As you read this blog, please realize I include myself as the ‘we’ portion in referencing others not from the continent of Africa. I do this as I am sure that I have so much more to learn before being able to stand up and say I well understand and can make far better choices. My choices/values/beliefs were formed as a white female growing up in America. As an adult, I have had the opportunity to learn and experience more and therefore make different and better choices in regards to Mother Africa. This simply means I care and will not shirk my responsibility of what has happened in Africa. Anyone will tell you – I am the first to say we are all African as we all came out of/from Mother Africa (this is another blog, yet to be written) and yet somewhere in the last 500 or so years we tried to cast off our true self and re-create ourselves in the manner which we believed represented our beliefs. I also consider myself part of the ‘we’ in relationship to California as I am a registered voter and I have voted since I was 18. This blog is not aimed at making anyone feel badly, rather, it is aimed at the power of knowledge and how much we all stand to learn about making our world a better place. In addition, it is these very complex thoughts which surround me now as I leave the U.S. to go ‘home’ to Mother Africa. Long since being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, I have strived to leave the world a better place than that which I was born into. Unfortunately, I feel that California (and much of America) is not yet at the place of valuing self empowerment and self determination in the manner which it must embrace to move forward.
Somewhere in the back of my brain, as I was falling asleep on July 4, 2009, were two competing thoughts: the welfare state of California (where I live) and the welfare aid given to Africa. I had recently listened to Ms. Moyo on The Commonwealth Club (KQED in Northern California) and have been reading the comments in various newspapers from Californians regarding the budget crisis. Something just clicked – and it was a sad click.
Pretty much what is happening on the continent of Africa (and other third world nations) is quite the same as what is happening in California – the only difference is that we don’t know who to point a finger at as the ‘despotic ruler/legislator/governor’ as it turns out to be US – the citizens of California who have voted in and worked hard to create the miasma. In Africa, the miasma was created by others from off the continent and the residual damage continues to degrade the African continent as we (everyone not from the continent of Africa within the last two centuries – don’t get me going on evolution) have , to some degree (AND RIGHTFULLY SO) guilt about our past behavior.
We can not even clean up the mess in our own yard and yet we think we can do better with some one elses mess.
Ms. Moyo is as thoughtful as Mr. Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty) and much more persuasive as she is from Zambia (read up on some history to understand the convoluted, psychotic relationship of that part of Africa as brought to you by white people from foreign nations). Ms. Moyo and Mr. Sachs do not contradict each other, they have uniquely different perspectives on the same subject.
It seems that ‘we’ (those of us not from the continent of Africa in the last two centuries) would rather believe that ‘they’ (those who are from Africa and not white) do not have the capacity to create their own future, to self regulate, to be worthy of self without our help. It is this exact same thought process which has brought us to the inability to cut down/cut off welfare in California.
Ms. Moyo makes a point during her Commonwealth speaking engagement that we have stopped believing in the capacity of the peoples of Africa so we give them a particular type of aid rather than expecting them to pull themselves up, dust off and get it together, which Ms. Moyo emphasizes will be difficult. It was this specific comment which made the connection for me to California’s welfare debaucle – it will surely be difficult.
The level of difficulty on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most profoundly difficult) will be about a 5 (in my opinion) for Africa. It will be a 10 (in my opinion) for California as we have always had so much, we do not even understand that we can get by with very little. Africans (and other third world nations) not only get by with very little, but expect so much of themselves. In California, we expect very little of those who receive aid. We have a concept in our mind that everyone should be ‘just like us’, except we have not realized yet that the world and happiness does not work in such a manner as what we believe.
Slowly America has begun to believe in her own as evidenced by charter schools which support the capacity building of all students (regardless of color and financial background) and the election of an African-American President. It is within this beleif system change will come, if, and only if, America can understand the difference in types of aid it provides and expectations that are above and beyond a low level standard. As America herself rises from the recent dust up (depression), there is a need to re-evaluate what is being done with our money to ‘help’ those who need support. And yes, as Ms. Moyo has stated, it will indeed be difficul.
May I suggest that those of us who care, learn about how to care – in the form of our own education so rather than merely give money, we empower and provide self-efficacy, much in the way of Grameen Bank, Heifer and other organizations that are not merely in existance to assuage our guilt, but exist to actually do good and make the world a better place.