I have always enjoyed science fiction. The portrayal of what life could be like in the future, of other civilizations in far off galaxies and worlds, the various possible forms of extra-terrestrial life with their otherworld characteristics and personalities, all of this fascinates me to some extent. From t.v. shows such as Start Trek (the original series) and it’s various other spin-offs, Lost in Space, Logan’s Run, Battlestar Galactica to movies such as the Star Wars sagas, Blade Runner, the Alien(s) series, Total Recall, The 5th Element, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes…. are just some of my favourites.
A couple weeks ago I watched an interesting 2-part science fiction docudrama on The Discovery Channel called “Race to Mars“. Set in the year 2030, it is the story of an international team of astro-scientists, made up of four men and two women, who are in a space race against China to be the first to discover life on the “Red Planet”. This international team is headed up by an American (of-course), with a Canadian, Russian, French, Spanish and Japanese crew members. Right from the onset, I was aware that there were no African/African-American/Black representation among the scientists, whether on the mission or at the space center on earth. I guess the Japanese scientist was the “token negro”, as he was the one killed off during the expedition. I found it a little troubling that we weren’t portrayed to be significant in any way…. in this future, where historic scientific discovery was being pursued and ultimately made. I was reminded of a joke I once heard:
“Why aren’t there any Native Americans in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Because they don’t plan to work in the future either.”
Although this so-called “joke” is not funny in any way, it does provide an invaluable truth. There is a saying that there is a “little truth” in every joke. The “invaluable truth” shown here is how Native Americans are perceived by those in the dominant eurocentric culture. In the same way, consciously or subconsciously, those who wrote, produced, casted and directed the film “Race to Mars”, did not see us as being relevant…. as making any positive contribution to the future (or even existing for that matter). In contrast, I had previous to this seen a film entitled “Children of Men”, which had a very bleak, extremely chaotic and pessimistic view of the future…. where we were very visible, numerous and prominent players within the storyline.
So I started to wonder why those who dream of what the future will be like, within the science fiction realm at least…. erase, minimize or demonize our existence within the vision of their future worlds? What is the basis of this contemporary mindset of the dominant eurocentric society, as seen time and time again…. and therefore perpetuated through their various educational, entertainment and media sources?
This week a report was released on a study by IANSA (International Action Network On Small Arms), Oxfam and Saferworld, which attempts to quantify the economic cost of armed conflicts on the African continent. The report entitled “Africa’s Missing Billions”, claims that “armed conflict costs Africa $18bn dollars per year, seriously derailing development” and “around $300bn since 1990 has been lost by Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda.”
The report does go on to emphasize that although the $300bn estimated economic cost from armed conflicts on the African continent is shocking, it is an under-estimate and it does not factor in the cost of human lives (women and children are the primary victims), misery, loss potential, loss opportunities, loss investments, loss of educational progress, and the negative effects on neighbouring countries due to the influx of refugees and political instability. Two of the many points the report discusses which I will highlight here are:
The $300bn in economic loss is equivalent to the international aid African countries received from major donor countries and it “could [have solved] the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could [have addressed] Africa’s need in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria.”
95% of Africa’s most commonly used conflict weapons came from outside of the continent, as well as the steady supply of ammunition.
As I read the report, I began to contemplate on some of the other unseen costs and asked myself: “How many future African scientific researchers have been killed who would have discovered the cure for HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and Ebola? How many future African doctors and nurses have been killed who would have brought relief to the sick by providing adequate care for their ailments? How many future African agricultural scientists have been killed who would have found a solution to the increasing desertification of the continent and boost food production to feed the people? How many future African political, social and economic scientists have been killed who would have made substantial contributions to the development of the continent’s resources, both material and human, which would benefit not only the continent but all humankind as a whole? How many future African teachers have been killed who would have inspired and managed the educational development of their students to be leaders in the field of science and other disciplines? How many future African astro-scientists have been killed who would have revolutionized space travel and exploration and make it possible to reach the impossible dream?”
As I read the report, I reflected how in “Race to Mars“, there came a critical point where the success of the mission could only be achieved if the opposing interests, the international team and the Chinese, put away their differences and worked together. They came to realize that for the greater good of all, for the accomplishment of something historic, that had the potential to change and benefit all humankind, they had to combine their efforts. I again asked myself: “What would we, as people of African descent, have accomplished already and in the future, if we worked together and weren’t so quick to demonize and/or kill each other due to national and tribal affiliations, religious differences, political beliefs, blocks, ‘hoods, and yes…. the color of our clothes and/or the handkerchiefs on our heads?”
So where do we go from here? Besides stating the variety of obvious solutions which we hear and spout ourselves, we need to first come to the realization(or remind ourselves) of an this undeniable fact: “ALL of us of African descent are tied together! Whatever happens to one of us anywhere in the world, affects and reflects on us all!” It is no coincidence, that along with what appears to be an increasing, coordinated and effective program to dehumanize, demonize, destabilize and depopulate the African continent…. there are similar agendas being pursued in Europe, North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Australia, against those of African descent…. by a variety of methods…. with varying degrees of success. Just like in the “joke” concerning Native Americans above, the “inconvenient truth” is that we are perceived as an unnecessary burden, a liability for the future…. and it would be better for those in the dominant eurocentic society…. if we were no longer around. The report sounded this warning:
“There is an urgent need to reduce the international supply of arms and ammunition to Africa. Otherwise the cost to African development – measured not just in dollars wasted but in lives shattered and opportunities squandered – will be immense.”
Stated simply: we as a people like the dinosaurs, will become extinct.