Mhambi has been redeployed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On ahistoric inventions, patronising and China

Sometimes, the most interesting things you read are within the comments on blogs.

This week I found two, which I think its worth highlighting. The first relates to the Bullard saga and was made by Michael Osborn on the Constitutionally Speaking blog in reaction to a debate under the post On free speech and the firing of David Bullard.

Osborn argues forcefully that whites are indulging black myths which in itself is patronising.

This is very pertinent in the light of Xolela Mangcu's article today Bullard’s apology and other white lies.

Re: Dlamini contra Bullard

Take a look at Jacob Dlamini’s swipe at Bullard in the Sunday Independent today (“White SA’s Pride is Misplaced,” p. 7.)

Dlamini is a very thoughtful columnist. His sophistication sometimes puts Bullard to shame. Yet today, Dlamini responds to Bullard by spinning a tall tale about a pre-colonial “transportation network.” He rhetorically asks: “[H]ow do you think Africans transported ivory and gold mined in the lowveld and
today’s Zimbabwe to the Mozambican coast for trade with east India, Omanis, the Chinese and Indians in pre-colonial times?”

But it is just absurd to compare the system of roads, bridges and rail constructed in the 19th Century with a pre-colonial “transportation network” — one that operated without the benefit of the wheel. Yet anyone who dares point that out runs the risk of being dismissed as another Bullard.

To indulge Dlamini’s flights of fancy is itself a patronising racism. Bullard depicts “tribal” Africans as simple-minded children. Yet, when liberals panders to Africanist mythology, they too treat blacks as infants. (Don’t tell the kids Santa does not exist, lest we damage their fragile dreams and hopes.) If the white chattering class does not challenge people like Dlamini and Mangu when they are plainly talking rubbish, they are in effect refusing to black writers seriously. That is liberal racism more insidious than anything Bullard is guilty of.

For there is nothing racist in noticing that, on any index of science, technology and economic development, sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind Europe. No more does it insults whites to point out that Europe was stone age backwater for 4000 years, while civilizations flourished in North Africa, Sumeria, Persia and China. Anyone who thinks that Europe’s subsequent ascendancy reflects white racial superiority, or that Africa’s having falling behind demonstrates blacks’ inherent inferiority, is indeed a racist, and an abject idiot to boot.

The Nazis felt the need to need to invent stories about an ancient Aryan civilization, fearing that to admit that their ancestors huddled in caves while non-European civilization flowered would be a grievous attack upon the dignity of the white “race.” Is it inevitable that Africa’s renaissance be bolstered by equally ahistoric inventions?

A while back I wrote a post on what South Africa could learn from China. Well the following post from the BBC's blog Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?) by somebody called rymnd2008 makes my point in a different way:

'The entire western world has the following mis-conceptions about China

Chinese people can only be happy by adopting western style of democracy. False.

Chinese people desire to have right to vote to decide their own government. False.

Chinese government has not done a single useful to the country it governs. False.

Westerners enjoy unlimited freedom. But Chinese think you earn your freedom. Freedom comes at a price tag.

This is why when westerners lecturing Chinese people about Freedom. The Chinese has not got a clue what they mean.

Nowadays, ordinary Chinese can choose their work, can choose the way they live their life, can go aboard, can travel freely, can get passport, can own proprety, can publish books, can go to TV shows.

Comparing with life 30 years ago, ordinary Chinese enjoy unprecedent freedom. Most importantly, China's political system is evolving all the time at slow pace.

Finally, my point is that a country where you can travel by trains running every hour for 350km in 2 hours , is not a poorly managed country. China just started building a railway link between Beijing and Shanghai. The train will run 350km/hr and takes 5 hours to cover a distance of 1200km running every 5 mins. Breath taking.'

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