Everyone has been talking about this post, so aptly entitled “You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum”
I love to see African issues talked about and dissected, but it was a disappointment for me to see so many agreeing with the sentiments expressed, and reblogging and retweeting their agreement without discussion, like victims of the nodding disease currently killing kids in Northern Uganda.
And so here, without blemish or edit, is a rebuttal by Ernest Bazanye who is awesome all over the internet. Hopefully it will add something to the current discussion:
Here in bufunze and bullet points is what bugged me about the Lazy Intellectual post.
First the things on the surface of it. Casual assumptions made that seem to bolster his main argument, even though they themselves are disputable.
The white man talks about coming in to Africa and taking all the wealth and leaving crumbs.
A rich person coming to your market is a good thing. Yes, when he leaves he will still be rich and you will still be poor, but he leaves his money behind. Would it be better if we kept our minerals and never made any money off them?
Wamma white man come to my country and look at my giraffes and pay me. If somebody thinks you are exploiting me, well, it works both ways.
It was when Africans entered the world of free markets as traders, when we let customers come in to buy and sell, the continent began to register records in economic growth. Foreign investment has been better for Africa than all the protectionism and nationalism and gung-ho Africa pride white elephant industries of the eighties.
He mentions a “nincompoop from the New York streets” of whom he says, he “bring him to Lusaka and (Africans will) all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff.” He wants to be told why this is so.
Africans may chant muzungu muzungu for many reasons, among them these two:
One is that children find it entertaining to see a white person. If it was a donkey in shoes they would chant “Punda yenye viatu! punda yenye viatu!” That guy should be offended instead of taking it as a sign of supposed superiority.
The second reason is because when a smart person sees money, he goes to get some. If I have a bucket and I see a rich man with a car, I go and tell him he is very handsome and he has a smart car and he should let me wash it for him at a cost.
If a homeless white drug addict thinks he’s superior to me he can screw himself superiorily. He’s homeless and on drugs. And I’m on a plane.
“Do you know where I found your intellectuals?” he asks. “They were in bars quaffing.”
From the movies I have watched and books I have read, that is kind of what intellectuals do even in the US and Britain. They is always a group of self-obsessed blowhards who congregate around alcohol loving the sounds of their own voices. But it would be a mistake of me to assume that these form the entirety of western intellectual culture. And a mistake to think that the pompous drunks in African bars are the sum of Africa’s intellectual culture.
And why should Africa come up with her own AIDS cure? Since when was THAT the way it worked? Did Spain come up with its own cure for Smallpox? Did Japan find its own cure for polio? When someone finds a cure, it’s a cure for everyone. And are you assuming that there are no Africans contributing to the global pool of knowledge that is eventually going to yield a cure?
White Man’s Plane
Also, African passengers are not dependent on white people’s planes. Airline companies are dependent on the money paid for ticket fares. So the plane is the one dependent on the African passenger.
But the main problem with this argument isn’t the examples used to present it, it is the argument itself. The fundamental premise of the thing. He says “In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations.” And then goes to argue that it is because African Intellectuals are lazy.
This is bull. Africans discover and invent and innovate all the time. Farmers create new ways of beating the change of seasons, cooks create new meals, mechanics fabricate makeshift fixes for trucks and matatus, businesspeople make new patterns of distribution, thieves and pickpockets innovate new scams, kisekka market inventors make Japanese imports obsolete at a stroke, … musicians manufacture new styles… It’s just not something as massive and world-shaking as the television or the computer, but then again, when was the last time you heard of a world-shaking technological invention coming out of Romania, or Syria, or Trinidad, or Paraguay, or Andorra?
The major technological leaps of our current global civilization have not been sprouting out of every every single place except Africa. They have actually come from a relatively small part of the global community. Just specific parts of Western Europe. Mostly Britain and America.
The truth is that innovation happens naturally wherever you have societies. And it happens in the same way. Necessity breeds invention. And then invention builds on itself. And so when the computer is invented it will breed computer-based inventions in the societies that have computers and the snowball will grow. The reason you the bulk of internet-based innovation is not taking place in Africa is the same reason it is not taking place in the Emirates. Because the hub is in the US.
And the assumption that there is no internet innovation in Africa is as false as the assumption that there is none in Dubai.
What we forget here is that no matter what the slogans say, Africa is not unique in history. Africans are no different from anyone else. This means that everything that happens in Africa is happening or has happened somewhere else.