Aid and Africa Problem: the Pebble that Must Stir African Consciousness
by David Nderitu
Foreign aid, on which many African countries have largely come to depend on erringly believing it is pure aid at all times has a commercial element, which is paid with interest. Grants are the philanthropy element of any good businessman. Now popular but misinforming journalism in the west has produced the notion that all money is grant, free money to some corrupt Africans at their (west’s) own taxpayer’s expense. This has produced some political heat within the lending countries while portraying the receivers as a bunch of good-for-nothing lots…nincompoops. It may do some good to the citizens of the west to know that most African countries pay much more in annual interest on the so-called aid than on the principal they received. What aid in the world has interest? They are commercial loans lent on commercial terms. Those shouting calling loans aids are either ignorant or malicious.
However, while it is honourable to accept that the real African problem may be more complex than one may allow, it is also important to realise that western societies are largely defined along the survival for the fittest theory which fits very well with Adam Smiths economic theory, the boon for capitalism for nearly three hundred years. It cannot therefore be that the west is giving loans to work against the very foundation upon which its entire economic edifice lies, but the motive must be to promote and pile the very same principles. This element is never pronounced for the fear of being seen as an exploiter of the already exploited while the Africans, who never seem to be good at keeping records are never bothered to try and come up with the economic cost/benefit analysis of such loans/aids. Those who have tried, because my senses tell me there are, try to do so in a half-hearted and withering-spirited way, superficially scratching the surface and proclaiming to have entered the earths core. In the face of surmounting problems, a parody is sung in the bar politics: It is not our fault; it is the west’s. The west will do whatever it will take to survive and rightly so and as Soren Kierkegaard says, ‘we are thrown into this hostile and contradicting world’ without help and where survival becomes the main focus. The African therefore must rise, pulling himself by the bootstraps or be buried in the sarcophagus of poverty, shame and suffering whose effect and pathos are reflected in the visage of their children. How sad to make poverty an inheritance to anyone! We as a black people must remove the wax from our ears to hear the truth in Kierkegaard statement.
To enable the African to rise, it is essential for African scholars to investigate, pore over and to inquire into the foundation upon which progress is laid, realising that if religion will redeem them from sin, education will redeem them from ignorance, poverty and susceptibility and only then will they be able to shout amen full volume. As a people, we as Africans need to enter into this illimitable ocean of knowledge, where height, breadth and length are lost and where time has no meaning; an ocean inviting immersion and obsession whose shallow end is almost irresistibly tantalising; but we must not swim at its shallow end; we must strip and dive deep as much as we can. For Africa to advance, deep philosophical thinking based on selflessness will be a prerequisite while personal suffering will not be too big a price to pay. African scholars need to ponder on the destiny of the continent, realising that the phantom of the past ignorance must be exorcised now to avoid visiting it onto the future, asking the same question that has been asked since man lifted his eyes to heaven and marvelled at the celestial bodies: What is my purpose? They may not answer that question which has made casualties out of those who have tried to make careers out of it, but it is a mill that has been grinding food for thought and feeding the western advancement in art, science, technology and even their psych for hundreds of years. If asked, it is a question that will stir the still waters of their souls to ripple some gentle waves of clear understanding across the continent and Love Brewed in the African Pot could acquire a new meaning as Africans learn to give their lives and love to their own land.
As starting point, the responsibility to bring change and progress lies with those who may have seen the light, no matter how dim. They will need to lead their lot into the correct direction without putting their self-interest first, as if the existence of mankind solely depends on their own individual opulent existence. It is this understanding that differentiates the truly and rationally educated from the ignorant masses who must be shown the benefits of rising up every morning or in the dark of night to do what needs doing. But if the educated have only learnt how to fleece the very masses they are supposed to lead into the light, they will effectively have eclipsed the light of education. The final result is a society living in the umbra of ignorance and a slow, painful death of the shoots of civilisation will be a matter of time. The song of three blind mice will resonate whenever that situation will be. Africa must found its progress onto some suitable grounds.
But what foundation do the Africans wish to lay their advancement on? On a crumbling stone of blind religious faith or on a solid rock of faith in education, believing that they can do it? Africa must hear the cries of its own off-springs and remove the future from the hands of demagogues and the innumerable faith healers cum religious entrepreneurs in order to charter a clear course defined by those who have got the true light in education. But if they allow themselves to be led by people holding a flickering candle light, it will be a matter of time before the flame is snuffed out by the storm. There are those who claim, in their unwise wisdom, to have cracked the Delphic oracular message, placing Africa in the no-hoper basket case, but Africans have the choice and ability to defy the prophecy and define their own course according to their desires and wishes and even if the Delphic message may not be favourable, well, their own Osirian God still reigns supreme in the Orion. He will bring the petals of their wishes to ‘fruitition’ if they ask. But for those wishes to mature, light must shine in violent and inextinguishable flashes of rational truth as academics wrestle with the past, present and future. African: the great explorer for Africa.
