Letter to Africa: Why African Pessimism Now Sucks?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – One of the toxic after-effects of colonialism in Africa coupled with the failings of its post-colonial leadership is that it gave rise to a language and psychology of self-deprecation among Africans themselves.

Forget the images constantly flighted in the world’s media. Forget the negative stories that Westerners are often accused of writing about the continent. Among many Africans, the recurrent story of Africa is that Africans and Africa will always fail.

Africans themselves are at the vanguard of demeaning and denigrating their own selfhood, injecting doses of pessimism into their psyche. They appear stuck in what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes as the “danger of a single story.”

Now, the danger of a single story exists because its perspective of the world exists in a single frame to the exclusion of all other frames that can help to make the story whole. That single frame becomes the defining factor of how to interpret and react to people and experiences. Any detail that does not confirm to the dictates of the single story is conveniently ignored.

Undoubtedly, African still has much work to do; self-serving leaders at all levels of our societies on the continent have certainly not helped matters. Indeed, throughout our history, we’ve suffered pain and heartache from war, state brutality, corruption, crime, injustice, poverty, sickness, and the death of loved ones. Ever so many terrible things have happened in our continent, resulting in great sorrow, many tears and a sense of hopelessness. All these factors combined have given to the rise of rueful tales of doom and gloom.

As Africans, we’ve internalized these tales of gloom so much and melancholic conclusions that nothing good will ever come out of Africa. Listening to some Africans speak about their homeland, you’d think that we on one hell of an edge of any abyss. That we’re so hopeless and misdirected and lacking a vision to steer ourselves progressively into the future.

It is not surprising; as we are so stuck with the single story model of Africa, it is only natural that we’re so obsessed about harping on about the dysfunctional nature of the Africa state and society.

Many Africans openly ridicule their continent without proffering any alternatives or committing their lives to a new way of living that will propel their motherland to a new plane. They enthusiastically cackle at the demise of their motherland. You’d think that from their spew of putrid rhetoric that the continent is on a deathbed but nothing could be futher from the truth.

Then there’s another class of Africa that is so obsessed with  only putting out highly polished images of the continent. They’re determined to whitewash all the evil, to sweep it under the rug, so to speak, and only show a beautiful face to the world. But such Africans are also hostage to the danger of a single story.

What gives rise to African pessimism is empirically verifiable, some have argued. But our struggle, as we go forward, is to begin redefining our perspective of the continent. There’s so much to the continent that merely seeing it through the lens of despair only tells a quarter of the story. Africans need to abandon the idea of being eternal victims whether to history or their present circumstances. A new future and possibilities can be opened up if we begin to transform the way we perceive ourselves. We have to be courageous to step out of the stereotypes that have forever hung over our heads like heavy loads.

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