The Corner

African Wisdom

I’ve never been to Africa but I know that it’s a more culturally and politically diverse place than we in the West often give it credit for. We say “African” as if it accurately, or at least adequately, captures everything about that vast continent. I understand the complaint. Liberals and conservative alike do it. We can talk about it at length if you like. But…

Why on Earth do Hillary Clinton et al. think that Africa — never mind African “tribes” — are a compelling philosophical and political role model for the United States of America? Africa? Africa? At least when they invoke Europe as a public policy North Star they have in mind a first world economy and government. But Africa? On what conceivable grounds is it warranted to say, “What would the Africans do?” Even on the wishy-washy proverbial terrain Clinton is usually dealing with — “children,” “villages,” etc — is there any empirical basis for arguing that the African Way is superior to our own? Maybe there are studies that show “Africans” are happier than Americans — when the former aren’t dying of malnutrition or medieval health care, or desperately trying to emigrate to the West, no doubt. But even if such studies exist, I doubt that any of the Africaphiles have that sort of thing in mind when they talk about the ancient Wisdom we should borrow from over there.

Even more fascinating: why do so many people uncritically accept these appeals to African wisdom?

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