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three. The Epilogue

As it is now obvious, so much of what is written or broadcast about Africa, today, like before, is, to say the least, insulting. Westerners, who write thus, give the impression their cultures are perfect and have never faced the problems some African nations are facing today, especially in the area of politics—the main source of Africa's problems—and this is the case because a foreign system of government has been imposed on Africans. But a look at political activities in the West today and this portrait of a perfect political system is at once laughable. The question remains then if this disposition displayed towards Africa by these writers and media men and women is just plain bad faith or ignorance of one's own history as one cannot help wondering what the French revolution was about, and what the American War of Independence was about. These Western writers seem to have forgotten that Germans had to exterminate some six million Jews just to grease their egos. Yet these are the same Westerners who today ridicule and damn African countries for grappling with conflicts ensuing from Western values—politics, religion, capitalism, and other isms—exported and, more often than not, imposed on Africa in the name of civilization. It is conveniently forgotten that some of the greatest atrocities in human history were brought about by the West: The Trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, World Wars I & II, the holocaust, and the likes. If anyone feels angry that these things are being mentioned in this light, then consider how Africans feel when Western writers strive to dwarf each other in their efforts at insulting Africa and Africans by presenting the culture of the latter as uncivilized if not exotic according to Western standards. Yet the truth remains: what is material affluence and sophistication when the mind remains small and the soul purposeless?

My goal has been to enlighten, in particular, that Westerner who is not necessarily an African scholar, about the continent of Africa. This was deemed necessary because of the distorted and equally distressing portrait of the continent that has been painted in the West for ages, highlighting Africa as a sinkhole of anomy and decadence distinguished by backwardness, the last quality being, of course, the product of that illusion that non-Western cultures are backward. As already established, a certain condescending attitude came into Western outlook towards Africa, especially because of the slave trade, as many tried in vain to defend this historically exclusive act of barbarism by branding Africans subhuman, which implied it was alright to do the terrible things the "civilized" were doing to the "uncivilized" since the latter were not exactly human. The result is that from then, hitherto, almost anything has been said about Africa and accepted as factual, but some Westerners, for quite a while now, are beginning to accept that their peoples have always approached Africa from a flawed perspective— usually racist and bias. Although their focus is African politics, the truth of Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz's observation as they try to refresh the approach of Western Africanist to Africa is far reaching:

The question of modernity is at the heart of our appreciation of the nature of identity in the African context. The belief that modernization is predicated on the development of a particular form of identity — broadly Westernization — has affected our perception of what is happening in Africa today. Our analysis of politics on the continent has often rested on falsely dichotomized perceptions of African identities. We have either tended to think of Africans in terms of a 'universal' notion of citizenship, whose sense of (political) identity would in due course conform to that of the West. Or we have been inclined to see Africans as entirely dissimilar, other: individuals whose 'traditional' notion of self-made 'modern' politics virtually impossible. (49)

They go on to point out:

But our dilemma has been self-inflicted. It is our own narrow view of modernity which has constrained our understanding of African identities. We have confused development and Westernization, thus making it difficult to grasp the singularity of what is taking place on the continent (50)

The outcome has been a generation of Westerners, especially, whose knowledge of the continent of Africa is, to say the least, alarmingly misleading if not mediocre. To this unfortunately misguided population, Africa is the dark continent, the heart of darkness, the heart of evil, the heartbeat of backwardness, the other continent of yore where beast and "human beings" are so closely related, at the very least as rivals if not peers and accomplices. Certainly disillusioning to the African when he or she visits the West, yet how very true it is, that this is the picture of Africa which even those with the means to do better, by telling the truth, love to promote. One can only wonder the cause of this bent in a civilized people's character and disposition.

