Monday, July 13, 2009

Preaching and Practice

Desmond Tutu is always on the side of the angels but, as Norm points out, his logic can get a bit muddled.

"Here's a view:

The West should in general, he warns, beware of preaching about corrupt African dictators. "You could say the same about Europe. You get a Churchill and then there's a long wait... What gives me a great deal of hope for Africa is looking at the history of Europe. Very recently you had two world wars, you had the Holocaust, you had dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece. There was a time when Italy was changing governments like you change pairs of socks. There was the Soviet Union, Stalin's gulags. You forget that you really made a mess of things. It was a Western country that was the first and only country to use weapons of mass destruction. [Africa] is not on a level with Western people.

"I can be nice and say there's hope for us. When I'm a little angry I say 'For goodness sake you need a fairly large dose of modesty. You ought to be hiding your heads for the things you have actually done'."

That's Desmond Tutu speaking. Still, what he says is wrong. And that it is, is shown by the fact that he's the one who's saying it. Nobody will gauge his criticisms of non-African countries by reference to the appalling record of apartheid, because as an opponent of apartheid Tutu was not responsible for it. But, equally, individual Westerners aren't responsible for the Holocaust, or dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece, and they - or, at least, many of them - have the right to condemn African dictators. This isn't about non-Africans preaching to Africans; it's about democrats, anywhere, speaking their minds, speaking critically, about governments that deny the fundamental rights of the people they govern."

1 comment:

Sue said...

Oooh, interesting point, David.

There are so many thoughts swirling through my head but I can't articulate them.

Thinking a lot lately about individual and collective Western guilt, about change, about how everything stays the same and I keep going backwards and forwards between thinking that we are responsible for this and the only thing stopping change is our disenfranchisement and our belief that we can't do anything. And then I swing back the other way and think it's all too big and we can't do anything. Sigh.