Light is for the Dark… Explained
1) The greatest story of self-determination
2) The role of science in governance.
3) The role of State in governance.
4) The role of self determination in governance.
1.The greatest story of self determination
The greatest story of self-determination in our modern history has to be that of The United States of America:
- It shows how every nation is informed by a shared norm (whether existing or desired) that it considers a truth enough for the government to take decisions in its defense on behalf of the people for the ultimate benefit of the people.
- It tells of the real struggle confronting humanity, which pits our economic self against our social self and provides proof of how the resulting sustained existence of humanity should matter more than its thirst for economic conquest; at least in the long run.
- So much so that the role of the State, even in the United States of America, which in principle, rejected the United Kingdom’s monarchial State logic, continues to be the same: to protect the people from allowing their often insatiable appetite for economic pursuit from undermining the spirit to defend (restraint) what ‘they’ understand to be the premise for their continued existence, if not, dominance over the environment in which they live.
- The State is, essentially as a result, the custodian of our national conscience, not the government per se.
2.The role of science in governance.
Not too long ago, the worlds understanding of its humanity was so limited that Africa, which was generally ‘unknown’ to the world, was frequently referred to as the ‘dark continent’. This dark veil enabled the world, in its pursuit to further the existence of the ‘humanity’ it knew, to shamelessly exploit, not only Africa’s vast resources, but more so, its sense of self worth.
Fortunately, much of the world’s understanding of humanity and its existence has changed since (for one: Africans are now officially regarded as humans); but sadly, this dark veil still lingers over the eyes and minds of Africans ourselves denying us a fair chance to defend our share of the worlds resources as a result even under these more conducive circumstances.
Our shared sense of a need for continued existence as human beings first, informs most of our social norms, which form the premise for the values we uphold as a society and methods of wealth creation and distribution that we condone as a result. So, basically, this means, we are human beings first and capitalists, socialists, and communists after.
Capitalism, communism, and even socialism are at best, economic models arguing from different vintage points how best to create and distribute wealth given the limited understanding that we have of our humanity and the values required to keep us in existence.
Recent advances in pure and applied science have significantly changed the most critical lever for driving growth in a ‘modern’ economy that is economic productivity. This has had the effect of changing the trajectory for mankind to advancing the cause of the ‘economic-man’ more than the ‘social-man’. This has been the case until most recently with the introduction and popularization of Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs, which aim to underscore our commitment to defending our spirit for humanity in the face of our insatiable appetite for economic pursuit.
The world was intrinsically divided in the past as a result of these limited methods of understanding or explaining occurrences. The standard for convergence up to this time, which was heavily invested in religion and or philosophy, was dependent on the use of words (social science) to explain occurrences as opposed to pure or applied science. Consequently shared values and traditions were more critical in bringing people together or pulling them apart than anything else. This is best evidenced by the narrative of the immediate last global defender of note of our human existence, the United Kingdom (The British Empire), and explains its preferred model of economic conquest - imperialism; which entails extending boundaries and traditions (their norm) as pre requisites for ‘inclusion’ of the conquered.
Consequently, the one key contribution of science (the industrial era followed closely by the discovery and computing/ digital era in particular) is availing a new protocol for ‘understanding’ and ‘explaining’ occurrences which contends with religion and philosophy in bringing people together and in informing government decisions. This has gone a long way in getting people of different backgrounds to come together in their understanding of occurrences and explaining life on a whole.
The main challenge presented by pure and applied sciences, though, is that in as much as they go a long way in explaining occurrences and in particular economic productivity (when compared to social sciences like religion and/or philosophy), they do very little to explain the logic behind the shared values that bring people together to ensure our continued existence beyond economic productivity. This is best evidenced by the latest global ‘defender’ of note of our human existence and economic productivity, the United States of America and its preferred model for economic conquest - globalization, which by its nature, bemoans even the extension of boarders and traditions as a pre requisite for inclusion of the ‘conquered’.
3.The role of State in governance.
Due to inheriting boarders that we didn’t create or have the moral authority to justify, Africa found itself in the peculiar predicament of building nations in tandem with building economies in a world that increasingly discouraged the existence of boarders under the reigns of the new world order - the United States of America. The United States of America through globalization chose to strategically view nation building in a protectionist light building on the world war legacy; consequently fostering institutions (the UN, World Bank and IMF) that would rid the world of ‘boarders’ and infuse values and sociopolitical systems that were core to the American ‘norm’ including its form of democracy.
