21st Century Africa

"As development becomes imperative, as we approach the turn of the century, we are faced with the necessity of giving new meaning to the word. Reflecting on <<development>> is thus the most important intellectual challenge in the coming years."

                                                                                                                                                — Boutros-Boutros Ghali

21st Century Africa is dedicated to facilitating critical reflection and dialogue for creating new visions of development in Africa.

We invite you to contribute your ideas.


September 3, 1999

PEACE: IT IS WITHIN FOLKS, IT IS WITHIN

By: Isaac

I am reminded of the article "THE GREATER COMMON GOOD" by Arundhati Roy in which she expresses a sense of indignation at our obsession with BIG things. She refers to dams.

I will also indulge you with a piece on BIG things, but in a slightly different context...The peace process (it is a fashionable word, isn't it?) the world over. Big peace processes, Big news organisations, High profile leaders, Gigantic financial packages, Enormous military machines, Massive human interest ...ad infinitum. Frankly, I feel suffocated.

Let me stray a little. Let us narrow our perceptual field and talk about the "peace process in the Middle East". The mindsets refuse to change, the rigid stances remain inflexible, the notions still cling onto us, why? Because the wielders of power and the peddlers of influence in that part of the world still fall into the trap of trying and fruitlessly so, to prove who the legitimate owners of the land are. I have never doubted the historical, religious and genealogical accuracy of the reasons advanced by either side. History cannot be ignored. Neither can religion . But to try to use it to stick to and justify one's rigid convictions is as self defeating as it is ridiculous. Every a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian pulls out a religious text to justify legitimacy over that legitimacy over "that" land, it only has the effect diverting attention from the real issue. I must reiterate that I am not making a case for the authenticity, or otherwise of any of the religious texts!

We must move away from BOMBARDING PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS with intellectual and long drawn arguments that only force us to run around in circles. To echo what one has heard and read from the media is as rhetorical as it is futile. The media is very clever and witty. It has very intelligently disguised its dis-information campaign so the casual observer may never notice!

But where does the ordinary individual find relevance in all this? Introspection my dear friends, introspection. If you, me, the man and woman on the street can find peace within ourselves.... if the individual in Rwanda, Burundi, Colombia, Israel, Palestine, Sierra Leone, the United States, Germany, Iran, Russia, can recognise that ultimately his word must take precedence over that of the purveyors and peddlers of influence, then such recognition will have taken us one significant step towards achieving genuine peace.

What would happen if an individual in Israel crossed the border one morning to shake hands with a Palestinian counter-part... Damn the authorities. I can hear you saying "Oh, but it will never happen ". Why ? Because for years and decades gone by, our dear media, our lovely governments, our admirable educational institutions have fed us on a staple diet of an impending destruction, a doomsday scenario. A climate of fear has been created. You suddenly begin to think that the third world war is inevitable.

Many of us have adopted a dangerous line of thinking, believing, and quite stubbornly so that failure to achieve peace in the Middle East will lead to a third world war! Maybe. But who will have caused it? Who will have been responsible for this? Is it you, me, the guy on the street? Is it your local doctor, shopkeeper, your parents, your bus driver? Is it the average Israeli, Palestinian, American? Oh, maybe it will be those helpless victims caught in Government displacement activities...right? WRONG!

If at all a war erupts, God forbid, it will be the direct result of these massive war machines, these war mongering characters in the "mainstream " establishment, these larger than life media organisations, these vast amounts of money that do the rounds in the name of loans. These BIG things. The average Israeli or Palestinian has nothing to do with it and you know that!

Peace within folks, PEACE WITHIN.

Quote of the Week:

"If it turns out, at some far distant time, that Israel is no longer necessary for US purposes, our support for Israel will end."

- Noam Chomsky

 

THE NEED TO DESCHOOL AFRICA

By: Charles Otieno

One of the themes that has consistently emerged in the meetings we have been having on Africa, has been the relation between Western education and the colonization of the mind. Schools came to Africa as tools of colonization and now years later after the so-called independence, they are still used as instruments of assigning people different roles in the society and keeping them under 'control'. To quote one African writer, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, "On the black continent one began to understand that their real power resided not at all in the cannons of the first morning but in what followed the cannons. Therefore behind the cannons was the new school. The new school had the nature of both the cannon and the magnet. From the cannon it took the efficiency of a fighting weapon. But better than the cannon, it made the conquest permanent. The cannon forces the body and the school fascinates the soul."

In fact, I think the damage that has been done by Western schooling is far much worse than we can imagine. Ngugi wa Thong'o writes that, "Berlin of 1884 was effected through the sword and the bullet. But the night of the bullet was followed by the morning of the chalk and the blackboard. The physical violence of the battlefield was followed by the psychological violence of the classroom." The education that we have been receiving so far isolates us from our cultures and from nature and transforms us into narrow specialists in a westernized environment, preventing us from seeing the context in which we live and dealing with our problems in culturally relevant manners. In fact, I think that the true functions of factory schooling are to integrate society into the global market (usually at the lowest rank of course), train people to be blindly obedient to authority (singing national anthems and reciting loyalty pledges over and over again) and generally to deny people their thinking capacity by making them dependent on already defined "knowledge". No wonder the educated (and our leaders) are some of the most ignorant and insensitive people you can come across.

It is my belief that for us to fully decolonize ourselves we must look beyond schools as spaces for educating and liberating ourselves.

As Julius Nyerere pointed out more than thirty years ago, it is now time that we looked again at the justification for a poor society like ours spending almost 20 per cent of its Government revenues on schooling its children and young people, and began to consider what education should really be doing. The question that I ask then is; what should education be doing for Africa? We have all seen how our so-called educated leaders have laid our countries to waste. I think there is more to education than just holding degrees. Schools and degrees have proved irrelevant as far as the common good of the society (or continent) is concerned. Its time for us to think of new alternatives to Western schooling.

