October 6, 2004

Painful Cultural Facts

Check out Roger Sandall's wonderful essay Out of Africa, from his site The Culture Cult. Here's an excerpt, but go read it all: (ellipses mine)

...despite the fact that men like Kofi Annan may well have their hearts in the right place...they are incapable of dealing with the problem. Because of course it isn’t a "problem" in any useful sense of the word. Problems are manageable. Problems have solutions. Human intelligence and human will can puzzle them out.

But the immeasurable gulf between the existing state of African society and the modern world, the "big ditch" dividing communal kin-based cultures and modern economic arrangements in country after country, on a continental scale, is not something bridgeable by political will. Nor (in the case of Sudan) can a war in a huge country be terminated by uncomprehending foreign soldiers when it has been going on for fifty years, and before that intermittently for centuries, and has today a strong messianic element in which the Arab north sees itself as having an Islamic duty to overrule, dominate, convert, and if necessary murder the part-Christian non-Arab south.

As if this didn’t make things bad enough, add also the fact that the Kofi Annans of the world belong to a rarefied and very privileged African elite of international bureaucrats who think in terms of Commissions and Conferences at which more-or-less impractical protocols are discussed and more-or-less noble resolutions are passed. They have personally escaped and put behind them the murders and misery of their homelands, they have risen into the well-fed social stratosphere of diplomacy in Geneva, Paris, London, and New York, and they understandably value the glittering lifestyle this provides. They constitute a class with distinct interests of their own, interests not necessarily coinciding with those of millions of subsistence farmers trying to scratch a living from the African soil.

(via aldaily.com)

Posted by dan at October 6, 2004 12:01 AM