Why Do I Blog About Africa?

I was tagged by Miss Sci and I tag the immortal R and Kelly from Pink Memoirs

Now typically, when someone is asked this question, the response is a poetic delight. Some might talk about Africa’s beautiful geography. Others the strength and the dark past of the continent. Others even of hope and the wonderful future that Africa has.

My reason is not as glamarous. Nor popular. Nor poetic. I started blogging about Africa because one day I looked in the mirror and realized that of all the socioeconomic, spiritual, physical, wordly or “insert way of categorizing people here” groups I belonged to, the one which was weakest was the African side.

When I walk down the street, an African face is a sign of:

* Poverty

* A race that was bullied, soiled, raped, beaten, exploited by much stronger, much smarter races.

* A sociological construct created for those in power to maintain power.

* A people who are ashamed of their features, their hair, their history, their idiosyncracies and trying desperately to fit in with the group that got them in this mess in the first place.

Now the list of things that are wrong with African people is endless. The theories are endless: we are the cursed sons of Noah meant to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. We are simply cursed for the sins of our ancestors and so on and so on.

I didn’t want to be a part of that conversation anymore. I didn’t want to get locked in the bar-room discussions that always start with a sigh and end with 3 hours of (I made this term up) intellectual incestuos masturbation where you stroke each others ego by pompously pontificating on Africa’s ills as though in between your ears rests the Holy Grail.

I wanted to be a part of the solution. All my heart and soul knew was it wanted to be a part of the solution. And so, just a little under a year ago, I put the pen to the paper and started writing.

Now do I think I am part of the solution…..not really. Sure, I have put out some positive stuff and I have helped people think about things better, but I am far from content. I want to be the seed of the next great revolutionary or the catalyst for a great social movement and know I am far from that.

As with many posts in my blogging career, I have not spell checked or edited this one. Sci, consider this a promise fulfilled.

With love,

Mwangi

27 Comments

  • By Pink M, December 9, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    You!! I’ll get you for this. To make matters worse, tags are supposed to be on shallow stuff that I don’t have to think about, now you force me to think. I’m supposed to say why I blog? Or why I blog about Africa? If it’s the second, then can I just post ‘ I don’t blog about Africa’? Ok, rant finished.

    This post you did reminds me of a conversation I was having at work the other day about where I would take my children to school if I had them. I’m sorry if it makes me unpatriotic, but I wouldn’t want my children exposed to the kind of negativity and victim mentality most of us have grown up with. In Africa, it’s always someone else’s fault. For us who grew up here, it’s a daily struggle to get out of that thinking and actually start making a difference. I wouldn’t want my descendants to struggle with that kind of thinking.

    Funnily enough, it’s also ingrained in our relationships. How many African couples would go for couples counselling? After all, it’s always the other person’s fault.

  • By Mwangi, December 9, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

    @Pink M: (Cue evil laugh and menacing music) And now, down the rabbit hole you go (music ends and I begin to cough from laughing so much).
    I am either really lucky or really odd because growing up I never noticed the victim mentality and the deferment of blame. The only thing that has, and deeply continues to bother me about my fellow Africans is the arrogance without substance.

    If someone is arrogant that’s fine, so long as they can back it up. But that arrogance that some of us have when we really should be humble and focusing on moving on up, bothers me like hot embers to the skin.

    Looking forward to seeing what you can craft.

  • By Pink M, December 9, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

    That’s the thing Mwangi, you grew up in the upper class, and left this place before like you had to face any hardship per se (sorry if that comes out funny). For us who have had to struggle, often paying your own school fees and growing up in messed up families, it can be quite an escape to blame every one for our problems and adopt the attitude of ‘making it this far is an achievement, why do I need to do more’. That is the attitude I feel Africa, especially Kenya is quickly adopting.

    Look at our democracy for example. Before the 2007 shock, everyone felt that Kenya was an example of democracy, while IMO, we hadn’t even gotten halfway to being a true democracy. We are learning to settle for too little, and that’s got to change.

  • By Mwangi, December 9, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

    @Pink M: “So then the question is, if there is no need to do more, why are you still complaining and blaming other folk? If you’ve done all you can shouldn’t you be happy with that?”

