July 17, 2007

Uzodinma Iweala

I strongly recommend a WaPo piece by Uzodinma Iweala, Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa:

....his is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. ....

.....Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth....

The sin that goes along with being "charitable" (in the current sense of the word) is Pride. If I help you, then I am superior to you. I'm strong, you are weak. I'm good, your virtues are not worth noticing. (Except gratitude. Another line from the article: "Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe.") Amen, brother.

If people really wanted to improve the lot of Africans, they would be campaigning for free trade. (Read this, by James Shikwati. And this: What Bono Doesn't Say About Africa.) Africa produces a huge amount of food, although it is often not in the right place at the right time. But it usually can't be sold on the world market due to trade barriers, which helps keep African nations too poor to just buy food when needed. They would also support this Bush Administration proposal to purchase food for famine relief from nearby countries, rather than shipping it from the US.

In a more general sense, they would be aiming to make Africans self-reliant and self-sufficient. Ha ha, what a joke. Hollywood liberals don't even want you and me to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. We should all be dancing our gratitude for crumbs handed out by celebrity gods and goddesses.

And it's all racist. The whole thing reeks of the assumption that Africans are and will always be inferior and needy. That's why I get a keen pleasure out of the current religious situation, with African bishops taking strong moral stands against the twisted sickness of certain Protestant denominations. and African priests and missionaries coming and helping rich but spiritually-slack Westerners.

The whole Africa fad is also a chance to indulge in the self-loathing that is characteristic of Leftism. We are responsible for Africa's backwardness, due to colonialism. Well, it's bullshit. There are plenty of parts of Africa that were only colonized in the 2Oth Century, or were never colonized at all�why aren't they paradisiacal?. And there is an idea that we stole Africa's wealth, in the form of natural resources. But this is economic bullshit. Resources are not the source of wealth. You don't have to look any farther than Nigeria to see that. People create wealth, and they tend to do so when there is good government, low taxes, and the rule of law.

Posted by John Weidner at July 17, 2007 7:05 AM
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