Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Acting White: Dad, Why Is Africa Always Last?

Now my kids have never said this to me, but it would not be unreasonable, considering what we hear and see about the continent, from every media outlet and periodical around every corner. I certainly wondered this growing up. Just recently, the United Nations Development Programme came out (here) with their annual rankings of the best countries to call home, and, as usual, Africa contains nearly all the bottom spots of the list, based on life expectancy, literacy, school enrollment, and gross domestic product (GDP).

So the question is, why is Africa lagging compared to everybody else? Is it because black people are poor leaders and followers, or is it because capitalist/colonialist whites came in and messed everything up? Well I say it is neither. The fact is that Africa was shackled about the wrists and ankles from the start, long before whites ever returned to exploit their birthplace. The last millennium (1,000 years) of brain-drain of the continent has left if without the legions of problem-solvers needed to pull out of the power-dive which holds it on the bottom.

Let’s face it, when we look at Africa we are looking at the only continent that sits almost entirely within the globe’s tropical/non-temperate zone, minus a central place for large scale food production, or agricultural raw materials, including domesticate-able animals. Then add in malaria, perhaps the oldest and most killing disease that has ever existed (p.falciparum), and we see that Africa is, and has been for all of humanity’s time, the world’s number one locale to be ‘from’. This status has lead nearly every African ever born, with an IQ above 85 (their post-brain-drain mean), to use those brain cells to get out and never look back.

So Africans, from the beginning of time before, after, and during the slave trade, have been leaving the continent for good reason, having nothing to do with blackness or whiteness, but rather that it is just too difficult to make the geography do more than barely sustain life. Sure, we can return with the protection and comfort of technology, but that expensive technology was created elsewhere, and most of us could not go there without it and expect to survive.

The story of why Africa is where it remains is really that simple. The hard question is what to do about this, if anything. Exactly, how do we help this place and people? I’m not sure. But I am sure that immigration was invented there, and from the beginning of time it has been about the search for a better place. For humanity, of a thousand years ago, it was a necessity to leave Africa to find places that could better sustain life, and this is no different today. But what we must also not ignore is that the plight of Africa is not a failure of the people, then or now, but rather the place.

James C. Collier

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23 comments:

.::STELLA*DELLA::. said...

VERY INTERESTING READ HONEY!

Anonymous said...

Where is your evidence of this perpetual mass immigration of smart Africans from Africa? Smart Africans may leave nowadays that we have made global travel easy, but before that the only Africans leaving Africa were on slave boats (since Africans didn't explore the oceans themselves), and slave boats most often had the African underclass, not the best and brightest Africans. The best and brightest Africans were the ones selling other Africans to Arab and white slave traders. They were not leaving, why would they? What society would accept them?

African countries are all at the bottom because their people have naturally low IQ's. Places as far apart as Detroit, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe suffer from the exact same problems. It's really quite mysterious to a liberal mind.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 6:25, Your ignorance is boundless, pointing ironically to a 'naturally low IQ'. If your question is serious, pick up ANY anthro book for Out of Africa. "It holds that numerous species of hominids beginning with Homo erectus began migrating out of Africa almost 2 million years ago and evolved into several species. Then a new species called Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and migrated between 100,000 and 120,000 years ago to Europe, Asia, and Australia, consigning all the earlier hominids it encountered to extinction".

sungod said...

are u saying the continent is inhospitable? TRu it is not the best place for climate and yes i understand about malaria but there is also AIDS that is devastating the continent. I believe that the lack of proper education real education and not just books either do-for-self knowledge is the reason why Afrika is behind. There are still tribes in skirts made from trees(lol). But seriously it is nothing wrong with a shall I say primitive way of life but that stagnates ur growth in becoming healthier, smarter, etc.

James C. Collier said...

sungod: AIDS killed 1.5M Africans in 2007, while Malaria (conservatively) has killed 7.5B (1 million/yr over lasr 7,500 years). Malaria owns the joint.

Anonymous said...

James, despite your ego-driven shaming, you know well that the Africans who left Africa tens of thousands of years ago do not explain Africa's underacheivement today. That would be enough time for new generations of smart Africans to be born, you think? That OOA diaspora resulted in the evolution of other races, and their brains evolved outside of Africa to adapt to new habitats. There has not been much evidence for recent brain evolution within Africa itself, as Bruce Lahn found in his genetic research. The smart Africans did not leave Africa 100,000 years ago, they left due to famine or some such reason and subsequently evolved their more advanced intelligence through variants of genes like HAP1 in asia and ASPM in Europe.

Europe used to have plagues as well. Having an advanced society tends to prevent these epidemics, because they can utilize very advanced and expensive technology like mosquito nets and insect repellent that African countries can not manufacture for themselves or afford to buy, due to the stunning incompetence of their leadership. And to think that South Africa was on track to become a world power! No suprise there.