 

September 10, 1999

The Concept of Social Movements

By: Mohammed Adam

"From this time on, maybe for the next hundred years, everything should be devoted to changing everything -- the physical structure, the type of products, the economic system, and the value system."

-- Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, Toyko University, 1996

One of the most important concepts that impressed me a lot is the concept of social movements. This is basically because it appeared to me, beyond any doubt, that we live in an unequal and unstable world, which has generated a dangerous potential for the survival of mankind.

Social movements are the efforts by associations to bring about change in the society, but again, according to me, the concept is either poorly understood or maybe its historical and relevant facts are not accurately represented. This has resulted in a situation of uncertainty and disillusion.

Again when we ask ourselves what would be a just and decent society, we are faced in our real world by conflicting situations, standards that are imprecise and poorly formulated, and significant questions of facts.

These matters are of no small importance to the poor and oppressed peoples of the world. While considering the problems of society and human life, we find that the ideas have transmitted into ideological instruments to confuse and demoralize. The state power has been employed to impose ideological principles on unwilling and resisting victims throughout the whole world.

To end, what is needed is to consider and recognize the possibility for every human being to fully develop all the capacities and talents endowed to them by nature and to then turn them to social movements. This process is not easy, so each one of us must commit ourselves to it.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Quote of the Week:

Global poverty is an entirely new and modern construct. The basic materials which have gone into the construct are essentially the economization of life and the forceful integration of vernacular societies into the world economy. .. On another plane, the new construct no longer embraces the view that poverty is a multi-faceted human predicament. It considers it as a single, pathological phenomenon of universal character, but particularly acute in pre-economized societies. Following a consensus reached among the world elites on the diagnosis of the disease (underdevelopment and lack of income,) as well as its cure (economic and technological development,) armies of experts, politicians, planners, bureaucrats, socio-economists, and even anthropologists started acting as pauperologists, seeking to refine the discourse and practices related to world poverty.

-- Majid Rahnema, "Poverty"

The Development Dictionary

 

POVERTY

By: Dickson Balo Makazi

The concept of poverty has been defined in various ways by many scholars. All these seem to have arrived at one point that poverty is a condition of lacking something. This "something" has commonly been defined as material possessions or opportunities. However, some of the questions raised concerning poverty are:

1. Who is a poor person?

2. Who defines poverty?

3. What are the causes of poverty?

4. How can poverty be eradicated?

These questions generate some critical thinking on how poverty has been ill defined. There are many communities in this world which are considered poor however in the real sense these communities are rich in both natural resources and human potential, depending on our definition of the term poverty.

It may be clear that the moment we begin to compare ourselves with other countries the idea of inferiority and superiority comes in. In this case even those who may consider themselves to be rich, for example in material wealth, may be poor in terms of love, peace of mind and happiness in themselves. Since most of these concepts like development, democracy, education, human rights, poverty, etc. and their definitions originate from the so-called western way of thinking.

In most cases the way things are defined cause a lot of confusion in the minds of people. If this is the case then the biggest problem lies with the definitions themselves, which lack rationality and recognition of human experiences. Then from here people begin to panic and see themselves as very backward, and start hating and cursing themselves as to why even they were born. In the whole scenario we should be much more concerned with how that lack of opportunities and other things came about, and then that should be our major area of concern. How do we bring justice to our communities?

In conclusion, as long as things like poverty, democracy, development, etc. are defined for us we shall always see ourselves as lacking something, even if we have plenty of other things in our communities which contribute to our happiness and peaceful environment. In the context of the idea of wanting to catch up blindly with the other people in everything in our lives, we will end up by loosing our aspirations and happiness. "Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees."

--- Schopenhauer

 

September 17, 1999

Poverty: Reconceptualizing It Now

By: Isaac

A dominant theme that has emerged during last week’s discussion on poverty was the effort[s] made at re-defining it. This was o.k, except that we were defining it within certain existing parameters, i.e, we define it as our educational up-bringing allows us to.

May I venture to suggest a somewhat radical viewpoint. Today poverty assumes an economic dimension. There is an almost casual manner in the way we associate poverty with economic and therefore material deprivation. But this has largely to do with the way public psyche, public discourse as well as public perceptions have been influenced and shaped by the existing institutions, the press, educational institutions, governments and NGOs.

Available literature will tell you that poverty means lack of economic sustenance, the non-availability of minimum necessaries. It naturally follows, therefore, that poverty will mean unemployment, malnutrition, hunger and homelessness.

Now these too will be ‘listed’ as the cause of poverty. Here is the ridiculous part. Is it not tacitly implied in the definition itself? Is it not plain obvious that when you list the causes of poverty, you are merely extending the definition? Is it not obvious that if I am economically deprived, then how do you expect me to have a home, clothes, food, etc.

In our last discussion, Charles drew an analogy. He gave us an example of Bhutan, a country where there is a near absence of materialism, where hunger is not prevalent, where diseases, etc rarely find any mention. People fend for themselves, and quite comfortably too. No highrise buildings to house office executives, no swanky neighbourhoods, cars, etc.

And yet the U.N.D.P. (Yes, your credible adjudicator on development matters) calls it one of the world’s poorest countries because it has no income per capita! Suddenly the people of Bhutan find themselves poor because they do not have TV sets, cars. Or monthly paying jobs… Because the parameters have been defined for us, because the benchmarks have been fixed for us, and because our ‘educational’ institutions, the NGOs, the U.N agencies and our Governments have very cleverly built up an edifice… and the sad part is that we are getting sucked into it!

Do you seriously believe that a time can come in the future when the entire spectrum of the human race will live in comfort and prosperity… when poverty will have been totally eradicated… when you will look around you and see beds of sweet-smelling roses?

