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Bound to losing
By Kidada Mutabaruka
Two things happened this week to put into focus what we have been talking about in this column: That far from being only a victim of a bad situation, the African is a willing accomplice in the conspiracy against him.
Ayaan addresses a Press conference after resigning from the Dutch Parliament this week.
And this is largely possible because we are not thinking and acting right! Take the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a young African woman whose false story moved the Dutch into giving her asylum and citizenship.
She even became a high-profile MP in the Dutch parliament on the basis of pure lies. To get Dutch citizenship Ayaan used her cultural heritage (her perceived African backwardness) to convincingly lie that her life was in danger. To ascend the social ladder in the highly atheistic Dutch society, Ayaan turned against her religion of birth (Islam) painting it as cruel and anti-women.
Basically, she played to the Western gallery: Denying Africa’s claim to any cultural prestige and civilisation as well as painting Islam as undeserving of any praise whatsoever — both of which perceptions are obviously contestable.
Negative world attention
Her story is not new to those who have been observant of the African situation. Africans will denigrate themselves and insult their heritage just to get visas, asylum and citizenships of foreign countries.
What does this have to do with thinking? Everything! A person with Ayaan’s level of creativity could surely have expended her intelligence to better the African situation, not to perpetuate myths about Africa.
Think about it: What will now happen to Somali girls running away from genuine danger? Who will believe them? Ayaan lied she was being forced into an early marriage; she lied she went to the Netherlands directly from Somalia (she actually did so through Kenya and Germany, both of which are safe countries); she lied about her age; she lied about her name; she lied about her family — she lied about everything that mattered in securing her Dutch citizenship.
The world we have created is a product of our thinking. Ayaan’s story demonstrates why Africa is a serial loser. Once in The Netherlands — and an MP to boot — she did not focus world attention on her suffering Somalia. She focused negative world attention on her religion, Islam.
Real challenge looms
She did not utilise the unique opportunity she had on things that would build Africa; she focused on things that would harm Africa and her religion of birth! She did not focus on the war, famine, insufficient education and health facilities etc in Somalia; she focused on a culture the West perceives to be retrogressive!
The problems in Somalia have little to do with Islam; they have everything to do with the supply of arms in Somalia by Western arms producers. The war in Somalia has nothing to do with retrogressive African cultures; it has everything to do with Western-style greed for power and control!
Indeed the war in Somalia could be solved by drawing from African foundations — the solidarity offered by a unique and uniform way of understanding the world. This would necessarily result in the recognition of the separate destinies of Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia, something the West has refused to agree to. Would it be expecting too much of Ayaan’s ability to put the Somalia situation in a context the world can understand and thus help solve the problem once and for all? Africa! Are you with me? Why focus on trivialities when the real challenge looms large?
The second thing that happened this week to focus attention on this column’s work was Dr Davy Koech’s confession that research funding for malaria, TB, bilharzia and sleeping sickness had reduced significantly.
He was appealing for a reversal of this trend, saying that these diseases are easily "preventable" but they "kill millions" every year. Koech is the Director of Kenya’s Kemri — Kenya Medical Research Institute. The situation he was decrying is a result of Africa’s ceding of its thought processes to the West. We have allowed the West to think, plan and even prioritise for us! When a big Western donor says the crisis is "children’s rights", we stop researching on malaria and rush for the children rights’ dollars. When a big Western donor says the priority is "HIV/Aids", we stop sealing or treating stagnant water pools — breeding grounds for "preventable" diseases — and run to distribute condoms.
When a big Western donor says the crisis is "famine", we run to grow and distribute patented genetically modified foods and forget our own unpatented drought-resistant varieties! When a big Western donor says "population growth" is the crisis, we destroy our families and turn to materialism and "alternative" lifestyles! And so on.
Ceding our thinking
The world we have created is a product of our minds. We are comfortable ceding our thinking and planning elsewhere; we are comfortable increasing MPs’ salaries tenfold instead of "preventing" malaria — whose treatment regime, by the way, was recently changed (by the West) from Fansidar to ACT. Our doctors cannot even decide which medicines to give us! The West decides it for them!
Fast-forward to politics where the blind competition for who can do either bad or patently irrelevant things better, has effortlessly gone down to the masses. They elect people to power on considerations other than capacity to deliver. They elect people who say what the audience wants to hear and not the truth.
Of course when election time is over and buffoons and thieves and rapists and thugs — all sorts of crooks — have been elected to govern, the gnashing of teeth begins and lasts till the next election time when the sad but entertaining drama is played again!
In the meantime, the threatened-with-extinction middle-class is engaged in frivolous competitions about weddings and funerals. The proudest funeral story is of the man or woman whose funeral costs millions or of the couple whose wedding and subsequent honeymoon is the most expensive, dramatic, fullest of the fl ashiest cars, flowers and social glitterati.
Display of magnanimity
Never mind that such events often leave the concerned families deep in debts and a lot of blistered hearts. The thought process at work here is simple: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let’s party as much as we can! Tomorrow can take care of itself."
To spend Sh5 million on a funeral (when there is mass hunger, ignorance and disease) is not just pure waste; it is simply preposterous — an immorality tottering on the borderlines of insane criminality. What about weddings? Of what use is it to spend Kshs80,000 on a wedding dress that will be worn for a few hours when the wearer hardly owns a decent dress of her own? Ha! Of what use is it to marry in pomp and funfair and spend the rest of your days paying loans? You’d be better off enlightening yourself about the true essence of marriage first, right?
Again, these outrageously expensive and vain weddings are funded from other people’s pockets and loans. The sad thing is that people rarely contribute to deserving causes like hunger, education, and so on. But they will outdo each other in showing magnanimity at a funeral expense fundraiser or wedding ceremony fundraiser. Isn’t something wrong with the thought process here?
How do you justify the actions of a man who has not paid his rent for three months donating generously to a funeral in which the casket and the ground for the grave have already been found? Or of the man who donates generously to a wedding when his school fees balance has been outstanding for a year? Where are our priorities? Against this background, woe unto the family that opts to bury their dead in simplicity and privacy and woe unto the couple that solemnly seals their marriage before a small crowd! They are failures, despicable, poor and unthinking! And hence weddings are postponed just to painstakingly, often like conmen and extortionists, raise money to enact a "wedding" spectacle that will probably culminate in a spectacular divorce a few months down the line!
MPs and presidents skip crucial parliamentary debates to attend funerals and weddings and of course give advice to the newly-weds. No wonder there is so much divorce, matrimonial disharmony and domestic violence. Otherwise what do you expect to happen when any couple listens to a career crook, the kind of which the African politician is?
The story is told of a Kenyan minister who failed to attend a scheduled function where the Japanese Government was to hand over a multi-million dollar project to the Government of Kenya.
Instead, the minister was waiting at the airport to receive the president who was returning from a private overseas trip! We have a proclivity for the mediocre (Ayaan, begging because we did not plan, indulging in frivolous but expensive weddings and funerals, and lacking depth in what we do!)
A lot of justifiable optimism abounds for this continent. Let’s change our thinking and turn that optimism into reality.
Source: The East African Standard