Friday, May 11, 2007

Do We Have Low Self-Esteem?

I’m a member of an email group that is mainly for Tanzanians living in Columbus, Ohio. As such, I do receive communication from other members. I get all sorts of messages – folks promoting their businesses, baby shower announcements, bridal shower announcements, birthday party announcements, misiba announcements, etc. Occassionally, political agendas, which are typically followed by a lengthy debate, would surface.

I love it though. It keeps the community flowing.

So a few days ago, one of the members forwarded the following message. I will let you in on it:

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Kenya Airways na Ubaguzi

Couldn't help but wonder about the way the Western Media cover the KQ crash. Look at the following quote from cnn.com:

"The people on board included one American, five Britons, one Swiss, one Swede, six Chinese, and 15 Indians. The remainder were Africans, including at least 35 from Cameroon and at least nine from Kenya, according to airline figures."

So, the most important passenger was the American, followed by the Europeans, the Asians, the Southeast Asians, then the rest were just Africans.

Hey, doesn't matter that Africans comprised of the majority of the passengers in the fateful flight. The western media! Prejudice never fails to show its face.
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You know, you could read the above message and sympathize with the writer if you elect no to exercise your mental muscles. In a very simplistic, African-politically-charged thinking, the above statements appear to make sense. Nevertheless, the above statements, which could have very well be given by any African politician, is just an expression of an epidemic of low self-esteem or inferiority complex that has engulfed the minds of most Africans, particularly when it comes to the way they view themselves relative to the Western counterparts. In my opinion, that is very pathetic and very sad.

So this is the deal, lets get deeper a little bit. Didn't the quote say "according to the airline figures"? Why can't we assume that this was the Kenyan Airways own presentation instead of going into the West vs. poor Africans card? Besides, don't we, as Tanzanians, tend to group all white folks into wazungu group and not according to their nationalities? Isn't true that the rest of the victims in the plan crash were Africans?

The western media is trying to communicate with the western audience - which still believes that Africa is one country. Read Tanzanian own reporting. Their focus wasn't on any other persons, but a Tanzanian soldier onboard the plane. Just read the Guardian’s article to prove my point.

If the Tanzanian media chose to focus on a Tanzanian citizen onboard the plan, why then would any Tanzanian cry foul when the Western media is highlighting their own?

News is supposed to be relevant to the audience. If you understand the Western audience, you can get where the using the general term Africans come into play. I come across American folks, both white and black, who have no clue where Tanzanian is located on the map. Some would actually want to verify whether Tanzania is an island in Australia!

We can surely criticize the Western media in some other instances, but that does not preclude us, as Africans, from being practical. If anything, this was (at best) an overly political reaction. The worst-case scenario, which I believe is the underlying psychological truth, is that we have a very, very, very, low self-esteem when it comes to the way we compare ourselves to the wazungus.

And that is just very sad. Isn’t that circling back to the idea of how one’s mindset affects they way they view life and themselves?

Photo credit: Mjengwa

9 comments:

SIMON KITURURU said...

The answer is yes.In my opinion, Low self -esteem plays a big role in shaping the perception of the view of things in the majority of blacks!I emphasize majority, not all.
Of course, history has played a part in the development of this mental phenomenon, which makes blacks(Africans,American,etc)find it easy not to be colour blind.It is easy to interprete issues with reference to their past master status and our(blacks) past servant status, even in places that it doesnt apply.

Second, playing the race card has worked for sometime, especially to intimidate a liberal whiteman , who strive to appear non racistic.

But , there are still cases that it is true they( non africans) treats Africans as if they were inferior.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Simon
We can't deny the effects of history on the Africans' outlook, but my question is this: at what point will Africans stop worrying about history and focus on their capabilities?

Don't we, even in Tanzania, have our own little prejudices and stereotypes? For instance, what is the general population thinking of the Gogo tribe? Aren't they generally thought of as beggars and good for nothing?

I think we ought to be practical. Stereotypes will never die, so we shouldn't lose sleep over that, as some Africans are trying to do.

Omar said...

Honestly, after living in four different countries and wherever I go - most people are prejudiced. That's what I have realised.

Anonymous said...

On your earlier post/topic Metty:
Metty – it has been 20 years since he’s been gone.
What’s baffling to an average person Metty is that learn from Mwalimu’s “mistakes”. It is bad form – for a gentleman to constantly/repeatedly try to make a point by dragging a dead person’s name through mud. Personally I see your point but – it will go down better if you and I leave Mwalimu out of it. To the living – blast them to an extent that it will not be personal – wao wanapumua they can defend themselves ….. U understand the words I typed?
Corruption was here before Mwalimu came – corruption was here after Mwalimu’s passing ……. Hebu tuwachane na maswali academic. Effective …….. non-effective ……… sounds like A-level history to me.
“The past is history; the present moment is a gift (Unknown)”

Metty – calm down for a min. Sober up for a minute here - “Given that fact, corruption, irresponsibility, self-righteousness, abuse of power and all the negative things that we note with regards to Tanzanian leaders, are attributed to him.”

