Americans really need to get out of Africa

Your standard-issue American child saver in Africa…

I’m not a terribly huge fan of organized religion. It doesn’t matter who it is or which branch of whatever it may be, it generally tends to result in violence or oppression or something else bad instead of people just following The Golden Rule and getting on with things. The general crapiness of organized religion can’t be better shown that in modern day missionaries working/traveling in Africa.

I was shown this article via a friend living in Ivory Coast. It starts out with a good point which is that there is a ton of garbage in Africa and people just litter everywhere. It’s a problem. I don’t deny that and it’s painful to watch people do it all the time and see the ground hardpacked with the damnable black plastic bags. Is burying trash in landfills like we do in Europe or North America any better? Not really, but slowly we are setting up systems to deal with that waste and these simply do not exist anywhere in Africa except parts of South Africa.

The author, this American named Felix Carroll, then falls prey to the age-old blathering and half-truths that are so typical of those who are completely arrogant and self-righteous in what they’re doing. In this case, Felix makes a number of errors as it is often the case in for those who spend little time on the ground in a country so foreign that they’re tripping over themselves to understand it.

Under sickly yellow streetlights, the city had an aura of violence — like a clenched fist ready to go through broken glass

Okay, there are problems in Ivory Coast right now due to the aftermath of the presidential elections, but this “sickly” phrase is moronic as the mercury lamps you see coming from the airport are literally everywhere in the world. I have them outside my apartment in San Francisco lighting up the night.

On my way to meet up with a Virginia-based Catholic charity to document their efforts to build orphanages here, I traveled by taxi through lagoons of people living amid the stench of human waste.

Ugh. I’m assuming that this “savior of humanity” must be originally from some small town somewhere. I don’t know, but I do know that people who have never been anywhere crowded in the world don’t seem to understand that we humans are really filthy. Sections of the Abidjan lagoon do indeed stink, but so do: Venice, the Thames, the Seine, San Francisco Bay, and the Hudson River.

They are the face of Africa for many of us in wealthy nations. But when I first set eyes upon them — many orphaned, many injured, scavenging in piles of trash — I felt my consciousness crack into two (one half goes to you, the other should be locked in the zoo).

I’m not even sure what the second sentence means other than to say that African children are animals that should be in a zoo? That’s wonderfully eloquent.

I’m traveling now on a 32-seat bus filled with American missionaries. We snap photos of the trash as we pass through squalor-filled streets. We take photos of it, because none of us have seen anything like it.

Again, really? Have you never been to your landfills in your respective small towns? That’s the difference in that the dumps in Ivory Coast are hardly external of the town. I completely admit that this is not a healthy manner in which to live, but I guarantee that it probably takes 20 Ivorians to produce the same amount of trash as any single one of these American missionaries.

You can’t even drink the water here.

You can actually. Abidjan has potable water that’s perfectly safe to drink. Outside of the main town, sure, it gets shaky, but there are vast tracts of America where there is no potable water either, for instance, where my mother lives.

In 2006, more than 100,000 Ivorians had to seek medical treatment after being poisoned as a result of toxic waste dumped in Abidjan.

Yup, that was done by a European company who were later found guilty of it. It didn’t come from Ivory Coast. Felix, you might have thought to mention that (I’m tempted to add, “you ass” at the end of this sentence, but it would probably seem uncouth).

…you cannot help but to see all this garbage through their eyes — as a symptom of something else, of the seven deadly sins committed without fear of consequences.

I can’t even use the acronym for this and I have to say, What The Fuck is that supposed to mean?

The side roads here in Yamoussoukro are paved, too, but tracked with mud from the bush.

Genius, have you been to New Orleans or other places in the US that have tropical climates and red dirt? It’s impossible to keep the sidewalks clean because you have one season of torrential rain and then another of powdery dust.

It’s difficult to fathom the origin of a business plan in which countless children in nearly every large town sell small packets of tissues for the equivalent of three cents. Maybe like the missionaries I’m traveling with, these children see only one choice in life, and that is to bring comfort to a country on the verge of tears.

I know a numbers of Ivorians. They’re actually pretty happy, easy going people and the ones who have things tough aren’t always choking back tears. They go about their lives and work. Many Americans could learn something from this instead of demanding that we allow in more Mexicans to fill service industry jobs.

Felix Carroll is a former staff writer for the Times Union. His column runs every other Sunday.

And there we have the reason as to why print is dying. Felix, you should really meet Nicholas Kristof when you get a chance. You’ll get on fabulously.