With goals best known to them and their enterprises, so-called experts have lambasted, ridiculed, damned, condemned, and attempted to ignore Africa to no avail, as their nations keep coming back to the continent for one reason or the other—raw materials, business, military bases, political allies etc. This notwithstanding, that which is important here is the fact that Africa's diversity renders her volatile to attacks to which, as devastating as they are, a section of the continent can easily be found somewhat guilty. Achebe has put it appropriately through Ogbuefi Akuebue, "whatever tune you play in the compound of a great man there is always someone to dance to it (Arrow 113). Maybe this is why Africans themselves have been slow to react to all the sloth heaped on the continent by outsiders who, in the main, barely know anything about Africa. Whatever the case, it is simply wrong and dishonest for all those who claim to be educationist or story-tellers to approach Africa with the disgust they have always displayed as they end up coming across as if Africa, a huge continent, is one country with conflict, crime, sickness, poverty, etc, as characteristics unique to this "country." As current world trends are revealing, this is not true; socio-economic problems are common problems faced by even the most stable nations. Like I have often said, theirs is the harvesting generation, and so these Western educationists, journalists, writers and the likes, are barely familiar with all that their forefathers did and went through to plant in the fields of time and history from which they are today harvesting socio-political theories and practices for survival. Beyond this, however, remains that almost pathological craving in some Westerners to damn Africa, as if it is the only means to make themselves feel good and successful in their own way of life. Accordingly, I have come to realize, thanks to my experience as a victim, that hate, usually in the form of stereotyping, discrimination, intolerance—race, sex, class—and otherwise, is, most likely, an outward manifestation of an inferiority complex, a feeling of inadequacy, remorse, and even a yearning for unrequited attention, group or personal, which, overall, generates a sense of insecurity that could be false, but which as a result engenders a negative affinity manifested as disgust, aggression, disapproval, or unprovoked anger towards the target.

Many who have written about Africa have come to Africa already prejudiced by all the bias doctrines they have been subjected to about the continent from when they could begin understanding the sounds and letters. Accordingly, most Western visitors to the continent of Africa come there in search of the West in Africa, or that other Tarzan world they grew up on, instead of arriving with mental and emotional blank boards for Africa to write on. The result of this is a people who visit Africa with preconceived notions of Africans being at a biological stage which is as unfortunate as it is dysfunctional: they have simply failed to complete their metamorphic cycle into human beings along the lines of skin color and "modernization" after Western dictates. This will certainly change if an objective and therefore authentic history and civics of Africa and the world are taught Westerners; that is, if they could just be given the truth about themselves and the world. If this can be done, then the children will come to understand, unlike their predecessors, that Africans are a people with their own worldview into which chaos was spun by Western socio-cultural coup plotters who until today have refused to acknowledge Africa's uniqueness as they go on urging Africans to become what they are not culturally and historically. Alas history, even knowledge as a whole, is being written with a bent towards presenting one people as the ideal, the center of all that humankind has achieved, and the rest as nonsense, peripheral beneficiaries of the former's largesse. Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz present the other extreme, which is the lowering of analytical standards designed for Africa: it seems to be the enduring fate of Africa to be 'explained in terms which are ahistorical as to be risible — a lowering of analytical standards which we would reject out of hand if it were applied to the societies in which we, in the West, live. Would we, for instance, explain the conflict in Northern Ireland solely in terms of 'ancestral tribal hatreds' or political scandals in France exclusively in terms of 'the politics of the belly'? (xviii)

To judge others by alien and usually irrelevant standards to the victim is to be wrong from the very beginning, unless the goal was not intended to be objective as is most often the case when the focus is Africa, especially Africa south of the Sahara.

