Michael Moore fails to analyse Africa

I read Michael Moore’s controversial Stupid white men during my vacation in Brazil, of all places, and had some unpleasant flashbacks from the 2000 election debacle when I was a student at the university in Uppsala, Sweden. The stupidity of George Bush had reached all the way to Sweden and for some of the reasons Moore describes in his book, I desperately prayed that this man, or his party, wouldn’t win the election. As if things weren’t bad enough, after September 11th it was clear that our worst fears would come true.

What I wonder is how Bush could get away with all the conservative stupidity and bad governing without getting any substantial criticism? And how in the world could he be re-elected? Are the democrats that incompetent? And what about the media, how could they fail so much by not doing their job?

There is one major issue in Moore’s book I’d like to question. His rather humoristic explanation of the African continent is a bit, well, American. It is comfortable to describe Africa as one big mass of war and famine but that’s what the mainstream media is saying and I actually expect a bit more Michael Moore.

I know that the Africa remarks were made in a somewhat humoristic manner, but let me give you some facts:

Africa is home to more than 50 countries and war is raging in only a few of these. In the early nineties, can you believe that there were as many civil wars in Europe as in Africa (most of which took place in the Balkans and former Soviet)? And some of the most violent conflicts have actually turned to peace since then. For instance, look at Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Since the end of the Cold War, democratization has spread on the continent and people are freer now than they were twenty years ago. There are still several depressing examples but on the whole, things are actually going in  the right direction.

Poverty and illiteracy have decreased and health is getting better in the majority of the African nations. Of course, these positive trends do not include failed states like the Congo (DRC), Somalia or Sudan, but hey, let’s tell our governments to work to help these countries come out of their misery.

If you go to an African country like, say, Kenya, Ghana or Senegal, you’ll find ordinary people with ordinary clothes getting to work in their ordinary cars in their ordinary cities. The chaos of war is actually the unusual, and not the norm.

Anyway, Stupid white men is an important book and Moore’s strong engagement to make a better society is invaluable. If I were black I would surely send him my CV, considering that he only hire black people..!

Filip Ericsson

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