On Africa

Bob Geldoff recently wrote a
in one of Norway’s major newspapers repeating how we should not forget Africa in the face of other problems in the world. The Norwegian minister for foreign aid comments on the article mentioning his agreement and points out that the number of people killed in Rwanda during the conflict there meant that for every third hour the same mount of people where killed in Rwanda that was killed in total during this summers Israel/Lebanon conflict.

Two points strikes me. First of all its a bit dangerous to in some sense rate conflicts based on number killed. Taken to the extreme it would mean that you basically ignore any conflict/problem until it reaches top 3 in death numbers. Nobody is arguing for doing so of course, but every time you do argue with number of dead you are in some sense promoting that view.

On the other side there also is the moral question about why the big
butcherings in Africa tend to fall from public interest quickly while relatively speaking smaller conflicts like the Israel/Lebanon one don’t.

A lot of possible answers of course, ranging from historic importance of Israel to a world heavily influenced by Judaism and its two spin-off religions Christianity and Islam. Bob Geldoff in his article also points out that there might be a general feeling in Europe that Africa is a hopeless case, that no matter what is done so are there seemingly always new and bigger tragedies transpiring there. So maybe people haven’t given up in the same way on the Middle-east yet. That said I do seem to feel a bit of fatigue creeping into the European population on the problems of the middle-east.


#1 Dan on 09.27.06 at 04:20


#2 Vann on 09.27.06 at 04:48

That’s exactly what I was going to ask. Jewism? WTF?

#3 Zaheer Abbas Merali on 09.27.06 at 04:52

I think you mean Judaism. Actually given the amount of people participating in anti-war rallies across Europe as well as the number of people who in Spain have stop the war bumper stickers, I think the fatigue you mention is a myth.

#4 Ronald S. Bultje on 09.27.06 at 06:49

Maybe not fatigue, but more close-to-bed feelings. Africa is far away. Even if millions of people did die, which is exactly what happens there (if not through war, then through hunger), it is not something that is likely to directly affect our lives in any relevant way. Surely, weapons trade, hunger, ethnic mass slaughters and such are horrible. But realy, when you get up and watch the news, are you affraid that you will get touched by them? Do you feel like your neighbour or the weird guy around the corner is trading weapons or an ethnic mass murderer? No, you don’t.

We are affraid of terrorism. Maybe not for any good reason, probably just because of the mass media in the western world (or the politicians), but in the end, we feel that terrorism is nearby. Because of the link that people place between terrorism and Israel, or terrorism and Afghanistan, or terrorism and Iraq (and really, discussing the validity of this link is pointless at this time – people _have_ already made the association), or whatever we think of when we wake up or watch the news. People are affraid that arabic-looking people are terrorists, up to such a level that they request such-looking people to be removed from airplanes. It’s ridiculous.

That’s where Africa got lost. We’ve got more important things to worry about right now, or at least so we think. Time will tell us how wrong we were.

#5 Zaheer Abbas Merali on 09.27.06 at 14:06

Ronald, it’s Arab looking people not Arabic looking people. Arabic is the name of the language.