Noble Africa

To those who are following the continuing genocide in Darfur, every day brings grim headlines:

Fighting has prompted thousands of people in the southern part of Sudan’s Darfur region to seek security and shelter at a refugee camp in the northern part of the war-torn area, according to the United Nations.

…An estimated 300,000 people in the western Sudanese region have been killed through combat, disease or malnutrition, according to the United Nations. An additional 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of fighting among rebels, government forces and the violent Janjaweed militias.

Though its plight has attracted the most attention, Darfur is far from the only troubled region of Africa. There’s the failed state of Somalia, now a haven for terrorism and piracy, and the outbreaks of famine and cholera brought on by the near-total collapse of Zimbabwe in the face of dictator Robert Mugabe’s refusal to surrender power, to name just the two most prominent examples from recent headlines. How did we let this happen?

Africa was the human race’s first home. It is our birthplace, our cradle. The continent should be a sacred place to all of us, a living temple of memory reminding us of our origins. Instead, it’s poverty-stricken, politically fractured, still laboring under corrupt autocracies and mired in backwardness and superstition. The picture is not all bleak – there are success stories, and notable bright spots – but even so, Africa as a whole lags behind the rest of the world, and still struggles with the legacy of imperialism and the unbridged chasms of its own political divides.

And yet, there was a time when all humans were Africans. Though we’ve spread all over the world in successive waves of migration, our genes have not forgotten the past. Whether you’re European or Asian, from the Arctic or from Polynesia, your heritage can be traced back to families that lived in Africa millions of years ago. If you care to categorize on the basis of something as superficial as skin color, then you can know to a certainty that the blood of black men and women flows in your veins.

It was Charles Darwin who ventured the bold guess that the human race evolved in Africa, and the evidence has vindicated him. It’s in Africa that we find the bones of our earliest known ancestors and our close cousins in the human family tree: species like Lucy’s, Australopithecus afarensis, small hominids who had the heavy brows and brain size of chimpanzees but stood and walked upright like us. It’s in Africa, in Laetoli, that we find the oldest trace evidence of human bipedalism: two trails of footprints frozen in stone, four million years old, where three people – perhaps a family of man, woman and child – walked together across a field of new-fallen volcanic ash. It’s in Africa, in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge, that we find the earliest stone tools. And more controversially, it’s in Africa, at sites like Kenya’s Koobi Fora, that we find possibly the earliest evidence for the domestication of fire.

In short, it’s in Africa that we learned to be human. It was under the shade of Africa’s trees that we first descended to the ground, and on African savannas that we stood upright and walked for the first time. The songs of our childhood were first sung beneath an African dawn; the stories that echo in your bones were first told around African campfires.

Of course, we did not stay in our birthplace forever. As the population grew and wanderlust took the human spirit, we flowed out in successive waves of settlement and conquest. We spread north into the fertile crescent of the Middle East, where we first domesticated animals and plants and built the world’s oldest cities, and into Ice Age Europe, where we eradicated our brothers – the stocky, heavy-browed Neanderthals, who had lived and thrived in the frozen landscape for tens of thousands of years until we arrived. We walked across the Bering Strait into the Americas and fanned out across the Pacific by raft and canoe. We spread over the face of the earth, building mighty civilizations and forging empires in battle and conquest. And, in due time, the conquerors returned – to their own birthplace, had they but known it – and put it under their heel as well.

It took centuries for Africa to throw off that yoke, and the injuries that it suffered still are not fully healed. Its people still grapple with endemic disease, with political corruption and with their own tribalisms, all of which are exacerbated by poverty and international neglect. But still and all, Africa is a noble continent, not in the condescending caricature of the “noble savage”, but nobility in the true sense of the word: those whose blood is purest, whose lineage traces back longest. It is still the home of the most deeply rooted branches of the human family tree: as Richard Dawkins writes in The Ancestor’s Tale, the disappearance of everyone outside Africa would decrease human genetic diversity only slightly, while the disappearance of everyone in that continent would mean the loss of most of our species’ gene pool. Compared to Africa, all the rest of humanity is a prodigal son, descended from a relatively small number of restless wanderers who left a great and ancient family to seek their fortunes in the world.

