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Let Africa Sink
Kim du Toit ^ | May 26, 2002 | Kim du Toit

Posted on 06/07/2003 2:58:41 AM PDT by dennisw

Let Africa Sink

Kim du Toit May 26, 2002

When it comes to any analysis of the problems facing Africa, Western society, and particularly people from the United States, encounter a logical disconnect that makes clear analysis impossible. That disconnect is the way life is regarded in the West (it's precious, must be protected at all costs etc.), compared to the way life, and death, are regarded in Africa. Let me try to quantify this statement.

In Africa, life is cheap. There are so many ways to die in Africa that death is far more commonplace than in the West. You can die from so many things--snakebite, insect bite, wild animal attack, disease, starvation, food poisoning... the list goes on and on. At one time, crocodiles accounted for more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than gunfire, for example. Now add the usual human tragedy (murder, assault, warfare and the rest), and you can begin to understand why the life expectancy for an African is low--in fact, horrifyingly low, if you remove White Africans from the statistics (they tend to be more urbanized, and more Western in behavior and outlook). Finally, if you add the horrifying spread of AIDS into the equation, anyone born in sub-Saharan Africa this century will be lucky to reach age forty.

I lived in Africa for over thirty years. Growing up there, I was infused with several African traits--traits which are not common in Western civilization. The almost-casual attitude towards death was one. (Another is a morbid fear of snakes.)

So because of my African background, I am seldom moved at the sight of death, unless it's accidental, or it affects someone close to me. (Death which strikes at strangers, of course, is mostly ignored.) Of my circle of about eighteen or so friends with whom I grew up, and whom I would consider "close", only about ten survive today--and not one of the survivors is over the age of fifty.

Two friends died from stepping on landmines while on Army duty in Namibia. Three died in horrific car accidents (and lest one thinks that this is not confined to Africa, one was caused by a kudu flying through a windshield and impaling the guy through the chest with its hoof--not your everyday traffic accident in, say, Florida). One was bitten by a snake, and died from heart failure. Another also died of heart failure, but he was a hopeless drunkard. Two were shot by muggers. The last went out on his surfboard one day and was never seen again (did I mention that sharks are plentiful off the African coasts and in the major rivers?). My situation is not uncommon in South Africa--and north of the Limpopo River (the border with Zimbabwe), I suspect that others would show worse statistics.

The death toll wasn't just confined to my friends. When I was still living in Johannesburg, the newspaper carried daily stories of people mauled by lions, or attacked by rival tribesmen, or dying from some unspeakable disease (and this was pre-AIDS Africa too) and in general, succumbing to some of Africa's many answers to the population explosion. Add to that the normal death toll from rampant crime, illness, poverty, flood, famine, traffic, and the police, and you'll begin to get the idea.

My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read: "Three Headless Bodies Found".

The next day: "Three Heads Found".

The third day: "Heads Don't Match Bodies".

You can't make this stuff up.

As a result, death is treated more casually by Africans than by Westerners. I, and I suspect most Africans, am completely inured to reports of African suffering, for whatever cause. Drought causes crops to fail, thousands face starvation? Yup, that happened many times while I was growing up. Inter-tribal rivalry and warfare causes wholesale slaughter? Yep, been happening there for millennia, long before Whitey got there. Governments becoming rich and corrupt while their populations starved? Not more than nine or ten of those. In my lifetime, the following tragedies have occurred, causing untold millions of deaths: famine in Biafra, genocide in Rwanda, civil war in Angola, floods in South Africa, famine in Somalia, civil war in Sudan, famine in Ethiopia, floods in Mozambique, wholesale slaughter in Uganda, and tribal warfare in every single country. There are others, but you get the point.

Yes, all this was also true in Europe--maybe a thousand years ago. But not any more. And Europe doesn't teem with crocodiles, ultra-venomous snakes and so on.

The Dutch controlled the floods. All of Europe controls famine--it's non-existent now. Apart from a couple of examples of massive, state-sponsored slaughter (Nazi Germany, Communist Russia), Europe since 1700 doesn't even begin to compare to Africa today. Casual slaughter is another thing altogether--rare in Europe, common in Africa.

More to the point, the West has evolved into a society with a stable system of government, which follows the rule of law, and has respect for the rights and life of the individual--none of which is true in Africa.