    That makes my wanting to come back so much harder. I don’t know if I’ve written about it here but here in Oz, and I suspect in America as well, there is this cultural phenomenon where we immigrants believe, and its usually true, that the further we are from other Africans – esp Kenyans, Zims, Nigerians, anywhere deeply Westernized-the better we’ll do.

    I really don’t admire people who can’t admit they suck. I do it all the time and can accept so many character flaws, but that…..oops you see almost went on a rant again.

  • By Pink M, December 9, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

    This could be flawed but I think getting out of this place, especially in the 20s does enable one achieve an open mindedness that makes them do better than those that remain here. May be I’m biased, but I think it’s true.

    Why can’t we be happy? Because deep down inside we know we haven’t done anything extra ordinary. We haven’t achieved much, by international standards. IMO, no one cares whether you walked to school barefoot or did homework by candle light, what matters is where you’re @ right now, and that’s what we fail to grasp. Ok, confused me. I lost my point.

  • By Mwangi, December 9, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

    @Pink: LOL, I don’t think we had a point. Gasp** that was a rant post and here in the comments thread we are just ranting some more………

  • By sci-culturist, December 10, 2008 @ 9:03 am

    Mwangi, thanks for picking up the tag and your very honest post. frankly, i am disturbed by “exploited by much stronger, much smarter races.” given the cultural differences, i dont think this is a fair statement. yes, the West went through their industrial revolution well before us and hopped onto ships on their discovery missions and colonised our ancestors. but that does not make them “stronger” or “smarter”, just “different”. is it not partly down to what was driving different sets of people and what their priorities were? e.g. if going through an industrial revolution you may be driven to go out of your borders to seek raw materials. i suspect the root of this statement is the paradigm of what development is. for some it may be sky scrapers and flawless tarmac roads, for others it may be less material e.g. a holistic, balanced lifestyle. or perhaps i have completely misunderstood you?

    re: being part of the solution, it is easier to recognise some more than others, but it doesnt make the others less so. think the tipping point.

    that’s my 2 cents.

  • By Mwangi, December 10, 2008 @ 9:09 am

    @sci: Actually underlying the “stronger, smarter” thing is an important idea: that we didn’t define, or even use our own native languages to describe what strength and intelligence are, that’s one piece of it.
    Considering we are now living under their boot, by any objective standards we must concede their strength: callousness, moral emptiness, general sliminess and inhumane nature….all that too, but sadly the colonial bastards all outfought and outwitted our ancestors who never stood a chance.
    For sure, the goals of the capitalist west were different from those of Africans e.g. in villagers viewing themselves as stewards as supposed to Lords of the Earth and then we head down another rabbit hole…. :)
    I want to help us reach the tipping point – however we collectively define it- much sooner, after all, doesn’t all great change happen in a very short period of time – think Prez Obama…….
    My 2 cents right back.

  • By acitizen, December 10, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

    Hi.
    1, It’s the company you keep.
    2, Keep taking in bit more history. (All, plEAse do.)
    3, I’m skipping for now.
    4. And, the post is laden heavily with the matter of Testosterone. It could have been themed this.
    May you take this well, at the least this would tend your perspective. And congratulations!

  • By Mwangi, December 10, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

    @acitizen: I’d be lying if I said I understood what you meant, but ummmm, thank you…. :S

  • By savvy, December 14, 2008 @ 12:44 am

    This is a deep one. As Africans, all we do is complain but never seem to get solutions. What we need is like a ‘psychological makeover’. We need to start believing in ourselves. We have have been playing victim for too long now.

    I think we should stop talking and walk the talk.

  • By Mwangi, December 14, 2008 @ 2:00 am

    @savvy: Couldn’t agree more…………

  • By sokari, December 16, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

    See this wks Blog review on Pambazuka News. http://www.pambazuka.org

  • By Mwangi, December 16, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

    @sokari: What am I looking for?

  • By Carol, December 18, 2008 @ 5:04 am

    Mwangi,you just said it right!An honest point of view about things,especially when you are in the kind of world you (and other africans) find themselves in, voluntarily or not.
    Being part of the solution…….so lovely.

  • By Mwangi, December 18, 2008 @ 5:07 am

    @Carol: Thanks! I hope you got a chance to check out R’s (What an African Woman Thinks), sci-culturist’s and Afromusing’s?