In the slow ascent of human progress, we have many milestones left to reach. There are ancient trouble spots throughout the world, and we can count ourselves more advanced as we overcome each of them. But the turmoil of Africa is our species’ greatest shame. I can imagine an Earth where Africa takes its rightful place among the pantheon of peoples; an Africa where the archaeological sites of humanity’s origin are sites of pilgrimage, sacred places preserved for all to see and walk in the footsteps of our ancestors. I can imagine an Africa that’s peaceful and prosperous, where gleaming cities exist alongside the simple beauty and grandeur of the savannahs and rainforests that were our childhood home. We may, perhaps, have no right to call ourselves truly advanced until that world is a reality.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I can imagine an Africa that’s peaceful and prosperous, where gleaming cities exist alongside the simple beauty and grandeur of the savannahs and rainforests that were our childhood home.

    Unfortunately I can imagine an Africa where global warming has destroyed the savannas and rainforests, deserts cover the remains of our early ancestors and the current population is displaced or worse.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Indeed. I share your concern. It seems that the rest of the world looks at most of Africa as simply a place to extract natural resources. Or to throw a few billions in loans which are then expropriated or mishandled by the dictators du jour. Or to spruce up a public relations campaign for a charity that puts a small band-aid on Africa’s mortal wounds.

    When it comes to real help, which would often involve military intervention, nation-building and long-term commitment, the world is sitting on its hands.

    Mugabe is a disgrace. I think it could be argued that colonial rule would have served the people of the former Rhodesia better. But then that’s a patronizing view. Africa must get on its feet. If it can’t eventually learn to effectively govern itself, then it will never solve its problems.

    Nigeria is a bright spot because of its oil resources, but is mired with religious divisions (part of the country is under Sharia), corruption and civil war.

    Darfur, Congo and many other countries continue the genocidal heritage of the continent. After Rwanda, people in the West vowed “never again,” and then quickly forgot about it.

    The “Lord’s Resistance Army” still conscripts children and continues its murderous rampages.

    Many liberals have espoused the current “hands-off” attitude. When Clinton tried to intervene, he got a bloody nose in Somalia. But it was not a serious effort. By failing to act, we compound the errors of colonialism. Why is that a better solution than a globally managed effort to reinvent the governments of this troubled continent?

    Does standing back and allowing Africans to slaughter each other assuage our colonial guilt? Or is it just ultimately another form of paternalism: “See what happens when we leave you to your own devices?”

    We need swift and comprehensive global intervention to stop the killing and establish secular democracies–or we all will continue to have African blood on our hands.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Of course, we did not stay in our birthplace forever. As the population grew and wanderlust took the human spirit, we flowed out…

    And thus began the first example of “white flight” in human history!

    Groooaaaaaaan! Yeah, I know, that was bad.

    Seriously though, if there’s one thing I can’t stand is when you have these wingnuts saying that African-Americans should be grateful that their ancestors were brought here as slaves, because otherwise right now they would be living in the hell hole that Africa is today.

    They never stop for a moment to consider the role that the slave trade itself played in making Africa what it is today. Entire regions where farming was taking place ended up depopulated. Functioning societies were crippled.

    I know the popular retort to that is that Africans participated in the slave trade. Well, yeah, they did. I don’t think anyone would argue that Africa was some Edenic paradise before the slave trade. But the European demand for African slaves for their New World colonies had the effect of putting the African slave trade on steroids. Greedy African monarchs saw the benefits of the trade for themselves. In return for giving the Europeans slaves, they received guns, cannons, military advisors and other European commodities and services. And for those rulers who might have had a conscience, they knew that if they did not play ball, those same Europeans would give those guns to their rivals.

    When Clinton tried to intervene, he got a bloody nose in Somalia.

    BlackSun, even worse than that, the experience in Somalia made the Clinton Administration reluctant to intervene to stop the slaughter in Rwanda. It just goes to show how the cancer metastasizes.

  • Tom

    I suppose one big dilemma is that if a relatively prosperous, stable, first-world civilisation takes a hands-off approach to the third world for whatever reason, citing a respect for the native inhabitants’ right to self determination or some such thing, they’re liable to get accused of callous indifference – any kind of intervention, however, risks (or, at least, seems to be widely feared to risk) that country falling back into a colonial “take control of the ignorant natives for their own good” mindset, very probably being accused of such behaviour and denounced even if it’s careful not to. Certainly Mugabe seems to howl about the insidious return of British colonialism in response to even the most reasonable, impartial observation by any westerner about what a goddamn mess the place under his control is at the moment.

