Everybody's Got One
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003


A quick note on an unrelated topic as the Iraq campaign begins:

I spent a few hours the other day listening to an academic conference on African economic development that was hijacked by the Black Athena/Africa-is-the-source-of-all-civilizations-and-the-paradigm-for-all-oppressions crowd. Sad, of course – not least because development is a necessary (but insufficient) remedy for many of Africa's ills, and economics is one of the last things these folk are interested in. (Critical thinking skills are another issue.)

I used to dismiss them as crackpots and imposter scholars – which of course they are – but I'm becoming less sanguine about their harmlessness. Like the holocaust-deniers and Islamists they resemble, their silly notions have consequences, and the consequences are not good ones.

9/11 made clear how dangerous it is in an interconnected world for a people to base their self-image and historical consciousness on fantasy rather than reality; we ignored decades of Arabist nonsense to our peril. It would be short-sighted to ignore Afrocentric nonsense simply because the stated aim is consciousness-raising rather than revenge, or because Africa is currently too marginal to pose a direct threat.

A sample argument: Many African governments are corrupt, oppressive, tribal, undemocratic, and often illegitimate. But these are symptoms, not causes, of the lack of development that is a legacy of colonialism.Translation: Our society's multiple failures are not our fault; they're the West's.
Where have we heard this before?

I hope this is a completely unrelated topic.

posted by Kelly | 2:50 PM link