one of them, Saudi Arabia, had the highest per capita income. Australia, the only continent entirely south of the equator, had to be classified as “North,” presumably because it was predominantly white and capitalist. The Soviet Bloc was omitted altogether though entirely in the North. In short, the concept was meaningless, except for political abuse. But for this it served very well.
Writers with that kind of perception are hard to find. The prolific Paul Johnson rests in peace and his works will live on.