Monday, June 27, 2005

Warriors of Light for an African Renaissance

And the feedback keeps rolling in by text, email, phone and even ocassionally on this blog. In the main they qualify, they confirm and often disagree but all question, so what is your solution? As if that is not enough there is St Geldof and Prophet Bono promoting their Live8 revival for african survival and the BBC limbering up to confirm this largely unknown fact 'Africa Lives'. For me it is like watching Porn, something as natural as sex is turned into a commodity to titilate but eventually becomes ugly and predictable leading finally to a corrupting stereotype. So I want to move on from analysis but before I do so there is an extremely important point to make. The poverty of resources that we are being asked to make history, is eventually insignificant compared to a poverty of ideas especially that of the self. Poverty of resources kills people but poverty of idea destroys a people. In fact it is the old Mao saying if you give a man a fish (poverty of resources) you feed him for a day but if he learns to fish (poverty of Ideas) you feed him for a life time.

So lets address the poverty of Ideas, its rationale and solutions. 24 years ago I was a freshman in University of Ife (great Ife!) and we had a lecture by a very special visitor Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Now for those who may remember Fela for his big joint and womanising please look away, he was one of the most insightful speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. He is intelligent, articulate, funny and teasing always with passion and care for his audience and their ideas. One of his ideas stands out, that the 21st Century will be the dawning of the age of Aquarius and therefore an African century. A time when the wisdom of our ancestors and peculair dynamics we have evolved will bring the cyclical mantle of preeminence once again back to Africa. Have you ever heard about this ? I know many think that Fela is out there with UFO spotters and Tupac conspiracy theorists but maybe you have seen something on the President Mbeki promoted African Renaissance. Well it is the mother of NEPAD and the mentor for most progressive policies from the Continent. I believe we are in that kind of time, a period of new possibilities when civilisation and preeminence will not be determined by your hardware (Manufacturing et al) but by your software (culture, ideas et al). In fact most so called developed Nations have moved from manufacturing economies to service or knowledge ones. In a world of Information revolution and convergence , what matters are the intangibles such as brands, values, knowledge and network. There are rampant examples especially Iraq, where the worlds most powerful and tooled up army is cancelled out by low tech ragtag of insurgents, inspired by ideas of religion and mutating regularly through networks becoming the most effective enemy and the poster child for the Adaptive Century. Most of the 19th and 20th Century were a period of the greatest fallacy in human development, the belief that the industrial revolution and its manufacturing systems are the ultimate progress and the final chapter of human truimph over the universe. Driven by Newtonian physics and blinded by 'scientific discovery' we forgot that what we know is insignificant compared to what we are yet to be aware of. The consequences are global warming, nuclear hegemony and cultural imperialism amongst many others. The universe however has always worked on complexity embodied in quantum physics, recognising the importance of chaos, paradox and randomness the very opposite of organised and ordered principles of a manufactured world. There is nowhere where this is more in unadulterated form other than the African continent, because we have failed to embed our societies into the 'development' of the last two centuries and the crafting of socially manufactured and industrially efficient nation states. Africa is primed for the adaptive century.

I know we started with why Africa is not a failure, lets go there again. Africa is a perfect context for human beings operating as 'complex adaptive system' because we are constantly at the edge of chaos, so we are perpetually recreating and evolving using available feedback to survive. It is a state of heightened humanity and primed problem solving underpinned by exceptional creativity. For example no one in Lagos, Nigeria in at least the past ten years has taken a driving test before being granted a license to legitimately drive a car, these includes public bus drivers. You will expect complete anarchy and mayhem on the road, however whilst that happens from time to time , it is often resolved and in fact the rate of accidents in not as high as Johannesbourg with a fully regulated system. The same is also true of the now christened 'Nollywood' arguably the second most prolific and peharps most efficient film making industry in the world which emerged from the collapse of Nigerian Television (NTA ) system. It is still largely not regulated and an adaptive process, constantly recreating about to fully emerge. Africa is the only continent where the language of the universe is not buried deeply in self congratulation of manufactured excess. The logic of the universe, its randomness and even its brutality in teaching new lessons, in its effort to renew itself is the very thing that makes us think of Africa as a ' scar on the worlds conscience'. It is not , nowhere could the South African 'Truth and Reconciliation Comission ' have worked or the 'keep Nigeria one' after the mayhem that was the Biafra war. In Africa the complete and absolute darkness of nightfall and the glory of the rising sun is unrivalled anywhere else in the world both live side by side in apparent paradox. We in Africa already live in the adaptive world and arguably function more effectively in it than the rest of the world. We truly exemplify 'waves and particles' in operation. Watch USA plan itself into a contortion about 9/11 (4,000 dead) and compare it with Rwanda's response to nearly 1 million dead. I watch what happens when we have blackouts in the US or the UK , it leads to crime and anarchy, compared to the daily NEPA outage that generates at best exclamation of disappointment. The future is going to be filled with random, unplanned and cataclysmic events, Africa will thrive and the West will panic. The world needs Africa to turn its adaptive culture into a habit of excellence that will give the rest of the world an alternative to the increasingly failing prepackage world. The cry in the West is for organic , unprocessed food , for a medical care that is not the management of symptoms but holistic care, for grateful consumption than a voracious gratification, for a spiritual existence rather than organised religious propaganda. The future is adaptive, it is Africa and it is here.

