What We Should Learn from the Lack of Maintenance in Africa & the Rest of the Perennial Third World

All technology requires maintenance. When technology is not maintained, it eventually stops working as designed. This is a problem everywhere, but particularly in third world countries — especially Africa.

White rule in South Africa ended in 1994. It was about ten years later that power outages began, which eventually reached crisis proportions. The principle reason for this is simply lack of maintenance on the generating equipment. Maintenance is future-oriented, and the Zulu entry in the dictionary for it is ondla, which means: “1. Nourish, rear; bring up; 2. Keep an eye on; watch (your crop).” In short, there is no such thing as maintenance in Zulu thought, and it would be hard to argue that this is wholly unrelated to the fact that when people throughout Africa say “nothing works,” it is only [a slight] exaggeration.
_Gedaliah Braun, “How Africans May Differ From Westerners”

Gedaliah Braun went to Africa to teach philosophy at African universities in the 1970s, then settled in South Africa in the late 1980s. He summarised many of his African observations in this essay. A more expanded, book-length set of observations by Braun can be found here. From observing and interacting with Africans first-hand, Braun discovered that Africans take a distinctly different approach to life than do Europeans and other westerners. His honesty in describing these differences can be disconcerting to many, but can also be refreshing to others.

More on “maintenance in Africa” from another observer:

All along the way, wreckage was strewn beside the tracks—railway cars hauled from where they’d derailed or broken down, and left to decay like great, dead beasts.

As we looked out at these rusting carcasses, my cabinmates began talking about the railroad, and what it said about their societies. “This is a good train,” said Isaac, with a trace of bitterness, “but like any piece of equipment, it needs maintenance.” Daniel Simwinga, a voluble, Bible-toting Zambian, responded, “Everyone knows you can’t keep getting milk from a cow without feeding it grass.” (Daniel was bringing a shipment of auto parts and other goods south. As a commercial trader, he rides the Tazara as often as twice a month, and is well versed in its shortcomings.)

As soon as we have problems, we ask someone else to take care of them for us,” Isaac continued. “We ask the Europeans. We ask the Americans. We ask the Chinese. We will run this train into the ground, and then we will tell the Chinese we need another one. This is not development.” I thought of the wreckage by the tracks. In China, there is no such thing as metallic waste. Armies of migrant workers scour the countryside with hammers and chisels, collecting and selling every scrap to the insatiable smelters that feed the country’s industries. Here, by contrast, was a land without industry.

The World Bank and the United Nations did surveys for a Tazara-like line in the early 1960s, and both concluded that such a railway would be neither economically feasible nor sustainable. But China built the line, between 1970 and 1975, at the behest of two African leaders: Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, who wanted to open up the remote south of his country and bolster his pan-African credentials; and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, whose landlocked country was seeking an alternative to the trade routes south through white-ruled Rhodesia.

Within a decade, the line was suffering from repeated breakdowns, landslides, and management failures. Planners had envisioned running 17 trains a day, but by 1978 there were only two. __TheAtlantic

We can hear the same complaint, “Nothing works here!” coming from other locations, such as Detroit.

Public services are near collapse because of repeated budget cuts. Crime has been at elevated levels for a prolonged period. Recent figures show that about 40 per cent of street lights do not work. Only a third of ambulances are in service because maintenance funds have been slashed.

“Nothing – nothing works in this city,” said Sheila Cockrel, who spent 16 years serving on Detroit City Council. Since stepping down in 2009, she has been teaching at Wayne State University. “It takes 58 minutes for a police car to come if they accept your call,” she added. “The only calls they accept are if there’s a gun and they believe you’re not lying when you say it. In my middle-income neighbourhood, we pay a private security service … Once I was in my house at three o’clock in the afternoon and three young men tried to break in. The first call I made? Threat Management.”

Ms Cockrel is referring to Threat Management Centre, a private security company which operates from a black building near the Detroit River waterfront. It is among the many private firms that some residents have resorted to as the city struggles to provide adequate services. __Independent.co.uk

Another broadly defined population that has difficulty with maintenance is the Arab population.

