Life Boat Question

There are things we can control in our lives; there are things we cannot. There are hundreds of books written about Africa and her struggles.  The question we hear lately is, what do we owe Africa? What does anyone “owe” anyone, really. You could say, and many do, “I wasn’t there when the European leaders carved up the African continent, and besides, that was a long time ago.” And it was a long time ago when Westerners began to avail themselves of the gold and diamonds and dozens of other minerals and metals with which Africa is so rich. Of course, you may  know that a large percentage of the world’s gold, diamonds, chromite, cobalt, phosphate rock, manganese, uranium, and rare earth minerals have come from Africa for many years, and still do.  (I just read the description of rare earth minerals because I collect rocks and I thought it would be interesting.  It wasn’t. But they are in our cell phones.)

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There are many reasons why countries so rich in resources are so impoverished.  There’s a brilliant book by the late Nobel Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai, called The Challenges for Africa. She neither places all the blame for Africa’s struggles on colonialism, nor does she absolve corrupt leaders or poor decision making.  But she does examine the effects of eliminating people’s cultures and forcing upon others, no matter how good our intentions are, the cultures that we endorse.

But let’s get back to the idea of privileged and what we owe other people. Alexander McCall Smith, one of my favorite writers, puts it far better than I could- in the words of Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher. The ethical question posed: if several people find themselves stranded at sea in a lifeboat whose cargo is one person too heavy and all may die if someone isn’t tossed out, is it ok to toss someone out?  “The focus moved from real lifeboats…to the earth as a lifeboat which it was, in a way…real people die everyday, in very large numbers, because the resources of the lifeboat were not fairly distributed.  And if we might feel squeamish about throwing a real and immediate person out of a real lifeboat, then we had fewer compunctions about doing those things which had exactly that effect, somewhere far off, on people whom we did not know and could not name. It was relentless and harrowing- but most of our luxuries were purchased at the expense of somebody’s suffering and deprivation elsewhere.”

I’m certainly not a communist, and I’m not here because I “owe”  something to Africa, although we all do if, for no other reason, we can remember that we first walked upright not too far from where I now live.

Swahili Quiz: what is a Paka?  Our next post will be some more observations about shopping, one particularly good one from my friend here Sarah, and another about the difference between milk and yogurt, which apparently I didn’t know until Monday.

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5 Responses to Life Boat Question

  1. erik greenbaum says:


    Liked by 1 person

  2. jccrosby2014 says:

    And another point for you Eric! Cats! I don’t like them at all but am beginning to learn to live rather peacefully with them! Well done!


  3. Charlcie Fielding says:

    I needed this reminder. Thank you.


  4. Maggie O'C says:

    Reblogged this on Dear Judy…Letters to Tanzania and commented:
    Dear Judy,
    You have brought up a big issue here. I have pondered the fate of Africa since you have been there. I have a general, very general, understanding of its history but no idea how to turn the situation around. Are you formulating thoughts on that? Should we leave them alone? Are they better off without our help? “Help” because I have read in places that our aid is more of a hindrance. Anyone know anything about Africa??
    Love you, Mags

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meems says:

      Maggie, not all of Africa is Muslim! In Tanazina, where Judy is, there is a very large presence of Christians! Deeply spiritual presence of Africian Christians..mostly Anglicians..Judy can give you the stats.
      The problems of the poor in the remote villages is almost too hard to comprehend. Yes, build a well for water but, you need a generator to pump the water but, you need fuel oil to run the generator but, the fuel oil is expensive and have to walk miles to get the oil…no vehicles to transport the fuel and the roads are treacherous, deep pot holes and rocky..that is why the children walk to school for miles, and no electricity..and on and on….


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