"And yet, truly, everything about our lives today is engraved with the legacy of imperialism. At their apex in 1914, European nations and the United States commandeered 85% of the landmass of the planet, and the political, economic, cultural and psychological paradigms fuelling this feat survive around the globe to this day" -- Chellis Glendinning, (the American) author of Off the Map: An Expedition Deep Into Imperialism.
While Beefs briefly disappeared from the New African menu last month, two news items in The Independent (of London) caught my ageing eyes on 12 February.
The first, written by Paul Waugh, was about recent criticisms against the speaker of the British parliament, Michael Martin. Waugh's two paragraphs below deserve to be framed and put up on the wall of every African home:
"For several centuries", he wrote, [please mind the words, several centuries], the Speakership was a precarious post to hold, with no fewer than nine killed in the Middle Ages and the Tudor period.
"Five were beheaded at the behest of the King, one died in the Tower [of London], one fell in battle, one was murdered by rivals and one was beheaded by a mob while trying to escape, disguised as a monk. Today, the only real reminder of how risky the office once was is the tradition of a new speaker being 'dragged to the chair' by his supporters as he puts up a show of resistance."
The other story was by Lorna Duckworth: "More than 22 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants in England in 2000, compared with 9m in 1991," she reported. "In that time, the cost of prescribing the 'wonder pill' on the NHS [National Health Service] soared from [pounds sterling]54m to a staggering [pounds sterling]310m as the Prozac-class of drugs became the first choice treatment for patients with depression. Many doctors say the increased use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) is a sign that depression is now being treated as a serious illness."
Before we look at Waugh and Duckworth in derail, please let me introduce to you Rod Liddle. He is the editor of the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the flagship of the BBC radio empire. It is to radio what Newsnight is to TV in Britain.
On 7 February, Liddle wrote for The Guardian one of those articles on Africa that would never pass for an adult debate anywhere else but Britain. A few paragraphs would do here:
"There are a good many unsightly scars on my conscience," he began, "but I wasn't aware, until the prime minister's parry conference speech of last year, that Africa was one of them. But I supposed it must be.
"Inspired by Tony's evangelism, I travelled to the benighted stare of Uganda a couple of weeks ago with Boris Johnson, MP -- a man similarly ignorant of the fact that, like the rest of us, he shares the blame for the pit of hell that is Africa.
"The argument goes -- and it's a very popular argument with self-flagellating white liberals -- that colonisation is responsible for Africa's almost heroic refusal to come to terms with the modern world and that, therefore, the countries which (along time ago) did the colonising are morally bound to bail them out; for ever, perhaps.
"I don't swallow either part of the argument, and my trip to Uganda reinforced, rather than undermined, that conviction. And I'm convinced that the perpetuation of that specious argument hinders Africa's attempts at rebirth. If Africa sheds the role of the victim, and accepts a degree of responsibility for its own future, then maybe it might begin to drag itself out of the swamp.
"And if Africa is hopeless, it is because it has been ruled for the past 60 or more years by a fantastic collection of conspicuously vile dictators, gangsters, incompetents, corrupt self-serving megalomaniacs, cretinous Marxist ideologues, halfwits, imbeciles, murderous tribal warlords and, plainly, the barking mad and the criminally insane. …