We Should Imitate Africa (Not Vice Versa)


Central Africa seems a lot more healthy than the Western World.

In my Christianity and Mass Media class, we spend the end of the year studying how the media affects our brains and personal identity.

  • Google makes us forgetful and destroys our patience for long, sustained reading (as Nicholas Carr points out and Bill Keller observed).
  • Facebook trains us in narcissism, as we market the major events of our life.
  • Advertising does not sell a product so much as it sells an identity, making it seem possible, and desirable, to change ours.

Starving for truth, goodness and beauty, we stare at our smart phones, where all three are compromised. Then, Drudge linked a David Kupelian article that marshaled these and many other depressing statistics that spell out how lost our society has become:

Then along comes this article from the Atlantic Monthly: “Where Masturbation and Homosexuality Do Not Exist.” It begins:

Barry and Bonnie Hewlett had been studying the Aka and Ngandu people of central Africa for many years before they began to specifically study the groups’ sexuality. As they reported in the journal African Study Monographs, the married couple of anthropologists from Washington State University “decided to systematically study sexual behavior after several campfire discussions with married middle-aged Aka men who mentioned in passing that they had sex three or four times during the night. At first [they]thought it was just men telling their stories, but we talked to women and they verified the men’s assertions.”

As the article goes on, the Aka and Ngandu people emerge as a rather healthy community.

  • Sex is a good thing; they call it “searching for children” because they associate it with procreation but also have a ribald way of celebrating it — Chaucerlike, if you will.
  • Masturbation is not something that they have shamed out of people; it just isn’t something anyone really has much desire to do.

Are these people the noble savages Rousseau hoped for? I’m sure they are not. They are human beings, subject to original sin and filled with concupiscence like the rest of us. Is technology the root of all evil? Nah. But it may be an evil accelerator.

But if what this article says is true, I do think that they have a healthier view of sex  than us. They don’t connect it with their own self-actualization — they connect it with family-actualization. They don’t make it an end in itself, but a means to an end. And, ironically, sex that is not freighted with so many expectations turns out to be more pleasurable and less emotionally torturous. (And it is exciting to think that Africa is embracing Christ without the West’s baggage.)

After citing the sexual habits of the Aka and Ngandu, the Atlantic story introduces a concept I have never heard before: WEIRD people.

This finding recalls a much-discussed 2010 Behavioral and Brain Sciences paper called “The WEIRDest people in the world?” in which the authors argued that far too many sweeping claims about “human nature” are drawn exclusively from samples of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies.

Sounds like they are onto something. My only fear is that the big money of Melinda Gates and the Contraceptive Imperialists will see this and want to go in and make these poor benighted people more like the wonderful, white suicidal West.

They shouldn’t. We should imitate them, not vice versa.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.

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