  • Polly

    I don’t trust Western powers or wisdom any more than native. The fact is, it’s only the “White man’s” hubris that makes him think he can solve problems that natives can’t. And what makes him think so? Sure as hell ain’t the historical track record.

    The body count from white on white violence committed within a generation of us in just western europe alone towers over that in Africa caused by blacks by orders of magnitude.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    I don’t trust Western powers or wisdom any more than native.

    I’m sorry but that’s simply a recipe for the status quo. It’s not about trust, it’s about objective human values.

    If a greater civilization could have intervened in Western history to stop the genocide of Native Americans, or the murderous purges of Stalin and Hitler, I’m arguing they should have done it.

    To play it off by saying we had hubris, or “we screwed up before” is to entirely miss the point. Are we completely hamstrung by our past mistakes? It’s a very basic question: Either we sit back and allow genocide, or we decide to make it worth our while to do something about it. Shame on us if we keep waffling.

    Genocide and climate change are the top two moral issues of our time. It’s about time the world’s leaders started acting like it.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090306/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_sudan_international_court

    Yet another example of how the global regime is rendered completely powerless against genocide by both “sovereignty” and political posturing. Who thinks Iran and Hamas have any agenda in Sudan other than cynical manipulation? What legitimizes a “sovereign” government such as Sudan whose president is accused of war crimes?

    This is why I’m a globalist. Far too long have narrow interests of national sovereignty provided cover for atrocities.

    Any global government must insist on the rule of secular law. None of this OIC-backed “respect for religion” nonsense. Many of the African genocides have at least a tangential religious cause. If we want to solve the problem, we know what to do. Do we have the will?

  • velkyn

    we have greedy monarchs and we have a continent full of people who don’t seem to care. They all seem to look out for their “group” be it a tribe, and they are like crabs in a bucket. I will have to say that my concern is tempered by the fact the people there allow these horrible people in power. One rarely hears of a popular uprising against such people.

  • Polly

    It’s not about trust, it’s about objective human values.

    When I say “trust” I mean I don’t think “we” are capable of fixing the problems and are apt to possibly make things worse. That is a very real possibility and should weigh on any interventionist’s mind.

    To play it off by saying we had hubris, or “we screwed up before” is to entirely miss the point. Are we completely hamstrung by our past mistakes?

    About 4 million displaced Iraqis and several hudred thousand dead is not ancient history. Ask them (those who survived our liberation) if they would have preferred the status quo. The problem isn’t past mistakes but what those mistakes indicate about our capability to resolve political problems.

    The answer that anything we do is better than the status quo is not satisfactory because it could well be wrong. We may end up making a bad situation worse, or prolonging the the chaos.

    And to top it all off, this all assumes that any government will put what has become diminishing treasure into an adventure purely for humanitarian reasons without wanting anything in return. “Unlikely” doesn’t even begin to describe that scenario.

    Sadly, there is no “greater civilization” to monitor our behavior. A rehash of colonialism in the region is very likely.

    Now, if you are not talking about a military intervention, then please elaborate. I’d like to know what you have in mind. But short of moral support in the form of shared hand-wringing I don’t know what else we can do.

    Even a global government is going to represent some group’s interests over everyone else’s. It’s naive in the extreme, IMO, to think that that much power can be ceded to a governing body “for free.”

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Polly,

    OK, so the Bush/Cheney Iraq intervention is the only way to do it? The analogy is bad in any case, since the U.S. went into Iraq for its own oil interests, not to help the people.

    I’m talking about a specific military effort to reign in genocide. It can be UN peacekeeping troops if you like. But they have to have some teeth and a mandate, and be willing to stay awhile.

    I’m talking about decimating groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, or if you like, arrest them and put them all on trial. But get them out of the countryside.

    Letting food and medical aid through is non-negotiable. So many African governments and warlords play politics with food it’s almost expected in any conflict.

    It’s not like you’re facing an Iraqi army in these places.

    With respect to global governance, it’s a goal: A secular constitutional world republic. Who would have ever thought Europe could be (almost) united a few centuries ago? Or the U.S. for that matter?

    I have a dream.

  • bestonnet

    Original Post:

    We may, perhaps, have no right to call ourselves truly advanced until that world is a reality.