But as an individual, are you willing to take a fresh look at this concept of poverty? Or are you just waiting to wish ‘poverty’ away?

 

The Concept of Social Movements and Global Poverty II

By Mohammed Adam

In my previous article I have stated that Inequality and Injustice that is prevailing in our present world have generated a dangerous potential for the survival of mankind ...these phases of dangerous aspect is related to our socio-economic, cultural and environmental destruction caused by the global economic system which have resulted in social tension and unrest in our societies and communities and have called for a need of social movements to change how the societies are functioning and how its structures have been set up? In this connection I will try to highlight one of these root cause that have resulted in this terrible situation in relation to the global economic order where we find that the so-called northern rich countries of the world are generally economically strong and they are in control of their destinies and those of the south are generally regarded as economically backward and very vulnerable to external factors and lacking institutional sovereignty.


To me and to many others; the phenomena of global poverty is a manufactured phenomena as the structure of the global economy has led to global poverty, unjust distribution of opportunities and too much concentration of world wealth in a few hands which has widened the disparities between the poor and the rich. As a consequences of this situation 20% of the world’s population own and consume 80% of the total world’s wealth. And as a result of the western model of industrialization a lot of environmental and ecological damages have been caused. For example, increases in the global warming, flooding, pollution, deforestation etc... And the social impact of this situation is also obvious as the gap between those who have and those who have-not has rapidly increased. From the individual’s point of view, there is a higher level of psychological disorder as a result of frustration and unemployment. Which all together have affected our social peace and stability and resulted in the emergence of antisocial elements, like drug trafficking, high level of crimes and corruption, refugees, wars and other type of global crisis. The question arises here which remains to be answered... Who is going to be responsible for this? Is it going to be the rich countries, or the people themselves, or someone else?

If we ask ourselves what is the defect with the global economy, which has resulted in this devastating result for the southern countries and their people, we find that it is related to the defective decision making processes that govern the international flows of the trade, capital, technology which are controlled by the major rich countries and international institutions that dominate the global economy and leave the southern countries powerless to influence this process and to change this situation.

In order to come out of the current crisis into future of equitable, and just and sustainable development there is a need to understand that the current path of development is not capable of eradicating the poverty, hunger, disease, violence, environmental degradation, moral and spiritual decay that paralyzed our modern world...and so great deal of attention must be given to develop a new development paradigm with its own set of multiple inter-connected political, economic, social, and cultural ideologies and institutions based on mutual respect, trust, sacrifice and it must take place at grassroots level involves a broader range of participants and the simultaneously spread throughout the global system.

To achieve this there is a need to understand also the ideological connections of the southern countries which motivates them to work together and cooperate with each other to face the inequality created and supported by the northern exploiters and to be able to generate their lessons they have learned in their common historical experiences with a colonialism and fight against the new colonialism and then pursue the desires and visions of real development.....lastly the history has shown that domination is never surrounded voluntarily, it has to be brought to an end by self-reliant action of those who are dominated..... and so in order to end the victimization of the southern countries against the long going injustice caused by the global economic order. The people of the south must by their own exertion free themselves from poverty, under development and dependency and gain control over their economics and politics.

 

"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness"

By: Charles Otieno

There has too been much noise made about poverty. Just too much. As if we were put in this world to be materially rich. As if the riches of the world can go around and everybody will have his or her share. As if it possible for the rich man to enter God’s Kingdom before the camel passes thro’ the eye of the needle! And even more absurd, as if poverty means lack of physical riches, or low readings on the economic index. In the Third World countries, we all aspire to be as rich as the ‘Americans’.

Of course it does not matter that its perhaps the most morally depraved country— I mean where else do school kids just decide to massacre their classmates, where ‘niggers’ and other people of color are viewed as lesser humans to be shot down by cops (it takes about 42 bullets to kill an unarmed 19 year-old West African in New York) and the president decides to kill babies and women without batting an eyelid (read Iraq, Cuba, Vietnam, Somalia, Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), sanctions e.t.c). They have caught up with and surpassed Europe! And now we are trying to catch up with them.

So, who are the real poor? Nobody talks about the victims of injustice. Poverty stems from (social, political, economic) injustice. The oppressed, the wretched of the earth, the countless voiceless people who have nobody to speak on their behalf. Whose task is to be trampled upon. Who are called factors of production, the vote bank, the uneducated, the down-trodden and any other dehumanizing title you can tag on them. We call them the poor, but what then do you call a society that has reduced them to this state?

The West cannot remove the speck from our eyes without first removing the log from theirs. You cannot talk of poverty without addressing the larger issues of injustice, without having faith in justice. And faith without action is dead. Efforts of "eradicating poverty" that do not address larger concerns of justice are an exercise in futility. Their chances of success are as high as my chances of getting pregnant. The conditions of prosperity that is held up by the West cannot be available for all. Who will we rob? At least they had us to plunder! Real riches lie inseeking righteous-ness. Help the voiceless rediscover their voice, help the downtrodden get back on their feet. Only by rediscovering our spirituality can we engage poverty. This is a challenge to everybody — for he who tolerates injustice supports it — we must hunger and thirst for righteous-ness… proactively.

The West is too poor. They cannot help us. They are on the road to hell and we will do good to avoid it. Methinks they need our help.

Quote of the Week:

"And the culture question therefore is this: is there another solution, a solution of our own? Don’t we possess the tradition, the imagination, intellectual and organizational reserves, and confidence to elaborate our own models of development, consonant with the truth of what we have been, what we are, and what we want to be?"

- Carlos Fuentes

Our Creative Diversity, 1995

 

WHY THE SUBCONSCIOUS SHOULD BE WIPED CLEAN

By Josephat Kerosi Bosire

A peaceful society can be torn apart by a few selfish and inconsiderate individuals. This, I have learned quite often for a long time but not until other societal evils showed up quite vividly during some of our meetings at Shikshantar did I get a special perception.

