Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Ignorance of the Educated a.k.a Postcolonial Projections of Hell Elsewhere

"...the way the West constructs itself underwrite and animate its constructions of the other…the stories the West most often tells itself about itself are indeed stories of self-production, a practice that does induce blindness. They are myths of self-sufficiency in which ‘the West’ reaches out only to bring to others the fruits of progress that would otherwise be beyond their grasp." Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present

"They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented." Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire

I can understand why R. was upset that every time Africa was mentioned, the words "poverty," "AIDS," and " "corruption" almost always followed. Africa is more than just the sum of poverty, AIDS and corruption, but this is the continent's only known face in rich nations. To them, Africa is what they see on TV and read on the news. Africa, like most of the Third World, is a zone perpetually in turmoil, ravaged by all sorts of natural calamities. It is a land where evil men perpetrate unspeakable atrocities on others - such as militias hacking off hands of the enemies, and even breasts of innocent women. The Third and Fourth worlds, most of which were once colonies of the First World, are the dirty, smelly, open sore of humanity.

It sounds like a harsh existence indeed. But people manage to survive and live despite their troubles. In the poor and very poor nations, people still go to each other's houses and have barbecues and dinners. They congregate in kitchens and tell each other stories. In the Third World people go and see movies. As a denizen of Manila, a well-connected city in the Asian movie piracy hub, one might say our choices in films are even more abundant.

People in the Third and Fourth Worlds still go to restaurants, sit down and eat. They look at each other over the table and talk about their work, their families, their concerns. They call each other on the phone and gossip about who slept with whom, who got promoted over whom, who got married to which cousin. They ride cars and other forms of transportation, so they are just as concerned as everyone on the planet over the price of petrol. They laugh, they smile, they bleed, they cry.

2/3 of the planet's population are more than just poverty, AIDS and corruption. More than floods, volcano eruptions and earthquakes. More than chaos, more than crime, more than terrorism, more than hell on Earth. Sure, the poor and the poorest struggle to live, but this is also why so many live to struggle. Africa is not just a hapless victim of misfortune, whose people are in constant need of interference and salvation by (largely clueless) external forces. They are human beings too. They have brains. They can think of solutions to their own problems.

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