“Eat Your Food, Children in Africa are Starving!”

in #writing2 months ago


I came across an interesting post by an ex-footballer Patrice Evra, who was born in Senegal. He shared a sketch by a Finnish comedian Ismo Leikola, asking is this what we grow up with? Evra also posted an IG TV video talking about the subject, I encourage you to go and have a listen, this is the kind of honest and civil conversation we need. Not the angry propaganda the mainstream media wants to broadcast.

Check out Ismo Leikolas sketch so you know what I’m talking about:

First of all, this sketch is one of my favourites from Ismo, it’s absolutely brilliant and on point, it’s funny and at the same time, it’s a clever form of social commentary.

Here in Finland, we have two views about Africa. They are very simplified and narrow, especially considering that Africa is a huge continent, not just one little country. For background; I started elementary school in the 90’s, and I’m sure with globalization and immigration, the view is much broader in schools these days, especially in our capital city.

View 1: People are starving in Africa and it’s our job to help them

This view is heavily dictated by the Unicef, Red Cross and alike. We used to see their ads (lets call them that because that is what they are) about malnourished kids in Africa and what you can do to help, prime time and especially closer to Christmas. There was/is also charity galas that were on live television, where Finnish celebrities were answering phones to take in donations for said charity. Africa needs YOUR help, right NOW! Cue pictures of pitiful looking kids with dramatic sad music. They can’t survive without YOU, they need YOU, they don’t know better, they need the western countries to come in, feed them, help them build wells and teach children how to read.

These multinational businesses know their stuff, they know how to play people and pull on the heartstrings, and loosen up those purse strings… They make good money with these campaigns, and only a fraction of that money ends up to those in need by the way, but that’s a topic for another time.

This kind of looking down on Africa view, while partly true of course, there is still hunger and decease everywhere in the world, though less now than ever before, is very disrespectful. Think how you would feel if someone from Africa came to your village (I’m from a tiny village so this is easy to imagine) and told you you know nothing and you need help. Then they would start building a school, teach you how to plant potatoes, and donated their old clothes and shoes to you. I think I’d be very very hostile.

I wonder if there is a group of scientists anywhere that would have done a sort of parallel universe study on Africa and how it would look now if the western countries hadn’t invaded them and deplete their resources. I think that would be very interesting to see, and I think it would be a lot different than what we can imagine.

View 2: Nature Documentaries

Every Saturday and Sunday morning there were, and maybe still is, nature documentaries on YLE, showing us the amazing wonders Africa has. The vast deserts, rainforests, amazing coastline and exotic animals, with dark skinned people dressed in colourful clothing, dancing around barefoot under a scorching sun. Everyone loves these documentaries, and I still do and try to watch every single nature documentary that is now on any streaming service. This view is of course a lot more positive, showing all the richness Africa has.

Two views, very contradicting, but that is roughly what we were taught and grew up seeing about Africa. We didn’t know any better. A lot of us still don’t, even though we have access to all the information we could need or want. African and Asian countries are at the moment the fastest growing economies and if you are going to do international business, that is where you need to take it if you wanna make the big bucks.

Now back to the original topic of finishing the food on your plate because children in Africa are starving. I guarantee you, that every child (at least my generation and those before me) in Finland has heard this numerous times during their childhood. I remember hearing this from my grandma, aunts and even teachers, but not actually from my mothers side because she has lived in Kenya so I think she knew better, although she was very little when her family lived there.

While this phrase can first sound quite demeaning, I think it’s actually meant to be as a reminder to be grateful for the food you have because not everyone has it that good, and eat those green beans. I guess it made sense to say to kids, without much explaining. Though those of us who liked to question things sure asked how is it helping kids in Africa if I eat my food, or if I don’t, can we send the green beans to them? I actually like my greens but you get the point! Nevertheless, when we hear this from a very young age, of course it effects our view of Africa, and it can be really hard to change later.

I think I have a few followers from the great continent of Africa, and I’d love it if you could leave a comment and tell us if you knew this is how we speak about you here in the white north.

Ps. I know these kind of posts are not what you are used to seeing from me, but I like to talk about cultural differences and have honest conversations with people who come from very different kinds of backgrounds than myself. Hive is hands down the best platform for this, as there is no censorship, trolls, or people who get butthurt even before they read what someone else said.


It was China when I was a kid. And we had to practice hiding under our desks when we got nuked. Yeah that was going to work really well. Kids aren't stupid. I knew we would be vaporised. I thought the administration and the government - not so much the individual teachers were jerks and liars. Little has changed it seems. Although we did have a good period in the seventies when things were much lighter and opened up.

I thought hiding under a desk was for earthquakes? Surely no-one thought even little kids would believe that would help in an event of nuclear bomb.

We had air raid sirens too! Every Friday at 10:00 am super loud sirens would go off! Earthquakes, Nukes... Funny enough I don't think scared anybody at all we just ignored it and ran around at recess and after school having fun

I was a preschooler in the 1970's when I first heard that I should eat everything on my plate because there was starvation in Africa. It did not quite compute back then and it still doesn't.

I wonder if the phrase ever worked for anyone 😅

Possibly the tone in which it was said. ;)

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