We in Africa as usual are busy buying the stereotype of the poor African because the more we imbibe this diet, then others can claim pole position and confrim their assumptions. It is the good old Mohammed Ali 'Rope a dope' mind game, tell your enemy they are a failure, name the nature of their defeat, sell it so well that they turn it into a reality irrespective of their capacity. Have you ever wondered why Africans bought European version of Christianity when some of the oldest churches in the world are African, for example how many know of the Pope in Cairo compared to the one in Rome, or the Ethiopian Orthodox church which is centuries older than than the Anglican communion set up so an English King could engage in polygamy. I have to say this , not long ago I set up company named Ase which is a very powerful word in Yoruba and used in many religious rituals including Christian worship. It has its origin in Yoruba rituals and Christian friends were not only critical but downright scared of possible occult implications for the word. I asked one of them whether they used the word thursday and booked appointment on that day and they were in the affirmative. Well Thurday comes from Thor's day i.e the Nordic god of thunder who will be Shango in Yoruba, this person will perharps have a coronary if it was called Shangoday. Poverty of ideas again.

The fact of our adaptive context is not enough to generate preeminence becuase without leadership what we will at best achieve is mediocrity. We need a unique breed of leaders to facilitate our commitment, inspire our creativity and motivate our efforts. We need warriors of light, captains of intangibles, the generals for a renaissance and rebirth. You can only identify warriors of light from their attitude and behaviours.

They are shaped by the quality of insight into our condition. They know the history of who we are without being in awe of it. They are grounded in the successes and failure of our ancestors, educated in the capacity that still exists to apply these wisdom in the 21st century. In exceptional circumstances they are skilled in the science, art and magic competencies of civilisations gone past. They also know how we have failed under the industrial epoch and why we were so abysmal in our productivity , competitiveness or our growth. They understand the buttons to press to get the masses of Africans engage in creative problem solving. They have insight into the signs, omens and language of the universe seeing patterns as they emerge and avoiding over -specialisation and compartmentalisation which are hallmarks of formal education but not a symptoms of wisdom. They have insight into both the power of love in themselves as well as the capacity for destruction that reside in all of us. Consider the late Chiekh Anka Diop, Thabo Mbeki, Prof Obaro Ikime, Toyin Falola, Funmilayo Kuti.

They are also carved out by the distance of their foresight. They are able to time travel and dream, dreams. The vision of what we as a people can be , projecting the power of their ideas like beacons not just for Africa but for all of humanity.Defining what is to come and shaping our response through their capacity to shake complacency and to renew curiosity. They understand the Audacity of Hope. I claim Senator Barack Obama, Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Thomas Shankara, Emperor Twedoros.

They are set aside by the discipline of their decision making. They execute after much deliberation with the focus and impact of a laser. Their choices are grounded in principle and shaped by moral courage. Everything they do is directed by the power of love, not just the sweetness of affection. They recognise the awesome nature of the Love in action and take responsibility for their exercise of its capacity to affect and effect change. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jerry Rawlings, Queen Nefertiti.

We need a cadre of warroirs of light to lead Afrian Renaissance in all areas of human life, to facilitate ideas that bridges the wisdom of our ancestors, what is available in the world around us and what will faciltate competitiveness of future generations. They will enable the alternative African worldview,that brings our ideas of self and the world we live in as well as how it should operate into the broader marketplace from which all civilisations purchase values and culture. They will enable us connect with the best in ourselves and help us rebrand our world from the current stereotype towards the complexity of our reality. To generate new institutions ready for the challenges of the 21st Century and sustainable within the context of Africa without losing the wisdom and foundation that emerges from our ancestral experiences.

The truth is that there is nothing stopping you from being that warrior of light for your children and generations to come other than the desire for comfort and consumption of that which you will eventually waste. Everything becomes compost and returns to basic but the word. In the beginning there was the word and it will be their in the end . Let your light shine, it is the only legacy we will give our children that will endure.


Wisdom said...

1. In any form of development there is a form of organisation.

2. In any organisation there is a form of order.

3. In Order there is a type of structure.

Therefore Africa and the African must find the form and type of order appropriate for her development.

To be continued...

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