Logically, one wonders why Africa has remained for forty years and more in the dark wilderness? Why are the African people unable to sing to their own God: Lead me into the light, even though they are generally gifted with a lilting yodel? Or are they singing and has their God liked the ballad so much that the only way keep them singing is to maintain them in the dark? Has anyone else as a people been in the same situation? Has another people been enslaved for over four hundred years and yet no hope? Africa must come out of the rut. It may be essential for African scholars to closely study, analyse and examine the lives of those who made the west into what it is today even as they grapple with their own situation. One will find that the glittering and shimmering economic picture of the west is literally painted with blood and missing bodies of those who sprung forward to understand man and civilisation. It was not an easy road; it was a slippery, winding and perilous trail, often lined with danger, demanding sacrifice at every corner, and more often than not, the evil would win, but the repeated fight with the difficulties resulted in the fatigue failure of those hindrances and finally the good was realised. Africa must wake up from the stupor of looking into the western horizon for material help and hope; if anything, the sun sets in the west; those who do so face the wrong direction. Religion has conquered the minds of the African masses with its mystiques and myths, offering illusionary hopes where reality is required while failing to raise them up from sedentary lifestyles, presenting serendipity and mercy from God as the panacea for all ailments of the continent. But if God is the answer to their prayers, he will never answer those who wait for the answer lying down. He armed humanity with arms as a tool to go out and gather. If he had seen no use for the arms, then I postulate that he would not have placed them there. In the film “Oh God” the fictional creator told man: Now you have everything here on Earth that you need to make life good. Now it is up to you to make it work. And he left. African child, use your arms, arms, arms. Go Gather, gather, gather but thou shalt not steal!
In trying to understand the concept of his predicament, the African may have to analyse the riddle of existence. As said earlier, it is equivalent to seeking a solution to a mathematical equation that has no solution but whose exploration leads to various revelations along the way for the world is composed of chaos and madness upon which we must haggle and struggle to improve the human condition. As stated by the famous French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, “We are born into unfathomable existence that has no cosmic or divine purpose,” and in agreement, without necessarily being an existentialist, with his conclusion, “The only valid values are the ones we create for ourselves.” What values do the African wish to create, societal or purely personal based on survival for the fittest? Quoting further from Jean-Paul Sartre, “Human behaviour is a bizarre jumble of affection and hostility, greed and generosity, violence and gentleness” The Chinese concept of yin and yang…good and evil mixed in each personality…correctly describes human psych. It may be that evil is the energy that has to be expended in order to climb up the hill of good; meaning that good and evil are inextricably entwined. In that case, the question remains: How much evil is the African man willing to shed in order to satisfy the longing of his heart and the need of his body?
This answer requires clear and focused thinking without turning to religion. I assert that the final solution to man lies within human and not within some deterministic external system. If it were not, whither gone the free will? Education must answer those questions by ‘culturalizing’ self-determination, not just as a political tool to achieve political independence, but as an economic mechanism for personal liberation, emancipation and self-realisation. The African educationist has a huge role to play in this game, but unfortunately, he is fettered and shackled by inability to freely decide the mode and direction of his thinking as a result of religious believes which have been intensely battering, blowing and sweeping across the continent with the vehemence and chaos of a desert storm. Religion must not be allowed to keep Africa in the dark as it did to Europe for a millennium and half. But it is the Africans who will have to say no. Like the Greeks, Africa must create its own heroes as a baseline to be emulated, to shake off the primitive superstitions and taboos by showing that the African can do amazing things by his nature, with strengths scarcely known and understood. The African solution lies within the human in him. I argue that it is better to be human than to be religious for while humanism seeks to promote all that is good and whole amid the said chaos, religion seeks only to forgive ones mistakes without bothering to correct the errors…hence the perfection of sin. Religion is man seeking to remain in sin and to escape and avoid punishment. In away, religion is the outward expression of human failure to accept his role together with the consequent desperation and acceptance of a destiny which is not determined but which he must define.
It is a huge responsibility to define oneself but it is one that none can escape even if the choice is refusing to define oneself; the refusal to do so becomes one’s definition. There are innumerable paths to follow for man to realise who he is and religion is one of them and the most popular. It could therefore mean that it is the least human-energy expending path among all other choices available…in other words, among the recipe of free will ala-carté menu, it is the most easily prepared. No wonder Sartre was French! Who else could have seen through the kitchen of humanism to realise that the only cooks within the kitchen of our existence is our existence that must create our essence?
