Gold Fountain Pens MAG

By Ross L., Cohasset, MA

     Some men rob you with a six-gun - others rob you with a fountain pen. - Woody Guthrie

How can white, wealthy European colonists possibly feel content about what they have done to Africa? Never in my life have I seen so many injustices as on my trip to Kenya. While Europeans colonized the world, Africa was divided up like a pie with no respect for tribal boundaries. Visiting the country nearly 40 years after it was carved up, I witnessed the devastating results of colonization.

While there, I noticed that wildlife and native people were viewed the same by Europeans, who make up less than one percent of the population but control the majority of the land and wealth.

One night, my family stayed in the extravagant mansion of a wealthy European. Down the dirt street was a village of native Africans crammed into an area smaller than our host's front yard.

Speaking with the owner of the estate that night, I learned more than I had in any history class. John asked us what was immoral about apartheid. By providing jobs to most village people he believed he was doing them a favor. For example, if he were to buy a washing machine, he would only need one servant to wash the clothes and two would lose their jobs. If he provided the village with money and a "better," more European life, then it did not matter that the minority white population received the best education and technology. His racist opinions attempted to legitimize his exploitation of the native people.

I argued that if one race started out more technologically advanced and inhibited another's progress, the two races could never be equal. Believing that the Africans could not advance on their own, John challenged me to describe something Africans had invented (There are more than 50 countries in Africa - and just the accomplishments of ancient Egypt are staggering). But if the Europeans hinder the continent's opportunities, how can people modernize their societies?

The disparity that results is the difference between the haves and the have-nots. One group receives all the riches, the other lives in poverty. The consequential culture clash enables descendants of the invaders to perpetuate their power while the indigenous population continues to wash their oppressors' clothes.

Unfortunately, nothing will change while the children of the colonists inherit their parents' wealth and the colonized inherit the harsh living conditions of their ancestors. Because the minority and a few wealthy Africans control the government, no one in power complains. Will there be a revolution, or does the current state of affairs indicate the future of the continent?

My African experience gave me the most enlightening epiphany of my life. Returning to my affluent suburban town, I began to notice the soccer moms driving around in $50,000 SUVs and spending their days on the tennis courts. In Kenya, women walked two hours each way to work for minimal wages. Though my neighbors claim to believe in equality, they all secretly agree with the Johns of the world. Ignorant of the rest of the world, I had been unaware that most of my community had constantly been signing checks with their gold fountain pens.

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