Since time immemorial, we have been interwoven by love as a people of common origin, our lives warped and twined with problems and pleasures. The self-centered groups just decided to intrude, by teaching maliciously on topics ranging from luxury, short cut to a better life, how to spring from rags to riches, from pearls to gold.

All around us we meet people, see them and share conversations, and all they cant forget to ask is whether you are well off or could like to live a better like those elsewhere in the world. A fancy lifestyle, no more yearning, just getting what you want. How? Educational institutions, NGOs, are using striking, threatening, perverse slogans to lure many. Using poverty as a scarecrow. Making people conscious of what they aren’t yet supposed to be. Its ubiquitously accepted that we should fight against this situation (poverty).

Corruption, theft, burglary, robbery, misappropriation of funds, grabbing other people’s property, mismanagement of enterprises by a few individuals have been the media’s news everyday, everywhere. What brings power struggle, dumping of low quality consumables. With vested interests, there is pursuance of poverty. A call once accepted, imparts fear and instability, making one to be the more searching for better materialistic social life. Joining a social stratum with a difference.

To visit the practicability of this suffocating social economic aspect of life, we find our first stop in various government offices, where those demanding a portion of what they deserve are. They are handled like objects, not beings, meant to bribe for virtually everything given. They avoid being branded poor, those of them already accepted continue to be exploited by the professors of this "slogan for injustice". One searches wildly for avenues to acquire more and more. A good epitome is the late Mobutu Sese Seko. He rose from invisibility to become a journalist, an army sergeant and later as president, he corruptly accumulated wealth estimated by Western intelligence to be $10 billion. Back in 1987, Zaire’s coffee crop was valued at $600 million. Because of under-invoicing and smuggling, only $120 million was returned to the treasury. The rest ended up in foreign bank accounts held by Mobutu. Surely, he didn’t need all this money!

What do others say? Duncan Mitchell, a socialist; "corruption is related to the economic backwardness of an individual during youth; material deprivation of an individual during youth is suppressed; but the individuals subconscious constantly reminds them of the poverty they experienced during youth". The subconscious tells them "you are still barefoot, you still have only one shirt, you have only one leaking house" etc. so an adult who was born poor during youth has a burning desire to acquire many houses, buy more land or plots, many vehicles because if he doesn’t do so he may be poor again. Such a menacing situation among countries grouped as developing is said to cause more harm (common assumptions). Those who were born and found others walking barefoot with a shirt and a pair of shorts and only on one meal a day didn’t point accusing fingers at anybody until they made a comparative study on a wide range of fields over quite a minimal time. No wonder these people carry plenty of money. Their subconscious is constantly kept at bay and psychological security enhanced.

The way I see it: in a society where people are branded as poor and wanting/desirous, something needs to be done with the long lived deception. Searching at the grassroots? Definitely. Well, it could be by starting to admire what we are, not what we could have been, shed all creeds, cross all boundaries to join hands so that we re-approach situations, rethink and re-visualize this whole catastrophe. Those groups of countries/ masses of the society that have been "cocoon-ed" in seeking technological aid, financial uplift and general advancement should think twice when the deal looks sweet. Such have been converted to the consumer market; none/less innovative people who need better things done for them, brought to them (imports) regardless of the quality and cost.

This is completely befuddling! Multinational companies suppressing local industries and markets, suffocation of small and younger competitors in ordeals of globalization, crossing boundaries, awakening of miseries and self-hatred. Can economic liberalization be a means to social liberation? I bet it wont, at a time like this when every country feels insecure, wants to be armed with high tech weapons regardless of whether it costs more than fifty per cent of its annual budget.

It sounds ridiculous when nations which are basically agricultural like Kenya, import food stuff from elsewhere, whereas their fertile soil is being exhausted by cash crop farming, consuming a lot of time and energy, only to be exported as a debt servicing endeavor.

 

September 24, 1999

THE PRESENT WORLD EDUCATION SYSTEM AND ITS ACCOMPANYING DILEMMAS

By: Dickson Balo Makazi

The present world is faced with a lot of crises all related to our prevailing education system. Education though being considered as a pre-requisite for development, has proved a failure in meeting the needs and demands of a very big percentage of the world population. Students get discouraged as the education system and schooling does not guarantee them employment opportunities and a good and happy life as they expected.

Every year thousands and thousands of students come out of schools and colleges with no hope and future in their lives. The reason being that the majority of them are not considered to have succeeded within the system. This then puts the students in a very big dilemma.

So the first dilemma is with the students, where to go next after the schooling system has considered them unsuccessful. All their dreams of good jobs, lots of money, status and prestige become shattered all over a sudden. The students come to realize that whatever expectations they had in life cannot be easily met. In this case whatever dreams of a good and happy life they had in their schools and colleges was just away of building castles in the air. In the real life nothing much can be achieved. And thus all the time, energy and money spent in schools, colleges and universities never fulfilled their dreams in life. What a big frustration to the students! As the students begin to think on how they will face the challenges of this very competitive world they end up being more and more frustrated.

The second dilemma goes to the communities. Communities believe that by sending their children to schools, which their governments have established, will benefit both parties, i.e. the students, and the communities they belong to. In the first place the students will learn basic skills, get good jobs in factories, become obedient students by obeying orders and generally be good citizens. Communities also believe that by sending their children to schools, colleges and universities will lead to prestige, status, good jobs, lots of money etc. and thus a higher standard of living will be achieved.

However, when the reality of things come out communities also find themselves in a dilemma. They get shocked as they try to ask themselves why their governments cannot offer good jobs to their children leading to higher status, prestige and lots of money (higher salaries)? Thus the dilemma with the communities is that they don’t get what they expect in most cases from the education and schooling system. They find that despite the fact that they have sent their children to schools, colleges, and universities the outcome is very discouraging. Students cannot serve themselves better neither their communities.