    When will we have the right to call ourselves truly advanced?

    BlackSun:

    Nigeria is a bright spot because of its oil resources,

    Actually having lots of oil is probably a bad thing unless a country is already developed (look at how well the middle east is doing).

    BlackSun:

    This is why I’m a globalist. Far too long have narrow interests of national sovereignty provided cover for atrocities.

    A world government has the very real potential of being much worse than what we have now, we really do need to have multiple countries to ensure that mistakes get corrected (a world government if it has a mistaken policy could very well keep that policy going forever).

    BlackSun:

    Any global government must insist on the rule of secular law.

    That would be worth insisting on.

    BlackSun:

    Letting food and medical aid through is non-negotiable. So many African governments and warlords play politics with food it’s almost expected in any conflict.

    There are people in the west who play politics with food as well and they are partly to blame for starvation in Africa (yes, I’m talking about the anti-biotech luddites).

    BlackSun:

    It’s not like you’re facing an Iraqi army in these places.

    It’s not as if the Iraqi army was much of a foe, the US beat them very quickly and won the war, it is the peace that they are losing (and democracies aren’t very good at wars of convenience, especially when there are people in the conquered country that don’t want them).

    BlackSun:

    With respect to global governance, it’s a goal: A secular constitutional world republic.

    I’d rather wait until we have space colonies before having a world republic (whole not wanting a mistake to stick thing). It’ll probably happen eventually though.

    As for solving the problem:

    Africa really does need to become self-sufficient in food production and that is probably where the resources to be spent (prefer to do it in democracies though, they tend to be more efficient at using foreign aid funding and it may also encourage others to greater democracy). It must also be remembered that the progress of civilisation was dependant upon farmers becoming unemployed so ensuring that there are jobs in the cities is going to be needed.

  • http://www.bellatorus.com Petrucio

    and into Ice Age Europe, where we eradicated our brothers – the stocky, heavy-browed Neanderthals

    You are speculating here. “Where our brothers where eradicated” would be better.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_extinction

  • StaceyJW

    “The answer that anything we do is better than the status quo is not satisfactory because it could well be wrong. We may end up making a bad situation worse, or prolonging the the chaos.”

    PLEASE tell me how it could get worse than genocide, slaughter, mass poverty and starvation, no resources, and total corruption? Do you really foresee it ending on its own? How many mass slaughters are stopped by the victims, without outside help? Isn’t the possibility of stopping this terror worth the risk?

    Iraq was an oppressive dictatorship/police state before the invasion, but the average citizen was at least fed, clothed, working, and had some modern conveniences, like electricity. It was no paradise, there was plenty of terror- but it pales in comparison to the situation in Darfur, which has both the terror AND the physical misery.

    Yes, intervention COULD (and did, overall) make things worse in Iraq. The Iraqui’s did not want what we were offering (after Saddam was toppled anyway), but people in Darfur would LOVE for US assistance to stop the murder and hunger. I doubt they would care WHO helped or why, if it slowed the increasing death toll. Seems to me that no matter how many times we’ve screwed up, there are times we did well, and this time is well worth taking a chance.

    I think that its an excuse, a ridiculous one at that, to say to people living in the midst of genocide “We just aren’t good enough to help you- we might not do it right.”. While we sit in our comfortable homes, discussing and hand wringing over whether or not we can/should improve the situation well enough, people are being SLAUGHTERED and are STARVING. Even a temporary reprieve would be an improvement, though I’m confident that we could stop the killing with a military intervention, and a humanitarian rebuilding program.

    There are a few key reasons to have a strong, capable, military (which we do), and this is one of them! For all the money we put into military might, we should at least use it for desperate situations like this: where our strength and ability are not only wanted, but needed. What good is a military force, if its not available to stop horrible atrocities, and defend our sovereignty? (rhetorical question)

    Would we commit the necessary resources? Unlikely. We can say that we “build democracy”, or whatever the doublespesk of the week it, but without out monetary or security benefit- forget it. I guess stopping genocide for purely moral reasons is important enough for our government.

    Of course, there will always be someone complaining. Couldn’t put it better than Tom did (“they’re liable to get accused of callous indifference….take control of the ignorant natives for their own good, mindset”) Instead of worrying about pleasing everyone, why not try to fix the obvious?