Among old Africa hands, we have a saying, usually accompanied by a shrug: "Africa wins again." This is usually said after an incident such as:

a beloved missionary is butchered by his congregation, for no apparent reason

a tribal chief prefers to let his tribe starve to death rather than accepting food from the Red Cross (would mean he wasn't all-powerful, you see)

an entire nation starves to death, while its ruler accumulates wealth in foreign banks

a new government comes into power, promising democracy, free elections etc., provided that the freedom doesn't extend to the other tribe

the other tribe comes to power in a bloody coup, then promptly sets about slaughtering the first tribe

etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

The prognosis is bleak, because none of this mayhem shows any sign of ending. The conclusions are equally bleak, because, quite frankly, there is no answer to Africa's problems, no solution that hasn't been tried before, and failed.

Just go to the CIA World Fact Book, pick any of the African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi etc.), and compare the statistics to any Western country (eg. Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland). The disparities are appalling--and it's going to get worse, not better. It has certainly got worse since 1960, when most African countries achieved independence. We, and by this I mean the West, have tried many ways to help Africa. All such attempts have failed.

1. Charity is no answer. Money simply gets appropriated by the first, or second, or third person to touch it (17 countries saw a decline in real per capita GNP between 1970 and 1999, despite receiving well over $100 billion in World Bank assistance).

2. Food isn't distributed. This happens either because there is no transportation infrastructure (bad), or the local leader deliberately withholds the supplies to starve people into submission (worse).

3. Materiel is broken, stolen or sold off for a fraction of its worth. The result of decades of "foreign aid" has resulted in a continental infrastructure which, if one excludes South Africa, couldn't support Pittsburgh.

Add to this, as I mentioned above, the endless cycle of Nature's little bag of tricks--persistent drought followed by violent flooding, a plethora of animals, reptiles and insects so dangerous that life is already cheap before Man starts playing his little reindeer games with his fellow Man--and what you are left with is: catastrophe.

The inescapable conclusion is simply one of resignation. This goes against the grain of our humanity--we are accustomed to ridding the world of this or that problem (smallpox, polio, whatever), and accepting failure is anathema to us. But, to give a classic African scenario, a polio vaccine won't work if the kids are prevented from getting the vaccine by a venal overlord, or a frightened chieftain, or a lack of roads, or by criminals who steal the vaccine and sell it to someone else. If a cure for AIDS was found tomorrow, and offered to every African nation free of charge, the growth of the disease would scarcely be checked, let alone reversed. Basically, you'd have to try to inoculate as many two-year old children as possible, and write off the two older generations.

So that is the only one response, and it's a brutal one: accept that we are powerless to change Africa, and leave them to sink or swim, by themselves.

It sounds dreadful to say it, but if the entire African continent dissolves into a seething maelstrom of disease, famine and brutality, that's just too damn bad. We have better things to do--sometimes, you just have to say, "Can't do anything about it."

The viciousness, the cruelty, the corruption, the duplicity, the savagery, and the incompetence is endemic to the entire continent, and is so much of an anathema to any right-thinking person that the civilized imagination simply stalls when faced with its ubiquity, and with the enormity of trying to fix it. The Western media shouldn't even bother reporting on it. All that does is arouse our feelings of horror, and the instinctive need to do something, anything--but everything has been tried before, and failed. Everything, of course, except self-reliance.

All we should do is make sure that none of Africa gets transplanted over to the U.S., because the danger to our society is dire if it does. I note that several U.S. churches are attempting to bring groups of African refugees over to the United States, European churches the same for Europe. Mistake. Mark my words, this misplaced charity will turn around and bite us, big time.

Even worse would be to think that the simplicity of Africa holds some kind of answers for Western society: remember "It Takes A Village"? Trust me on this: there is not one thing that Africa can give the West which hasn't been tried before and failed, not one thing that isn't a step backwards, and not one thing which is worse than, or that contradicts, what we have already.

So here's my solution for the African fiasco: a high wall around the whole continent, all the guns and bombs in the world for everyone inside, and at the end, the last one alive should do us all a favor and kill himself.

Inevitably, some Kissingerian realpolitiker is going to argue in favor of intervention, because in the vacuum of Western aid, perhaps the Communist Chinese would step in and increase their influence in the area. There are two reasons why this isn't going to happen.

Firstly, the PRC doesn't have that kind of money to throw around; and secondly, the result of any communist assistance will be precisely the same as if it were Western assistance. For the record, Mozambique and Angola are both communist countries--and both are economic disaster areas. The prognosis for both countries is disastrous--and would be the same for any other African country.

