12 December 2007

"The detritus of the white man's world"

I've spoken of my admiration for much of Doris Lessing's work, but I have remained silent on her writings about Africa and her thoughts on that, the continent of her birth. Mostly because I've felt that her perspective on Africa was an important one for a while, but that she is also very much a product of her time and situation, as are we all.

I liked parts of her Nobel lecture very much, and the overall thrust of it -- which I perceived as a call to recognize the systems and luxuries that allow literature to be written -- is one I think deserves to be raised more often, and I was glad Lessing did. I didn't even mind her disparaging comments about the internet, because I never expected her to be very familiar or approving of it, anyway.

But some of what she writes about Africa bothered me quite a lot, in that she seems to be nostalgic for colonialism. Ramblings of an African Geek now has a post addressing this:
Never mind the damage colonization has done and still does to Africa, never mind the fact that the mission schools she so easily praises were built to teach a small minority of Africans to be government clerks and clergymen and were never meant to either educate the masses or produce the thinkers they did, thinkers who primarily came into existence because they understood how to subvert the education they were being given and take more out of it than was intended for them. Instead let’s take swipes at African governments and praise colonizers who were happy enough to enslave people, turn those they didn’t enslave into second class citizens on their own land and then annex the aforementioned land and strip it of resources for their advantage.