It is my hope that, in a way, after reading this book, the reader has come to realize that Africans are a people whose lives have been made more complex by their encounter with the West, which is ahead in terms of global economy and so claims faultily though, as the West seems to be learning today, that Western standards are the standard. There are other cultures with values that they cherish more, or at the very least that work for them better than what the West has to offer. This realization will eliminate a lot of the unnecessary conflicts characteristic of the world today. If Westerners can appreciate and accept these truths, then they will sooner or later realize that there is no need to misrepresent another people and their culture, as all it does is maintain an awkward local population that exudes the true essence of ignorance when it comes to affairs of the world. Beyond these misrepresentations and misperceptions, there will always be, as a result, a civil encounter each time people from different racial backgrounds come together, instead of that suppressed hostility that can still be felt around today because one group vainly and erroneously considers itself superior to another even with similar bodily organs that perform exactly the same role; it is not as if those who consider themselves superior are living without the need to eat. Again, without these unnecessary complexes, the new African immigrant population in many parts of the world would feel better welcome, as is the case with Westerners in Africa, and their services will better benefit their new settlements. This will be the case instead of the frustration today experienced because many Westerners erroneously consider African immigrants uneducated and hostile and so immediately antagonize innocent people in many different ways like simply not being friendly, to expecting Africans to prove themselves twice to be valued and appreciated; this obtains in places and disciplines experiencing a greater African influx. Oh yes, there are Westerners resident all over Africa, some as citizens of different African countries, and there are different Western governments with deeply vested interests in parts of Africa, just in case one is thinking ".. .but why don't they stay in Africa." Again, it was the invasion of Africa by Western adventurers, and the pilfering of Africa's wealth which was then carted overseas that subsequently led to the Western exodus now taking place. Why is man complaining of being overwhelmed by bees when he first invaded the bees' hive?

Africans are a people with their own ways and standards, which in most areas conflict with Western socio-economic and political thought which have been imposed on the former and resulting in chaos. This is not to say Africans are incapable of co-existing or managing their own affairs such that they can develop, the problem is that these are all values set by people who know very little, if anything outright, about Africa. Africa is certainly not the West, certainly not with a population that communicates in over a thousand languages, not with a population that believes in strong ties with their ancestors even while passing for Christians and Moslems, not with a population some of which believe in and practice witchcraft in almost every facet of their lives, not with a population that refuses to be individualistic after the ways of the West, and certainly not with a geography that is hilly, warm (even hot), rainy and without the extreme weather conditions of the West. Discover Africa for yourself if you can, else I must sound clichéic—take whatever Westerners give you about Africa with a pinch of salt. Even some of the very objective Westerners writing about Africa come from certain perspectives mainly, and are out to prove certain theories only, and so cannot be considered thoroughly effective in terms of the culture and identity of the continent of Africa; this is a fit made more challenging by Africa's diversity.

Accordingly, whatever the case, given current trends, in so far as the news and so-called knowledge and facts about the world and its peoples are structured and flavored by biases—racist, sexist, religious, and similar forces—they continue to spell the failure of "humandom" reflected in the barbaric image of that other that has been painted under the influence of these doctrines. In the same vein, to continue believing and clinging intentionally to fallacies in reasoning and the presentation of others' values and ways, since the sum total makes one to feel good about oneself and one's ways and values, especially, is to best portray one's knowledge and awareness of one's inadequacies.

Humankind needs to grow beyond material into spiritual civilization, and the world would be a better place. Africa and her sons and daughters—wherever they are in the world today, and irrespective of their nationality—are good examples here. Consider that all the atrocities visited on this people notwithstanding, even when capable of inflicting it, because they have after all been able to turn the tide, have refused to exact vengeance. Their leaders have been able to reason with them that revenge serves no purpose, and that it is a better world when people respect each other for who they are instead of fanning illusions about superiority and similar nonsense: Jomo Kenyatta did it in Kenya, Nelson Mandela did it in South Africa. One cannot help thinking "how Christ- like!" only to remember those who brought Christianity to Africa and what they seem to stand for.

The world is vast and richly diverse in every way, and until its varied values and resources are recognized, cherished, celebrated, and exploited for the benefit of mother earth and humankind as a whole, humankind will remain tormented in every way. It is immature and simply wrong, therefore, for the practitioners of any one culture to believe that their culture is, or should be the standard. Such perpetrators would spare the world so much trouble by freeing themselves of such illusions if only they remember that culture is the consequence of an environment, its attendant events—natural and supernatural—and the resulting psychology and behavioral patterns which emerge in an effort to adapt and survive within the said space. Culture will always have unique, sometimes strange and even bizarre flavors distinctive to particular environments. It would be a better world were this simple fact grasped and appreciated, as it would purge out so many distressing attitudes and complexes today responsible for the destabilized social order of the world.

 
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