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Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I love-hate Euro-America

When and why did I 'cynically' encounter the West/Euro-America? In fact I didn't spend a lot of time in Euro-America unless South Africa is also regarded as a part of it. My great dissapointment in 'America the Beautiful' was to see a lot of Tanzanians there who had given up what might have been a bright future back home in search of the 'American Dream'.

I am saying 'might have been' because the 'Biblicanism' in me says I cannot afford to play God who sees the end from the beginning. Yet the testimonies of some of those I have met here in Tanzania after at least five years of their search for 'makaratasi', that is, the 'papers' such as green cards that can guarantee their return home without the possibility of being denied VISA to go back to the land of the 'American Pie in the Sky' have made me sense their shock at how their 'Tanzania' has left them behind.

In my second visit to 'The Land of the Brave' what came as a revelation to me was a graduate class discussion on a book that I used to see in our home library here in Tanzania even though I never bothered to read it in spite of its tantalizing title, that is, HABITS OF THE HEART. It was that discussion that made me understand what the subtitle of that book - i.e. Individualism and Commitment in American Life - really mean. It also made me understand why the 'famous' Euro-American sociologist who visited the 'Home of the Statue of Liberty' at a time when the lynching of African Americans was a common thing and their right to vote was denied could claim that 'America is the Best Model of Democracy in the World' in his 'influential' book entitled Democracy in America.

Of course that was a time before a Ben Carson, whom I admire a lot and who is on record for saying that he never saw a 'white' person in the US until he was a teenager, could make it from a ghetto boy with D grades to arguably the best neurosurgeon in the world and thus preach that you can also make it 'anywhere' if you THINK BIG . Yes it was a time before the skinny kid with a funny name could become the President of the United States (of America) by reclaiming, nay, rehabilitating the seemingly elusive American Dream as 'Change We Can Believe In' through The Audacity of Hope embodied in that motto: 'Yes We Can!'

Well now it is a long time since I have been in 'The Land of Opportunity' so I don't really know what is going on the ground there. Thats why I keep asking rhetorical (cynical) questions so that I (and interested others) can get updates of what is going on from those who are sojourning there. However, when I read the critiques of 'Obamamania' such as the ones by Nawal El Saadawi on Obama in Cairo: Playing the Political Game, Marieme Helie Lucas on Obama Speech Omits Women and Secularists as well as Paul Tiyambe Zeleza on Obama in Cairo: Equivalences and Silences and yet hear some of my compatriots talk about the possibilities the US offers them and can offer all of 'us' especially in the so-called 'Age/Era of Obama' if we just 'work hard' I cant help but wonder if maybe that 'blind spot' which made the author of Democracy in America gloss over the then 'Negro Question' is the same myopia that make us overlook the 'Muslim Question' among other very hard questions.

So, do I hate 'America' or Euro-America for that matter? Am I one of those who were supposed to answer George W. Bush question 'WHY DO THEY HATE US?' No. I actually love America a lot. In fact I am one of those who believe it could be a model for deracializing the continents since as the de facto North America it is probably the only habitable continent for humans that is not really seen as a continent that belongs to a particular 'race' the strereotypical way Africa is seen as belonging to the 'Blacks', Europe to the 'Whites' and Asia to the 'Yellows'. As a melting pot it has the potential of being the model of a cosmopolitan society that is not racialized.

Unfortunately it is this same America that is haunted by what the 'new orator on the bloc' refers to as the 'original sin of slavery' and racism epitomized by the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Genocide of Native Americans. Yes, unfortunately it is this America that is still leading a 'crusade' renamed 'War on Terror' that end up terrorizing many innocent and peaceful people from Kismayu to Kabul.

For a long time I have tried to understand why I still love such a Euro-American country. Luckily one renowned historian helped me to understand that what I feel is actually a disappointed love - his description of how I, and probably many others out there, feel about Euro-America is a fitting 'curtain closer' for my conclusion of this 'American Memoir' of mine; here it is:

"Nevertheless, attitudes to the West are strongly ambivalent, expressing both admiration of the Western achievements and hatred of its hypocrisies and Eurocentric relations; this ambivalence is matched by Western attitudes and feeling toward Africa and Black people in general. The Indian poet [Rabindranath] Tagore traced the source of this ambivalence to the civilization of the West - the upholding of dignity and of human relationship had no place in the administration of its colonies. Tagore's explanation was reduced to a brilliant single Shavian sentence by [Jawaharlal] Nehru when asked what he thought of Western civilization. 'It would,' he replied, 'be a good idea.' To understand contemporary attitudes in postcolonial Africa and the West it is useful, indeed necessary, to keep in mind this love-hate relationship between the formerly colonized people and the colonizers; the former believe there has been no proper recognition of, nor retribution for, the injury of colonialism; while the latter feel let down because Africa has not lived up to the expectations of European liberal values; and, of course, Western racialists - an ancient and self-perpetuating breed - see all their own prejudices about Black people justified by the selective headlines provided for them by the myopia of a media society which traps them in non-thinking stereotypes such as presenting Africa as 'a basket-case continent.'" - Colin Legum on 'Africa Since Independence' published in 1999.

I, 'the man of color', as Frantz Fanon said in Black Skin White Masks, "want only this: That the tool never possess the man. That the enslavement of man by man cease for ever. That is, of one by another. That it be possible for me to discover and to love man, wherever he may be." Amen.

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