The third dilemma is on reform versus transformation of the whole education system. By reform it implies some improvement within the education system. This could involve building more schools, colleges, and universities, employment of more teachers and lecturers, provision of more text books and other necessary teaching materials increase in enrolment of students, changes in the school curriculum and more education training colleges etc. While with transformation it implies a total change of the whole education system with its values, assumptions, and goals. Thus a complete new education system to be developed.

It is a matter of serious concern to note that majority of those who have come out of the schooling system and considered unsuccessful feel very much inferior, alienated, powerless, confused, humiliated, and dependent on others. As the world’s societies are experiencing more increase in violence, crimes, divorces, and family disintegration, policy makers at various levels have come to realize that the prevailing education system does not serve the individuals or the societies in such a meaningful way.

As the students’ frustrations continue to be manifested in many acts of violence and crimes, there is the need to look for a permanent solution for the present education and schooling crises. The end result of the present crises is the emergence of societies full of confusion and chaos. We need to ask ourselves for how long are we going to continue living in societies in which the atmospheres are very tense?

One of the most dominant critiques f the present education system is that it does not give spaces for creativity and deep thinking which prepare the students to be competent problem solvers. Secondly, the education system does not seem to give much emphasis on the different human intelligences and thus does not help the individuals to realize their full human potential.

In the whole scenario, there is a need to rethink of the present education system in the world with its values, assumptions, and goals. The responsibility of deciding which is the best education system should not be left to the educationists alone. It must involve all members of societies, ie parents, teachers, educationists, communities, students, and all interested in having a healthy society. We need to come up with new directions, new ways, new thinking and new other alternative for solving some of our world crisis. Its never too late: still something can be done to solve the dilemmas accompanying the present world education system.

 

WHY HAVE WE STOPPED TALKING…

NAY, WHY HAVE WE STOPPED COMMUNICATING

By: Isaac

This elementary "meaning of words" aspect of communication is important because arguments or disagreements arise simply because A uses a word one way and B receives the word as if it means something entirely different.

Example:

MR X: "Will you please shut the door, I feel cold."

MR Y: "Why don’t you just say, you don’t want me coming in!"

BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION

Allow me to show you some reasons that make us fail to understand one another:

  1. Evaluative expressions (speaking in a judgmental manner, manner of speech, tone of voice, verbal content perceived by the receiver as a criticism will produce defensive behavior.
  2. Attitudes of superiority arouse defensive behavior. Any behavior that reinforces the recipients feelings of inadequacy / inferiority disturbs the recipients.
  3. Dogmatism puts people off. If you know something FOR CERTAIN, it is wise to determine whether or not any one else wants to hear it from you! Simply put, let’s drop this I-AM-SURE attitude.
  4. An appearance of lack of concern for the welfare of a person will isolate people. People strongly need to be perceived as valued persons.... BE HUMAN.

(My reasons are by no means exhaustive)

WHY ARE WE CREATING "GAPS" BETWEEN US

In order to feel adequate we strive to achieve personal beliefs, attitudes, convictions that help us to function well with the people who surround us .We fear offending those around us because our very basis of existence may be at stake.

"WHEN WE IDENTIFY WITH A GROUP SUCH AS THE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY/CASTE/RACE /RELIGION /TRIBE /SCHOOL /GENDER...WE ALMOST NATURALLY DEFEND THE STANDARDS AND BEHAVIOUR OF THAT GROUP "... let’s call such a group our "Reference Group."

This process of identification introduces a certain narrowness or distortion into our viewpoints. We begin to see others as foreigners/strangers (people who do not belong to our Reference Group) and as you might expect this becomes a major source of communication BREAKDOWN

The practice and customs of our Reference Group are judged to be superior when they are different from those of other groups. Members of each culture consider their own version of society as SUPERIOR and fundamentally right because it satisfies their personal needs...

People who fail to conform to our standards tend to be viewed as IGNORANT, STUPID, EVIL, BACKWARD and such pre-judgement is called prejudice.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Rethinking Education...

By: Sumi-Chandresh

If we try to understand the difference between human beings and animals then the first thing that clicks in the mind is the learning ability and curiosity to explore life. The assumption of animal’s survival is mostly based on Darwin’s Theory of "Survival of the fittest". What is the routine of animal’s life? Sleeping, searching for food, at times trying to enjoy with family, at times fighting, at times sitting idle... Now lets revive our life routine-three things are our basic needs: food, cloth and shelter. For these necessities we spend around 8 to 10 hours daily; working/labour/service/job/business etc. Almost all the time we compete/compare ourselves with our friends/colleagues/neighbour/family/fellow human being. We are always trying to build a hierarchy between us and others using terms like literate-illiterate, educated-uneducated, rich-poor, smart-dull, successful-failure, learned-ignorant... In the name of education we are always trying to develop a superiority ego/complex and disrespect our dignity. Our first priority is to earn and the rest of the things are just for passing time or stupid/nonsense. For that, we follow any means, tools and ways ignoring the negative, brutal, unscientific, unnatural causes and/or effects on our life. The results are corruption, violence, rapes, unnatural disaster/calamities... Now the question arises what we are doing in the name of education and development? What we want to achieve? We want to sustain our life on the cost of millions of our fellow being? What we want to develop? Where we want to go?

So what is the difference between our living pattern and an animal’s living pattern? We are also struggling for food and shelter same as animals. If we try to prove ourselves superior to animals focusing education as the base of our life, then what kind of education we are providing/imparting/feeding to our generation? In the name of education what schools are feeding/imparting/teaching? What is school doing for those who are victim of dirty social-political-economical game? How much space/opportunity a school is providing to develop and explore ones creativity, intelligences, knowledge, skills, capacity, interests, ability, potential? Even though there are schools and other institutions that claim for a better education, there is discrimination and dehumanization everywhere? What school is doing about this? Who is responsible for this cause, teacher or system or student or parents or some body else? Who is to be blamed? What are the forces that are working behind the system?