Mwalimu had a few balls too many in the air – so one’s bound to let some fall to the ground - naturally. That been said, kama Mwalimu ‘failed’ ….. what’s preventing the generation that he never will have tainted from doing better in those areas above – essentially 20 years from now?

For once so that your point could be crystal clear – while Mwalimu might have been part of the problem. He wasn’t ‘all’ of it either. With time – he ceases to be an issue altogether.

We’d both agree that there’s lousy leadership in Tanzania at the moment – now the question as to whether that lousiness has everything to do with Mwalimu ……. Sounds cheap to me.


Lets deal (because that’s the only choice we have anyway – feel free to counter that fact) with now and tomorrow – of course with respect to yesterday’s issues – so that we do a better job NOT to repeat the same (old) mistakes. While your argument that “A responsible father leaves his house in order. And Nyerere didn’t.”

Fine – to me this is half the story. The other half being “What happens once the house that was meant to be in order isn’t – and if it isn’t how come we living beings are blaming a dead man?” why not simply put it in order? We have a diagnosis ……….. now why not find a remedy for it?
Instead of dwelling on Mwalimu we need to be:

“Learning from the past,
Embracing the future
You cannot build performance on weaknesses. You can only build it on strengths (Unknown)” – last time I checked – “blaming” is not a strength

Mwalimu retired in 1985 ……. It has been 20 years+ …….. come on now. If today’s leaders are anything worth than the paper their pay stubs are printed on – how come we are still trying to find a malaria vaccine instead of eradicating mosquito habitats? Yaani na hii nayo ni ya ku-debate Mzee?
Kwa sababu even an average son should do better if not try to match up to at least what the father did/has accomplished.

Last but not least Metty “Knowledge is what enables people to make daring strides and new discoveries (Unknown)” – we know now that Mwalimu made those “grave” mistakes – we know ………. How come I am not seeing any “discoveries” for the better?

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anony 9:40AM
Well, I had forgotten about the Nyerere's discussion.

It is interesting that you have decided to paint me as a very bad person, for trying to “drag a dead person’s name through mud”. I can understand the sentiments behind your comments, but we are not dealing with Nyerere the person. I am dealing with Nyerere the legacy. I really don’t know Nyerere the person- that is up for those who’s were fortunate to be close to him to judge, but I’m talking about this “Baba wa Taifa” figure, who is still just as alive as you and I.

You really don’t have to agree with me (and that’s the beauty of sharing our thoughts and opinions), but my conviction is that the current situation in Tanzanian has a lot to do with Nyerere. I believe that he set the tone and the culture within CCM and the entire leadership is still prevalent today. If the house is shaky, shouldn’t we challenge the builder? Honestly, how many current politicians still ride on Nyerere’s legacy to get political credibility?

That’s why I am compelled to deal with Nyerere the philosophy and culture. I don’t know how many people out there would want to kill a tree by pruning its branches. You have to go for the roots. Unfortunately, Nyerere is the root in the entire system.

I think I have fulfilled your request that we deal with the “now and the future”. Just read through my blog. Go through my posts and you will see for yourself that I have dedicated the majority of my reflections on the “now and the future”. I can only assume that you handpicked this Nyerere post because, just like most Tanzanians, touching Nyerere is like touching a god. And that’s where our problems begin.

You know what? I agree with you that sons should try to do better if not try to match up the father did. Unfortunately, in Tanzania we have a culture that embraces holding on to fathers’ legacy, even if such legacies are crappy. Just be honest with me: do you think folks in CCM today are doing better than Nyerere? Do you think Mr. JMK has guts to veer off Nyerere’s legacy? In order for a son to do better, he has so venture out of the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo has Nyerere written all over it and most folks are very comfortable with that. I can write as much as I want about BWM or JWK, but they are just a result of a system that Nyerere established.

Apparently, you weren’t too happy for me to challenge the root of that system.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Omar
Does that include Africans' own prejudices?

SIMON KITURURU said...

@Metty: I think it is a great step forward that U are bringing this issue up. I think what U are doing is one way of providing an alternative way of thinking about how to untangle ourselves from the entanglement of the mindset that keeps a blackman down.
I wouldn't want a black man to forget the history though!I would just wish history don't continue to be a reason not to perform, not to be practical, not to stand up and be counted.
But slowly I think some of us have changed.Hopefully more will follow in the future. And in my eyes , your work is helping on this

Jaduong Metty said...

@Simon,
I appreciate your encouragement. I will keep on challenging our thinking - with a balanced point of view. It is very sad that Africans, and Tanzanians in particular, are still hung on blaming the past for everything. I really can't connect misappropriation of public funds with colonialism effects.

That's where I think we became so stupid, if not comical.

Patrick GK said...

Metty and Simon,

Well said bros, I couldn't agree with you more.