A Harsh Look at Africa

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kevin Myers, a columnist for the Independent, published 3 essays on Africa that were very thought provoking:

Africa is giving nothing to anyone -- apart from AIDS

Writing what I should have written so many years ago

Is this the tolerance that our thought-police take pride in?

Some quotes:



This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense. Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the next president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against infection. Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea etcetera.


I am not innocent in all this. The people of Ireland remained in ignorance of the reality of Africa because of cowardly journalists like me. When I went to Ethiopia just over 20 years ago, I saw many things I never reported -- such as the menacing effect of gangs of young men with Kalashnikovs everywhere, while women did all the work. In the very middle of starvation and death, men spent their time drinking the local hooch in the boonabate shebeens. Alongside the boonabates were shanty-brothels, to which drinkers would casually repair, to briefly relieve themselves in the scarred orifice of some wretched prostitute (whom God preserve and protect). I saw all this and did not report it, nor the anger of the Irish aid workers at the sexual incontinence and fecklessness of Ethiopian men. Why? Because I wanted to write much-acclaimed, tear-jerkingly purple prose about wide-eyed, fly-infested children -- not cold, unpopular and even "racist" accusations about African male culpability.

To say that I was uncomfortable reading these is an understatement.  Like many, I am appalled at what is occuring in Africa, but I have always wondered if what the rest of the world is doing is helpful to Africa.  Do our policies encourage some kind of improvement or do they alleviate our guilt as Africa slips further into barbarity?

I can certainly understand some of the motivation for Western guilt.  European colonial practices have contributed to current problems.  Unfortunately, the past can't be changed, but we certainly control how we act towards Africa.  While I may not agree entirely with the essays, the author is clearly knowledgable on Africa and he raises some good points that are worthy of discussion.  The fact that some are suggesting he be jailed is sad and does little to help develop some useful policies.  So, ATK readers, what did you think of the essays and what do you think can be done?

12 comments:

Bob 9:28 AM  

Wow. I am not sure where to start.

I think the author demonstrates well how he judges all of Africa by the worst of Africa in this paragraph:

"How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them?"

So is he saying we should let all those poor black kids die because they will most surely grow up to be rapists and gang members? What has this author done to improve the education of these children at the same time we are feeding them, which is the goal of the Gates Foundation and others? It’s nice that he sits, well-fed in his office, probably goes home to his well-fed children, but wants to “solve” a problem, or ease his conscience by condemning the actions of those who did not sit by and allow starvation of kids not much different than the author's.

I find it interesting that he claims to hate no one, but at the same time is asking if we should just turn our back so the problem will solve itself. Is there much difference between hate and an inability to see your own children in the faces of starving children a continent away?

It's too bad the Ethiopian family, who live across the street from me survived, because I am terrified that their four-year-old is going to grow up and terrorize East Lansing. -Sarcasm off

Finally, we should not get fired-up because someone in Ireland’s government doesn’t respect this guy’s opinion. He doesn’t have the same rights to freedom of expression as we in the United States do, so we shouldn’t be offended by someone not observing his right to a First Amendment that doesn’t exist.

steves 9:55 AM  

So is he saying we should let all those poor black kids die because they will most surely grow up to be rapists and gang members?

No, but if our policies make it worse, or at least don't really make it better, then the only point is what? To make us feel better.

sarcasm on--Well, I gave some money, so I am done. I guess it doesn't really matter that they aren't any better off--sarcasm off.

I think what he is saying is that, at some point, Africans have to step up and take some responsibility. As bad as colonization was, self-rule hasn't been a big success. Look at Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

What has this author done to improve the education of these children at the same time we are feeding them, which is the goal of the Gates Foundation and others?

I am not sure, but he has been to Africa. I haven't, so I can't claim any first hand knowledge, but I know enough people that have been there to confrim every bad story I have heard.

Finally, we should not get fired-up because someone in Ireland’s government doesn’t respect this guy’s opinion.

Ireland does have a semblence of free speech. This is more than a difference of opinion. Some of his critics say he should be brought up on charges. He faces the possibility of jail time and there is no right to a jury for the kind of proceeding he is looking at.

Should we do nothing? I am not willing to say that, but on that some token, billions in aid, charity and relief programs, and military intervention have accompanied famine, war, and genocide and you think we should just keep this up? Do you deny the atrocities?

steves 10:15 AM  

Bob, I just re-read my post and wanted to apologize if I came across too harsh or like a smart ass. I tend to view problems pragmatically and think that there are too many people that think just doing "somthing" is enough (I am not saying you are one). I also think there have been some bad policies that have come from good intentions.

I have two questions:

1. Can anything imposed from the outside improve the situation?

2. If not, then what should we do?

Bob 10:18 AM  

It's not that we should deny the atrocities, but that isn’t necessarily a determining factor of whether or not kids should be fed. Are the atrocities reason to let kids starve because they may grow up to be a thug? These children’s only crime is being born is a horrible place on earth.