Africa has to heal itself. The West can't help it. Nor should we. The record speaks for itself.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Maine
KEYWORDS: africa; anc; mali; mandela; refugees; southafrica
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1 posted on 06/07/2003 2:58:41 AM PDT by dennisw
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To: dennisw
U.S.-Bound African Refugees Stuck in Post-9/11 Red Tape
2 posted on 06/07/2003 3:07:16 AM PDT by sarcasm (Tancredo 2004)
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To: dennisw
-"Pity About Africa..."--
3 posted on 06/07/2003 3:07:26 AM PDT by backhoe (The 1990's will be forever remembered as "The Decade of Fraud(s)..."( Oslo, dot-bombs, clintons...))
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To: dennisw
I never post on this topic because I feel so lacking in positive thinking.It is time for Africa to step up to the plate and stop the constant war.
4 posted on 06/07/2003 3:11:55 AM PDT by MEG33
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To: dennisw
There's plenty of unemployed military power in the world. The armed forces of New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Canada and Japan for example. Japan has the second largest military budget in the world after the USA. All that force, doing nothing in particular.

What is needed is a new leadership structure to harness the energies needed to maintain the existence of civilization, in places like Africa, Aceh, Burma, the Solomon Islands. There should be a real peacekeeping equivalent of Southcom, Northcom, Centcom, Atlantic command, Pacific command. Real headquarters that anticipate problems, gather intelligence, develop contingency plans, to which national forces can be chopped.

The UN is an obsolete Cold War organization which will never be able to meet this challenge. But the United States can take the lead in building up the structures needed to coordinate international efforts to bring peace to places where American military force is neither appropriate nor adequate in numbers. If we build it, they will come.

The United States armed forces are a premier military force which should be reserved for fighting the really tough bad guys. But even the Belgians, I feel, can handle the cannibals.
5 posted on 06/07/2003 3:18:22 AM PDT by wretchard
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To: wretchard
I think you are wrong there sport.
As long as these folks around the world have the lack of education, lack of drive and desire there is nothing one can do.
What, take a gun and force people around the world to act civilized towards one another?
Let's not take Africa, but say Haiti. No education. No incentive. No resources. And corruption so rampant that we've poured billions into the endless pit and for what?
We have accomplished absoultely nothing even after years of trying.
Let's turn to say Somalia. Same thing. No education. historic distrust for anything resembleing normalicy and govt. control. Throw in ancient religions and beliefs and go ahead and put the french army in there and watch the soldiers die?
I can go on but I think what I am trying to say is that no persons anywhere will cooperate with someone telling them what to do while carrying a gun.
The key is education.
6 posted on 06/07/2003 3:43:57 AM PDT by Joe Boucher
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To: dennisw
And into this sinkhole our President is about to drop 15 billion of OUR dollars!
7 posted on 06/07/2003 3:53:39 AM PDT by ricpic
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To: dennisw
I, and I suspect most Africans, am completely inured to reports of African suffering, for whatever cause.

Africans? Which tribe are you discussing?

Bantus feel deeply, but keep their emotions in check especially in front of strangers. When someone died in our hospital, they would scream and cry loudly, then quickly get up and coldly make arrangements to take the person home. (usually a baby or a child, since old people preferred to die at home).

But lack of emotion? No, because when I learned the language I would have mothers tell me sadly of how their firstborn died, or when their children were sick, or why they named their children. (My name was "troubles" because I was born in the year of famine. My 8 year old is named "Leave him" because he was born right after measles killed children in the village and we wante God to Leave him with us).

This stoicism is often interpreted by more direct tribes-- like the British immigrants or by the Boer tribe (du Toit is a Boer name) as lack of feeling.

it is not. It is a passivity in the face of what cannot be changed. The good part of this passivity is a quiet grace and deep feelings. The bad part is that common people do not fight back when a tyrant orders them to kill, or indeed when a tyrant kills them. The flip side of passivity is violence: witchcraft, poisoning, burning people in huts at night, and outbreaks of terrible wars.

When I worked in Africa, our German nuns would shake their heads about this violence. I usually replied, yes, sisters, you Germans were much more civilized and neat in your killings.

Finally, Africans, like other primitive peoples (such as Hindus, Baptists and Catholics) believe that death is not the end, but that the soul lives beyond death. This faith is much much deeper than many in the secularized west. So death is not an end, merely a passing over.

Cardinal Arinze says that what we can learn from Africa is how to pray. Indeed, African priests serve "heathens" in many countries, both in Africa, but also in Europe and in my own diocese. An African bishop is supporting the "anglican mission in America" to revive Christianity in the Anglican church. You see, in these countries, Christianity still has meaning.

During Idi Amin's atrocities, someone asked a visiting Anglican African bishop what he needed for his people. He said Roman collars. The American reporter asked why, thinking it was a vanity request. The bishop replied: We need the collar so that when they murder our people, they know we priests are still with them, and that God is there.

