Pursuing the important theme of solutions to the African conditions, Edward Kissi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of African History, USF, Dept. of Africana Studies, reviews a previous submission
Pius Adesanmi's piece on "wrong wiring" has much in it to commend itself to serious minds. "Wrong wiring" has its cousin in "wrong grasp of the dimensions of Africa's crises." I come from a discipline that celebrates balanced and diverse explanation of human conditions or decisions and actions. I tolerate, but tremble at interpretations that deviate from that. I see one solution of Africa's problem in "balanced, unideological and unemotional analysis of the continent's problems." Yet I wonder whether it is sane and sound for us to approach our analyses from the wrong assumption that ten or twelve countries out of 54 in turmoil means the entire continent is adrift. This is a continent that equals a combination of the United States, India, China and the continent of Australia and we should be careful not to treat it like one homogenized space.
We can all be disgusted by the greed and graft of some African leaders just as Americans are about those who swindle them at Enron. But greed and graft at Enron do not lead reflective and balanced analysts in America to the conclusion that the entire North American continent is rife with corruption. For some Africans, greed and graft in Ghana or Nigeria are misinterpreted as signifiers of a continent in crisis. So how we study and explain Africa to ourselves and to other is, itself, in need of a solution. If we understand what is right and wrong with us, individually and then collectively, then we can see where the solution lies.
We should be careful not to dismiss the Nigerians in Pius Adesanmi's example 1 who sought "cash" and tangible help from the House Member instead of what appeared preferable from Pius' standpoint. Once we see human desires and aspirations as diverse, then we would understand that what Americans discuss with their representatives in Congress would be different from Nigerians in that district would need. We need to understand their aspirations and the forces shaping them. They may be less interested in the fineries of American-style discussion politics. Indeed, they may not be so interested in requesting the amendment of the Nigerian constitution to protect gay rights at this moment in time. The want cash and why? They have seen the fees of their children rise in schools. They have seen the Nigerian currency depreciate in its value to "world currencies." And who determines which currency is worth how much: Nigerians, Ghanaians or who? Once we recognize that their needs are shaped by their desire to survive in a Nigeria that is part of a world that is changing around them, then those who understand why those changes have occurred and why Nigerians may not able to influence that change to their benefit. It is those who understand the interplay of those forces who would be able to help them.
The attitude that the poor and destitute (eg. Africans) are responsible for their own plight and that nothing best explains their condition than their own stupidity and corruption is indeed a wrong wiring of the intellect. It helps advance a few careers, but intellectuals who are wrongly wired and have a wrong grasp of issues are themselves perpetuators of miserable conditions. Because, they dismiss the causes and partially explain them and cause improper solutions to be offered that compound rather than mitigate the problem.
Solution 1: It is no longer a luxury to permit unbalanced, emotional and unpersuasive analysis that caricatures Africa rather than challenges and informs us to be celebrated as good scholarship and for their peddlers to be mischaracterized as gadflies of conscience. In Holocaust and genocide studies, interpretations that deliberately dismisses core historical factors are labeled as "denial literature" and treated with the contempt they deserve. So as we think about Africa, let us not allow some of us to put fanciful and unbalanced explanations in the marketplace of ideas, because ideas matter. At the very least those who constructed the Tutsi as Hamites in 1895 gave the Tutsi a fictitious notion of themselves. That notion shaped Tutsi power and institution and relations with the Hutu. It alienated the Hutu and those ideas caused genocide in 1994. If you think history does not matter, remember Cicero: "Not to know what happened before you were born is to forever remain a child."