    StaceyJW

  • bestonnet

    StaceyJW:

    The Iraqui’s did not want what we were offering (after Saddam was toppled anyway), but people in Darfur would LOVE for US assistance to stop the murder and hunger.

    It is only a minority of Iraqi’s (and even then many of the insurgents aren’t even from Iraq) that are attacking US forces and if anyone goes into Sudan (once the taken resistance the government can offer is dealt with) it’ll only be a minority that attack them, but that minority will cause the same result as Iraq (including the public opinion result).

  • prase

    Afghanistan is a good example why western intervention can fail. The problem is that our culture and values are largely incompatible with theirs. We can try to impose our culture (democracy, religious tolerance, freedom of speech…) by force, but it is very similar to colonialism. Remember that the colonialists usually had some justification why it was right to subdue the indigenes. And the natives hated the colonialist not necessarily because the colonisation lead to deterioration of their living conditions, but also because a foreign culture was enforced. Many people in Afghanistan are willing to fight against the occupants only to preserve their traditional life style full of prejudices and ignorance. And it is highly improbable, even if we surprisingly succeeded in our goal to transform the Afghan society, that further generations of Afghanis will appreciate our efforts.

    I don’t say what should we do since I don’t know. I only say that it is not much consistent to criticise colonialism and in the same moment to endorse interventions in Africa.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    There’s no question intervention can go wrong. But the dangers of doing nothing are non-zero. In fact, we can quantify it: Well in excess of a million deaths since 1994. This rivals the Holocaust in magnitude.

    So even an imperfect intervention might be better than that. Morally, I think making an effort is far superior to non-intervention, even if the effort were to fail or have negative side-effects.

  • bestonnet

    The danger to me personally from doing nothing pretty much is zero and it’s the same for pretty much everyone in the west (i.e. those who get to decide whether to do anything).

    Making an effort isn’t enough, you’ve got to actually solve the problem (or at least make things a bit less worse), a lot of people have made an effort at solving problems and only made things worse (which we could still very well do if we screw up).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Morally, I think making an effort is far superior to non-intervention, even if the effort were to fail or have negative side-effects.

    I second BlackSun’s analysis here. As anyone could probably have guessed from this post, I regard Africa’s turmoil as the responsibility of all humanity. If we intervene, I grant we may screw it up, even make things worse – but the certain result of our inaction is continued suffering and death for tens of thousands more. I would weigh the mere possibility of our failure against the certainty of ongoing disaster if we continue in our apathy.

    I think a large part of the reason why Western intervention in Africa hasn’t succeeded is our failure to go “all in”. We offer some help, but not as much as is needed – and then we pull back and leave countries unstable or in the thrall of dictators, or we offer aid without demanding sufficient accountability and oversight to prevent it being squandered by corruption. President Clinton fell prey to this as well, when he took fright and pulled troops out of Somalia as soon as the headlines got bad – thus ensuring that the country would become the failed state and haven for terrorists that it now is. By contrast, the very successful campaign to eradicate polio is a proof that outside intervention in Africa doesn’t have to go badly.

    Granted, in the past, Western intervention in Africa has caused or exacerbated many of the problems they now suffer from. But we shouldn’t let the specter of colonialism deter us from taking action where our intentions truly are benevolent. (It’s a total mystery to me, for example, why a multinational force hasn’t already descended on Zimbabwe to eject Mugabe and end his reign of terror over the populace.) We shouldn’t be involving ourselves where our help isn’t wanted, or where local people and governments have already achieved stability. But for failed states like Somalia, or ones run by genocidal governments like Sudan, reform may be impossible without at least some outside assistance.

  • bestonnet

    Ebonmuse:

    I think a large part of the reason why Western intervention in Africa hasn’t succeeded is our failure to go “all in”.

    Democracies are not very good at going “all in” when they aren’t threatened and right now I don’t see Sudan threatening any western democracies.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Ebonmuse,

    I wanted to tell a brief personal story here. My parents had congregations in Africa in the 1970s, in both Ghana and Liberia. They were well-known enough to get an audience with the heads of state in both countries. So we were treated like visiting dignitaries.

