THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
Our greatest asset as humans is that we can work together, plan together, create wealth together. Why is it that we keep fighting?
The best reeds grow at ponds in hidden valleys. Here everyone would cut a flute to a single, unique note. Around the fire, after the feast, they would make a plaintive, haunting music in the African night, a composition to assert the value of each individual in the greater collective.
The first peoples of the great African forests are but a shadow that lingers. Victims of slavery, rape, disease, they will be gone in a generation or two. But they already knew that the value of humanity lies in cooperation.
In 1945, at the end of the most devastating of a series of wars, each more terrible than the last, these words were spoken in San Francisco: “We, the Peoples of these United Nations…”, echoing the preamble of the American and Indian Constitutions. And for a while it seemed that the peoples of the world might unite to avoid conflicts, to find a common good, to assert that each can, in a unique way, contribute to the collective.
It is not news anymore. The deaths of hundreds of migrants who drown in the Mediterranean. The media ignores their vain attempts to flee persecution, poverty, misery. Faceless agencies might note the numbers somewhere, and they may even note the numbers of the hundreds who are abandoned in deserts by traffickers, left to die because they dared to hope.
Our modern economies produce massive wealth, and we are even learning to minimize the cost to our earth while doing so. But we seem unable to produce happiness, dignity, and peace. Why do young men in Senegal and Niger risk their lives to find work in Europe? Why do Syrian refugees cross deserts to seek peace in Hungary?
Simply because while we can produce wealth we have been unable to produce it where it’s needed. We failed to produce political systems to generate employment or to create peace and stability.
Who are ‘We, the people?’ In Central Africa there are layered realities: President Mobuto declared that the Banyamulenge, fleeing wars in the uplands during the 1700’s to settle in what is now South Kivu were to be regarded as Congolese citizens, like their ethnic relatives who had settled there earlier. But later immigrants were not to be considered citizens. Not so, contended many so-called BanyaRwanda who fled the 1990’s genocide. They claim to have fulfilled the legal requirements for citizenship of the Congo.
South Africans are in a heated national discussion regarding land ownership. Present legislation allows claims to be entertained since the 1913 Land Act dispossessed black landowners. Opponents claim that tribal practice imposes feudal systems on people and does not permit productive land ownership. Populist politicians claim that all land acquired since the first white settlers arrived in 1652 should be confiscated by the state. Not so, claim representatives of the Khoi and San people. The cutoff date should be 1440, when black tribes entered what is now South Africa.
Who are ‘We, the people’?
It has been heartening to see, at the end of 2015, the world come together to confront a challenge to all of humanity and...