  • By Ron the Dog, January 2, 2009 @ 3:32 am

    Mwangi,

    Interesting article. Having read the rest, I can say that I can see why you face the problems you do. You know, the way you create your identity determines what happens in your life. It determines the people you enter relationships with, your job, where you live, your dreams etc. There are many identities you can choose out there to accomplish any goal you seek. If you seek to get rich, you can identify yourself as a businessman, a golddigger, a hustler or even a thief.

    Each identity has its own material culture, its own language, its own religion or belief system so to speak. You have chosen the worst of all identities you can ever choose. You have chosen to be an African. An identity that is not real but is created by the media. To keep you down and enslaved not even by them, but by yourself. Meaning that you have indoctrinated a belief system that ensures that you never attempt to arise out of the state you find yourself in even if you believe you are doing so.

    When it comes to Africa, there are many other identities that you can choose. There is of course African, there is Kenyan, there is Nairobian and finally there is Kikuyu.

    Lets dissect each identity, an area you seem to be very good at based on your other blog entries.

    You believe you are an African and you will always be at the bottom of society. You believe you are oppressed and have to struggle to survive due to the belief that you are being “oppressed” by a “stronger and smarter” race. What I have seen is that people who identify themselves as Africans tend to identify themselves with just about any oppressed group on this earth, including them poor suffering and almost extinct whales out there. These people never succeed in life and live their whole lives wallowing in self-pity about their “inferiority” and how God has forsaken them. In reality, their identity is the identity of a primitive not even a slave as many believe. There is no slave mentality here, just a “primitive mentality”. Believing that Africans are supposed to live in mud huts because that apparently is their culture is not a “slave mentality”, its a “primitive mentality”. One created to ensure that you never try to compete with them. By this I mean that realize that the west does not need blacks anymore really as labour. They have created a mechanized system that they depend on. However, this system requires lots of mineral wealth to run and they therefore wish that you never outgrow your African primitive mentality and start to compete with them for these “scarce” resources. Therefore, they brainwash you to live as a primitive by telling you that being African is living in a mud hut.

    Then you have those who identify as Kenyan. I have discovered that these people only seek out safe jobs. Many of them have a colonial mentality meaning that they are “yes” men to those they view as being superior to them. Those who are seen as being superior are those who put food in their mouths and give them a bed to sleep on. If you care to study the kenyan identity and especially its belief system, you will find that it is an identity heavily based on Maasai culture. Its why whenever you see anything to do with kenya, they always show a Maasai. This identity is what can be termed as a “slave mentality”. Thats because the people who have this identity believe that Whites are Gods who will solve all their problems and all they need to do is obey them and do as they are told. They basically believe that they cannot survive without whites. This is the identity, a national identity, that makes many “Africans” in the west to fear returning back to their home countries and building wealth. One can say that living in the west has “retarded” them such that if you put them on the streets of an African city, they most likely will die in a week. They are basically weak people. Slaves if you must. They believe that working for and worshipping white people is the alpha and omega of survival on this earth. Do realize that the vast majority of Africans with this identity are “African” women.

    Then you have the Nairobian identity. This identity is about being a yuppy. Having a job that is socially acceptable, being famous or a celebrity and living the bling bling lifestyle. Basically, they live on debt and credit. Go into debt and spend their whole lives paying it back. People who identify with this identity have a strong need to be accepted by women and tend to be easily manipulated by them. They are enslaved by women. Think of the relationship as being codependent. They also have a strong desire to know “cool” white people whom they can go and show off to their black friends. Especially if they manage to land a hot white chick/dude with whom they can have many mulatto babies. People who tend to have this identity tend to be very dark skinned like Luos and Kalenjins. They have serious issues with their very black skin. In fact, if you analyze this identity you will find that it has been created by the Kalenjin. If you identify as a Nairobian, you are a Kalenjin. These people believe everything they see on TV as being truth and fact. They are incapable of thinking clearly especially since they spend most of their time either thinking about sex or how to “hate” on other people who are doing better than them. They are violent people and one can say almost psychotic. They have serious power issues. Its one of the reasons they strongly desire to marry white people, nothing else gives them more self-worth than being married to a white person and having mixed race kids.

