# What else I’ve been watching

I started this post when I was talking about The Wire, I figured I’d put out a list of what else has been keeping my attention TV wise these days. Its late, but I already wrote most of it so I figured why not. I’m not really a huge TV person, never have been. I tend to time-shift my shows and then watch them when I’m not doing anything else, which usually ends up being late at night.

• Battlestar Galactica: This has been one of my favourite television shows of the last few years and is now heading towards an ending. If you haven’t seen any of it, you should have. Its really, really good. Basically its a rimagining of on old science fiction show in which the human race is wiped out my a race of machines we’ve created and the survivors are forced to run for their lives while being hunted by the same machines. Along the way thugh it becomes a great meditation on the nature of humanity, morality, religion etc. Its science fiction at its upper end. I recommend highly.
• Big Bang Theory: This I was determined not to like. Its a sitcom about a pair of socially awkward physicists and their friends. I pretty much expected that the writers would settle for the dumbest possible nerd stereotypes, add no real depth and screw the story up. Instead, they kept the stereotypes but managed to add enough depth and authenticity to make them real people. Interestingly enough, there are quire a few scientists I know who are followers of the show because of how well its written and the inside jokes it throws our way. Also recommended
• The Unit: Dennis Haysbert shooting people and looking cool in the process. Need I say more? Its a bit on heavy handed in its stance at times,but its great pulp action and good acting. All things I’m partial to.

Other stuff I’m watching but not so keen on writing a short paragraph about, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and  the new season of Hajime No Ippo (yes, I like anime. It doesn’t say geek up there because I couldn’t come up with another name)

I was also watching Dr. Who and Torchwood until both seasons ended. I’m really, really waiting for them to start back up again, even though they shall no longer be servicing my Freema Agyeman crush. Again, if you are a science fiction fan and not watching these, your loss. Majorly.

# HE WON!!!!!

Yes, I stayed up all night to watch the results come in. I’m still not entirely sure it happened though.

We are officially living in interesting times people. Lets see how it goes

# Not dead, missing or abandoned

Just working on getting this thesis done as well as I possibly can for my Masters. After its done expect a bunch of rants about the evils of Visual Studio, my love of Python, Numpy, iPython, Matplotlib, Mayavi2 and $\LaTeX$.

In the meantime Wish me luck, $2 \frac{1}{2}$ weeks  until I’m done.

# On Bono, Vanity Fair and paternalism in foreign aid

I’ve been meaning to write this post since I was asked what I meant by connecting the OLPC program to paternalism. What really got me going though, was this series of posts by Ethan, Sokari and the Afromusing blog on Bono’s Vanity Fair issue. Kameelah at Black Looks writes another one of her great analysis pieces on it. Thanks to them we shall be talking about my issues with a lot of the kind of aid that comes to Africa and what it tends to say about how we are seen by a lot of those who claim to be here to help us.

Lets start with the observation I made in the post about African tertiary education. Namely that Helping out poor African children and teaching them to read, write and understand basic problem solving is sexy. Helping their older brothers and sisters gain the kind of knowledge and skills Africa really needs to develop, not so much.

So…. Why are people willing to spend significantly more time and energy helping us to gain basic literacy, and a lot less to help us go beyond that to the level of technical competence we need to actually hold our own in this world? To use a really well worn analogy, why be more willing to bring a man fish and than to teach him how to make boats and nets?

Well, quite simply its because it never occurs to you that the man is actually capable of fishing for himself. You see him as having limited agency and constantly needing you too stay alive. In layman’s terms, you think he’s too dumb to do it for himself.

This is not a particularly new perspective by the way. The entire ‘white man’s burden’ argument for colonization rested on the premise that Africans were too mentally/culturally/spiritually underdeveloped(depending on who was making the argument) to fend after themselves and so needed looking after by their more enlightened neighbors. In my experience any set of ideas that have had hundreds of years to bury themselves into our minds don’t disappear in some flash of enlightenment. Instead they just manifest themselves in totally new ways e.g. modern activism

Our new saviors are now coming to deliver us with food aid that destroys our farmers, used clothes that keep us from developing a clothing industry, used computers that kill our manufacturing industry before it even gets off the ground etc. And all without asking the people themselves what they need. Because who asks a child its opinion on anything?

This is not necessarily to say that they are bad people. I am willing to believe that a some of them have good intentions. That said, we all know what road those end up paving. The thing is that there is a tendency by otherwise decent people to see Africans in the same light as a lost puppy that needs looking after. Except we aren’t puppies. We are human beings no better or worse than those trying to speak for us. What we need is not to be treated like babies.

This is the reason that some of us get annoyed when Bono or whichever new celebrity feels it is their turn to take up Africa’s cause show up. Because the manner in which they do it tends to smack of a patronizing “oh you poor little dear, sit down and let me solve your problems for you. Don’t stress your tiny little brain on them” kind of paternalism that personally sets my teeth on edge. My guess, it does the same to a lot of the people who were talking at TEDGlobal. People who are convinced that there is a way for Africans to fix African problems tend to also be annoyed by people constantly telling them how someone else’s money and ideas will fix our problems.

Now, Bono was at TED so maybe he’s not in the same league as those I was talking about, but that crack he reportedly made about “middle class Africans” does not help his case in my eyes. Neither does a lot of what I;m hearing about the Vanity Fair article. I’ll wait and see though.

# As Ghana turns 50, some links

For those of you not in the know, Ghana became the first black African colony to gain its independence on the 6th of March 1957. That will be 50 years on Tuesday. We’ll get to my own thoughts on what has happened in the last half-century – especially the 27 years of it I’ve been around on Tuesday. For now though, I’ll put up some very interesting links.

We’ll start with a BBC documentary on Ghana’s history since independence narrated by one of the country’s best radio journalists

Part 1

Part 2

Then we’ll continue with his show on Accra’s Joy FM discussing the last 50 years

Here

Then we’ll add in Time Magazine’s cover story on Ghanaian history as seen from the perspective of a single Ghanaian family

Here

Then we’ll finish up with a fun bit on the evolution of pop music in Ghana

Here

Enjoy. More on this later