Present scenario of mass schooling:

The factory mass schooling rouses the brutal feeling of competition, which creates a dysfunctional society with violence, egoism, discrimination and de-humanization. Every child has a potential to learn, understand, grow and explore one creativity, imagination, visualization, knowledge, intelligences… but these mass schooling is not providing any opportunity or platform to develop and initiate the self-learning processes. The so-called craze behind mass schooling is not only creating dysfunctional, unhealthy environment, but also forces to lead an unrealistic, and mechanical life. The norms like ‘failure’, ‘slow learner’, ‘dull’, ‘khabi’, ‘balid’ are spreading like slow poison which ultimately distract and feed all kinds of complexes, egoism, cowardice, fear, threat, etc. in child’s mind. Since decades the role of human being is an experimenter and still human being is an experimenter, discovering, certain unique tools for sustainable human development. Every second is a learning moment for us. Learning is inevitable for life long. Understanding oneself, one’s action, thought, mind, behaviour, feelings, surrounding, relationship, nature is a process… One cannot limit it to the four walls of a school/colleges/universities. The natural learning occurs when there is interest, curiosity and enthusiasm. One cannot bind it as a matter of subject or curriculum. Learning is wide and open like a limitless sky and such open learning leads to a full, creative and meaningful life.

Let’s explore:

 

EDUCATION: A SEARCH FOR RELEVANCE

By Samuel Mwachiro Mwawasi

In our last discussion, we tried to define what education is or what it should be. One of the most serious issues that emerged is the question of "relevance" of the modern-day factory-school system. Unfortunately, it was generally agreed that we are all victims of an irrelevant system, which was put in place by the colonialists and furthered by the so-called elites of the society, who believed and still believe that indigenous education is no education at all.

They subscribed the view of H.L Baker who said, in his book Children of Rhodesia (London: Kelly, 1913, p.20), "The children of this land [Rhodesia] are non- entities. Nothing at all is done for them. They feed, sit about, and sleep, and in this manner, they grow up until time comes for themselves to do something... They have no nurseries, no tea parties, no birthdays, and no instruction at all from their parents. They are there and that is all. Their lives are one big nothing."

There is no doubt, therefore, that the present mess we find ourselves in is due to the myopic, telescopic faculties of our elites. The people who are supposed to be the torchbearers of society have conspired with their masters to lead the whole society into darkness.

The present education system as it does limits the individual’s intellectual development by making him or her think in mechanical, pre-determined ways. This has entirely eroded the individual’s creative and imaginative ability, distorted and even manipulated his thinking process to his own disadvantage. By treating individuals as purely economic units in an economic world, the system of education becomes unjustified, dehumanizing, and deserving condemnation and change. It has compounded human suffering and misery by forcing people to be part of an economic system that they did not create.

Through the present system of education, people have learnt nothing but cut-throat competition in all aspects of life, hence creating enormous social, economic, political, and psychological pressures on individuals as they engage in the mad race for acquiring money, wealth, power, prestige, and fame. This insatiable lust for material prosperity has resulted, more often than not, in an alienation of individuals, breakdown of family ties, loosening of morals, disintegration of societies, communities, cultures, and even nations.

The present education system has done "well" to distinguish people on the basis of quantifiable parameters, i.e. educated and uneducated, literate and illiterate, rich and poor, workers and supervisors, etc, hence, totally disregarding the individual’s creative and imaginative power, dignity, and the very being human by promoting social, political, and economic injustices, destitution, exploitation, and condemning greater masses to a "slow, well-calculated genocide." They have no housing, lack nutrition, they are unemployed, and the die of hunger, starvation, and disease. It hurts to think that all these people are destined to die in such extreme misery.

It was against this background that it was felt that the need of the hour is to find ways of evolving a new system of education, which places more value and respect on man as a human being, who cannot be treated as a tool, a commodity, or a beast to be used, dehumanized, and exploited for another person’s gain. Instead, human beings should be treated with full respect and dignity, as human beings who cannot be commercialized.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Quote of the Week:

"Modern forced schooling started with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver: obedient soldiers to the army; obedient workers to the mines; well subordinated civil servants to governments; well subordinated clerks to industry; citizens who thought alike on major issues."

- John Taylor Gatto

 

October 1, 1999

Beyond Cooperation: South-South Interactions for the 21st Century

By: Shilpa Jain

The majority of the literature on the now-defunct South-South movement focused on economic cooperation, on how the countries of the South should forge better trade relations amongst themselves and financially support one another in their common quest for development. The most radical might have commented on the need to ward off Northern exploitation and greed, and suggested that the countries of the South should find a Third Way to achieve growth, success, and progress. Yet the notions of what constituted this ‘success’ and ‘progress’ were rarely questioned. The goal was clear: become superpowers like the US, UK, Soviet Union (prior to its collapse) and thus command the same authority, respect, and awe. Freire must have been unimpressed: just another case of the oppressed wanting to become the oppressors.

Participating in the African Students’ Discussion Group reminds me once again why the South needs to come together. Not in the quest for superpower-ness, nor simply to prevent further exploitation by the North. Rather, as we share a common history — of having been rich, diverse, vibrant places at one time; then made all-too-familiar with colonialism and its slavery, subordination, disease, and destruction; and today so-called independent countries, plagued by development debts and a multitude of social, cultural, linguistic, political, and environmental crises — we have the opportunity to share something much greater: the reclaiming and regeneration of ourselves, our peoples, and our homes.

