Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
(Or: An Antidote to Sports Relief)
(Or: all the opinions I’m ever likely to express about Africa, all in one blog post.)
(Or: Africa, Aid, Gap Years & Kony 2012)
Why I don’t like writing about Africa:
Despite having lived and worked in Africa on and off throughout the past 8 years, I have rarely written or blogged about it. Or if I have, I’ve kept the writing largely observational. Even the book we wrote about the region of Angola we lived in avoided, where possible, strong politicised opinions (PLUG!). This was mainly due, I think, to discovering that when it came to Africa, no matter how much you have studied, or think you know, you quickly learn that, in fact, you know next to nothing. The most dangerous Westerners in Africa are the ones who think they understand the place.
The danger of this position, I realise, is the risk of adopting a kind of voluntary paralysis on any issue; a refusal to act in the face of apparently obvious injustice or wrongdoing. The way we dealt with this in Angola, and more recently in Uganda, was to assess every single situation in isolation, to adopt no ‘standard codes of practice’ (essentially the opposite to how we love to do things in the West – we love our standard codes of practice over here!) and to respond to every situation from as blank a canvas as possible. This enabled us to respond to local issues and conflicts and avoid being paralysed by them. It was not for us to tackle wider national, or cultural issues. I was very happy to leave those to the Angolans. And Angola is rather unique in having been (at least in relation to some of its neighbours) largely left alone to construct and organise itself, at least in recent years, at least since the end of its thirty-year civil war. There is very little European influence evident in the governance of Angola.
Not so Uganda.
(As it happens, there is an excellent blog and website by this very name, written by someone with far more knowledge than I - http://goodintents.org/ - one of the reasons why I'm so reluctant to write about Africa.)