8 posted on 06/07/2003 3:59:35 AM PDT by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: dennisw
The other day I posted similar thoughts about Africa - basically "screw Africa, let them sink or swim on their own" - and some found that cruel. I agree with this author 100%.

9 posted on 06/07/2003 4:01:45 AM PDT by 11B3 (We live in "interesting times". Indeed.)
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To: ricpic
...15 billion of OUR dollars!...

You're wrong there, Ricpic.

They ceased being our dollars after we were mugged by the vaious and sundry taxing authorities and our money taken from us.

That's all goobermint money. What you are left with after the mugging is yours.

10 posted on 06/07/2003 4:03:30 AM PDT by JesseHousman
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To: LadyDoc
Thank you for your insight.I see no end,do you?
11 posted on 06/07/2003 4:10:57 AM PDT by MEG33
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To: dennisw
Not hard to understand. Wonder why GW doesn't get it?
12 posted on 06/07/2003 4:18:44 AM PDT by Musket
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To: Joe Boucher
As long as these folks around the world have the lack of education, lack of drive and desire there is nothing one can do.

You're so right. The people themselves have to want it and want it badly in order to make success possible. I think the main reason we failed in Vietnam was not that our military was inept, but that the Vietnamese themselves didn't want freedom badly enough. You can lead a horse to water ...

13 posted on 06/07/2003 4:24:34 AM PDT by libertylover
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To: MEG33; cardinal4
While on TDY to Mbabane, Swaziland, in the 80s, I was reading the Johannesberg Star. There was a story there concerning a dirt-poor village in war-torn Mozambique. Some RENAMO guerillas came through the village looking for FRELIMO soldiers. They came upon a young mother in her hut who had been scavenging for food for her infant. She told the guerillas how hungry she was. The guerilla chief took the infant from the mother and threw him in a pot of boiling water. He told the mother to eat the child if she was that hungry. The mother then suffered a fatal heart attack. This from the Jo'berg Star, a government organ solidly in RENAMO'S corner.
14 posted on 06/07/2003 4:29:19 AM PDT by Ax
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To: LadyDoc
You are right...most "successful" westernization is preceeded by a Christian mission...indeed most of the civilizing of the West in relation to Africa is the consequence of Judeo- Christianity and the daily one on one gifting and giving that creates a durable and viable social fabric.
15 posted on 06/07/2003 4:32:09 AM PDT by mo
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To: dennisw
Although he addresses the immigration issue briefly, I think that it bears repeating. Besides staying the heck out of Africa, the West must make absolutely sure that Africa and the Middle East do not transplant themselves into our midst (as is currently happening). This also entails some sort of change in the West to stimulate our pathetic birth rate. If we continue to have 1.1 children per woman (as in Spain and Italy), Africa and the Middle East will eventually overrun us, regardless of immigration laws.

Africa must sort out its own problems, or wither on the vine. But we cannot allow Africa to take the West down with it.

16 posted on 06/07/2003 4:32:09 AM PDT by quebecois
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To: wretchard
What is needed is a new leadership structure to harness the energies needed to maintain the existence of civilization, in places like Africa

Intervention Africa. What a noble thought! Bring civilization to Africa, and bring all those African diseases to America and Europe. We can do it in the name of Equality.

17 posted on 06/07/2003 4:32:15 AM PDT by ThanhPhero
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To: dennisw
I note that several U.S. churches are attempting to bring groups of African refugees over to the United States, European churches the same for Europe. Mistake. Mark my words, this misplaced charity will turn around and bite us, big time.

Oh, so it's ok that HE comes here from Africa with his "life is cheap" attitudes, but don't let any of THOSE OTHERS in.

Some of these groups of refugees are persecuted Christians. I prefer their outlook to his aetheism.

What's this "us" business Kimosabe ?

"Us" are not all bigoted racists like you.

BTW Dennis, why are you posting this crap ?

18 posted on 06/07/2003 4:32:28 AM PDT by happygrl
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To: Ax
Chilling,heartbreaking.May God guide Africa to a better way of life.
19 posted on 06/07/2003 4:39:21 AM PDT by MEG33
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To: LadyDoc; dennisw
Thank you for your eloquent apologetic for Africa. So much more worthy of print than this diatribe from this admittedly spiritually stunted "man."

Dennis, would you find this kind of bigotry acceptable if it was directed at YOUR people ?

20 posted on 06/07/2003 4:39:27 AM PDT by happygrl
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