Words of Wisdom? - The Missourian: Opinion

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Words of Wisdom?

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Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 5:00 pm

The years move on, but many of the situations, conditions and problems in the world in many countries linger — some progress for the good of the people is made, along with just the opposite in others. We are witnessing too much of the negative.

We ran across a booklet written and published in 1963 by the late James L. Miller, Sr., of The Missourian. The then-publisher of this newspaper wrote a series of articles on a newspaper study mission he took with other journalists to African countries and to several other countries. The stories and excellent photos appeared in issues of The Missourian and Citizen and then were published in booklet form. Miller also wrote editorials and columns, in addition to the feature stories.

He was gone five weeks and the African countries visited were Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, the French Congo, the Congo, Angola, South Africa, Tanganyika, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Egypt. After the study mission to African countries was over, Miller spent another two weeks in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Greece and Italy.

Travel was much more difficult 50 years ago compared to today. Transportation, accommodations and food were far from today’s standards.

Communication was but a sliver of what it is today. The Washington journalist wrote stories while on the trip and mailed them, along with negatives of the photos, to the office. We would receive them in about a week. Mail service was good in those days. Miller carried with him a small portable typewriter, portable darkroom supplies so he could develop the film, nip the negatives of the pictures to be printed, along with lines for the photos. He produced an incredible amount of copy on his trips to foreign countries.

In his introduction in the booklet, with the title of “Report on Africa,” Miller said he was not an expert on any of the countries visited. “ . . . after a few days in each country, talking to our own officials, the top officials of the nations concerned, and the people themselves in the various walks of life, it is possible to gain a fairly clear picture of what is going on without posing as an expert.

“When I went on this study mission, I had a conviction that all African nations should have their independence. I felt they should be permitted to work out their own political and economic salvation with the financial assistance, technical help and advice from us and the rest of the free world — if necessary,” Miller wrote.

He explained that after visiting a few of the African countries he felt in time they would be able to “work out their own destinies.” However, he added, “This feeling gradually gave way to a conviction that the African nations were not ready for self-government, and would not be until the people themselves are educated, trained and prepared for self-government.

“It is a waste of time, money and energy to try to bolster the economy of a nation when the people are unable to carry on whatever economy is started for them. Money cannot develop a nation — the development must start with the people themselves by educating and training them.” He added that in some African countries, 95 percent of the people couldn’t read or write. That was 50 years ago. Certainly, some progress has been made, but we witnessed a few years ago in several African villages the same situation.

Fifty years ago, the Washington publisher gave readers a large dose of his convictions about Africa. He said the nations were “fiercely nationalistic” and the people wanted independence and freedom from foreign influences. However, he wrote that if given independence they wouldn’t know what to do with it. “They will not be ready to govern themselves for many, many years to come — maybe 50 years or more.” Well, we’re at the 50-year mark and some of them aren’t ready yet! But there has been progress in some African countries

America has spent billions in aid to some areas of the world, and the lives of thousands of our soldiers have been lost in nation building. Yes, some progress has been made. The price paid has been high. We have helped suffering people; we helped rebuild Europe after World War II; and we created a free country in South Korea, among other nations we have aided — this country has made more contributions to the world than any other nation. Uncle Sam and his family have been very generous.

What this column is about is that what was true 50 years ago is true today in some countries.  People in many countries have been given degrees of independence, but aren’t prepared to govern. We should have learned by now that we can’t make all of them in our image. The unrest, conflicts and slaughter of human lives today can be traced to the varying cultures involved and when given independence, they have not been prepared to embrace it.

/opinion