What would it be like if the South engaged in a collective learning process together? I don’t mean that our government elites, or our UN representatives, or our corporate entrepreneurs, should meet in a small room somewhere and plan our destiny for us. We’ve already seen the consequences of that planning process: greater debt, larger militaries, more industrialization, increased consumerism, widespread poverty and dislocation, environmental catastrophes — that list is also endless. What I suggest instead is that we people of the South take up this process of reflection, dialogue, and action, both within our individual communities and, more importantly, with our fellow brown and black brothers and sisters. What kind of future can we imagine together? How would our visions be shaped by our knowledge systems, values, cultures, languages? How we would re-think development, and what new directions will we create?

We know that change is needed for the 21st century. And all of us have also had leaders that attempted this radical change process (Kwame Nkrumah, Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevera, to name a few). Can we draw inspiration from them, and from each other, to re-invigorate this process? Can we re-frame South-South cooperation as a cooperative struggle of vision-building for just, sustainable, and meaningful lives for all of us?

We know where to start. In fact, we’ve already begun. Learning, sharing, reflecting, critiquing, challenging, creating — this is where it begins. Our last discussion on change and today’s discussion on leadership are thus fitting. We already know we have the potential to make it happen; we know that change can begin with us.

Calling all the new leaders: Let’s leap forward together.

 

To change or not to change…

By: Charles Otieno

I like change. It’s the only thing that is constant. The only thing I hate about it is that most of the time… or let me just say all of the time it takes me quite by surprise. Not that I never see it coming. Most of the time we do see it coming. The surprise is in the way it changes me, the way it changes the environment around me. I always knew I would get old. I saw it coming. But I never thought I’d have white hair… until I had it. So what does this tell me? Yes, I can see change come, but I can’t really control it. I can even prepare for it, like buy a hair dye, but when it’s coming, then it’s coming! O.k, let me admit it, I try to control – so I dye my hair, but it still shows up after a couple of days. Maybe the best way is to shave it off, suppress like African leaders suppress revolutions…but it grows back. So I find myself asking what the hell am I supposed to do? Should I just be a passive observer? Or am I just supposed to be an ‘interested’ spectator, an experimenter touching this and that, pricking here and there, giving a shove, then seating back and observing? Does this qualify me as a fatalist…certainly NO! It is not my right, and neither is it my duty to stick my dirty fingers into a natural process. Mine is to stimulate, not to impose. To question, not to give answers. To change, not to CHANGE.

Quote of the Week:

"Since change in dynamically complex circumstances is non-linear, we cannot predict or guide the process with any precision: Change is a journey, not a blueprint."

  • Michael Fullan, Change Forces

WHAT CAN WE DO TODAY FOR THE CHANGE PROCESS? (list prepared during last meeting)

· Understand the current systems

· Vision-building and dreaming

· Carry out intrinsic reflection on our

- Capacity

- Creativity

- Character

- Commitment

- Persistence

· Redefine our roles and responsibilities

· Interact in diverse spaces and with diverse actors

· Write articles and letters

· Act as role-setters and role-models

· Reject and challenge systems

· Support others in the change process

· Devote our time, energy, and resources

 

 

October 15, 1999

COMMUNICATION: SOME SIMPLE THINGS THAT WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

By: Isaac

We often take our perceptions of others for granted without knowing how and why we form such perceptions and whether (such perceptions) are true or not.

We therefore select our friends without consciously realizing why. Everyday we wake up and make informal judgements about others without knowing the far reaching effects of such judgments upon their lives.

EXAMPLES:

Interviewers do their job in fifteen minutes and make judgements about the interviewees' suitability, trusting themselves to have made the correct judgement

Psychiatrists decide what is wrong with a patient in a couple of minutes and have complete confidence in their judgements/conclusions.

The police and the courts make decisions/verdicts about crime/"criminals" in a few hours ands trust their judgements to be true.... the list, as they say, is endless.

FEW PEOPLE REALIZE THAT THEY ARE CONSTANTLY MAKING JUDGEMENTS ABOUT OTHERS AND EVEN FEWER REALIZE (ME INCLUDED) THAT THEY ARE WRONG MUCH OF THE TIME!

Even a slight misjudgment about someone can cause immense damage to their self worth.

STEREOTYPES AND HOW WE ALL ASSIST IN STEROTYPING

When we see and judge people, we "naturally" generalize, simplify and categorize/classify them. This classification is called stereotyping. Stereotyping limits our width of perception while at the same time slowly killing our ability to inquire and learn about others. Stereotyping is very useful in perpetuating self-fulfilling myths about people. HOW?

EXAMPLE:

A common myth these days is that women are the weaker gender, that they cannot perform physical (and even "elite" mental) work! As a result "we" encourage women /ladies to spend their entire lives reinforcing this perceived weakness rather than trying to help them to change this attitude. We do this by telling them to stay away from physical activities and sports of whatever kind.

We create a myth about weak women because it suits our economic purposes…and we destroy this myth whenever it does not suit our convenience. THE TRAGEDY? Women themselves have actually believed this to be true!

Read a newspaper, watch a TV advertisement, and the story is the same (women washing "white" clothes, women as cooks, nurses…you know the rest.

EDUCATION DISTORTS OUR OPINION, BUT HOW?

The system of education perpetuates the process/myth, with school textbooks filled with stories of men as astronauts, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. Let me ask you, what effect will this have on a ten year old school girl as she grows up? And you call this education? Excuse me sir?

At the of the day, we declare, in a chest thumping manner that:

SHOULD NOT WOMEN/LADIES HAVE THE FREEDOM TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT NOBODY IS STOPPING THEM... silly and rhetorical statements like these only compound the problem

Yes, and one more, when a man spends time talking about his colleagues, he is engaged in constructive criticism and when a woman/lady does the same...she is GOSSIPING OR CHATTY

Later, I will demonstrate to you how some of the conflicts we experience in Africa result from the mere fact that we do not take time to understand ourselves as also our surroundings

So come on give me a response. I'm waiting!

