Friday, November 24, 2006

Let the Africans Die

Kim du Toit wrote in 2002 that we in the west should just accept that we can't do anything about Africa and let them sink or swim on their own. du Toit claims living in Africa provides one with a casual temperance for death, and that Africans don't value life as much as we do in the west -- so we shouldn't value their lives any more than they do. Du Toit is a twit.

The casual disregard we have for our fellow people is not limited to Africans -- it is pervasive across the world. It is in our very backyards. It continues today in conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and in Europe, in race and religion related violence. In North America we see it in the disregard we pay to our aboriginal population, to the treatment of the poor citizens of New Orleans in Katrina's wake and in way we don't see the homeless begging on our street corners. It is most evident however in the disregard we in the west have for Africans -- and nowhere would you find a better example than du Toit's words.

We in the west have a responsibility to Africa -- as we have a responsibility for our fellow humans on this planet. We are, all of us, in this together. There is no us and them. There is just us. The planet has shrunk in my lifetime, and it is a shortsighted view to not see past our national borders. Everything flows freely across borders. What ails Africa, ails us. Du Toit says, "if the entire African continent dissolves into a seething maelstrom of disease, famine and brutality, that’s just too damn bad." What a shortsighted, narrow-minded view.

Our responsibilities for Africa is there because our western society pillaged our riches in part, from Africa. We didn't just take material wealth, we took Africans and cursed their society with a social debt that we've yet to repay. We did that to them because they were Africans. We did it to the Asian countries. We did it to the natives of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. We have a responsibility to help -- to try.

As du Toit points out, we have failed repeatedly to help Africa. True. Surprisingly however, South Africa has emerged as the first nation of the African continent. It has done so primarily because of the white population there, that was long championed by European states to the detriment of its black citizens. During the apartheid history, there was a South Africa for blacks and another for whites. Within that country, there was a stark difference in the quality of human life. Just as there is in Canada when you compare our native population with the general population. Is it because natives in general have a general disregard for their own lives? No. It's because we have a general disregard for their lives. Just as we have a general disregard for the lives of anyone less fortunate than ourselves.

Africa is a more worrisome case because of our failed and often misguided attempts to alleviate the suffering there. We've grown tired of trying to help. We've also grown into a society that craves instant gratification for our bouts of charity. We want have to heal itself when we do the easy thing of throwing so cash their way. Inevitably however, that cash never amounts to much -- or never reaches those where it could make a lasting difference. At the same time that we throw cash their way, we continue to feed the disease that plagues the continent. We continue to buy the compliance of African governments, turning a blind eye to their abuses so we can drain their oil or mine their mineral riches.

We have failed Africa because there really is no interest in saving Africa. And the reason we have no interest in Africa is because, as du Toit points out, there are only Africans there.

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