    Then you have tribal identities like Kikuyu, Swahili, Igbo, Ashanti etc. These are identities that are heavily feared by westerners and also by political leaders. It is people with these identities that for instance, freed Africa from colonial rule. Kenyatta, Nkrumah etc were not Kenyans or Ghanaian. They were Kikuyu and Ashanti. Africans are those who went through the western educational system. Kenya was freed by the Kikuyu, Nigeria by the Igbos and Ghana by the Ashanti. It was then that the westerners and their political puppets came up with the idea of destroying these identities in two ways. First, the westerners published books that basically contained lies about the “primitiveness” of these people. They then said that an “advanced” person from Africa is an “African”. They did this via their educational systems. Then you have the political leaders who went out and said basically that those who identify with these “tribal” identities are tribalists. Hence the fear by many of these identities. Realize that these same leaders and the western world fears these tribal identities. The British to this day have nightmares about the Mau Mau and the Zulus. The political elite of the past used to sleep while peering out to see if Mungiki had paid them a visit. In one of your articles, you spoke of there being many different types of “Africans” in the west. One group you referred to as the “outsiders”. If you look back to your meetings with those people and dissect them, you will find that they have tribal identities. People say that Kenyans are successful abroad but if you care to look, you will see that they mean those with a Kikuyu identity. Same with Nigerians, the most successful are the Igbos and to some extent the Yorubas. The Igbos seek out success by any means, legitimate and illegitimate. The so called Nigerian crime syndicates that have caused havoc in the western world are by Igbos. Its why so many people hate Nigerians. It is a hatred that has been input into them by the British media since the British absolutely fear Igbos/Nigerians(who behave like Igbos) since they cannot be controlled.

    All in all, what I am saying is choose your identity carefully. We all have about 4 identities,

    1. The person we really are.
    2. The person others believe us to be.
    3. The person we think we are.
    4. The body identity (This refers to our body language, facial expressions, mannerisms etc.)

    You must have a clear identity with respect to each of them and especially identities that make you happy. Here is an example for each,

    1. Kikuyu
    2. Swahili
    3. Hustler
    4. Makanga (Adopt the cocky personality of these people. It is well suited for Oz.)

    The key is to ensure that all the identities are in harmony with each other. Otherwise, you will tend to self-sabotage. Having an African identity leads to self-sabotage such that even those at the top never have to worry about you becoming a threat.

    Realize that this is the power of African cultures. The power to create identities and hence to adapt to new environments easily. Thats why people see Africans as being survivors and one of the fears that people have of Africans. These other “smarter or stronger” races could never survive in Africa without help from someone. Whether its indians in Kenya with the help of kalenjins, lebanese in Nigeria with the help of the Hausa or the Afrikaner in South Africa with the help of the American financiers. If you look at African cultures and even African societies, you find that there are gazillion of characters to be found. Thats the difference between Kenya and Australia for instance. You may have noticed that two “Kenyans” are never ever similar or even close. This is not true for Aussies who are pretty much all the same. You meet one, you have met them all. You understand one, you have understood them all. Thats because their cultures do not have any deep identities/personalities. They are media creations and change with the seasons or when some powerful figure in their society decides to exploit the people for a purpose e.g. an illegal war on another country. One finds that in their cultures, ones material culture determines whom they are. Peoples identities are closely tied to the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the neighbourhoods they live in and even the colour of their hair or eyes. Not only that, their cultures are static and thats why they love to import culture from the outside world and adopt it in the name of multiculturalism. Usually Asian or mostly “African based” cultures. This includes Hip hop culture. The only Western country where this is not true is America and this is why it is the most dynamic of the western cultures. Yet again, many American identities are tied closely to Africa due to its history.

    Identity is everything, it makes or breaks you. Believe that you are a loser and you will be. Believe that you are a lucky bastard whom God watches over and luck will always be yours. The keyword here is believe. Your beliefs make or break you and they are intimately connected to your identities. In the west, Identity creation is via the media. People seek to be whom they see on TV, movies etc. The TV is very much a religious shrine if you think about it from which the high priests tell the masses what to eat, what to wear and basically, what to believe. Thats what true power is about. Controlling the minds, not about having the biggest gun or army. The media tells you that Africans are worthless creatures who have never achieved anything in life. You can choose to either listen to them or not. Its your choice. Thats what real democracy is about.

