Sunday, October 3, 2010

Changing How We Practice Solidarity

If Africans had to pick a Western political ideology prior to colonialism and the pressures that colonial powers placed on modern African states, by default, they would have likely chosen socialism. Pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure couldn't have made it any clearer during their time.

Our Home-Made Safety Net
As Africans, without the need for extremely large centralized states, we do have a sense of social responsibility to one another by which all members of the direct and extended family form a social safety net.

In the region of Guinea where my parents come from, indeed there is much poverty, yet, no such thing as homelessness. Everyone can count on a relative or neighbor to take them in. In fact, this assurance has gone beyond an expectation, and has evolved into a societal norm. I do not wish to generalize for the entire continent, as the media has done, nor to deny the harsh reality that presents itself in conflict and humanitarian crisis areas; nonetheless, in Guinea and neighboring countries (Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast), turning away a relative or neighbor who wants to join in for dinner could earn someone the scorn of the entire town.
"Have you heard what so and so did?" The very next day, the market may become animated with such statements as "he has no fear of God in his heart!" or "she is a woman and she does not pity other people's children... what kind of mother and wife will she be?" Never mind that guests may well invite themselves to your house without the formalism that is observed in Western society... and these guests may may even decide to spend the night. Of course, the social trends I described above are becoming isolated in their specificity, and are rapidly changing with the cultural effect that sudden access to internet and media has had on the continent.

Inevitably, various cultures on the continent are adjusting, and will continue to do so with the influx of pro-capitalist teachings that are passed on to African intellectuals, especially young African diasporeans studying in Europe, Canada, and the United States. Despite this observation, it is hard to dispute the fact that Africans share, and they share a lot... with their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, and respective villages and towns. The IMF and World Bank are fully aware of this detail. African diasporeans remit as much as $20 billion annually, and in some parts of the continent, remittances top 750% of the foreign aid being received, respectively.

Perhaps, the problem lies not in the erroneously implied world view that Africans cannot, and do not do enough for themselves; rather, we have to alter the way we assist one another. For a continent that has been wooed by China's attention, the well-known old Chinese proverb serves as an appropriate reminder: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." At this point, let us substitute the noun "man" for "African."

Free will and self determination are two themes in the human narrative that should never be ignored when we deal with one another. It is easy to witness the power of human will as early as childhood. As Robert Greene puts it, "children are willful creatures." Children do and say whatever they wish, and they ask for the object of their desire without shame or restraint. Most importantly, they run, they jump, and they take action in the fulfillment of their needs to the best of their very limited ability. Eventually, they become socialized, and their will becomes the prisoner of their culture. 

Conversely, when a child has eaten, it stops crying; when a child has played until tiring, it sleeps; when a child has received the toy it sought, it stops asking (until the desire for a new toy is born). This is part of our nature, and it carries over into adulthood. When a man and a woman depend on someone other than themselves, they are less likely to strive with all their energy and creativity to achieve their ambitions. A man and woman should be taught how to read, write, count, speak... they should also be taught how to do research, learn, categorize, and present information... finally, they should be trained to make decisions about their own lives, but decisions should never be made for them.

Hypothesis: foreign direct investment would be preferable to foreign aid; social entrepreneurship would be the ideal middle ground between aid and investment, and an excellent way to maximize the benefit of African Diasporean remittences. I am confident that time, and the efforts of many, will test and prove the validity of this thought.

African Solidarity, an Old Concept Practiced Since Youth


Simply put, Africa is not wanting of solidarity, neither from her own sons and daughters, nor from her western partners; rather, changes should be made in the way solidarity is practiced in order to achieve maximum efficiency and bring out the best of human nature.