The much-circulated campaign subtly reinforces an idea that has been one of Africa’s biggest disasters: that well-meaning Westerners need to come in and fix it. Africans, in this telling, are helpless victims, and Westerners are the heroes. It’s part of a long tradition of Western advocacy that has, for centuries, adopted some form of white man’s burden, treating African people as cared for only to the extent that Westerners care, their problems solvable only to the extent that Westerners solve them, and surely damned unless we can save them. First it was with missionaries, then “civilizing” missions, and finally the ultimate end of white paternalism, which was placing Africans under the direct Western control of imperialism. And while imperialism may have collapsed 50 years ago, that mentality persists, because it is rewarding and ennobling to feel needed and to believe you are doing something good.
“African solutions for African problems” isn’t just a State Department slogan, and it isn’t about promoting African leadership, although that’s certainly important. Africans are already leaders. There are many reasons for Africa’s amazing rise over the last ten years, but one of the biggest has been African leadership. It’s not a coincidence that the 200 years of Western leadership in Africa were some of the continent’s worst. Africans have proven time and again that they’re better at fixing African problems. While helping is always good, and it’s great that people care, what Kony 2012 ignores is that Africans are not “invisible” and the last thing they need is for a bunch of Westerners to parachute in and take over (again). We sometimes mistake our position at the top of the global food chain as evidence that we’re more capable, that our power will extend into complicated and far-away societies, that we’ll be better at fixing their problems than they are. This assumption, both well-meaning and self-glorifying, has led us into disaster after disaster after disaster.
Read more. [Image: Invisible Children]
Mar 9, 2012 @ 2:34 pm