Anonymous said...

A high future-time orientation -associated with IQ- also can prevent AIDS by utilization of contraception. Funny how Washington DC and other ghetto urban blights have the same AIDS rate as many African countries. It couldn't be because both locales are populated with the same people, could it?

Anonymous said...

JCC- a couple of points:

Out of Africa, as you describe it, is actually being revised and challenged these days based on new genetic and fossil evidence. Specifically, the homo sapiens common ancestor.

I don't know where you got the 85 average IQ from, but that is the figure commonly cited for African-Americans. The estimates for continental Africans are substantially lower.

You say that the continent is inhospitable, but many scientists say the opposite. Africa's climate and abundant food sources made it easy for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to maintain stable populations, while those who migrated north needed to develop agriculture, storage, shelter, et cetera in order to survive. Thus, no matter what the characteristics of migrant populations were, different selection pressures would have caused divergent evolution.

You should always think really carefully before you write that something is "really that simple." Rarely is anything "really that simple."

Finally you say, "The hard question is what to do about this, if anything." That's a tough question. But I reject the idea that Africa, as a place, is intractably poor. Colonialism, while derided as an unfathomable evil today, brought an unprecedented standard of living to areas of the continent. In hindsight, how many South Africans and Rhodesians would have traded the colonial system for what they have today? If we do really want to help Africa, it's clear that we need to do a lot more than just throw aid money at them.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 10:44: Perhaps Africa is well-suited for hunting and gathering, but provides little help for the difficulty in making the leap to more complex (interdependent) social economies, evidenced by leading societies.
As for simplicity, the failure of the tropics to produce a modern leading society cannot be overstated. The barriers of travel just fell too low to hold intelligent Africans, then and now, in a socially, economically, and geographically difficult place.
Colonialism was technology transfer by exploitation, granted. I am glad you have not given up, but is there another way?

Anonymous said...

Is there another way? Yes.

A strong eugenics program that encourages the smart Africans to breed and sterilizes the low IQ peasant masses. A hard task, but surely one of the dictators over there could pull it off if he decides to.

-A different Anon

Anonymous said...

Anon@10.44

The OOA theory is still strong. There has been no genetic evidence discovered yet for Sapiens interbreeding with Neaderthals or Homo Erectus. It could be possible, but I have not seen any evidence outside of a few possible neaderthal/human hybrid skeletons. It does not appear Neaderthals or any other species contributed to the final mix, when the DNA is studied.

Most plausible scenario for divergence of races is simply the adaptation of Archaic man to new habitats. Evolution does not occur nearly as slowly as once thought, hybridization is not necessary to explain the divergent human lines.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my poor spelling.

James C. Collier said...

Anon@1:34, it would seem that 'dictators' depend on the least of the intelligent masses to come to and remain in power - but you are welcomed to try again.

Anonymous said...

More importantly, what do we do about the Little Africa we have right here in the USA?

Anonymous said...

Short of eugenics, there is no hope for Africa. Violent people with an IQ of 75 can not compete in the modern economy. The only choice is between a voluntary, human-guided eugenics program built on sterilizations and a horrific "natural" one that is built on millions of deaths.

And I second the other Anon, let's worry about the numerous Little Africas we have here in this country first. Why are the problems so similar to what is across the ocean? Such a big mystery!

James C. Collier said...

If Africa represents the trailing edge of human advancement, is not how the leading edge engages them an indication of the quality of that lead? Eugenics is a yet-morally-reconciled and impractical approach that has man playing God (when there still is a God for most), and if and when it fails it is too conveniently adjacent to a mercy-Holocaust? I will say again, the unimaginative need to stick to their day jobs.

Anonymous said...

No, it is not how the leading edge engages them an indication of the quality of that lead. The morality of the leading edge, maybe, but not the distance between the leading and the trailing.

Eugenics can be reconciled perfectly with morality. Before the Nazis, eugenics was broadly accepted as a proper path for society. Who wouldn't want their kids to be smarter? Scared liberals like to tie eugenics to Nazism, but that is as invalid as denouncing all believers because of its most radical adherents, using the worst actors to smear an entire ideal. The fact of nature is that humans are as animal as any other creature, and must be maintained appropriately.

You and I already engage in eugenics by not marrying our relatives, to prevent dysgenic inbreeding. We also pick mates on their desirable heritable qualities, a form of eugenics.

As for playing God...Well hey, someone has to do it. I don't see God anywhere in Afica preventing starvation and massacre.


"The hard question is what to do about this, if anything. Exactly, how do we help this place and people? I’m not sure."