    In Ghana, we were given a tour of the Volta River Authority power plant, a huge hydroelectric project that had dammed up and created a new lake. But the industry which was supposed to use all the power produced by the plant never materialized. It was supposed to be for refining bauxite, but there was not enough locally produced ore to justify the plant. Certainly it’s good that renewable energy exists, but the point is that when it was first developed in 1961 it was overkill. There were thousands of people displaced by the new lake, and some of the country’s most fertile land was inundated. We also saw short sections of large interstate type highways in Ghana which were built with no clear purpose or destination.

    It’s well known that throughout Africa many infrastructure projects sit unfinished. They were started with loans which saddled many of these countries with unsustainable debt, without investing in the appropriate development they so desperately needed.

    While in Ghana in 1978, we had dinner with several high government officials. Within months, one of the people we had dinner with (Gen. Akuffo) had participated in a coup which killed the president (Gen. Acheampong) and several of the others who had been at the dinner. Akuffo himself was killed shortly thereafter.

    In Liberia, founded by freed American slaves and with a flag eerily similar to our own, it was much the same story. We stayed at the “palace” of President Tolbert, who was soon deposed and shot. The government of Samuel K. Doe came to power but ruled with crushing authoritarianism, banning opposition parties. Within a few short years after that, a few more regime changes and escalating insurgencies, Liberia had actually become one of the first nations since the discovery of electricity to completely lose its electric grid and water system. The capital city of Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) was without power or water for many years, and was largely run by gangs. A 2005 election brought new hope for stability. As far as I know they have gotten their power grid running again.

    The point here is that these nations often just can’t do it on their own. They are so desperate that no matter who wins the battles they are facing the same severe problems of lack of infrastructure, education and appropriate investment. Recent incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Aden demonstrate the desperation. Whole cities were depending on the economic boost provided by ransom payments to the pirates. It was their only real source of income.

    The biggest tragedy is the loss of the greatest resource in Africa: the creative minds of its own people. Most of the objections to intervention have to do with the inability of non-Africans to understand the needs and concerns of Africans. To deal with that, it’s absolutely vital to educate and build up African talent who can go to work on Africa’s problems. It’s also quite possible that an African genius could make a scientific breakthrough of significance to the entire world. The next Einstein could be languishing in some African village right now without sufficient food or water, or without access to education. That’s a tragedy we just cannot allow.

    There’s a great TED talk by 2008 TED Prize winner Neil Turok called “An African Einstein.” He’s involved in the AIMS program to build science and math colleges throughout the continent. But these will not succeed in changing the continent without peace and infrastructure development. Obviously, they will also not succeed as long as countries are convulsed by genocide.

  • staceyjw

    Its not mandatory that we push our cultures on others in order to stop genocide. I know it has been common to do this, but it is not necessary.

  • bestonnet

    So if someone has a culture of killing off those they don’t like we can stop them from causing genocide without pushing our culture of not killing off those we don’t like on them?

    Yeah, maybe we could, for as long as our voters are willing to have our troops in danger.

    Some of the problem in Africa is cultural and some of the culture does need to change although I doubt we could force a change, merely help it along.

  • Johan

    First I thought this was going to be yet another text on how evil Europeans are, and that we are to blame for all the world’s ills. But I was positively surprised! It was a beautiful text.

    I agree with you. Though it would take a “League of Democracies” – and honest intentions – to bring it about.

    There is a case for cultural imperialism worth pondering: http://markhumphrys.com/cultural.imperialism.html

    “I had decided I wanted to study political science. … I wanted to understand why life in Holland was so different from life in Africa. Why there was so much peace, security and wealth in Europe. What the causes of war were, and how you built peace. … Every contact I had with government, I thought, “How do you get to have a government like this?” … This was an infidel country, whose way of life we Muslims were supposed to oppose and reject. Why was it, then, so much better run, better led, and made for such better lives than the places we came from? Shouldn’t the places where Allah was worshipped and His laws obeyed have been at peace and wealthy, and the unbelievers’ countries ignorant, poor, and at war?”

    “It is always difficult to make the transition to a modern world. It was difficult for my grandmother, and for all my relatives … It was difficult for me, too. I moved from the world of faith to the world of reason – from the world of excision and forced marriage to the world of sexual emancipation. Having made that journey, I know that one of those worlds is simply better than the other. Not because of its flashy gadgets, but fundamentally, because of its values. The message of this book, if it must have a message, is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.”

    Both quotes are from Ayaan Hirsi Ali.