3) Their values are fundamentally different from ours, their self-esteem is derived from a different source.

4) Not only can they not build the infrastructure of a modern society, they can’t maintain it either.

The very concept of “maintenance” is foreign to them.

5) They do not think of obligations as running both ways.

With us, contractual and moral obligations tend to be equal and reciprocal. They don’t see it that way. _ http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/09/observations-on-arabs.html

It is easy to see why high tech infrastructures cannot survive without outside help in societies that do not value maintenance and obligations.

The philosophy professor Gedaliah Braun believes that Africans do not possess many modern concepts in their minds because their tribal languages lack words to describe those concepts:

… if Zulu didn’t have the concept of obligation, how could it have the concept of a promise, since a promise is simply the oral undertaking of an obligation? I was interested in this, I said, because Africans often failed to keep promises and never apologized—as if this didn’t warrant an apology.

A light bulb seemed to go on in his mind. Yes, he said; in fact, the Zulu word for promise—isithembiso—is not the correct word. When a black person “promises” he means “maybe I will and maybe I won’t.” But, I said, this makes nonsense of promising, the very purpose of which is to bind one to a course of action. When one is not sure he can do something he may say, “I will try but I can’t promise.” He said he’d heard whites say that and had never understood it till now. As a young Romanian friend so aptly summed it up, when a black person “promises” he means “I’ll try.”
_Gedaliah Braun

Limited languages can limit the concepts that a native speaker can consider. But why are the languages limited in the first place? Most modern societies simply borrow words from other languages as needed, and incorporate them into everyday use. Could it be that Africans are so isolated from other cultures that they haven’t had a chance to “borrow” enough words and concepts to catch up?

Africa stayed where it was for millenia – they didn’t invent an alphabet and written language, neither did they make use of wheeled transport except in isolated cases. These are two of the corner stones of any technological society. Engineering is based on mathematics. Another discipline Africa knew nothing of. __ Why is Africa Still Backward?

Mathematics and maintenance are two cornerstones of technological societies, but African languages did not have words for either concept. It is not clear that simply adding more words is going to fix the problem.

… if anything is to ever change Africans better get off their back­sides, end their usual chaotic ways [, and start] working extremely hard, smart and purposefully. The sadly outnumbered none-whiners know we can only ever make something positive of our societies by aspiring to be punc­tual in whatever we do, be time conscious and avoid this usual, dangerous nonsense called “Af­rican time;” they know effort, in­telligence and innovation should be rewarded, instead of reward­ing tribe or kinsman; they know we should look at the long-term picture instead of corruptly plun­dering whatever little resources at your country’s disposal. __ African Mentalities, African Backwardness

As anyone who has tried to stop smoking, problem drinking, or other harmful behaviours knows, it is easier to say that one will change, than to actually work through the changes. This is particularly true if one is strongly predisposed to the problem behaviours, and poorly equipped to overcome them.

Beneath the level of limited language, is the level of limited cognitive apparatus. Whether average sub Saharan African IQs cluster around 70 because of innate genetic limitations, or whether high rates of disease and parasitism combined with poor nutrition, poor child-raising and education techniques, and other environmental problems conspire to hold average IQs down — the very fact of low average IQs in Africa is a very salient and repeatable finding. Low average IQs seem to have many consequences for populations, which no amount of PC denial can obscure.

African populations are growing at higher rates than human populations in other parts of the world, with significant trends toward ever larger cities. If nothing can be done to improve basic quality-of-life infrastructure across the dark continent, a massive human tragedy of violence, disease, starvation, and poverty seems inevitable.

The same tragic failure of basic concepts such as maintenance, obligation, mathematical and scientific concepts, and other simple ideas of modern life, can be seen across much of the third world — where most human population growth is taking place on Earth.

