The Western perception that the rest of the world is a massive wasteland of uncivilized, barbaric, primitive, and savage peoples is still alive, frighteningly so. For Europeans and Americans, only the industrially advanced global north is the finest epitome of humankind, representing the elixir of human intelligence and innovation.
Of course, we know that they are wallowing in their own ignorance albeit to the detriment of all peoples of the world.
Just recently, the European Union (EU) head of foreign policy Josep Borrell made the wild remarks that the global south is a “jungle” and that Europe (and North America by extension) is the “garden” that must be protected from being “invaded” by those from the said jungle.
Speaking at the European Diplomatic Academy Borrell remarked, “ Yes, Europe is a garden. We have built a garden. Everything works. It is the best combination of political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion that the humankind has been able to build – the three things together. And here, Bruges is maybe a good representation of beautiful things, intellectual life, wellbeing.
“The rest of the world – and you know this very well, Federica – is not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden. The gardeners should take care of it, but they will not protect the garden by building walls. A nice small garden surrounded by high walls in order to prevent the jungle from coming in is not going to be a solution. Because the jungle has a strong growth capacity, and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden.
“The gardeners have to go to the jungle. Europeans have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means.”
The global south is in such a dire state because of Western imperial domination (abetted by colluding with the indigenous parasitic bourgeoisie comprising of the political and economic elite).
To say that the global south is a jungle is as preposterous as it can get. For the ruling elite in the global north to view the rest of the world through such imperial lenses is a huge indictment on their moral standing—since they claim the moral high ground in the world as the paramount embodiment of vague and disingenuous concepts of democracy, human rights, and individual liberties.
Europeans and Americans are the worst when it comes to flagrantly flouting the very same message of democracy, human rights, and individual liberties that they preach at every opportunity.
The claim by the EU’s Borrell that the global south—of which Africa is part of—shows that Europeans have hardly changed their biased colonial view of the world’s less privileged countries. In Africa’s this context, this colonial and paternalistic view of a backward continent in urgent need of saving (the white savior complex) is still very much alive. The days of colonial brutal conquests marked by plunder, murder, and dehumanization find resonance in today’s neocolonial machinations in which Europe still views its former colonies as perennial subjects incapable of any intrinsic and organic development.
If anything, such Western perceptions serve as the sole basis for assuming a big brother role—the West being the self-appointed “world’s prefect”—where everyone is in slavish conformity to what the West dictates. If the “jungle countries” do not comply to Western dictates and caprices, the violence wrought on them through military intervention, economic sanctions, and structural adjustment programs is of monumental proportions; leaving a devastating trail of destruction in all facets of life.
The conspicuously palpable reminder for everyone in Africa and the rest of the global south is that Europe and America will never relent on their imperialist machinations. Josep Borrell said that the “garden” must at all cost be reasonably protected by its [rightful] custodians/gardeners—implying an express and unhinged shift towards ultra-nationalist right-wing populism.
What the West forgets, either deliberately or through sheer ignorance, is that in their warped perception, the idea that the global south is a jungle is because of colonial and neocolonial domination. Wherever elements of independent trajectories have surfaced in post-colonial Africa, they have been brutally and ruthlessly quashed. Examples such as Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic quickly come to the fore.
It is precisely because of global north intervention in our sovereign affairs that the global south appears a hotbed of nothing but strife, hunger, and disease. To the West, Africans, Latin Americans, and Asians do not deserve equal treatment at par with those in the “garden”. To them, people in the global south do not deserve the inalienable right to dignity, self-worth, and freedom.
So for the Western elite, the global south exists primarily as their hunting ground for natural resources and cheap labour, forgetting that Europe appears like a “garden” because of the slave trade and colonialism. The exploitation of natural resources in Africa to the detriment of its people continues to reach unprecedented heights, an attestation that even the local ruling political and economic elite in Africa reinforce the contorted narrative that we are a jungle.
The historical amnesia displayed by the West in making wild claims that the global south is a jungle must be vociferously countered. Where the global south fails to progressively offer counter-hegemonic narratives, we remain a perpetual jungle for the West, and the East as well. Africa’s leaders are performing dismally in that regard by their acquiescence to the dictates of globalized, financialized private capital. Such collusion reifies this regrettable concrete material reality.
Europeans and Americans must be ceaselessly reminded that inequalities the rest of the world are there because of capitalism premised on imperialism. Even in the garden itself, inequalities are rife. The self-serving attitude exuded by the Western elite is a major hindrance to the universal and equitable progress of humanity.
The fact that they call the rest of the world a jungle means that they view us as totally and inherently incapable of governing ourselves; that we can never attain self-sufficient development without perpetually “engaging” the West, which is the basis of neocolonialism today.
For us to cease being a jungle, it means we have to identify with their political, economic, social, and religious systems, beliefs, values, and practices—appropriating the same as our own. This reason accounts for the low self-esteem and inferiority complex ubiquitous in the derided “rest of the world”.
That we are a jungle is synonymous to war, conflict, hunger, poverty, disease, and other ills that increase our propensity to “invade the garden”. This gives the West the unfettered right of the so-called “responsibility to protect”—a sanitized term for meddling with our sovereignty. Examples such as Libya, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Somalia quickly come to the fore. Yet such instability causing people to flee for perceived greener pastures in the global north is of the West’s making.
The migrant crisis for instance engenders this reality. It gives Europeans the impetus to protect their garden, yet all these world problems—the obstinate facts of poverty, inequality and hunger—are directly attributable to the West’s disastrous effects of liberal bourgeois capitalism that became the default global order upon the fall of the Soviet Union: dubbed the “end of history” by Western intellectuals.
So, with all due respect, the rest of the world is not a jungle. The global south is not a jungle. Africa is not a jungle. The white savior complex informing the West’s foreign policy must be vehemently dismantled through progressive, honest, candid, and fearless counter-hegemonic/counter-ideological narratives predicated on achieving an egalitarian world where peace and development reign supreme for all.