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From the beginning, though, he was uninterested in what he considered a stagnant, traditional peasant sector with little revolutionary potential. In agriculture as in industry, his government concentrated its efforts on a series of colossal development schemes, often heroic in scale, involving massive investment, funded by foreign loans. Loans were easy enough to get in the 1970s. By 1981 the government was insolvent. Ever since, Malagasy economic history has mainly been the story of negotiations with the IMF.
The ambivalence toward research and book learning, then, was based on a perfectly sensible appreciation of the situation. Everyone considered knowledge in itself a valuable, even a pleasant, thing; everyone recognized that the skills one learned in school opened spheres of experience that would not otherwise be available, to types of information and networks of communication that spanned the globe. But these skills were also techniques of repression. By training people in certain methods of organization and not others (how to keep lists and inventories, how to conduct a meeting .
For someone brought up as I had been it was very disconcerting. I may not come from a particularly macho background, by American standards, but I had been brought up to assume confessions of fear, at least fear of being physically harmed by others, were at least a little bit embarrassing. Most Malagasy seemed to ﬁnd the subject pleasant and amusing; they took a veritable delight in telling me how afraid some people were of Vazaha, sometimes, even, how much they themselves were. That governments work largely through inspiring fear in their subjects was simply obvious to them.