Your projectiled barb of "unimaginative" is ironic given this question, as you are the one asking these sorts of simple questions while working your day job. All of your questions have simple, readily accessible answers. You just don't like them.

Michael in LA said...

James – I have to disagree with your argument for Africa/Africans lagging behind in the 21st century. Quoting you, "it is just too difficult to make the geography do more than barely sustain life." That assertion discounts the wide variety of climates that exist on the African continent – and I’m taking into account global warming.

North Africa running along the Mediterranean, South Africa and Botswana, and the areas along the east and west coasts are pretty hospitable when it comes to climate. Zimbabwe was known as the breadbasket of Africa until fairly recently (thank you Mr Mugabe). The Chinese are making huge economic bets in Africa when it comes to mining, farming, and oil exploration. Africa lost its value to the west when the cold war ended - no more need for proxy wars with the Soviet Union using Africans for bullet catchers. Africans, (just like many motivated people in Mexico, Central and South America) who want a better life, free from corrupt dictators head for Europe, Asia, and America.

I listen to BBC Network Africa just about every day to listen to Africans talk about Africa (yes, I know it’s through the filter of the BBC, but how much African news do you hear on CNN?). The potential for greatness is there. Overcoming corrupt leaders, getting those leaders to invest in their citizens instead of padding Swiss bank accounts, and giving professionals a reason to stay would uplift most of the countries on the Continent. That's the challenge, that should be the goal. I’m afraid that what’s in store for Africa is another round of resource exploitation, this time with a Chinese accent.

Anonymous said...

when Rhodesia went from being the breadbasket of Africa to becoming the basket case of Africa as black-run Zimbabwe, had the land itself suddenly become more inhospitable?

If anybody asks why Africa is always last, just tell them to watch some rap videos.

Meka said...

I dont feel like typing alot but the reason Africa is behind is a mixture of things. The are just generalizations though, but they can be applied to a couple of countries

-It's upward mobility was severly jilted during its colonization.

-It is a rather inhospitable place with few resources to maximize it's economies. If it does have resources it usually something that is in effect controlled by some outside country or authority

-Africans in power seem to have a mentality of looking out for themselves and not for their people. This is why you can go to africa and see other foreigners all over the joint, those foreigners tend to have more power and control than the local people because they've bought into the political structure of the government. Of course, corruption is rampant in Africa so its quite easy to do this if you come from an established country.

-Africa is not well organized in the global economy. They have limited purchasing power, limited viable trading with the western world, and alot of African countries are indebted to the IMF or have some sort of outstanding loan. Also, if you are power- country you are sure going to make sure that the number of power countries stay low.

Anonymous said...

@Meka, your reply is victimization "theory" nonsense.

-It's upward mobility was severly jilted during its colonization.
Successful post-colonial countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong.... Even basketcase India looks like success compared to Africa.

-It is a rather inhospitable place with few resources to maximize it's economies. If it does have resources it usually something that is in effect controlled by some outside country or authority
-Japan is natural resource poor

-Africans in power seem to have a mentality of looking out for themselves and not for their people. This is why you can go to africa and see other foreigners all over the joint, those foreigners tend to have more power and control than the local people because they've bought into the political structure of the government. Of course, corruption is rampant in Africa so its quite easy to do this if you come from an established country.
-Notice how the obvious point of Black African corruption is clouded with the topic switching to "foreigners"

-Africa is not well organized in the global economy. They have limited purchasing power, limited viable trading with the western world, and alot of African countries are indebted to the IMF or have some sort of outstanding loan. Also, if you are power- country you are sure going to make sure that the number of power countries stay low.
-Notice how Meka again tries to blame this on whitey? The basic fact is Africans do not produce much of value in the global economy. Even their prime asset, cheap labor, is of little value due to the instability of their societies. Africa and South Korea (and Thailand, and China, and India, and Vietnam, and much of South America, and....) were of similar income levels 50 years ago and all faced the various excuses used here of "racism", "colonialism", etc.

Dancing to the Lambada said...

Anon 12:16- Japan may be resource poor, but Japan was never colonized.

Anon 9:02, 6:19 and 11:1 (im guessing your probably the same person)

Let’s go back and learn our history lessons.

Timbuktu (present day mali) in the 15th and 16th century was a spritual and intellectual centre in the Islamic world. it also had one of the largest islamic universities. (Europe during this time was still the dark ages). unfortunately, mali is one of the poorest countries in the world today. thats how the world works. the power of empires and states never follow a path forward of steady progression. instead, they rise and decline. human history is a whole lot larger than the last 300-400 years, and things will continue to change.

european expanansion that began in the middle ages was guided by a few different factors, and it did not have anything to do with some kind of racial intelligence superiority that you're trying to suggest with your posts. firstly, different city states arose and were in constant competition with one another for power and resources, leading to developments in technology and weaponary. secondly, inventions were passed along from the east through the silk road trade routes. A culmination of these and other factors (coupled with circumstance) is what gave rise to certain European empires.

