Living on less than one dollar a day

Posted by By at 4 January, at 03 : 00 AM Print

Living on less than one dollar a day

I am always amaze at the length Europeans will go to portray Africa and Africans in bad light. From AIDS (supposedly wiping out whole societies in their mythical ‘sub Saharan’ Africa) to Mad Cow disease (claimed to be caused by game meat imported by Africans in Britain) everything bad has to have an African origin. Had SARS evolved in Europe, there’s no doubt that some enterprising European scientists would have linked it to some invented African origin!

Since Europe embraced the ideology of racism, her leaders and scholars have adorned the African with a panoply of psychological fantasies of a schizoid, self-hating, slavery-loving, sniggering, simpering, grinning, cringing and servile Big Black Sambo incapable of thoughts beyond food and sex. Throw in our supposed lust for “pure white belle with swishing skirts” – to borrow one of their descriptions, and you have the complete picture the racists are painting of us. That these clichéd racist’s imaginations exist only in their heads have not daunted them through the ages.

Of course, since the West controls the world’s mass media, Western views, however jaundiced, easily become gospel truth.

Astronomical figures are conjured up to show how we Africans remain the wretched of the earth. It is said that 90% of us are illiterate with no one telling us what ‘literacy’ was supposed to mean. Even if we accept that literacy means the ability to communicate in a European language, then I should question the figures because both my parents and both my maternal grandparents are fluent speakers of the English language. It is said that our life expectancy is only thirty-five years or thereabout – my maternal grandfather was close to one hundred years before he died and my father was over seventy before he departed. My mother died at the ripe age of 70 years, thank you very much.

And it just so happen that we have rabidly racist societies sending their so-called experts to go out and teach ‘Human Rights,’ to Africans – of course, it never occurs to them that in Africa we have the most hospitable and humane human beings to be found anywhere in the world. And we have Europeans trudging the length and breadth of our land purporting to be teaching some ‘Christian Love’ – a commodity so signally lacking in the home countries of these sanctimonious hypocrites. I don’t know a single European society that is showing any love and compassion to those that sojourn amongst it. Correct me, if I am wrong, please!

And with the zeal and speed at which ‘tolerant’ Holland is busy humiliating and dehumanizing its immigrants, you’d think that foreigners were the causes of all the woes bedeviling The Netherlands. Why no one bothers to include racism among the tenets of ‘Human Right’ still remains a source of mystery to me. Or is it because racism is so pervasive in Europe? And we have societies that cannot sell a bottle of water without showing a woman’s breast going out to the world to give sermons about ‘Woman’s Empowerment.’ What sickening hypocrisy!

The latest lamentation of the racists who pretend to love us more than we love ourselves is that we Africans should be pitied because, they say, most of us live on less than one dollar a day. How Western organizations conjure their alarming statistics about Africa remains a mystery to me since no one has ever polled me or anyone that I knew. Is it really true that most Africans live on less than a dollar a day and is it cause for pity if they so do? I have lived in both Africa and Europe, so I think I can make some comparisons that the racist pollsters are avoiding.

Apostles of unbridled materialism would want the world to start feeling sorry for me because I fed on less than a dollar a day. The truth is that there are days I spend less than a dollar in a day, and there are actually several days that I, in point of fact, spend zero dollar a day. There are days on end that I do not even spent a brass farthing, but please do not waste your tears on me. There are days I got all my meals from the fruits and vegetables from my garden. And there are other days I received all my daily nutriments free from my neighbours. So much for your dollar a day lamentation!

Living in a fool’s paradise and believing himself ‘rich’, the European has successfully turned himself into a consuming-junkie and Big businesses are successfully preying upon his insatiable gluttony. It is with this consume-all-consumables mentality with which Europeans go around the world to measure other people, and to spread their gospel of unbridled materialism, greed and avarice.

Believing himself rich, the European has to live the illusion of wealth. Let us consider briefly a sketch of our ‘rich’ cousin. He’s among the lucky few who still have a job. He works in a dotcom firm and loan was easy to get. Our rich cousin lives in a mortgaged council flat not bigger than my kitchen that they told him is worth about half a million Euros. Our cousin is so overjoyed with the idea of owning a house that he failed to realize that the banks and the estate agents, who valued the house, are just playing some tricks on him. His head dances with joy when handed the keys to his smallish, roach-infested apartment that takes over one-third of his salary. With house ownership comes other accessories necessary to join the ‘haves.’ On this fantasy of house-ownership wealth, our unfortunate cousin takes out car loan and bought a big car that must reflect the image of a ‘house owner.’ And, of course, other loans for furniture and the other appurtenances are necessary to maintain the image of a ‘rich person.’ Our cousin must have the biggest and most expensive kitchen money can buy, so more borrowed money is poured into building a futuristic kitchen. Since our rich cousin is too busy running a rat-race (to pay his debtors) to cook decent meals his expensive, high-tech kitchen, built with borrowed money, is used only to warm supermarket-bought canned foods!

