Friday, 4 November 2011

Sorry, you can't change history

During my lifetime the African continent has made the most phenomenal social advances. In the cities with power supplies, refrigerators, aircon units and televisions equip even the humblest shanty or shack; cellphones have enabled those cities to avoid the 'copper cage' telecoms stage altogether, and cheap jet travel from city to city has bypassed the expense of building roads and railways. The death-toll from simple preventable disease has plummeted. Something else is noticeable as well; modern Africans all wear Western-style clothes that cover their breasts and genitals. 


It must be extraordinarily difficult for today's young people to imagine the African continent as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. It was the staple of our childhood cinema and television; Armand and Michaela Denis were household names, we never missed an episode of 'Daktari' (with Clarence the cross-eyed Lion), and every other wildlife documentary was set in the great rift valley or on the savannah. Africans were of two distinct types. Firstly were the educated, Westernised inheritors of Empire who shared our values system and our tailors. Then there were all the primitive village folk, in loincloths with bone earrings, who were variously porters, unskilled labour or wildlife poachers. Grinning women with huge swinging dugs and infants on their hip waited table, and blokes with flapping todgers ran around the place joy-shrieking. The nudity was, quite frankly, what made these programmes and documentaries interesting to a young English chap. 


All the academic and historical evidence supports this depiction as more authentic than not. Not everywhere, of course; not in the nascent cities, nor in places with the lengthiest history of colonisation or civilisation. But generally in that swath of the continent south of Addis Ababa, north of Pretoria and east of Kinshasa.  


Instead of trying to censor history, we should celebrate that the people of that continent have advanced so far in so short a period of time. You really can't overlay the present on the past with any degree of academic honesty. 

8 comments:

bakko said...

Quite, and what will be the result of the increasing Chinese presence on that continent ?

Greg Tingey said...

cheap jet travel from city to city has bypassed the expense of building roads and railways.
Well, THAT'S a mistake, for a start!

Is there any hope that Cape-to-Cairo will ever be built?
Probably by the Chinese, who are well into strategic railway construction.
Oh dear, that reminds me, where... oh yes...
"Berlin-to-Bhagdad"

Elby the Beserk said...

And here is a fantastic presentation (3 or 4 in fact) on how development in the 3rd world continues apace, and why it is so important.

www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2010/12/data_visualation

Anonymous said...

Just when the British should be sticking their oar back into African waters, we are pansying about.
The Chinese can see it, the potential of the continent is massive.
Africa could feed itself too with a little nous, an end to one dictator and with a new self determination.

White and black working together - what an opportunity Britain is missing out on.
If we could just stabilise and enrich one country, as an exemplar - it would be enough.

Anonymous said...

"If we could just stabilise and enrich one country, as an exemplar - it would be enough."

Didn't we do that once already?

Savonarola said...

The Africa(Where no Vultures Fly)you describe was eradicated from the moment Kwame Nkrumah took the Gold Coast/Ghana to hell in a handcart followed closely by the Belgians bolting from the Congo.

In 1960 the Congo descended back into Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Only the Chinese can restore the infrastructure as they swap roads and bridges for precious minerals.

anon 2 said...

Something else is noticeable as well; modern Africans all wear Western-style clothes that cover their breasts and genitals. .. ummm... unless they happen to be in certain areas of the west, where "sagging" their trousers is the thing to do. The girls do the same with their fronts.

Maybe you can take the Africans out of Africa, but ... :)

andy said...

bakko..,if the Africans think the Europeans were brutal racists,they`ve got one hell of a shock coming once the Chinese have really got their claws into Africa.