As advanced populations die off from lack of reproduction, and more primitive populations grow exponentially — thanks largely to assistance from more advanced populations — where does the breakpoint occur? When do things “just stop working?” When are medicines and vaccines no longer safe to use — except through special channels reserved for elites inside and connected to governments? When do buildings and bridges begin to collapse more routinely, and highways and railroads cease to be maintained? When does it become too difficult to maintain ships, aircraft, power plants, and power transmission infrastructure?

It’s already happening now in scattered parts of the third world. That tendency to infrastructure decay will spread with demographic decline. The main opposing force will come from modern and wealthy entities who need something from these declining regions, such as energy, minerals, natural resources, and cheap labour. Construction and maintenance will be provided from the outside, temporarily, and in a focused manner. Meanwhile, the clutter and devastation from repeated failures will accumulate and spread, like the successive fields of wrecked trains blooming next to rusting African railroads.

Advanced populations in Europe, East Asia, North America, and Oceania, seem to be choosing to “de-breed” themselves out of existence. This “debreedment” is not to be confused with a much needed “debridement” of violent and decaying cities around the world.

Low IQ societies which cannot provide their own “quality-of-life” infrastructure, would die in their own congested squalour, without the help of advanced outsiders and market dominant minorities. That problem is coming to a head quickly. What can we do which would be both rational and PC compassionate?

HFTB. PFTW. The building of widespread networks of resilient and dangerous communities would not be premature at this time.

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12 Responses to What We Should Learn from the Lack of Maintenance in Africa & the Rest of the Perennial Third World

  1. Pingback: Posts that I wish I had written, 23 May 2014 | vulture of critique

  2. Jay Fivekiller says:

    Excellent post. Regarding Africa and its collapsed infrastructure, here’s an account by a Belgian couple who drove across the Congo in 2008, a journey that by any measure can be counted as both foolish and heroic.


    • alfin2101 says:

      They are lucky to be alive. The amazing story proceeds through several dozen pages, packed with photos.

      Millions have died in the ongoing Congo war. Death can strike faster than a heartbeat in such an environment of violence and hatred.

      A western city-dweller might go through such heart-warming heroics in the third world only to return home and be killed during a robbery, car-jacking, or home invasion, by visitors from the third world. The danger is there for the most part, but it is dispersing outward.

  3. AbelardLindsey says:

    Rational and PC do not mix.

  4. cteichman007 says:

    The de-breeding is the scourge we must purge.

    • Iuventius says:

      So we can see, and so we say, but how many of us here have more than two children? I know that I do, but I’m just not seeing it among my peers.

  5. James Bowery says:

    Its obvious, is it not, that most white folks will go out of their way to explain all of their degradation in terms of “The white man is the devil.” narrative — and of course the African no exception; the litany starting with the phrase “legacy of colonialism…” and going down from there.

    The only interesting question is “Why are whites so suicidal?” There are, of course, proximate answers such as “Whites are relatively indoctrinable.” but then you have to ask yourself: “Why are whites so much more indoctrinable than other races? Or are they? Are there other races that we don’t even think about because they have successfully committed suicide due to their indoctrinability?” There is also the question: “Why haven’t whites developed safeguards against the capture of their centers of indoctrination by less indoctrinable races, given it is such a deadly vulnerability to whites?”

    • alfin2101 says:

      Intelligent people often allow themselves to become caught in “logic loops” which are ultimately a waste of time and effort.

      When teaching people to ski down steep, wooded mountainsides, it is best to emphasise the clear paths, rather than the trees. More students will make it to the bottom alive that way.

      • James Bowery says:

        Right, if you can successfully compete for teaching positions. Group selection in humans selects very strongly for the ability to occupy teaching positions. More advanced group selection targets the teaching positions of other groups. This is called “the continuation of war by other means”.

  6. NekasM says:

    Sveik, Interesting case is Haiti and Dominicans republic, but it would be to optimistic case if compere birth and age rate’s for EU-Africa. Plus they have interesting ideology about self identification and ethnic policy, if you can believe in wiki!

  7. Abelard Lindsey says:

    It’s AWA – Africa Wins Again.

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