Africa, as a result, was forced to look at its nation building (human existence struggle) agenda through the blurring and shortsighted lens of economics (or better yet the economic struggle). Our fundamental mistake started with us accepting this as a truth without appreciating that all the other delegates around the table can afford to keep it to ‘economics’ because they already had the ‘nation building’ part sorted. Even the United States of America, at that time had already 200plus years of one constitution that, through bloodshed and sweat, had gained ‘Stately’ legitimacy comparable to that of the monarchy in the United Kingdom, demonstrating, in many ways, the unavoidable role of the concept of State in governance irrespective of the norm.
In Africa, we forget that legalities (laws) are the play ground of governments but State logic and nation building banks on legitimacy, which takes deliberate effort and time to earn. The United States went as far as composing a narrative to support their claim to discovering the ‘new world’; fought for independence of this new ‘world’, composed a constitution that reflected their ‘more’ progressive values, fought a civil war in defense of this constitution; instituted this narrative and its civic logic in schools - starting with formative education where Americans religiously recite their Constitution’s preamble and study humanity; annually re enact the independence struggle on independence day so no one forgets this critical moment; all this in the spirit of earning their constitution’s legitimacy and preserving their desired norm throughout generations.
The monetization of humanity is another consequence of the impact of science in governance that supports the continued need for State logic. Under normal conditions, monetization is a powerful premise for decision making in government and beyond. I always argue that civilization is for the civil meaning that the context is just as important as the content when it comes to decision making. Depending on the context, even civil deeds can be deemed uncivil.
Africa mistakenly followed this brief too; much to its own detriment. We dollar pegged everything with very little consideration for context. We start with ill fated efforts to adjust our economies on the premise of global averages not local sense. We went on to wage a war to eradicate poverty consequently putting into negative shade norms that were in effect an African reality. The best way to overcome your reality is to accept it first and deal with it only after.
Yet, even now, as we celebrate being a near middle income economy, we are making the same mistake again; pegging this great milestone solely against economic as opposed to social measures.
What do we learn from countries like South Africa which have been middle income economies all along but are now faced with unrest comparable to that of the apartheid era?
It is for this reason that governments come after States are formed not before. States are born out of an inherent need by human beings to determine their destiny (self determination) and master their environment as a result. With the gift of choice, God has gifted human beings the ability to understand occurrences (rational); which includes understanding the ‘secrets’/lessons that inform our continued human existence when compared to other species.
Human beings, as a result of this ‘gift’ of choice, also carry the burden of being compelled to survive. Survival, the need for continued existence, is what I call the human existence struggle is fueled by but can never exactly be equal to the human economic struggle. The real norm for humanity as a result is the struggle; the gift of rational becomes a curse when 1) we do not accept the struggle as a norm and 2) when we don’t use this ‘norm’ to inform the decisions we take.
4.The role of self determination in governance.
Let’s look closely at what I believe is one of the greatest stories of national self determination that may also explain the continued importance of the role of the State in wielding this truth. If there is anything the United States of America has taught the world when it embarked on its quest for self determination is the role of fear in process and the power of being decisive in the face of adversity as a result.
Motivated by their fear of the known, the United States of America rejected U.K. monarchical rule.
When they did so, they effectively had no option but to literally embrace the unknown as their new standard for motivation for existence and this mindset has informed the American narrative since. While the U.K. informs the power of the State by investing in rejection of the fear of the known (strengthening the idea of the State through institutions and ideologies), the USA invests in rejection of fear of the unknown (strengthening the idea of the State through instilling values and principles). It can be argued, as a result, that there is a common denominator that cuts across both systems - the rejection fear. There is no greater enemy of progress in the age of discovery than fear.
As part of the progressive (anti establishment/ status quo) agenda, the United States, not only invested institutions and ideologies as extensions of the state that uphold these principles and values, but they went further and proactively managed education and mass communication to plant these principles and values in its people. These entailed, amongst other things a shift from propaganda deployment (which assumes the existence of one trusted source) to perception management which assumed the potential for multiple ‘trusted’ sources.
The self-determination challenge for Africa is heavily invested in the existence of absolute fear - we fear both the known and the unknown; paralyzing our ability to do the one thing humanity has been gifted to do in the face of the burden of our survival - be decisive; decision making.
Yet still one light shone in the Dark Continent.
As we see in the examples of the USA and UK, every country/ nation is essentially informed by assumed ‘norm’. This ‘norm’ ensures stability through the inevitable, which is change, depending heavily on the balance between the lessons learned from the past and motivation we have to embrace the future. This is why the key sympols of the State in both cases remain unchanged in as much as governments and temperaments change; The Queen in the UK is in state with every change in Government and likewise The Constitution in the USA remains in state with every change in Government. The State is the psychological force that manages this critical balance and it does this, in part, through exercising the power of making sustained decisions.
