The ethics of giving
December 8, 2008 6:28 PM   Subscribe

How to write about Africa. Binyavanga Wainaina is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa. An interview with Krista Tippet.
posted by nax (12 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
[previously] (although, its link has gone 404)
posted by finite at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2008

Thank you, finite.
posted by anniecat at 7:45 PM on December 8, 2008

Er, thank you, nax. Sorry, my screen is small and my eyes jumped to finite's post.
posted by anniecat at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2008

I normally can't stand Krista Tippet but was riveted to this interview when I heard it this.
posted by lunasol at 8:30 PM on December 8, 2008

Oops, this = this weekend.
posted by lunasol at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2008

well that was condescending
posted by radiosig at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2008

I agree with lunasol, I typically find Krista Tippet to be cloying and insipid, but the Wainaina interview was pure gold: "If I'm the German government and I want to build a hospital anywhere in Africa, people will be like 'Here, what color do you want it?'." That, and his comment about Mandela and rainbows, and his insights into the fantasizing of Europe and American about Africa made me want to have (several) beers with him.

Please, someone send Binyavanga $5(US) in aid, so he can bring that level of insightful snark here.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:05 PM on December 8, 2008

Oh, and if anyone here is thinking about updating Said's Orientalism to reflect Western attitudes towards Africa, I've got dibs on that.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:07 PM on December 8, 2008

As soon as I clicked the link, I was reminded of the article I send every annoying freshman that tries to get me to participate in the Global Night Commute: Stop Trying to Save Africa.
posted by aliceinreality at 12:46 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's really amazing how the rest of the world (The "West"?) has fetishized Africa. It's become a focal point for all the fears, primativism, and dark fantasies of the "civilized world" (can I just say "white folks" and be done with it?). As the author indicates, breasts, any kind of genitals. War. Starvation. Strife. Don't show well-adjusted; that ruins the fantasy. Compartmentalize the id, the "dark" parts. Wall them off in "Africa". Send money to show that you're taking care of them. Seeming conversant with it shows that you are in touch with the dark; and by extension, the dark parts of yourself. This will convey a sense that you have mastered this aspect of yourself, when really all you have done is hid it, pushed it away, and refused to gain any in-depth knowledge of it.

I had my eyes opened a bit watching, believe it or not, an episode of King of the Hill recently ("Get Your Freak Off" in case you're keeping score). Bobby meets a young girl whose parents are incredibly permissive. "Don't call me dad" types, with cool nicknames who encourage their kids to be open with them. They allow the kids to drink, as long as it's done at home, and so on. Doesn't sound that bad until they run into another pair of parents from their circle, when it rapidly becomes apparent that their permissiveness is born out of a competitive need to "out-liberal" their neighbor. And it just sort of degenerates (under the surface) into a remastered version of the old chest-thumping savage grunting charade that we like to pretend only happens in "Africa."
posted by Eideteker at 8:36 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents.

That's it. I'm throwing away all my Kipling.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 2:50 AM on December 10, 2008

Oh hey, that guy visited my class a month or so ago. He was quite interesting.
posted by MadamM at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2008

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