SALAGA, Ghana — One cannot step into the same river twice. Why try in the footsteps of another?
Most African leaders seem committed to quixotic economic principles in the quest for sustainable development. What leaders wish to achieve in Africa – in terms of economic development – is a copycatting of European economic policies and a lockstep belief that the American success story can be emulated on African soil.
Sometimes what this belief entails, involves an elaborate scheme where western consultants are imported at exorbitant prices, at the behest of poor taxpayers, to work hand in hand with African governments for the realization of a dream.
When African leaders now speak of economic development – of this dream – what they essentially allude to is one that mimics the economy of the United States of America.
This is an unrealistic ambition. Along with it, the sheer temerity of African policy makers is improvident.
Nonetheless, the choice has powerful consequences for policy making in Africa. The notions about economic success have become so prevailing that it now fumigates commonsense. The need to economically develop at a fast rate, upward into a formidable economic union with America and Europe, has brought with it manifest hardships.
However, many African leaders are relentless in their pursuit of the Bretton Woods system of monetary policy, which is a mid-20th century set of rules established by the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australasia and Japan for commercial and financial relations. Our economists tell us, although there is no Africa in this list, that this is the sure way, the certain path to the economic emancipation we seek in Africa.
America is the example, and what our leaders see is perhaps the best of the world. They see shining cities, tall towns and in the countryside, they look upon rows of magnificent mansions with a definitive unkempt amusement.
Many African leaders have come to understand that Africa can also raise these glass buildings, erect these steel complexes and hammer these dry-wall mansions into place from out of the Sahara and the Serengeti. If America can raise New York City from out of a marsh, Africa can do it from clay.
So, we trudge along this path hoping to make the American success story become a reality in Africa. The fervor for achieving this iconographic status of an American exceptionalism within the corridors of African commerce and sustainable development has reached untold heights.
The African elite, mined on the continent of Africa in some of the most prestigious Christian Missionary schools the continent can offer, forged on a diet of foreign books and literature, and put together in the assembling lines of America’s elite liberal arts colleges and universities, are willing to descant the possibilities of the American dream in Africa. Nothing could be further from this spectacle of a civilization.
America itself is merciless in its mission to snatching and holding on to power in Africa in the name of finishing what Britain failed to accomplish on the continent. With excessive pressure on almost every African government, lest an isolation into a powder keg, America’s pyromania has set its military fire on every nook and cranny on the African continent.
France is the other bête-noire, which is still collecting remuneration from 14 African nations for absolutely no reason other than for maintaining a colonial regime in Africa. As France continues to loot African resources, and as the United Nations stands idly by, it is well-nigh impossible for African governments to concentrate on developmental goals since any dissent against this illegal invasion and extortion invites no other than the nuclear-trigger-happy military ire of the U.S. and the rest of the European Union.
America’s assignation with France is both arcane and clandestine. Both espouse at length that their cherished models of exceptionalism – capitalism, morality, the protestant ethic and democracy – are the surest way out of pauperism and the only guaranteed way to making the world a better place. These nations extend their conniving hands to African countries, and they must shake it, whether or not the economic programs they force down the throats of poor Africans are the expedient paths to economic freedom.
While France does not categorically deny its broad daylight robbery of African nations, the U.S. on the other hand, tacks its foreign policy in Africa neatly under a banner of saving the innocent lives of African children who are under the threat of obliteration by an ethnic dictator.
For instance, in September 2013, President Barack Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, would close a disconcerting speech with these archetypal words on America’s outlook: Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death—and thereby make our own children safer over the long run—I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different; that’s what makes us exceptional.
The framework of this American obsession is the apotheosis of the ideology of exceptionalism. It breeds a persistent destruction within discussions of real issues even in the U.S. itself. Of course, as a sovereign nation, the U.S. is entitled to its opinion on exceptionalism, but it cannot be entitled to the facts about the horrors of American exceptionalism in America and the results of its devastation particularly in Africa.
The road to economic freedom and socio-political success in Africa must be carefully weighed against this framework.
In a country where more than 40 million children go to bed on empty stomachs, it is difficult to agree with the statement of the American leader that the U.S. is truly the arbiter on making children feel safer anywhere.
Especially since the United States, a nation with only 5 percent of the world’s people, jails more than 25 percent of the entire world prison population. One in three Black men in America is destined to be committed to The Prison Industrial Complex – a private enterprise fashioned out by a notorious Ronald Reagan and carried to excess by a crafty Bill Clinton with his 1994 Crime Bill – throwing that Land of the Free idiom finally into the garbage pool of barbarism.
Since 2013, American exceptionalism has accounted for at least 150 school shootings in house — an average of nearly one a week. Each and every day, an average of 88 Americans are shot and killed by cops and other individuals for absolutely no law enforcement reason.
These facts, although constantly making headlines in the U.S., seem to almost always escape the purview of bumptious African leaders and importunate policy makers. Leaders on the continent, no matter how lovable, are oblivious to the sources of American wealth, the origins of French affluence and in general, the roots of the opulence in which the West and its military dictatorship bask.
