Africa is controversial.

I want to address the social reactions I got before I went to Africa. I did not expect such negative reactions. I believe there are many reasons for this. First was the matter of my safety. Friends said I would surely die if I went to Congo. One friend stopped talking to me altogether. I think he prefered being angry at me to being afraid for me.  I appreciated when people asked how I was dealing with maintaining my safety while in Congo.  We were sponsored by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. I believed if anyone knew on a daily basis exactly what rebel activity was occuring in what part of the jungle on any given day…it was the army of gorilla wardens that work there. There are no guarantees. Only educated risks. It was entirely worth it to me.

There is another controversy about Africa that is hard to define. It’s based on fear and guilt.  I had expected either excitement for my adventure or indifference from those who couldn’t understand why a perfectly “normal” person like myself would voluntarily travel to such a place. But I did get hostility which completely baffles me to this day. I believe this to be exclusive to Africa. I don’t think I would’ve faced hostility if I’d gone to Europe, Asia or South America.  Comments were made about Africa creating their own problems. They are overpopulating, have no respect for the wildlife etc. I think somewhere deep in the communal mind of modern civilization, we understand we are over-indulgent, dissatisfied and even empty of some nameless crucial element in our lives. We fear being asked to change or give up anything.  Thinking and feeling globally is definately unnerving to many of us. It challenges the way we live. We know down deep that we are consuming much much more than our fair share. And someone we know traveling to Africa shines a light on this making the hair on our necks stand up. I was just jumping out into the adventure of my lifetime. Ruffling feathers was not my intention. But it has become a very important learning experience.

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2 thoughts on “Africa is controversial.

  1. Hey Kathryn, I think there are multiple aspects of this. Core racism which tells us these are the least valuable most expendable people on our planet and they all live on the wrong side of the tracks, or ocean, if you will. Another is, I have seen for decades, global leadership agrees with this attitude and has written the black part of the continent off. People want to identify with the global elite and show solidarity with their attitudes. The moment someone with another viewpoint comes along, it challenges our certainty of assumptions and makes us very uncomfortable. You must be in error because I cannot be. There is also an element of shame and guilt when someone feels so strongly as to make the effort to actually go see for their self. Once you understand, you only need to smile and say so.

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