samedi 22 septembre 2007

Connecting dots: from Snow in Kar to Sarko in Dakar

I have this theory: our brain's main activity during our first 30 years of life consists in collecting, storing information and learning. Then, even if we continue learning, our brain's main activity becomes connecting dots, using all the information it has stored, analyzing etc...

I have no scientific ground whatsoever to say this, but I base myself on my own experience: my memory has become a mess, and I find difficult to learn new languages. On the other hand I've been "connecting dots" more often now than ever. But maybe I'm under the influence of my every day work.

Anyhoot, here's the result of my last "dot connection".

I quoted Snow on my last post, and particularly this:

Chapitre 31
Young excited Kurd: Suppose a Westerner meets someone belonging to a poor people ; well, first he would feel towards this person an instinctive contempt. He would think right away that if this person is so poor is because he belongs to an idiotic people. And he would very probably think that the head of this person is full of nonsense and idiocy which makes his people drawn into poverty and misery.

And here's Nicolas Sarkozy's speach at the Université de Dakar the 26 July 2007:

"The tragedy of Africa, is that the African man has not entered enough in History. The African peasant, who lives with the seasons since millenaries, and whose ideal is to live in harmony with nature, only knows the eternal restarting of time at the rythm of the everlasting repetition of the same gestures and words.

In that imagination, where everything starts all over again and again, there is no place for human adventure, nor for the idea of progress.

In that universe where Nature commands all, the human being avoids the anguish of History that the modern man suffers, but the human being stays still in the middle of an immutable order where everything seems to be written in advance.

Never the human being hurls himself to the future. Never can he imagine to get away from repetition in order to invent a destiny for him.


The challenge of Africa is to learn to see its accession to the Universal not as a denial of what she is, but as an accomplishment.

The challenge of Africa, is to learn to feel herself the heiress of everything that is universal in in all human civilisations.

Is to appropriate human rights, democracy, liberty, equality, justice as the common heritage of all civilisations and of all men."

This speech outraged Africans and if you are not "ethnocentered" you can understand why. Achille Mbembe, a Cameroun born political science professor in Johannesburg, wrote about his outrage:

The third reason for my incredulity is the tired old vision that the new French Head of State has, at present, chosen to convey of Africa and its people. As I pointed out in a previous article, this vision descends directly from 19th century racist dogma.

The President delves copiously into this mire, without the slightest distance or irony. He repeats entire pages of the wild imaginings of Hegel, Lévy-Bruhl, Leo Frobenius, Placide Temples and other inventors of the "African soul", in the process constructing his "truth" from the off-shoots of yesterday's ethno-philosophy, just as others before him invested in ethno-zoology in the hope of discovering the "fundamentally animal essence of the negro".

But doesn't he realize that the narrow-mindedness that characterizes colonial racism - that terrorism before the word was invented - has been the object of sustained criticism on the part of African intellectuals themselves since the second half of the 19th century? Doesn't he know that respecting a friend also means referring honestly to his/her opinions?


After all, who still ignores today that the recourse to clichés such as "the black soul" or "African authenticity" is, above all, a part of the tactics corrupt regimes and their political and intellectual elites use to promote "cultural difference" in the effort to legitimate their brutality and venality? Isn't it true, moreover, that, since decolonization, many French networks have unashamedly "cooperated" with this spirit of venality, networks which, for the occasion, hardly trouble themselves with skin colour?"

As for me, I like Pamuk's books a lot, but sometimes I would like that fiction never meets reality to prove him right...

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