The real light in the face of the uncertainties that will always darken the path of self-determination is the ability to make decisions for the long run and this is really only possible when you take control of the ‘norm’ even if it means creating your own assumption of a norm that doesn’t even exist like the Americans did.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding father, may have been the one post independence President who’s methods defied the curse that has been central in Africa’s stagnation if not demise. His decision to denounce fear in all its forms (with the exception of the fear of God) and single minded pursuit of an agenda that focused on building a nation that could accommodate all Tanzanians for all moments as opposed to extracting value from it in the moment as many of his contemporaries did, sets him in a league almost exclusive to the western world or far east but almost never Africa.
Yet, even this profound and rare success story, of national self-determination is easily lost in translation - literally.
Was Nyerere’s legacy purely Ujamaa? What’s quite evident for anyone who follows the rhetoric, Mwalimu’s legacy is failed most by the misinterpretations resulting from the word Ujamaa. What makes it worse is that both his ‘supporters’ and ‘detractors’, ironically, benefit equally from this confusion; so ultimately only Nyerere himself seems to lose. Supporters cling onto the Ujamaa ideology and its values (as if these values are unique to Ujamaa alone) while detractors focus on the economic near-collapse that ensued soon after (although there are many narratives to explain its collapse beyond its own logic).
The challenge for Africa has been its inability to own up to its reality. We are so consumed by the moment that we find ourselves on a treadmill filled with blame and no sustained decisions. Mwalimu understood that:
1) our humanity convicts us to a lifetime of struggle for which success is just a pitstop but the struggle is the norm for which humanity’s survival is dependent; even in life the most successful people are those who accept “the struggle” as their norm and are never fooled by success
2) this norm, “the struggle” that is infused into a society, must culture a society that accepts to struggle ‘work ethic’ as a norm in order for it to be progressive; explaining why the American middle class is positioned as a graduation of the working class rewarding the struggle as opposed to it being formed as an extension of the establishment (rewarding success) as would be the case in many parts of Africa
3)Lastly, the struggle must be grounded enough in lessons gathered from the past while motivating its people to embrace the prospects of the future.
Mwalimu was not as much a socialist as he was a humanitarian or at worst a social scientist whose aim was to find values that would naturally, if well articulated and re-seeded, inform a national thread that ‘could’ hold us together. I would believe that this is why he was adamant about referring to his model as African Socialism and not just Socialism as his detractors would prefer to do. Ujamaa was informed richly with communal values that were true to almost all of the tribes that colored Tanzania at the time.
Being very aware of the brutal nature of global economics of the time, he dealt with the most fundamental source of ‘evil’ in wealth creation in most traditional and even some modern economies - land. He did this by putting Tanzania’s land in the ‘more’ trusted hands of government up to when its natives actually understood land economics in its modern context.
Apart from denouncing fear, Mwalimu also picked another leaf from other nation builders of note. By embracing Ujamaa, he indirectly informed a norm that, not only identified us as a united people, but more importantly provided guidance of how we should pursue our economic endeavor without undermining this shared identity. Almost as a way of putting emphasis on his commitment to the intention of preserving our humanity as opposed to the method for economic pursuit; Mwalimu came to the fore in the early nineties to put a permanent end to Ujamaa the economic method but not necessarily Ujamaa the spirit in support of humanity.
In this and many other ways, Mwalimu also informs us of the key attribute of strong nations - ensuring present day actions safeguard the interests of generations to come. Often economic endeavor can have you eating not only your share but also that of your children and grandchildren if not well administered; this is the African horror but very true story; we eat not only our share, but even that of generations to come.
When we ‘eat’ in a manner that undermines the shared values and principles that underscore our continued existence, we are indirectly compromising the future. How many parents die extremely wealth but leave their families in peril because their methods of economic pursuit undermined the principles and values and define our humanity?
It is for this reason that Mwalimu’s legacy should be that of ‘building a nation’ the intention and outcome and not Ujamaa the ‘experimental’ method. He focused on propagating the concept of State for this reason and hence why he was often rigid in his stance in the face of popular demands for outright change.
When he says “we must nurture the private sector” he actually means we must inform it with values that will guide it in our economic endeavor, while safeguarding our need for continued human existence, if not dominance. When you give people what they want even if you know it will undermine what they need that’s politics but when you give people what they need (for a greater good) even if it undermines what they want, albeit in the short term, then that’s real statesmanship.
Mwalimu Nyerere is the light that has shown a way through the darkness. As long as we follow this light, we need not fear the dark as much as we need fear losing this light. Quoting Maya Angelou, “we had him” and because had him, we have Tanzania.