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Machine Gun Meow’s remarks for Nadia Monsengo

Guest post by mGm on Nadia Monsengo’s essay
My thoughts on Africa’s Image Problem

The way they feed on the negativity of Africa is disconcerting. The media only shows negative images of Africa … They take advantage of the negativity of Africa and take advantage of the positive light it shines on them for giving generously.

Excerpted from “Nadia Monsengo” by Nadia Monsengo of African Artista

Machine Gun Meow

What an interesting and completely relatable post. Having lived in Australia for more than a decade, I am still surprised and stung by off the cuff remarks such as, “Oh, as an African, you must be used to the heat”; “Do you have tarmac roads?”; “Is your family safe from Ebola/ Al Shabab violence” and …

“But you can’t be African, you aren’t black?!”

Some of these are general ignorance mixed with polite concern. It is the ignorance that I take issue with. During my schooling years, we learned not just about ourselves as a country (Kenya) and a continent (Africa), we also learned our place in the world and about the rest of the world with equal focus.

I feel sorry for those who never learned about other countries and continents so that their view of the world now is rather self centric and skewed. They missed out on so much. African history and current affairs, as Nadia rightly mentions, are overly represented by the negatives, which every corner of this world has some form of.

I take great pride in educating anyone who will listen about the origins and richness of Swahili as a language; about the pioneer microfinancing innovation, M-PESA; about English being one of my first languages and how most people where I am from are trilingual; about the indescribable beauty of Africa; the unsurpassed warmth and comfort of a community-based outlook.

Everyone belongs.

Africa is more than a game-watching destination or a dumping ground for last-season’s-disposable-fashion-disguised-as-charity. I devote considerable time during such conversations to dispelling ignorant myths, most of which are laughable. But real change can only come from two sources: a shift in the media perspective so that it is not all doom and gloom; and a fair and reasonable inclusion of African history, geography, culture and civics (preferably with considerations for the diversity in the same) in mainstream Western education.

Of course, the audience must listen with open mind and heart.

I, for one, am proud of and grateful for the fact that my formative education was undertaken in Africa. I am so much richer and well-rounded for it.

By ΠιCΘLΣ

Life is short, so let’s be decent.

30 replies on “Machine Gun Meow’s remarks for Nadia Monsengo”

It is amazing to see how a lot of people are still ignorant and don’t have an open mind. Like you mentioned, Africa has an indescribable beauty! Not only the african people, but also its history, the land, animals, food…etc. The diversity is very broad. It is very unfortunate that the media only shows one side of Africa and the people choose to only see that side. I also hope for everyone, where ever people come from, that they will have an open mind about Africa and learn about the diversity and a lot more about this beautiful continent.

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It isn’t easy, paying attention. We are truly in an information age, but we aren’t in an Informed Age. There’s so much information bombarding us every (swear word) second that is hard to know what to listen to and what to ignore. How far are we truly from the pre-industrial era when all you needed to know was your village and its occupants and the jungle nearby? And now we are pelted with information about everything from a new born chimp in some zoo half the globe away to summit talks about avoiding nuclear war! Our brains aren’t conditioned for this. That’s why we need news on smaller and still smaller capsules and we need people to curate and redact all this mess and make some sense out of all this. That’s where news media comes in. Unfortunately, the curators have become too biased in their reportage. We all feel angry or hurt when our particular group gets stereotyped. I hate it when people think all Indians talk like Apu from the Simpsons. You get angry when someone asks Africa is filled to the brim with AK47 toting black men in fatigues, speaking some form of pidgin English. It’s not wrong for us to feel so. But we can’t exactly blame people for their ignorance in this age of information overload, can we? Should we?

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Great points all, and I would especially like to agree with the final remark, which is that we are the ones consuming and demanding therefore feeding information about what we want to see, hear and read. We are finally responsible, but at the same time, even when alternatives are presented, people don’t want to give up the idea that they might be superior to some vague other.

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We and our middling brains. We’re just not built to manage that much. And that’s part of the reason that we cling on to some idea of superiority over others. Humans are too clannish to be able to rule the earth effectively.

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That’s why education is very important. I believe that people (well, except for those die hard Nazi-minded individuals) would be more sensitive to these kinds of matters if they have more understanding of the underlying issues. However, it’s obvious that the education systems are not doing good enough. While they are now all focusing on teaching the kids more in-depth sciences and math, they seem to forget the more important things… And the media.. meh

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A lot of smart people talk about perceptions and biases in our modern day world. Remember the birth of scientific inquiry during the Renaissance. I think our society needs it more than now – to question everything, every single thing that we know, we have read, we have learnt, we think, we presuppose, we presume, we just take for granted.

A much needed article in these times, heart felt and well written.

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Thanks, Pecs. You’ve echoed my feelings about this age of retrogression. It’s as if the Information Age is a joke. We have information but it’s full of presumptions, biases and manufactured perceptions. Travel blogs rarely help as they often send outideas and images that reinforce the notion of their own cultures as superior. Nothing is learned. As an expatriate, I’m affected by this problem daily. Cultures are consumed but not appreciated when presented for authentic interaction. One of the ways I try to change that is to be present and to resist any imposition of preconceptions on me. x

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And the quality and the integrity of the providers of the information are questionable too. Sadly, people nowadays are too gullible, especially if the information comes from “reliable” sources.

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My favourite example of reliable sources is the United Nations vs media on issues in Africa. I love to read reports in full and then watch how the media buries stuff they don’t like. Then, they broadcast the information that will make everyone think how lucky they are to be paying 45% income tax, etc. It’s like picking the blueberries out of your blueberry muffin.

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Yes, that’s how they do it these days. And to think that those reports may have already left out some vital info, then further “screened” by the media, the final info. that would reach to the general public would just be pure BS…

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That’s why I’m glad I love to read and that I have the training to sift through large volumes of data. It’s inefficient to ask a viewing public to do that, but it gets harder the larger the bottoms on the front page get, to focus on the decisions made by those we didn’t elect to make them.

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Ha! Many people today don’t even want to read things that don’t contain multimedia, so it’s too much to ask for. At least, in Hong Kong, there are at least several people who still read, but the numbers is decreasing steadily.

And also, many people don’t want to think nowadays. Instead, they would just rely on those “expert” analyses and interpretations.

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Sometimes, I think that they intentionally didn’t include pictures on some writings to discourage people from reading them. 🙂

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It’s similar with insurance contracts, legal contracts, etc…

A magician named Harry Lorayne remarked that “If you want to keep a routine secret, publish it!”

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Yes, in the context of magic, I find it funny that many magicians always complain about “lack of materials and routines”. But in reality, they already have so many hidden gems in their personal libraries.

Yes, it’s really necessary to read the fine print especially if you don’t want to be duped by them. Though most people wouldn’t bother to read the fine print as well.

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The Art of Paying Attention. It’s lost on us. Some people need medication, but those of us who don’t have ADHD, it might be a good idea to slow down and look around a bit.

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If this trend persists, I wouldn’t be surprised if “paying attention” would just become a lost art in the future.

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