Dear Dr. Boli: I bought a bottle of conditioner the other day, and on the label it says that one of the main ingredients is coconut oil, which it describes as a “traditional West African ingredient.” And below that in big letters it says “
Dear Madam: It means, “Capitalist god descends from the heavens and grants his faithful worshipers just so much local autonomy as is profitable for his large industrial conglomerate.” The word for this used to be “colonialism,” but American marketers have made the useful discovery that the synonymous term “empowerment” sells more hair-care products. If local communities were actually empowered, of course, they would not require the intervention of an American corporation to “empower” them. They would be dictating terms to the Americans. Fortunately we have put a great deal of effort into making sure that local communities are not actually empowered.