Ilana Mercer
January 17, 2018
The Unz Review

President Trump’s questioning of immigration into the United States from what he crudely called “shithole” countries masks a more vexing question:

What makes a country, the place or the people? Does “the country” create the man or does the man make the country?

To listen to the deformed logic of the president’s detractors, it’s the former: the “country” makes the person. No sooner does an African or Haitian immigrant wash up on American shores—courtesy of random quotas, lotteries and other government grants of privilege and protection—than the process of cultural and philosophical osmosis begins. American probity and productivity soon become his own.

As an African libertarian—an ex-South African, to be precise—I took the liberty of addressing the matter in the book “Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” in which a Cameroonian scholar, Daniel Etounga-Manguelle, among others, is extensively cited.

Easily one of the most controversial thinkers on the causes of underdevelopment in Africa, Etounga-Manguelle, a former adviser to the World Bank, contends that “What Africans are doing to one another defies credulity. Genocide, bloody civil wars, and rampant violent crime suggest African societies at all social levels are to some extent cannibalistic.” Why? In part, because of the inveterate values held by so many Africans.

Etounga-Manguelle and scholars like him, cited in “Into The Cannibal’s Pot,” are responding to an “explanatory vacuum” that has opened up among honest academics.

All have been willing to admit that constructs like racism, discrimination, and colonialism no longer serve as credible causal factors in divining underdevelopment and delinquency.

None has been called upon to enlighten the greater public.

In such intellectually candid circles, the intellectual “vacuum” is being filled with reference to culture, namely the “values, attitudes, beliefs, orientations, and underlying assumptions prevalent among people in a society.”

The idea that culture is benign and harmonious if not disrupted is a delusion, argues anthropologist Robert B. Edgerton, who also believes that in Africa, “traditional cultural values are at the root of poverty, authoritarianism, and injustice.”

By taking account of culture, posits David Landes, a Harvard economic historian, and author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, one could have foreseen the postwar economic success of Japan and Germany. The same is true of South Korea (versus Turkey), and Indonesia (versus Nigeria).

Voodoo for Values

Before the end of free speech on American campuses, Etounga-Manguelle, aforementioned, attended a symposium on “Cultural Values and Human Progress” at Harvard, circa 1999. He had come to bury and not praise the cultures of the Continent.

In a paper titled Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program?, Etounga-Manguelle quipped controversially that “The African works to live but does not live to work.”

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