    Do realize, if you choose not to listen to them, you will be called an anti-westerner, anti-feminist, anti-capitalist, a delusional lunatic or basically a heretic and even worse, you may even very well get lynched. Thats what they used to do to people in old europe who refused to convert to Christianity. Burn them alive as witches. Refuse to listen to them and you are labelled an “uppity nigger” who should be thankful for all the west has done for deepest darkest Africa. Your biggest enemy should you choose not to listen to them is the black woman. She is the one who will sell you out.

    Ron the Dog.

  • By Mwangi, January 2, 2009 @ 3:42 am

    @Ron the Dog: Are you competing with Allan for the title of the longest comment? lol This week I have received two of the longest comments ever.
    I agree with most of what you’d say, you’d have to explain the black woman thing though.
    You’ve got a lot to say and the comments thread are wide open man, leave your wisdom.

    Interesting ideas on finding power in tribalism as opposed to viewing it as a negative; the Singaporeans did it pretty well from what I heard. I

    think the problem is that as a people we are so violated mentally that anything that can breed division – I foresee this immigrant vs native thing becoming a new type of tribalism and source of conflict in future – should probably be avoided in favour of that which can bring us together.

  • By solomonsydelle, January 21, 2009 @ 3:33 am

    “I want to be the seed of the next great revolutionary or the catalyst for a great social movement…”

    May your wish come true.

    Africa is just a continent that needs to be heard. Our voices have for far too long been muted. Blogging give us an opportunity to not just join the conversation, but control and guide it. May our wishes and hopes for Africa be achieved.

    Sorry i missed this, but will link to it.

  • By Mwangi, January 21, 2009 @ 3:36 am

    @solomon: It’s amazing how quotes and ideas can come from the unlikeliest of places. I actually first caught whiff of that idea from a gangsta rap song many years ago, very powerful idea it is: to be the pied piper to revolution.

    Thanks

    I think control is probably the part that I relate to most, we really do need to reclaim the control we have over our tales, the way they are told, who tells them and so much more than we do right now, couldn’t agree more……….

  • By Liz, May 6, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    A friend and I were recently googling immigration stories to feature in our mid year VCE piece and stumbled across you page. Now, we are hooked, what you are doing is extremely inspirational. We are now considering writing our article on you and your very worthy cause.
    with admiration
    Liz and Loz

  • By Mwangi, May 7, 2009 @ 6:42 am

    @Liz: Thanks for the kind words. If you need any information, let me know. Cheerz

  • By peetee, May 7, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

    I’ve not read through all your posts yet, Mwangi, so you may well have talked about Ubuntu. Fact is, I hear or read very little about this in discussions about Africa. Most contemporary African leaders certainly don’t practice this – so why would (most) westerners or even many Africans even consider that a humanist philosophy that ‘focuses on people’s allegiances and relations with each other’ is actually a classical African concept?. Wikipedia has some references and definitions, but I am thirsty for more knowledge and dissemination of Ubuntu. I certainly experienced it during my youth in Lesotho – although not at an intellectual level. Consider that there was a time when there was mass oppression of the poor/lower classes in Europe (Dickens) while in certain parts of Africa entire regions contemporaneously practised the maxims:
    “To be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish respectful human relations with them.’
    “If and when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then one should opt for the preservation of life’, and
    “That the king owes his status, including all the powers associated with it, to the will of the people under him”. (Stanlake J. W. T. Samkange).

    Africa, too, needs its Renaissance. Which is why I am encouraged by the many grassroots and civil society movements in Africa, and the support and recognition for initiatives like http://www.arterialnetwork.org (with an ‘imaginative’ speech by Breyten Breytenbach).

    Take care everyone,

  • By Mwangi, May 8, 2009 @ 4:59 am

    @peetee: Tell me more about this Ubuntu? I know of it, but don’t know it deeply……

Other Links to this Post

  1. Why I Blog About Africa « — December 10, 2008 @ 8:05 am

  2. Global Voices Online » “Why I blog about Africa” (Part 2) — December 21, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

  3. Oluniyi David Ajao — January 28, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

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