Africans are capable of creating their own coherent essence but the plaintive African song of help and expectation on others to perform must cease. It needlessly goes without saying that it will take Africans to nudge each other on the road to progress, as only them can understand each others’ limitations but still grasp and comprehend the danger of remaining stagnant. The African culture is rich in its own way, but it has failed to blend and compete in today’s stringent and technologically oriented world. Often in the trading pyramid, the African man is at the bottom and literally bears the weight of the world above. He is left to collect the dross and detritus from the river of wealth, which goes to reduce his health and ability to work; some very good foundation to remain at the bottom of the pyramid is entrenched. But as has been said before, the answer to the African problem will come from within; so much from within that it lies within each and every individual; may that person be a peasant farmer, a clerk in the office, a messenger, a teacher, a politician and a host of all other occupations that goes to define a society. Obviously there are many factors that need to be evaluated to bring the problem to the forefront, at times making brutal surgical operations on behaviours that have come to be regarded as normal but which in reality need to be ruthlessly uprooted to enable the society to move on and for it to rendezvous with its expectations. Among those are unfavourable family values, promoted by lose sexual proclivity, almost leaning towards satyriasis, alcoholism and outward showmanship in consumption without having to work for it. The doctrine of capitalism and survival must invite community at its centre where every person is now their won centre. But first there are expectations: of others and of self.
The culture of expectation on others in the African societies is shocking, yet no one seems to expect the other to expect of them. They expect changes to happen without the changes changing them. Like the famous Mahatma Gandhi said, “Become the change you want the world to be”. When everyone expects himself to perform, only then will a permanent and lasting solution to the almost redundant African problem will have been solved. There is whole phenomenon needing to be laid bare on a mosaic of social behaviours and disparity within different ethnic groupings. It may become almost impossible to understand for even within a single piece of the mosaic, changes are taking place with time and without any discernible pattern. But we must not throw in the towel on hope and wait for the ‘end of times’…there will be no end to misery if waiting becomes the means. Even though the river of hope seems to have run dry, with millions needlessly suffering, dying of thirst and starvation, while plenty abide within and without, Africa must survive and learn to quench the thirst on dew as it digs the wells of wealth and knowledge from its people. But the question still remains: How can the African man lift himself from Hades? A superfluous question? No it is not. It is a question running to the core of African behavioural science, intrinsically tied to the economic development and sustenance. The question of morality, truly in philosophical terms needs to be answered and not from a narrow subjective view to fit and to allow oneself to survive, but reasoning must permit the society to come in as mode of cooperation for better survivability.
The ordinary African person must bring a cultural change within the leadership while the leadership must initiate, enhance and festoon good cultural practices to the common man by denouncing every act of wrong doing, not just one of monetary corruption, but anything that goes to undo the moral fabric of the nation. Self-purification is something of a culture and it must be condemned. Lose sexual tendencies abound everywhere. They are allowed to proliferate with some kind of acclaim even; leaders together with their followers need not worry about their behaviours…the credibility to exert political leadership has nothing to do with their libido; be they man or woman. It is permitted yet the expenses that go along to maintain this kind of lifestyles runs into the very heart of economic imprudence of the individual when in and out of the office. It leads to careless living and money management becomes some sort of rocket science. The booster fuel therefore is locked somewhere either in the coffers of a public office or in a private company within which the individual happens to be having access. Consequently, skimming falls into the scheme of work. Instant wealth and heroism become the budge of wining; General McCarthy would have been hard put to command the following of an African hero-looter. National imprudence is not only conceived by individual imprudence, it is natured by the same.
If this sounds like a tragedy, tragedies are the corrective measures that nature applies in his ruthlessness and impatience to reach his end. Currently there are emerging democracies which have brought along with them some miserly; in itself not and end; an effect which the African must painfully bear in order to precipitate the right reaction. But presently, these political vehicles running the length and breadth of the continent spewing dust in their wake resemble a mob-rule more than democracies, where everyone is shouting in deafening tones to everyone else. But still, these vehicles have a crucial role to play in allowing the gringo’s to jostle each other in and out of the echelons of power, each subsequent replacement a unit clearer in turbidity of the opaque waters; a little progress but a progress nevertheless. It is a process that will take time but time in the state of nature is only a concept in human mind; meaning that a hundred, a thousand or even a million years is nothing to a natural process. Even though the song of transparency in Africa may at the moment sound like a dirge to a dead hero, it is a song that will finally resurrect the mummies from the dark sarcophagus that Africa seems to have prepared for itself. The western world must not be allowed to spoil the song with their rock guitars in a rock concert style lacking in tune with the Africans in order to rock the existing system to perpetuate Africa and Africans exploitation.
David Nderitu, Davidkn1yahoo.co.uk, 4 January 2006
1) Michael Grant, Myths of Greeks and Romans
2) Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
3) James A Haught, http://www.classic.about.com