|example of darkness. With
skyrocketing corruption [the country is the worlds
most corrupt, according to the World Bank], mismanagement
and the highest number of coups détat, Nigeria has
accentuated the image of Africa as the worlds
laughingstock. And since no one, in the right senses,
likes to be associated with laughingstocks, especially in
this day and age, I can understand why this young man
from this West African country incessantly denied his
homeland and chose to be perceived as a South African
because of that countrys new reputation within the
The Nigerian lad isnt alone nor is this problem confined solely to Africans. We all feel good if we have a great job. We dont want to be associated with jobs that society looks down on. A wife is happy if her husband has a respectable job. Thats dignity. We dont want to visit a country and stay in a shoestring hostel, especially if some well-heeled friends of ours would come and pick us up. Wed only stay in a hostel because we dont have enough money or because of the camaraderie.
An British acquaintance of mine lives in one and calls it a hotel. I know its the good old psychological problem. Whenever he calls me, he does so from outside, at the train station or somewhere like that. And whenever I ask him to leave his number he gives excuses. He doesnt know that Im not that dense. Yet, hes not from Africa. Its a psychological problem. No one wants to be rejected.
Nor do Africans. Its strange, but whenever I hear kids refer to me as Méigwo Rén [romanized Chinese for an American], I feel good. But the opposite is true when I hear them say Fei Dzwo Rén [Chinese for an African]. Méi means pretty, beautiful. Fei means many things, but one big meaning is Nothing. So while America is in many ways beautiful, Africa is void and empty.
Ask any Taiwanese kid where theyd love to emigrate or vacation. America is tops. In a small survey I conducted in 1996, one of my students summed up why Africa is everything that America is not. "They have no food there," he wrote. But food or lack of it is only one of the reasons why Taiwanese people would never ever consider emigrating to Africa, except of course to South Africa.
American culture is pervasive on the island: movies, fast food chains, blue chip businesses, people etc. Every single day, America features in the news and all or almost all of that news is good news. But for news from Africa, anytime one gets it, is gloomy, a reminder of the sad side of humanity.
"He couldnt be from Africa," the 14 year-old son of one of Taiwans top brass told his grandmother. Id been assigned by his father to tutor him while he was on a month-long vacation back in Taiwan from San Francisco. If he knew for sure that I was born in Africa, Im sure hed hate studying even more!
Blaise is not alone. Just an epitome.