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Notes

1. A quote from Bovin shows the racist and condescending attitude of British media towards WoDaaBe men's self-care which, in fact it would seem to me, is hardly different from what Western men do. The difference lies in the diction they use in describing similar activities in other cultures, especially those of Africa, which Bovin is convinced they have been "precoded" to consider exotic all the time: ".. .an obsession with male beauty and adornment"; the WoDaaBe are "obsessively vain and spend hours making themselves up to look (undeniably) beautiful"; "joining the WoDaaBe at party-time when it is the menfolk who primp, preen and express their passion for personal adornment"; "Don't ask 'Who is a pretty boy then?' If you're among the WoDaaBe nomads of Africa: they all are and spend more time on their make-up than Michael Jackson!'; "A strikingly beautiful (and suitably vain) people, they eke out an existence on the West African scrub, cleaving to strong social traditions and vivid courtship, face-painted.. .priming and pouting." (93)

This is a classical illustration of the biblical lament about people who are quick to perceive the mote in others' eyes but ignore the wooden beam in theirs. I will try to sound like these Pharisees as I juxtapose their activities against those of the WoDaaBe. Imagine the English media, of a people once so vain it was said the sun does not set on nor had nature itself ascertained the bounds of their empire, accusing the WoDaaBe of vainness simply because they paint themselves and try to look good, a practice found in every culture on earth. Yet, English men, so hyper about being prim, have come up with "civilized" gadgets for primping and preening themselves with superior results than the WoDaaBe, but I think it does not matter here because their way is civilized. English men spend time every day with pieces of metal glued to a handle with which they scrape off all the hair from their faces, which they first of all must paint white to facilitate the scraping process. To those with less fear for hair, they simply scrape the hair into less potent shapes of their choice. Their women are worse; their fear for hair is so strong that they have to scrape off every single strand from their entire body by any means possible even if it means applying some gooey substance on their bodies which they rip off painfully after every few tedious minutes, with all the hair stuck to it. Beyond their chins, the men use the same gadget on their head, inserting smaller versions into their ears and nostrils all in an attempt to eliminate the hair in all these places. These people have an unparalleled fear for hair in their culture. After dealing with the hair on their faces, the men, to please and attract their women, apply some kind of wild but sweet smelling liquid they gather from flowers, leaves, and certain spices, on their bodies. The men, like their women, pay particular attention to the state of their mouths also. They scrape their teeth and gum with strange quills attached to the end of a short thin stick, to which they apply a certain substance reputed for its cleansing ability. They shove the quills in and out, in and out for a length of time, and then rinse their mouths with water and other medicinal liquids recommended by their herbalists for the wellbeing of their mouth. This is of particular importance to these men because of their strange habit of always sticking their tongues into their women's mouth every now and then as a sign of affection. In the same vein, these people have special sticks for prying loose strands of meat from the spaces between their teeth after each meal; some use thin ropes which they run in and out of the spaces between their teeth just to make sure nothing is left there that could give their mouth a foul smell when it begins to decay. Being prim is so necessary to these people such that after their mouth, they pay others to spend time scraping, trimming, and waxing their finger and toe nails for them. Painting their bodies is also a fad amongst them, especially the young, although some of them look down on the practice. Expert priests with the right incantations bore holes in virtually every part of their bodies, to which they attach pieces of metal for good luck and other similar beliefs. These priests also specialize in using sharp metallic objects, which they repeatedly dip into black ink, for drawing all kinds of wild patterns chosen by the devotee, on different parts of their bodies. Their women love these designs on their back just above their buttocks; they claim it puts their men in the right mood for sex, their main way of convincing a partner of the love one has for the other. Most interesting is this people's love for the sun god whom they spend long hours worshiping whenever the sun emerges. The men and women are always found by the sea, during these strange worshiping sessions, completely naked or with only a piece of cloth covering their genitals, as they show off their bodies in praise of the sun god. They are happy too if their bodies turn out burnt by the sun as it is a sign the god has answered their prayers. They claim this life style is indicative of being civilized and they believe deeply that anyone who fails to practice it is doomed; they soon begin developing strange discoloration of the body along with certain dark patches: the beginning of problems as a result of the curse from the neglected sun god.

How does a culture like that of the English come across when presented thus, and how backward and ignorant I feel writing in this manner. Yet, this is what the West loves to do to the cultures and countries of Africa: present great cultures as exotic and backward instead of different.

2. President Barack Obama's economic pep talk in Ghana to Africa as a whole is a good example of how complex Africa's predicament is; it cannot just be taken at face value because there are many forces working in the background. With good intentions, President Obama urged Africans on by reminding them that their future is in their hands, but blamed them for lagging behind by pitting Kenya's stagnation, as an example and comparatively speaking, against South Korea. He pointed out that at one time both countries had the same per capita income, but today South Korea has evolved into a successful economy whereas Kenya remains poor. This analogy, in an effort to spur by blaming, is typical of the plight of African countries. Such a perspective takes a swipe at the broad picture only, neglecting the role played by strategic undercurrents usually kept away from the public by the powers that be. President Obama failed to realize that South Korea did not start off on a level politico-economic field with Kenya. Whereas South Korea was developing under a dictatorship, Kenya, like many other African countries was under a Western chokehold which was demanding multiparty democracy as a sine qua non for loans, whether the local political climate was ready for this or not. Even more unparallel to the South Korean situation, international monetary organizations were dictating to African nations how to spend the loan money given them, even as African leaders and political scientists, like the late Claude Ake of Nigeria, complained that spending as spelled out by these organizations would not serve the interests of these African nations. On the other hand, South Korea was able to adopt policies relevant to her economic needs. African countries were, for example, asked to do away with marketing boards and guaranteed prices for farmers' products, eliminate subsidies to farmers while also greatly reducing tariffs on food products. Accordingly, imported food costing next to nothing from Western countries whose governments were and are still subsidizing farmers flooded African markets, ruining the once stable economies of these nations which had not only been self-sufficient in food crops, but were exporting food even. How was such unfair competition put in place, supposedly by Western experts of economic trends, to help Africa's progress? Given this scenario typical of dealings with Africa from the earliest beginnings, billions given as aid does not help African countries in any way because, to begin with, the policies being put in place were not founded on experiences by African countries but by Western experts using their native experience instead. Try a polar bear living in the tropics! Again, because the billions supposedly given to Africa as aid is spent by African governments trying to neutralize the economic disequilibrium caused by the application of alien policies imposed on them by the international monetary organizations, there is no progress made whatsoever, yet African countries sink further in debt as the loans are already garnering interests and at interesting rates. The results are obvious and once more news headlines in the West scream of how Africa has proven its inability to make any progress, but nobody elucidates the bad hand the West is always dealing Africa. Very painful and hypocritical is the portrait of a philanthropist that these monetary sharks brandish to the world while deliberately running Africa aground by maintaining her permanently dependent on international monetary organizations and other Western "donors." No, Kenya and South Korea did not take off from the same level ground nor were the rules of the game the same for each nation. Martin Khor confirms my take: any comparison between the developments in Africa and East Asia must take into account that most African countries were unfortunate enough to come under the influence of World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] conditionalities, whereas East Asian countries did not and were free to adopt their own policies.

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