The Three African Porcupines – The Leaders, The Journalists And The Intelligentsia

During one summer evening, as I sat with Xiao-he watching TV in the living room, he started lamenting the sorry state of affairs on the African continent and how things were going on there. He did not make any effort to differentiate between countries in Africa. I reminded him that Africa was a continent – not a country.

“Yes, I know. But Africa is a continent – not a country. There are other parts of the continent that are relatively developed.”

“Yes, I know. But the overwhelming number of poor and underdeveloped countries situated in that continent alone makes it impossible for us the Chinese people to differentiate between them.” To us Africa is Africa. Okay? Let the politicians and the intellectuals do the differentiation.” He said fearlessly and angrily.

“But you can’t just lump the politicians and the intellectuals together.”

“Why can’t I do so?” He retorted.

“At least you do know the plight of these intellectuals. Their voices are not often being heard. Moreover, some even become targets of these very politicians.”

“Yes, I know. But there are also some of these intellectuals who run after every caller and bend in the direction of every political wind.”

“Xiao-he, I don’t understand what you mean by some intellectuals running after every caller and bending in the direction of every political wind.”

A moment of silence then descended upon us. I knew Xiao-he was no longer interested in this discussion. He wanted a change of topic, I guessed. I felt the same too. After quietly taking a few sips of brandy, he became garrulous once again. I often disliked his idea of always carrying along an alcoholic drink where ever he went. He drank in every occasion-in both his sad moments and happy moments.

“But I can’t also absolve some of the journalists from blame.” He said with a twisted face and widely opened eyes.

To Xiao-he, the nature of the relationship between the journalists, the politicians, and the intellectuals in Africa could be likened to what happens to three porcupines when they’re cold in winter-they get as close as possible to one another to keep warm-but not too close so that they don’t hurt one another. His reason was that, even though some of them did concentrate on Africa’s capacity for greatness, a good majority of them rather concentrated on blaming outsiders-especially Western ones-and colonialism-for Africa’s problems. He thought that often lead to they shooting themselves in the foot?”

I countered by making him realize the fact that most of these are actually a stranded intelligentsia. They’ve been trapped in backwaters. They often find themselves reduced to poverty and rustic irrelevance. If they refuse to sing the song of those in power, they aren’t going to survive.”