Similarly, a culmination of factors, which I think JCC explored very well, coupled with circumstance is also the reason for africa's position today.

Anon 10:36.."And to think that South Africa was on track to become a world power! No suprise there."

You're not seriously suggesting that South Africa would be better under apartheid? If it was on track to becoming a world power, maybe because it did not have all of its population to look after. It had all power invested in a small minority who could rely on cheap labor and the wealth from colonization. SA is now a young country with a young government, with a majority population that were treated as 3rd class citizens only 15 years back. obviously it is struggling.

Anonymous said...

THE CURE: "SIMPLE IDEAS, RIGOROUSLY APPLIED." GOVERNMENTS MUST CONCENTRATE ON PROVIDING BASICS: PRIMARY EDUCATION, ESSENTIAL HEALTH CARE, PIPED WATER. ELITES MUST STOP SPENDING OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY ON LIMOUSINES, MANSIONS AND FIRST-CLASS FLIGHTS TO CONFERENCES. FINALLY, AFRICANS MUST STOP ARGUING THAT AFRICA’S PROBLEMS ARE SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT. RECOGNIZE THAT THE ECONOMIC MODERNIZATION ADVOCATED COMES WITH A PRICE, BUT SUCH APPLICATION IS NONETHELESS OPTIMISTIC AND NEEDED.

AFRICA IS A SHACKLED CONTINENT BECAUSE OF THE ABUSE OF POWER BY "VAMPIRE STATES": AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENTS THAT HAVE FAILED THEIR PEOPLE COMPREHENSIVELY. AN EMPHASIS ON EXPLOITING MINERAL RESOURCES NEGLECTS OTHER ASPECTS OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. PROPERTY RIGHTS ARE RARELY SECURE IN LAW OR PRACTICE. AIDS RAVAGES ENTIRE POPULATIONS. TRIBAL LOYALTIES OVERSHADOW STATE IDENTITIES. WESTERN AID IS SIPHONED OFF BY THUGS AND BUREAUCRATS, OR DISPLACES THE PRIVATE INVESTMENT THAT IS THE ONLY BASIS FOR LONG-TERM ECONOMIC GROWTH. COMPREHENSIVE CORRUPTION DISCOURAGES THE MUTUAL TRUST REQUIRED FOR COMPLEX SYSTEMS TO FUNCTION EFFECTIVELY. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION IS DISCOURAGED BY GOVERNMENT MICROMANAGEMENT. ZIMBABWE'S AND SOUTH AFRICA'S POST-LIBERATION GOVERNMENTS AND THEIR SUPPORTING ELITES TOOK THE SHORT CUT OF EXPROPRIATING ASSETS INSTEAD OF DEVELOPING THEIR OWN.

AFRICA HAS ALREADY RECEIVED THE EQUIVALENT OF SIX MARSHALL PLANS IN AID AND IN SOME PLACES MINERAL WEALTH HAS BEEN MORE OF A CURSE THAN A BLESSING. FOR THE RECORD, GIVEN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S CURRENT BASKET-CASE ECONOMIES, ANOTHER STRICTLY SHORT-TERM MARSHALL PLAN MAY BE NECESSARY. BUT IT HAS TO BE LINKED TO A VISION THAT SAYS AFRICA HAS TO HELP ITSELF THROUGH TRADE, NOT AID. AFRICA NEEDS A BOURGEOIS REVOLUTION: THE EMERGENCE OF AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MIDDLE CLASS WHICH WILL CREATE LOCAL JOBS BY MAKING AND SELLING PRODUCTS OTHER FOLK WANT TO BUY.

THE MODEL IS ALREADY THERE IN ASIA. IN THE FIFTIES, BRITAIN LEFT ITS AFRICAN COLONIES WITH A SOLID INFRASTRUCTURE AND LEGAL SYSTEM. GDP PER HEAD IN MANY AFRICAN COUNTRIES - GHANA, FOR INSTANCE - WAS BETTER THAN IN MANY ASIAN STATES. BUT THESE DAYS, WHILE THE AFRICAN ECONOMY HAS ACTUALLY STAGNATED IN REAL TERMS, MUCH OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA HAS UNDERGONE AN ECONOMIC REVOLUTION AND IS NOW RICHER THAN BRITAIN WAS IN THE FIFTIES. AND THE ASIAN ECONOMIES DID THIS NOT THROUGH AID BUT THROUGH WICKED CAPITALIST BORROWING AND SELLING US VIDEO RECORDERS.

...priceless!!!