We cannot condemn those who tried to help, but didn’t have the ability or knowledge to solve all the problems of Africa’s history at once, while they were trying to solve the most-immediate problem – starvation. We should also keep in mind that starvation is often the cause of the political instability, or is a weapon used for political power, so how aid fits into that can undermine dictators or create stability or the opposite.

We are all elitists: including me, you and the jackass who wrote the article. We are sitting in comfortable chairs, with full stomachs, judging those who attempted to feed kids. Most of those people are better than me.

Bob 10:40 AM  

"Bob, I just re-read my post...

Initially, I considered responding harshly, but decided that you likely posted this as a discussion point in good faith like you always do.

My responses should be considered criticisms of the author of the article, not you.

Smitty 12:29 PM  

and think that there are too many people that think just doing "somthing" is enough

I've made this point before, but got knocked for it...but I will make it again: I hate the feel-good phrase you hear from so many "charitable" people and organizations "if we help just one person, this will all have been worth it." Way to set the bar as low as possible. That type of thought, especially with African "relief" programs, excuses laziness and lack of planning. Thousands of dollars and months of effort damn well better reach more than 1 person. It's that type of uncoordinated thought that I feel exacerbates the problem.

We should also keep in mind that starvation is often the cause of the political instability, or is a weapon used for political power

It's always about resources and resource wars. Our resource war is oil, which follows what developed countries fight over; the resource that drives their "engine." But when you have no other resources and lack of food...your resource wars tend to be of a more drastic, base-level. Food. Access to food. Access to the one commodity that pumps money into your country (diamonds, anyone...hello, DeBeers??), so that you can use it on food for your gang...or drugs so you can forget how dismal you have it. I fought in Somalia over food. Warlords hoarded food from the UN supply ships for their own members, and they resented the fact that we stepped in to make sure it got districuted evenly. We usurped the only real power the warlords had: food distribution. Give out the food, you're in charge and you're a god.

This guy's articles are...shameless. How much morality is there in saving an Ethopian child from starvation today? Tons, if you save lots of them and also work to alleiviate the underlying issues.

What worried me for a while was that we would approach Africa like we're approaching the Global War On Terror (GWOT (tm)): it's the leaders of these terrorist cells and vigilante groups we need to get. We get them, peace is restored to Africa. Um....not so much.

[/soapbox]

Bob 1:12 PM  

"I've made this point before, but got knocked for it...but I will make it again: I hate the feel-good phrase you hear from so many 'charitable' people and organizations 'if we help just one person, this will all have been worth it.'"

The opposite of this though is when people say:

"What difference can I make? It's only five bucks worth of food, one kid, or one vote, I might as well give up."

I am sure we have all donated to our favorite charities or helpped friends raise money for this or that cause. We shouldn't pat ourselves on the back about it, but every little bit does add up. If it didn't we wouldn't discuss poltics on this blog, where every vote adds up.

Smitty 2:48 PM  

We shouldn't pat ourselves on the back about it, but every little bit does add up.

I recognize that, but the cause that we're giving to shouldn't be the ones to say "geez, if we help just one kid." No. The *cause* itself should have bigger goals, and I see where my $5 fits. My point is that the mindset itself is limiting in nature. Think bigger than that one kid...think about all the kids. And their towns. And those towns' infrastructure. Etc. You see the point.

steves 3:07 PM  

I certainly won't judge the children or the other innocent victims, but I will judge the despots, slave traders, genital mutilators, rapists, murderers, and asoorted other criminals. I don't give as much as I probably should, but when I do, I am very selective about the groups that get it because I want to be reasonably sure that it gets to those who need it and not to fund gold plated AK's or a Mercedes for some warlord.

I agree that there is a ton of morality in saving, but how? Look at Zimbabwe. It went from a relatively stable country to near ruin. Look at South Africa. They have a murder rate that makes any large US city look like a crime free utopia.

I just finished a book on Iraq. The suthor brought up a good point in reagrds to nation building. He said that no democracy has ever been imposed on a people and that it has to come from bottom up instead of top down. I see some similarities here and just wonder what will work.

Smitty 8:54 PM  

What book was that, Steve? It sounds a bit like a Fareed Zakaria book I read recently...

steves 9:25 PM  

It was by a prof named William Poe and was called, "Understanding Iraq : the whole sweep of Iraqi history, from Genghis Khan's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British mandate to the American occupation." It was relatively short (221 pages), but provided some good background information. It made me even more frustrated at the bonehead policies that GW has implemented.

Do you have the Zakaria book? If so, I wouldn't mind borrowing it.

Smitty 9:05 AM  

I do, but it is in "book on CD" form. I'll bring it next time we game.

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