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Thursday, June 21, 2012

What is So Special about Being African?

Follow an interesting polemical debate in Wanazuoni - Tanzania's Intellectuals sparked by Garba Diallo's article on Who is an African ? 
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I feel compelled to respect your views. I discern a sense of `rejection` towards Africa in your thoughts. I may even wish to think that you are drawing your conclusions out of intense confusion.

The criteria you have used to decide `who is an African` captivate me. I personally vow to die defending `African culture`, no matter how backward it is. Is this enough to affirm my Africanness?

One author (Garba Diallo) trying to answer the same question wrote ``If you are truly African, the question “who is an African” is not so relevant. Those who feel it, know it. Being born or having one’s roots in the mother continent is not sufficient to make one an African. One has to feel African. For the good or the bad, true Africans have no problem feeling African.``

I feel African, I will die African.

- Dan

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I am not sure whether the words 'rejection' and 'confusion' truly describes my feelings of Africa. Let me see if I can paint a picture to describe them.

Consider yourself as being a part of a family where the parents are idiots. They are selfish, abusive and wasters of family wealth. You have great affection towards them, wish them well and even wish to idolise them but, being a sane, rational and thoughtful individual you cannot disregard the evidence of your experience and pretend that they are model parents. You might not feel the need to idolise your neighbours, indeed they might hold values you despise, but you can see a pattern of wisdom in their lifestyles. You and your family's identities may be permanently linked, but if there if anything you have learnt through them is how NOT to live your life.

Does that help putting things in perspective? Well, contrast that with the SENTIMENTAL view of Africanness that you and Diallo (and indeed many Africans) are subscribing to.There is nothing special about our being African. A few different choices by the previous generations and we might have ended up a very different people. Look at Obama! We are a mere product of biology and history (or divine purpose- if you believe in God.) Our heritage is not directly linked to our future so we should view it critically and objectively to determine our path tomorrow.  

With respect to culture, may I point out that I ALWAYS link culture with productivity? My view is culture serves the community, not otherwise. If we examine our traditions and customs and conclude that they make us incompetent members of the global community, we have the option to change our traditions and stop expecting the world to accommodate our view of the world. Like Nyerere, I have the Ujamaa ideals at heart, but I don't know any global enterprise built by Ujamaa ideals, so, if I want to build a global enterprise, (and God help me), Ujamaa is not the way to go.

Winston Churchill once said: "Nations have no permanent friends and no permanentenemies . Only permanent interests.'' What an amazing insight into the Westerner's psuche by one of their most greatest leaders in history.

Africans have to learn how to distinguish between IDEALS and INTERESTS, between what we believe in, and what works. Bill Gates earned his money as a Capitalist and is distributing it now as a Socialist while his financial security is permanently guaranteed. Could he have done it the other way round? Not really! We tried Socialism and now a single individual owns several times our annual national GDP. That truth, to say the least, sucks.

- Charles 
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