March 2, 2008

NYT: Luo see Obama as "meal ticket"

Theodore Dalrymple made a point that is key to understanding African politics: the typical corrupt Big Man does not see himself as a greedy person. Instead, every time he climbs the ladder of success, more relatives show up insisting that he subsidize them, and his closer relatives all agree with them and nag him to take on even broader responsibilities for supporting the ever extending family. Barack Obama Sr. was undone, in part, by this requirement to play the Big Man with his relatives even when he could no longer afford it.

Barack Obama Jr. has come under the same pressures during his brief visits to Kenya. Nicholas Kristoff writes in the New York Times:

Senator Obama barely knew his father and does not know his Kenyan relatives well. He has visited Kenya three times, most recently very briefly in 2006.

On his last visit, Mr. Obama visited two area schools that had been renamed for him. The intention in renaming the schools seems to have been partly to attract funding. One person after another noted pointedly that it was a shame that a school named for a great American should be so dilapidated.

Some of Mr. Obama’s innumerable relatives also see him as a meal ticket. They have made arrangements with a tour group to bring buses of visitors to have tea with Mama Sarah.

They are also trying to raise money from interviews with her. I had made arrangements to visit Mama Sarah weeks ago, and she had agreed to speak. But when I showed up, she said that her children had told her to keep quiet. Frantic phone calls. Fierce arguments. Hints that money might make an interview possible. I didn’t pay. I didn’t get the interview.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Roger Chaillet said...

Obama sees Uncle Sam as an ATM for sub-Saharan Africa.

And the Republicans will go along.

Nothing like a photo op in a Third World cesspool - but I repeat myself - to get in good with the hangers on, the do-gooders, and the NGOs in D.C.

Anonymous said...

There have been various exposes of the role NGOs and the UN plays in Africa. It is essentially the Foreign Legion for the Davos set of rich, wealthy, and terminally bored Westerners. One woman wrote about her time in refugee camps having public sex with various African men. NGOs and folks like Bono, Jolie, Geldof use Africa as a prop for moral preening among themselves.

Obama's one bill is I kid you not, "Global Tax on America" designed to pay over 800 Billion to Africa.

Of course with the Chinese becoming heavily involved in Africa for resources things will become interesting there.

Assuming Obama does not win I expect Africa to fade as a prop to be replaced with something equally as trendy.

braindead said...

I couldn’t believe this was in the NYT. I mean they usually deliberately omit anything which could put blacks in a bad light. Looks like their journalist was simply freaked out about the African reality, and by extension what’s coming to the US through Barry O.

But this is exactly what Africa is like. In fact daily life in Africa is really depressing and boring. Everybody is scrounging around for the last remnants of colonial or Apartheid-era abundance, having just chased those evil whites out of the place at all costs. And when foreigners come along, the only thought is how to shake them down (bowl shaped hands).

michael farris said...

For someone who uses the extended family as a metaphor, you often don't seem to understand the dynamic.

The default model of human organization is a large extended family. An individual born into such a group receives protection from the dangers of life from the group in exchange for unquestioning and total loyalty. Ethics, are in effect to reduced to "does it help my group?" in which case it's okay. And being disloyal (harming the groups interests whether intentional or not) is the worst form of betrayal.

It's not that big men have to be coaxed into supporting people, their self-image as a good person requires them to help their group as much as possible.

Obama's big problem with Kenya will be that all Kenyan sides will assume that he wants to do everything possible to help his group (in the case the Luo). The Kikuyu might not like such a situation but they'd understand, even respect it to a certain extent while envying the Luo their good fortune.

If he does not openly favor the Luo, then _all_ sides (and a big chunk of Subsaharan Africa (and a lot of the middle east) will regard him as a person with no honor or integrity.

Similarly, I don't believe that he's a 'secret' Muslim for a second. But his ties to Muslims won't help the US with the middle east. They'll most likely see his Christianity as opportunistic and unethical (and again an example of turning his back on his group and bringing dishonor to them).

None of this is necessarily a reason to vote against him but some more reasonable expectations about what he can and cannot do (and why) would be nice.

J. said...

While agreeing that the Luo are proud of Obama, and possibly hoping to benefit from his high position (which is only too human), at least his half brother did not show up for a meal, a thing that cannot be said of Jimmy Carter and other prominent American politicians.