Tag Archives: star trek

Africa: Or How Over-Generalization Can Undermine Your Cause

This post was inspired by Waikisays’ There’s More to Africa Than Corruption and Poverty.


Indeed, there is more to Africa than corruption and poverty. I have never visited any African country, but I can’t wait to. It’s a very rich and diverse continent, full of magnificent architecture and breathtakingly beautiful natural areas. This may surprise you given that the image of Africa we get from the news in Europe is, from north to south: where illegal immigrants come from (10%), a huge desert (40%), the place where the documentaries are filmed (5%)  blood diamonds, sickness and starving children (40%), some rich white people (5%) .

This is Africa, too. Photo by Dr. Andrew Hill of Yale University.

I understand why the news give so much attention to these issues. It’s because these issues matter and need to be solved. But in their attempt to concern the general public about everything that’s wrong with Africa, they overgeneralise and forget to mention everything that’s right with Africa! And this is very, very bad for all those issues we cared about in the first place.

Why is it so bad? Because it causes detachment. In the first world it is very hard to consider African countries as equals because the media never talks about the things we have in common. You’ll never hear about the African girl who just wrote an outstanding thesis for her Architecture final year, you’ll hear about the one who didn’t go to school because she had to take care of her brothers. You’ll never see the exotic fashion the middle class is designing, you’ll see the rags and patches of the poorest. Judging from the news, Africa hasn’t discovered concrete yet.

This isn’t helped by the fact that most black characters in American media are African-American, born in America, raised in America. A fantastic example of the opposite is Lt. Uhura from Star Trek (1966), whose nation is the fictitious United States of Africa and whose mother tongue is Swahili. She’s also a female. Take that, inequality. Note that this doesn’t happen only with Africa… non-white characters in American TV tend not to be too foreign. Sadly, American media reaches the whole world, thus perpetuating this negative view.

But there’s one reason why it’s even worse: the common belief that Africa is a helpless mess paralyses the potential aider! The failure to show how Africa’s pulling itself out of poverty tricks the viewer into believing that his little aid will only help one child live a little longer, and then everything will be the same. It makes us think it’s a helpless cause, while it is clearly not.

I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what Africa is really like. I’ve never been there. But I know it’s not a mess of a continent. I know it had a very rich history. I know that not everybody is dying of malaria and starvation.  I know that there are African scientists, doctors, historians and teachers who are just as good at what they do as any European guy. And I know that Africa is definitely worth helping solve the problems it currently has. So take action now.

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Filed under Places I Like, World

5 Lessons From 5 Great Film Characters

Cosmo Brown (Singin’ in the Rain)

Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite an elite, and you could charm the critics and have nothing to eat, just slip on a banana peel the world’s at your feet! Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh!

“Make ’em laugh” is effectively what I learnt from this character. I’ve discovered that a witty line can make a point, and a funny story can win an audience.

Maria (The Sound of Music)

Now children, Do Re Mi Fa So and so on are only the tools you use to build a song. Once you have these notes in your heads you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up.

From Maria I learnt that there was much more to music that I previously thought. After watching this film, I listen to music in a completely different way. I appreciate music much more now, to the point of taking singing and piano lessons.

Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

“Okay, pep talk! You can do this, but to be more accurate, you probably can’t. You’re way out of practice and she’s way too hot for you. So, remember, it’s not about scoring. It’s about believing you can do it, even though you probably can’t. Go get ’em, tiger!”

I love this quote because it reflects exactly how hard it is to explain to someone the power of confidence and positive thinking. It sounds like you are deluding yourself with a confidence overload, and in fact you are, but that’s the only way to unleash the power. If I had to pick only one thing to be successful, it’s this one. Believe in yourself.

Trip Tucker (Star Trek: Enterprise)

[about flying an alien vessel] How difficult can it be? Up, down, forward, reverse. I’ll figure it out.


Nothing is that complicated. This character made me change the way I look at things. You don’t have to focus on the problem and try to eliminate it, you have to focus on the purpose and find a way there. This may not look like it, but it was a major shift in my thinking triggered by an Enterprise episode when I was twelve.

Captain Kirk (Star Trek)

The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.

The quote above has nothing to do with the lesson, but I like it. What I learnt from Captain Kirk (although it’s displayed by almost every character in the Star Trek franchise) is that you can be smart, athletic and many other things at the same time and it’s not only OK but preferred. I consider myself lucky to have learnt the importance of being well-rounded at an early age (I watched Star Trek for the first time when I was about eight) because I was able to break free from my maths nerd stereotype an enrich my life enormously.

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Filed under Personal Development