When carefully examined, America’s supposed economic advancement is born rather out of chaos – a war zone. With modest effort and risk, these facts cannot elude any clear thinker. But, a recent book by Charles Murray on, “American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History,” stokes more disillusionment amongst African policy makers about the hypocrisy and contradictions of the American perspective.
The author claims that the founders of the American Empire believed they were creating something new. He asserts that the national seal on every U.S. dollar bill, for instance, is translated: A new order for the ages. Only, that vision of the new order, never seems to have included the equal humanity of Africans, African Americans or the Natives of the American terrain.
American historians’ amnesia on the immolation of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans – directly tied to the wanton economic uplift of several million European immigrants – is inconceivable. The forgetfulness is palpable even within the scientific documentation of American wealth, and this makes it doubly difficult to fully comprehend the efficacy of American economic policy in general.
Nineteenth century European scholars who visited the U.S. fell for the same hoax. Obviously, wanting to be “white” themselves, they consistently missed the fallacy in American exceptionalism. Their descriptions of the U.S. as being sharply different from other nations they had closely observed, shied away from the fact that American exceptionalism was born out of an overcompensation of Europeans (or “whites”) Inferiority Complex to Africans (Blacks).
Indeed, the felicity of the West lies in our imagination alone, and we surely do not think they could have attained it unless they heeded all their vagaries.
African policy makers fall for the play on American scholarship on economics. Segregated from the experiences of African Americans, African scholars, like the European students before them, do not comprehend the structural fallacies in American economic policy towards a humane sustainable development agenda. Rather, African leaders choose to reflect on the unique financial, economic and military stature of the United States today, and invariably fall prey to its shinning cities, the tall towns and the magnificent mansions in the countryside.
Nothing is made of the constant suffering of African Americans or the Natives of America who are now all but exiled in prescribed Reservation camps. African scholars are blinded by reflections of American opulence and ignore the African American experience at the base of the economic abundance of America’s elite.
America’s success story is indeed stupefying for these reasons. It is easy to ignore the fact that the country’s frontier and the appeal for formerly persecuted immigrants from Europe wanting to work hard and begin a better life was actually stooped in crimes against humanity – acquiring free lands through genocide and free labor through the brutal enslavement of Africans.
Mr. Obama and Murray’s view of history are all but parochial and their stolid perceptions on American exceptionalism fly in the face of their internal incongruities. Take for example the American Constitution – which is a 200 year old experiment, that is now perilously close to crashing under subversion from within America’s war-torn borders; in particular, the transmogrification of the Executive into a Feudal State supported by an Armed Nobility that shoots and kills who they dislike, extracts tithes from the peasants and threatens dissent with violence.
This is an old story, not an exceptional one.
This is why an accurate survey of America should always include the reality of the African American struggle, the Native American fight and now the Latino immigration obsession. With this in mind, a few questions need asking. Does American humanity extend to the rest of its people who have not descended from Europe? The answer is, absolutely not. Does American exceptionalism extend to the humanity of the rest of the globe? Absolutely not.
But, onwards marches this idea that America was the first nation to birth a constitutional system of government; first to root this conviction in natural rights; and that America is the birthplace of the rule of law and honest distinct civic culture.
The facts paint an unsettling image. America may be entitled to its opinion on exceptionalism, but it cannot be entitled to the facts on American exceptionalism.
So, even though American exceptionalism runs countercurrent to the ideals of communal African traditions, African policy makers are yet to grasp the contradictions. In the meantime they continue to sop up the deliberate luster of the American way of life. They are not the first ones to do this, but hopefully they are the last.
Throughout the 20th century, many African leaders also danced to this tune. Those who didn’t, were brutally overthrown or fatally shot. African leaders learned quickly to kowtow. This genuflection will severely damage African thought and hinder the advance of a truly African civilization in the making.
Rather than ground our children in the workings of our communal upbringing, our schools have become training grounds for the exceptional ones who would rise to rule the nation, or race to join the host of people who call themselves “white.” Entry level examinations, the application processes for college admissions, and the sky-rocketing price of private and public education, all work in conjunction with the ideals of an imported American exceptionalism.
Even our professors, in our universities, do not shy away from emphasizing the mark of their higher achievements of exceptionalism: countless degrees from foreign liberal arts colleges. They would shout out their diplomas in bewilderment as if possessed by the gods of Ireland if their credentials are ever questioned.
An Oxford education and a Harvard education are still worth everything one can imagine in Ghana. After several decades of independence? These are the Red-Blue Scholars of our land. They are a supposititious list of unbelievers in Africa.
We have allowed the very invasion of the ideals of this American experiment to permeate the safe space of communal African thought. But history is a recursive learning space.
We must remain unambivalent. We must guard against the Red-Blue Scholars of our land who are intent on establishing a caliphate of American exceptionalism on the shores of Ghana.