It’s not a spectator sport!

“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.’ Jesus did not answer a word.
“So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel…It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.’
“’Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.’”
The above lines are taken from the Biblical book of Matthew 15.
It seems quite harsh, does it not, how Jesus appears to rebuff a woman who is seeking his help.
There are several interpretations of this exchange and I have read scholars and heard preachers breaking down the Jew-Gentile-Messiah matrix so clearly that it becomes clear what Jesus’ intention was in speaking the way he did to that woman at the exact time.
But let’s not delve into it. That’s a whole big debate on its own.
My interest in the exchange is that I have tried and failed to find any other source of origin for the phrase “crumbs from the master’s table”.
The meaning of the phrase is very clear – dogs eat what their masters leave for them.
Of course, in more affluent households the pets have their own food specially prepared for them and I have read somewhere that the world spends far much more on pet food than baby food every year. And it is said it is the most highly regulated product in grocery stores after baby formula.
So yes, some dogs don’t eat the crumbs from the master’s table – they have their own tables and they dine as finely as any prince ever did.
The majority of dogs, though, have to make do with leftovers. And that is exactly what Africa is specialising in.
After having internalised the colonial era myth that we are worse than dogs (the colonial hierarchy stood thus in order of primacy: white male, white female, white man’s dog, black male, and then black female), even after independence we continue to be content with crumbs falling from the master’s table.
How else would we explain our complicity in the looting of nearly US$2 trillion by multinational corporations and miners who don’t want to pay taxes or be equal partners in our development objectives?
In as much as non-African corporations are guilty of pillaging the continent, we have to admit that US$2t cannot leave Africa between 1980 and 2009 without complicity on our part.
We know that the banks are a prime conduit of moving money around in the most baffling of ways, but surely transfer pricing and mispricing are issues that we can easily deal with through proper regulatory structures and a genuine clampdown on corruption.
According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa and Global Financial Integrity, Africa loses US$50 billion every year through these corporate shenanigans.
How do we lose US$50b when we need US$100b to kick-start meaningful infrastructure development?
It means that we have in our midst politicians, bankers, managers and media personnel who are assisting in the rape of Africa in exchange for crumbs from the master’s table.
Because surely we all stand to benefit more by tightening our operations and ensuring we don’t lose all these billions every year.
In exchange for facilitating this pillaging of barbaric proportions, what are these dogs getting from the master? A car? A holiday? Entry into prestigious schools for their kids?
These are all crumbs!
If  there is unity on the need for financial integrity, the savings and resultant investments into our own development will deliver to Africa, and its future generations, whole loaves of bread and not mere crumbs.
Instead, we cheer on as other people get wealthy.
What these dogs don’t seem to understand is that wealth and development – like sex – are not spectator sports. What thrill can be derived in watching other people have a good time?
Beyond satisfying voyeuristic fetishes, there really is nothing in it for the spectator.
Assisting multinationals to loot billions of dollars annually and feeling smug about it is no different from keeping guard at the bedroom door while your married friend has illicit sex!
We must participate, we must be active in our quest for development and that can only be achieved by unity of purpose.

June 2013
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