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July 29, 2003

You can call me Patrick.

I am a 32 year old single guy. The sixth of thirteen children. I live alone in a city near Los Angeles and I work as a city planner for a small suburban city east of Los Angeles. I am a graduate of a small Catholic liberal arts university in the Midwest where I studied “Humanities and Catholic Culture” and I am currently a student in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at Cal Poly Pomona. God willing I will complete the program next Spring.

I have lived and worked in Rome, Italy for a non-profit for about eight months in 2000-2001. My job was to tend to the needs of our Eastern European and Asian branches. I gladly returned home and continued to pursue planning.

I was shocked when I was asked to participate in this blog. I feel a little intimidated by the knowledge of Africa and its problems that some of the other contributors have exhibited. My blog is exceedingly simple compared to the blogs of the other contributors.

Politically speaking I tend to be rather conservative. I am not a conservative because I think the political right has more moral authority. I am a conservative because I believe in the principles of limited government, strong military defense, free-market capitalism and individual liberty. I hold some basic principles of government and the role of the state that I believe are essential if the United States and the rest of the “Western world” are going to successfully address the problems of Africa.

The history of European colonialism in Africa fascinates me. The notion that we can just flood a people with western notions of government, liberty, religion, etc and then expect them to embrace it and carry on with it after we leave them to their own devices is ludicrous. I’d like to use this opportunity to examine the process of enculturation and the adaptation (or lack of both) of more “primitive” cultures to our Western culture. So I am interested in the cultural dynamics of Africa as a whole as well as the individual tribes and nations as far as they relate to what seems like perpetual chaos on the continent.

I hope that I can live up to the talent of the other contributors.

Posted by at July 29, 2003 03:39 PM
Comments

Patrick's comments incorporate some unfortunately wide-spread fallacies about the history of democracy.

Democracy is not a "Western" (whatever the hell that means .... the term is never defined or used consistently) concept. It is a universal human concept, with historical roots in every place on Earth.

Colonial powers DID NOT encourage or promote democratic ideas in Africa. All colonial powers were extremely hostile to democracy, and, in fact systematically dismantled any existing democratic institutions and violently crushed any attempts to develop new ones. A perfect example would be Sierra Leone: the African country of S. L. was founded as a refuge for escaped slaves by the Black community in Nova Scotia. For a big chunk of the 19th Century it had an advanced democracy, excellent education, and an impressive record of cultural achiements. In the 1890s, gold and diamonds discovered in the interior prompted the British Colonial Office to annex it and force it to become a Crown Colony. Immediately, it's modern democratic parliament was abolished. Almost all democratic activity was suppressed by force, and Black economic activity was restricted. In the interior, villages had always been run by traditional elected councils. There had never been kingdoms or an empowered monarchy. These were subverted, and a phony hereditary monarchy was installed. Both colonial authorities and the British administrative community were embued with an intense hatred and contempt for democracy. This picture was fairly uniform across all of colonial Africa, whether the colonizing power was Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, or Portugal. To talk about the colonial powers trying to "impose" or "teach" democratic ideas to Africans and failing to do so because Africans couldn't understand them is pure nonsense. Democratic ideas are so simple and rational that any person can understand them perfectly clearly. Africans are not stupid. The problem is not any difficulty understanding democracy --- the problem is getting it; and that has never been easy for anyone.

Posted by: Phil Paine at July 31, 2003 05:55 AM

Uh, ok. I guess I don't know the correct language in which to frame my questions. See, what I'm saying in my introduction (Did anyone else get suich a resopne to their INTRODUCTION?) is that I don't understand these things and I would like to understand these things. That is why I WAS looking forward to this blog. So, thank you for the clarification Phil. I'll be sure to be more careful with how I frame my statements and questions.

Posted by: Patrick at July 31, 2003 05:16 PM

Phil, I'm not sure where the critique comes from.

"The notion that we can just flood a people with western notions of government, liberty, religion, etc and then expect them to embrace it and carry on with it after we leave them to their own devices is ludicrous. I’d like to use this opportunity to examine the process of enculturation and the adaptation (or lack of both) of more “primitive” cultures to our Western culture."

Posted by: Patrick at July 31, 2003 06:36 PM
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