Africa, You Idealize the West and Shouldn’t
In his post, Africa’s Development: The Word is Emancipation, Nigerian journalist Fred Nwonwu highlighted excellent points on why African nations remain under developed. He talks about the affect of western languages and how they’ve negatively impacted on the development of Africa because of the reliance on external countries assistance and therefore the ease in communication that comes from one mutually agreeable language, the foreign one as apposed to local languages.
It raised a concern for me on how idealised the west is in African countries. Having not been there (yet) I cannot speak for the Africans but if their way of thinking about the west is anything like the South East Asians then my concerns remain relevant. South East Asians look to the west for the answers, not just from a helping point of view but also for the model of a good (read: wealthy) life. This is not an accurate portrayal of what western countries are really like.
If you take the west purely on the images thrown at you from the media & advertising, Hollywood movies or American sitcoms then it’s easy to get swept up in the farcical representation of what life must be like. Add to that the clear differences in economy and your left with the idea that these wealthier countries must be better places to live.
The materialism that exists in Australia has become a cloud masking happiness. No longer do people shop for necessities, now it’s a form of entertainment. Spending money is fun. Having enough money to spend is fun. Other poorer countries see this and want it too. And it’s easy to see why. It’s been drummed into everyone’s heads that to have things is to have happiness.
What Australia lacks is true passion, heart and a drive for cultural identity. We could’ve incorporated much more of the Aboriginal culture into our every day life, we could’ve transformed the negative history we’ve created (& continue to create) by integrating it into all aspects of Australian life, making it normal and respected. Instead what we’re faced with is our Aboriginals being treated like outcasts. And yet, Aboriginal culture is rich and vibrant with beauty and real culture. It connects with the land and the spirit; it respects all aspects of the human/ Earth connection. This relationship is what is lacking in western countries. Consumerism has built the Great Wall between our true nature and living.
I only have Sanni’s description of his home city of Lagos to go by when I suggest that even there in a population in excess of 7.9 million that they would have more heart and more awareness than Australians simply because if you stripped away all the westernised ideologies you’d be left with people who are very close to their true cultural ancestry. Take the west out of Australians and you’ve got, well, nothing, because it’s all we know. There is no substance other than the things that can be bought and the religions people put their faith in.
Of the African friends I have, none have difficulty (no matter what part of Africa they come from) identifying what it means to be African. They have a cultural identity that links them the world over to where they’ve come from and gives each person a commonality beyond the colour of their skin or the dialect they speak because they remain associated with the nature of their land. It is not necessarily shown through the stereotypical images of the African people, their animals, their tourist destinations; these are what the west sees. Africans are connected with one another and their culture through their music, their dance, their art, their movies, their authors, their stories; this respect is paramount to their way of life.
What can Aussies say of themselves? Beaches. Beer. Barbeque’s. These are Tourism Australia’s icons that are meant to depict the culture of Australia. Add to this images of the animals, the Bush, and the true blue Aussie farmers. To me, these farmers are the real Australians because they work with the land, they have a connection with the country and a deep respect for what it can deliver. What of the 89% of Australia’s 22.5 million population that don’t live/ work on the land?
Take away the immigrants and the Aboriginals and what you’re left with are what most people here associate with as being Australian, that is, the white folk. I’m not taking a racist slant here so please don’t get all high and mighty on me when I suggest that the majority of Australians are thought of as white. It’s sad and it sucks but that’s the reality. The fact is that European Australians make up nearly 60% of the population here.
I drew the race card specifically because when you have a culture that isn’t seeped with the rich diversity of the land and its spirit you’re left with a whole bunch of people who like to shop. Materialism is the culture of western countries like Australia because there is no definable attribute that connects all westerners to each other. Except of course, money.
Having enough money is a trap. It’s a continuous cycle of more and more. That is, I believe, what African people (and all countries that idealize the west) need to extend themselves away from. In all the desiring there is a loss of appreciation for what is already in their grasp. Individual identity in a sea of same sameness is rare indeed in the Australian culture because everyone wants the latest gadget, the fastest car, the next slick mobile phone. It’s ugly and it’s empty. There isn’t heart in the Australian life because the substance is made from money.