Monday, July 16, 2007

"Stop Trying to Save Africa, Please"

Uzodinma Iweala, the author of Beasts of No Nation (the book referenced here) wrote an editorial in yesterday's Washington Post that should give us all pause. I read his book a few months back, a harrowing, fictional account of a boy child soldier in a fictional African country (but all too real, it seems). In this editorial, he is angered by the way in which Americans have embraced African causes, including violence in Darfur, as "fashionable" and "trendy." He finds the latest edition of Vanity Fair offensive, as he sees it being about whites saving the continent -- rather than Africans continuing to find solutions for themselves.

He's right, of course. But we can't help it. Because of Americans' search for quick fixes and immediate gratification, we have a tendency to oversimplify - think simple solutions and funding will solve the world's problems. My trip to Ethiopia a few years ago, during one of its near famines, was a reminder that this is never the case - as social, economic and political challenges are intertwined and all too often problems are exacerbated over time. Nevertheless, when we stop caring about these nations,when we stop trying to find solutions to poverty and HIV/AIDS, when we turn away rather than seek to do something, something is very wrong. Let's hope that day never comes.

No comments: