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August 27, 2003

Part of the Problem

I just looked it up, and I haven't posted here since the 4th of August. Not a particularly impressive record, if I do say so myself.

Why haven't I posted? The usual excuses apply. I was busy, I was working, I was nursing a sore wrist and didn't want to type. I was working on my own blog, I was talking to my boyfriend, the kitchen needed cleaning. As I said, all the usual excuses.

So why am I telling you this?

Because I am a walking, talking microcosm of a big, big problem.

We wonder why Africa doesn't get the attention it deserves. People are suffering, people are dying, and the top stories don't even hit the evening news. Those are the stories we are trying to tell here, in hopes that we and our readers can talk about them, and come together in this forum to discover solutions that just might keep those stories from being played out again and again and again.

This is important, because it seems almost natural for people to neglect Africa, even as I've been neglecting AfricaBlog.

What are our (by our, I mean our society, our country, our world) justifications for failure to try to help solve some of the problems that the people of Africa face? Look at my list above. It transliterates rather nicely to this list:

--We were busy/had other worries/had other things to do.
--We were working on our own problems.
--We have our own interests, and they must be put first.
--We have our own policy to write and argue over.
--We're busy courting our allies (who may or may not approve).
--There's way too much to do at home to worry about anywhere else.

Now, this is not to say that it is not important to look out for ourselves first. We have a war to fight, among other difficulties. And if we fail to take care of our own interests, we won't be in a position to make a positive impact, anyway. We'll be gone.

But I was struck by the similarities between the excuses that have kept me away from this endeavor and the excuses that the world uses when avoiding the problems in Africa. I have been walking around for the last week or so feeling guilty and avoiding news of that continent, lest it remind me of my failure in the commitment I made to this project. Likewise, the rest of the world seems determined to look away from the challenges, or to offer simplistic answers that may relieve the immediate sense of guilt, but do nothing to resolve the roots of the problems.

The question is, as always, one of priorities. This blog has been low on my list recently, but I am fixin' to correct that. Africa has been low on the world's list, and we need to make an effort to correct that. I know that it is easy to look away, but we can't afford to.

See you back here soon.

Posted by at August 27, 2003 12:23 AM
Comments

Oh, Bravo!
Me, I've been watching the continent daily, reading news, trying to find some angle to say something or make some insightful prediction that hasn't been made yet. And failing miserably to come up with anything.
But I'll redouble my efforts with this spur.

Posted by: nathan at August 27, 2003 02:17 AM

To quote the Bruce Willis character in the movie
Tears of the Sun, "God left Africa a long time ago."

Ethinic cleansing, tribal warfare, AIDS/HIV all make the Continent one to be avoided.

Yet I wonder if subtle racism comes into play in many of our attitudes towards Africa.

Posted by: Marty at August 27, 2003 02:03 PM

I would be shocked if, for many people, there weren't a level of racism involved. One of the worst forms of racism facing Africa is the same that you'll find in the US concerning black Americans--my father typifies the attitude, in my mind.

My dad isn't the kind of guy to go out and join the KKK. He wouldn't hurt someone for being another color or another religion or just plain different. But he adopts a very odd attitude towards African-Americans in another way: he expects that they do not have the same mental capacity that he has, he expects that they will not be able to achieve the things that he has achieved, and he expects that they are much more likely to be involved in gangs, drugs, and other criminal activities because it is "their" nature.

I think that most of the world has the same attitude toward Africa: they're not capable of achieving the same things that we have, they don't have the mental capacity to excel, they have issues with tribalism because it's "their" nature. This attitude pervades both sides of the political fence and acts as a huge deterrent to success in reforming African countries as Western countries adopt paternalistic policies that aren't intended to help lift the countries out of their poverty or educational ghetto, but designed with the simple hope of holding off further disaster because, well, it's "their" nature.

It's a bullshit answer, though. It's the worst sort of racism because, under the guise of caring and helping, it inhibits growth, reform, and true freedom.

Posted by: zombyboy at August 27, 2003 05:30 PM

I think that most of the world has the same attitude toward Africa: they're not capable of achieving the same things that we have, they don't have the mental capacity to excel, they have issues with tribalism because it's "their" nature.

Yet there are many examples to the contrary. George Washington Carver. The reverand Martin Luther King, Jr. Colin Powell, Condi Rice and *shudder* Clarence Thomas to name but a few historic and current accomplished African-Americans.

But Africa as a continent seems to have a history of under-achievement. But I admit that is judgenment by Western Standards.

I don't know...*shrug*

Posted by: Marty at August 27, 2003 08:04 PM

Well, Africa (taken as a whole) has serious cultural, political, educational, and technological limitations on self-development. There have probably been a few Einstein-level geniuses born there who have died of starvation, or died in their 20s of AIDS, or never had the chance to develop their understanding of anything beyond that of the average US high-schooler.

But people ARE people. Period. Genetics can set some limits and designate some strengths. But I'm a big believer in the idea that nurture determines how well you develop your potentialities, and the environment in Africa just isn't conducive. Heck, the environment in US inner cities is hardly conducive to mental self-development, either.

Posted by: trollnathan at August 28, 2003 06:39 PM
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