Our ‘rich’ cousin needed all these material aggrandizements so that he can become ‘acceptable’ as a ‘success’ story. On this illusion of wealth our cousin can heave his chest and proclaim to the world that he is ‘rich. Until pay back time, that is.

Overwhelmed by all the debt, he becomes stressful and suffers from a host of physical, mental, psychical as well as psychological problems that kept him awake at night. Of course, he’s not alone – actually he’s in good company. And of course there is the media telling him that he’s better off than the usual bogeyman – the ‘AFRICAN.’ Pictures of some Africans, unfortunate victims of wars or nature’s vagaries are boomed to his tube to tell him that he’s OK!

Does our ‘rich’ cousin finds happiness in the material opulence with which he surrounds himself? Does he derive any joy with all the gadgets he has bought with borrowed money? I doubt it very much. The truth is that I see more happiness in Africa than I see in Europe. I see more colours, I see more joy and I certainly see more laughter in the poorest of African villages than I see in the wealthiest of European cities. Which might, in some ways, confirm the saying that you can buy the luxuries, but you cannot buy happiness.

Swissair once hoteled me in the Swiss town of Kloten. It was a leisurely summer day and in the evening I took a stroll and I couldn’t believe the sight. In Kloten there is definitely material opulence everywhere but the people that I saw looked so gloomy! The houses were all well kept with the lawn trimmed and the driveway shinny. But Kloten was as lifeless as it was soulless! It was as though it was a totemic town uninhabited by humans. The people of Kloten were tooling around town in their shinny limousines but their faces registered profound unhappiness. Kloten strikes me like a sterile bubble. It was dreadful!

I can easily contrast this with a typical African village where, no matter how materially deprived the people were; there will still be joy and laughter and abundance of vibrant colours and music everywhere.

These were some of the points I made in an article published by the Dutch Newspaper, ‘de Volkskrant’ some years back in which I wrote, inter alia: “The European has succeeded in taking the toils out of his life and all the joys as well. Finding no real happiness in the innate objects with which he has surrounded himself, the European has to escape once in a year from all the gloomy drudgery of his technology. He buys his tickets and takes a trip to Africa. What does he find? He finds people crawling out of their little huts with wide smiles on their faces. He sees men toiling in the tropical heat, humming sonorous songs. Our ‘rich’ cousin sees poor women, with children on their backs, toiling and yet chatting happily. He sees bare-footed kids with a loin for a cloth scampering around in joyful plays. The European is astounded. How could people be so happy in such a materially-deprived existence? That is the great African mystery. That is what the Europeans, with all their newly found sciences and technologies have been unable to unravel. What makes the Africans tick? Since Europeans are incapable of thinking of happiness sans mechanical gadgets, they cannot understand cultures that do not depend on gadgets to produce true happiness.”

I do not write this to suggest that Africa hasn’t got is fair share of problems. No! The sad truth is that no society created by humans is devoid of problem. And no society in Europe, Africa or Asia has managed to solve all its human development problems. The quarrel is with the Western media portrayal of Euro-America has a sort of paradisiacal seventh heaven and the portrayal of Africa as a hopeless place inhabited by sub-humans.

As I wrote in the Dutch paper, European can keep accumulating their useless statistics, we Africans shall continue to face the morrow with confidence, cheerfulness and optimism. If slavery and colonialism failed to wipe us out, no force of nature or man can so do.

About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are now available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

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  1. The idea that Africa’s problems comes from a european racist ideology of africans short-sighted at best. If you look at the figures and the history of Africa, it’s problems all come down to an inhospitable environment that allows little support for large human population. To construe that European or your obvious allusion to white being responsible is misunderstanding causation of historical problems.


    Anonymous, 14 years ago

  2. Femi, I'm a European myself, and I agree with many of the points made here, however, I must argue that this is a rather harsh generalization. There are also Europeans that get the most out of life, and either don't care about or don't have the money to buy the materialistic gadgets and objects you speak of.You're argument would be greatly enhanced if you specified it was a generalization. There are pathetic materialistic idiots everywhere, NO exceptions!Respectfully,:D


    Anonymous, 12 years ago

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