April 19, 2016 | Filed under: business | Democracy 3:Africa007
So…I’m a white guy from England. You can see a picture of me on the right there. I grew up in London in the 1970s and early 1980s. Racism was a thing, for sure. We had TV programmes that i remember watching such as ‘the black and white minstrel show‘. That was on prime time TV. We also had ‘love thy neighbour‘ a ‘hilarious comedy’ about what happens when a non-white neighbor moves in next door. To quote from wikipedia:
He is even more annoyed when Bill gets a job at the same factory as he has, and refers to him as a “nig-nog”, “Sambo”, “choc-ice” or “King Kong”. He also has a tendency to call Chinese, Pakistanis or Indians names like “Fu Manchu“, “Gunga Din” and “Ali Baba“.
Thats the world I grew up in.
Luckily, that world isn’t here any more. I think Britain has come a long long way in this regard. I remember the guy who everyone knew as ‘the black newsreader’ because that was such a big deal. Recently BBC Radio 4 got a Jamaican continuity announcer and hardly anyone even noticed. If you watch ‘Life on mars’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’, you see the world I grew up in, and its striking how different it seems to the world today regarding both sexism and racism.
So I thought here we all were in a wonderful modern non racist society and I could make a game about African Politics and the worst thing that could happen would be people not being interested.
But no! In fact the worst thing that can happen is spending a lot of time deleting, blocking, banning and reporting racist abuse on twitter, facebook and the steam forums (to name just 3). I’m not exactly a cosseted middle class liberal who has never seen online (or real world) harassment. I used to be a boat-builder and bridge builder. I was just surprised at home many people could, in the year 2016, go out of their way to tell me that the solution to all Africas problems would be ‘rule of the white man’ or that ‘they are all savages and rapists anyway’ and so on, and so on. I guess so far, so normal stupid internet abuse, albeit with a particularly offensive nature. The other thing that shocked me, and was arguable more interesting was the skewed world view…
It seemed to me (mostly from the time of day when such comments appeared) that a lot of North Americans have a complete warped idea of what Africa is like. The assumption from a large swathe of the comments I’ve seen is that no African states have Democracy, that there are no functioning economies there, that basically the whole continent is kept afloat by foreign aid, and that at least half the continent is constantly at war, or raping or beheading their neighbors. The most popular comment was ‘Democracy, Africa, pick one! LOL’.
Now of course, I’m not the one to point out that the USA is currently pitting a guy who inherited millions of dollars and is best known as a reality TV star against the wife of a previous president in a two-party race which they call ‘Democracy’ and possibly is in too glass a house to throw stones. I do have some understanding of why people have this point of view, and here it is.
This is Russia:
This is Iran:
This is Japan:
Except obviously thats all bollocks isn’t it? This is the media ‘image’ that we get fed, and used as the ‘shorthand’ for those countries. I have not visited any of them, and in my mind, Japan really is full of Samurai soldiers guarding cherry blossom while geisha girls sing karaoke. Thats laughable, about as laughable as assuming because I’m English, I live here:
Ok, TBH I do live there, but that isn’t the point. To turn it on its head and show the American ‘shorthand’ its probably this:
Which again, we can all laugh about. The thing to remember is that ALL of these are simplifications, exaggerations and caricatures. And that means SO IS THIS:
The population of Africa is 1.1 Billion people. It contains 54 sovereign states. I can’t even name them all, and we just made a game about 10 of them. The idea that all 54 states can be summed up in the same image, or the same way is laughable. If I said people in Chicago probably all wear sombreros and eat quesadillas, you’d say ‘hold on thats Mexico’, but thats about as daft as lumping South Africa in with Egypt, or Mauritius.
Its similarly dumb to discount African democracy. take a look at the ratio of Female to male politicians for one thing. You will find Senegal, South Africa and Rwanda all rank above both the UK and the USA. To look closer at South Africa, it has higher voter turnout that both the UK and USA. In terms of economics South Africa has a lower budget deficit that the USA, the USA’s total debt is 65% higher as a proportion as GDP than South Africa. Total crime rate in the USA is 4 times higher than South Africa. SA has 34% more cellphones per 1,000 people than the USA…etc etc. Obviously I’m cherry picking, but the idea that everyone in Africa sits in a tent waiting for an aid package to arrive is bullshit, and yet it persists.
So TL;DR: USA, your media gives you a very, very skewed opinion of the one billion people living in Africa. Do some research. Do not accept stereotypes as facts, just as you don’t expect us to see you all as obese, flag waving, hummer driving, gun-toting cliches. I would write more on this topic, but Carson informs me that tea is served in the drawing room, and I do enjoy those cucumber sandwiches.