Monday, 6 February 2012

My thoughts on "Lazy (intellectual) African Scum

On Field's opinion piece You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum!

The weird and the bizarre

The first time I read Field’s opinion I had my moment of chuckle and I quickly moved on. I did not see the need to pass his opinion around; actually it had no substance whatsoever. Alas, between the times I had my first chuckle and now, my email box has been inundated with comments directed at this opinion piece. Field’s opinion has gone viral. Perhaps, in itself a testimony of how to attract African “intellectuals” to anything. Ridicule, and make fun of Africans and in hordes and heads they come out of their holes to defend. So I had to re-read and understand the fascination.

So what is it that I found weird and Bizarre about this opinion piece? Well I goggled Field Ruwe and from what I gather he is an intellectual with a penchant for fictional writing. I suppose that sets the tone for his opinion piece since most of what he wrote was fictional. Beginning, with this character called Walter. In my estimation, this character is one Field imagined and the conversation that took place took place in his head. My estimation is based on the following; Walter works for a Vulture fund. That is, a hedge fund that buys 3rd world debt. Yet, in all that Walter says, besides the insults there is nothing to convince me that he works for a hedge/vulture fund, nor has he ever been part of the Zambia debt restructuring.

The factual case noted against Zambia with respect to Vulture funds is Donegal International vs the government of Zambia for an amount of $3.28m with respect to a loan between Government of Zambia and government of Romania. A London court ruled on this matter and as far as I am concerned, a legal issue that was addressed appropriately. The other Vulture funds, perhaps I should add, where vulture funds have been of concern or raised concern is in DRC, Uganda and Cameroon. Nowhere have I found Zambian lawsuits or notable disagreements with its external creditors.

But, you must realise that Walter oscillates between Zambia and Africa with such abandon I am convinced he either does not know of the issues or believes Zambia and Africa are the same. If Walter does ostensibly exist beyond the imagination then surely he is not the intellectual we suppose him to be. Truly weird and bizarre. The premise on which the argument stands on is nothing but quick sand!

Much ado about nothing

That brings me to the other issue, this idea of intellectuals driving development. Or rather the lazy intellectuals in Africa. Field studied History at Master’s level. I am not sure of his particular specialisation but every History student is aware of research methodology. Of my History friends, I find there are more pedantic about facts and historical accounts. Even pejorative remarks are taken to their logical conclusion through a very precise and elaborate exposition. I find this opinion piece lacks in intellectual rigour. If indeed Field and Walter sat on a plane and exchanged words, then I am utterly surprised Field could not see through Walter’s lies. And call his bluff. I am therefore surprised it has received the attention that it has. Especially from Africans.

Another fact is that nowhere have I ever read that America was built by Intellectuals. Indeed I am yet to find a civilisation built by intellectuals. Hardly, have I come across an article hailing Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sean Parker as intellectuals. Andrew Carnegie could hardly read. An immigrate worker who came with nothing and with basic arithmetic he became an industrialist. The same is true of Rockefeller . The same with Lincoln and Washington. Men blessed with nothing else but the will power to get things done.

If ever, I am to be part of this conversation and contribute meaningful then I would direct readers to one Joseph Schumpeter whose work on development is the most erudite and comprehensive. Schumpeter after studying nations and how nations develop summed it beautifully; “ successful innovation requires an act of will, not of intellect. It depends, therefore, on leadership, not intelligence, and it should not be confused with invention". Indeed Field’s postulation is much ado about nothing.

“i beseech you in the bowels of christ think it possible you may be mistaken.” O Cromwell

Evidently Field is mistaken in all fronts. And it is not him I beseech. But the many people who have found time to make this opinion piece go viral. If Field meant to instigate, then let him be. If he meant to insult, then take his insult as harmless. Of the many opinion pieces in the world in this new age era this my friend is what you decided to dwell and labour on? Of course taking pot shots at you, incidentally means I am guilt as well. To that I am ashamed. But my shame paled in comparison to the damage this viral has already caused. I have been amused as some defended the indefensible, as some agreed with pies in the sky and some became resolute to fight a cause. Yet all we had to do was open the book of Ecclesiastes “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.