This is going to be one of those painful posts in which I advocate a view which is just unacceptable, and, quite frankly, of which I am pretty sure I don’t agree myself. However, it is always good to think about these things, no matter how much of a “taboo” the topic might be.
To explain the title, I will focus entirely on African countries, or to be more specific, the typical view the media has given of what an African country is like. Whether this statement is universally applicable… well… that’s a different story.
So… Let’s start my explanation by sketching the typical view of a poor, African country. A good example is the northern part of Burkina Faso, a country located just below the Sahara on the Western side of the continent. In this area, there are lots of problems: hunger, infant mortality, the ever extending desert… everything you might imagine. This is what the situation is like in many parts of Africa, especially in the part of the continent that lies just underneath the Sahara.
Now, the question is, how was this caused? How did this hunger come about and why is the once fertile ground transforming into desert? The answer is simple: Europe.
When in the 1500s Europeans got a bit bored of their own politics, they decided that it would be fun to start exploring the world. A noble cause, you might say, because exploration leads to more knowledge and thus better understanding. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t stop there. These Europeans started to colonise the areas they discovered, claiming them as their “property.” And that’s when it went wrong.
Of course, there were already problems in Africa. After all, people didn’t live in the most ideal circumstances imaginable, as rain and food were scarce. However, even though they still lived in the way Europeans had done many centuries before, they were fine. Europe thought otherwise, though. They decided that these people had to be “educated” and to be given Christian values. They started trading them as slaves and, slowly but steady, they ruined (sub-Saharan) African society.
Since then, a lot has happened and a lot has changed. European society evolved and colonialism and slavery became unacceptable. However, these changes came too late, as by then, Europe had already left its mark: there were automatic weapons, there were country borders running straight through cultural nations and there was a high amount of import of technology from Europe to Africa.
This had a couple of consequences, some predictable, some less predictable. Quite obviously, if you give an angry tribe a lot of automatic guns, they might just pick them up and start using them for the wrong reasons. Thus, a lot of genocides can be attributed to this wonderful new technology imported by the Europeans. At the same time, the amount of surviving children (and thus the population) increased due to the aid given by Europe, which had changed its ideals and decided that these people had to be helped rather than enslaved.
Less obvious, on the other hand, is something which is often forgotten: this population growth led to the increasing size of the Sahara desert. In an ongoing cycle, the more people there were, the more animals they needed to subsist, meaning that more vegetation was eaten which eventually led to the desert expanding further and further. At the same time, there were more mouths to feed, which led to more hunger. There was a need for even more aid, because the children were starving. Consequently, Europe started sending food, and in this way, they once again reduced the amount of children who died of starvation. But guess what that leads to…
While population kept increasing, the amount of fertile soil kept decreasing, forcing more people to live on less subsistence. That is the situation we have ended up in now, and there seems to be no way out. Due to European involvement and its ideals, much like the US with their imperialism in countries such as Korea and Vietnam, many African countries have ended up in a situation with no solution.
Just like Europe in the Middle Ages, or perhaps even 2000 years earlier, people in Africa got by because the population was low. Yes, there was a lot of infant mortality and yes, people died young, but this simply meant that there were less mouths to feed. The people who did survive, however, had enough food to live on, and this gave them the opportunity to innovate. One could say that infant mortality is the reason that Europe managed to invent technology in the first place.
Africa has never had that chance, because the Europeans beat them to it. They were forced to remain at the level of survival, because there were too many people for the space and technology they possessed. If, however, and this is the painful part, African population would go down to a natural and manageable level (thus meaning that we would let those people starve), then the situation can improve. From that point on, they would be able to innovate and think further than just their hunger.
Of course, this is never going to happen. Western countries are not going to stop giving aid, and nobody will be willing to sacrifice millions of lives for “the greater good”. Instead, the West will remain that superior, intelligent region which tries to “save” the weak and the needy. Charities to help these starving children will remain active and will only grow in size as the situation worsens, causing Europeans to be more willing to give away some of their money to save the unfortunate.
That situation isn’t going to improve any time soon. Instead, it is only going to get worse. The Sahara will grow even further and there will be even more mouths to feed. Prosperity is still far away, and it might take decades, if not centuries, before hunger in Africa can be properly eradicated, and all of that is to blame on that one continent, which has made so many mistakes and which has made so many people suffer to a terrible extent. Europe is to blame, and there is no proper solution.
There is one final thing I really want to make clear, and that is that all those people who support or even dedicate their lives to help people in Africa deserve the greatest respect, and none of this is meant against them. They are doing the best they can, and the things they have achieved are wonderful. Letting people die for “the greater good” is not something I would ever support, and stopping all aid for Africa is unthinkable. However, the entire issue is something to consider and to remember. Europe is not better than these countries. In fact, Europe is inferior, because we have been so blind and irrational to make the mistakes we made, and this has cost millions of people to live in what you might call misery. It is not something we should act upon, but just something we need to keep in mind. That is why I won’t categorise this as an opinion, because opinions are things to act upon, while the purpose of this post was nothing other than insight and perhaps thoughtful discussion.
So… if this was insightful, please do press the like button or share it on social media. If, however, you disagree, please do leave a comment! This is a controversial and difficult topic, so it’s always good to hear different thoughts!
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