 

WORLD PEACE & DIPLOMACY

By Joseph Bob Odhiambo

The violence syndrome is a characteristic of global peace scenario. The arteries of conflicts are increasing in our world of today at alarming rate that the reins of Diplomacy being employed to solve the world turmoil amicably. People are in constant search of a safe haven. A safe haven of today is a promising hell of tomorrow.

Rumors of war, border and boundary disputes, religious conflicts, disaster and calamities, corruption and internal wrangling, are the characteristics of the modern age. In my opinion the world is not a peace at all. Even the peaceful nations are facing internal feuds of bleeding. The I.ewinsky scandal of USA, Diana’s conspiracy theory of England, the number 666 tragedy of the Vatican are just but a few neglected areas covered by world peace, not excluding the limitations of powers of the monarchy in England. A number of people evicted as victims of war, of crime, without shock absorbers, and being scandal proof. You cannot survive in modern dramatic world.

The tools which have been used to bring world peace have become stale and outdated. Treaties have been used, agreements have been employed, non-violence theory, international groupings and organisations, diplomacy has failed violence, G8 Diplomacy, Clinton’ s Diplomacy, Air strike diplomacy, Economic sanctions, declaration of terrorism states, war backed by diplomacy are just but a few steps which are yet to fail terribly.

A real world peace cannot be realized unless we know and understand what the world needs and meets the demands of the people judiciously. Countries will be committed to international agreements as long as it favors them. It is unfortunate that decision will always remain the greatest hazard of leadership.

Remember it is possible until it is proved impossible. So everybody is an agent of change. We should look quietly confident and project assurance. Children for example should be allowed to spread their wings a little before they knuckle down to the serious business of life. "Sometimes life is too painful to explain to the young and anyway they would never believe it." This is an attitude very commonly used at times of designing standards, models for the young (children). If I resist it myself, it is a trespass to ‘common good.’ Use of vernacular languages should be the children’s expression channel. Homes remain the best, yet abused arenas for establishing and enhancing the change process. People in a home are few and understanding one another can be possible if staying together is possible for a long time. Allowing our-selves to learn from the circumstances prevailing, for just as nature is dynamic, the natural change process should not be altered. Being an agent of change, though, may wear the physical body out; the inner self should be allowed to generate and regenerate.

 

THE CRUCIAL CURTAIN RAISERS

By Josephat Kerosi Bosire

It is so beautiful just once more to think of how some trees in the forest grow, how some of the most fierce animals of the jungle spend their lives. As all colored with suppression, elimination by assassination and exercising strength in that eco-system. It is fairly amusing when the other plants do not complain of the strain but instead either adapt or loose the battle and go extinct. The animals shift/migrate looking for better niche after failing to acknowledge the essence of confrontation.

Nowadays Man has adopted some of the jungle qualities Deliberately eliminating opposition, avoiding face to face confrontation and hatred towards reality, and truth. Some of the systems of life have been corrupted by a few selfish individuals in the society and now the contagious virus spreads like desert fire, through the human race. Surely as I say, to have the ability to see change, bring change and challenge the charges by evaluating them on the applicability can be a better legacy for later society. Blindfolding has been the norm. Is it true that most people are so poor that they have to get bread from others’ mouth? The loans that are given in everyday life should be adequately collateralized. All our feelings should be piloted through actions (controlled).

It is true for those who keep their fingers on the pulse of things, those who are fearless on going against majority tides towards light; those who never find it strange awakening "red flowers on a white flood". I call them crucial curtain raisers. I am proud of those people who are leaders to themselves. Violation of peace accords and declarations are at our door steps. Will there come a time when this world will be at peace? World Brotherhood is just a dream. Greed, violence, cheating, and irrationality are major struggles to be overcome before real peace equilibrium is reached.

Indonesia and East Timor, India and Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Sir Lanka and India, Israel and Palestine, Ethiopia and Eritrea, North and South Korean conflict, Britain and Northern Ireland, efforts to bring peace in Sudan, Angolà, Somalia, Zaire, Congo, Sierra Leon, Algeria, Kosovo where religious and ethnic conflicts are the order of the day.

A major discussion on world peace should therefore be centered upon trying to get agreeable solution or tool that can be employed to solve the current crisis. Our world of today is desperately in need of a saviour to take over after the downfall of Diplomacy. Solution brought without a change of the people’s mind, attitude and character is not a real change.

The world is looking for a chance in the new millenium to come with new theories of bringing world peace. Should this be invented the world will be a happy home to live in. Think, talk, dream of the world peace, let that be our vision and hypothesis. Well come.

Quote of the Week:

"You may or may not like what’s happening, but it is essential that you know the cost involved in making it happen."

- Arundhati Roy

The Greater Common Good, 1999

* * * * * * *

"Praise invariably makes a person become unduly proud, causing his vision blurred."

- Chuang Tse, The Times of India (September 6, 1999)

 

October 29, 1999

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES ON WOMEN AND SOCIETAL CHANGE

By Joseph Bob Odhiambo

I have the pleasure that the spirit of Shikshantar and 21st Century Africa are creating space for various issues requiring amicable address .For the past few months several topics of critical importance have been discussed among them Afro-democracy-the concept of democracy in Africa, Afro-development, the conceptual view of economic development in Africa, human rights violations in the present world, world peace and failing diplomacy, modern education system and the necessity of de-schooling, the concept of poverty, creating leadership in the present world, etc.

In line with these subjects, this article is one in a series of many that I intend to write and share with the rest of the intellectual community.

Women as a subject is one of the controversial issues in the world today. They are seen the weaker section of the society, others see them as critics that challenge existing systems. Opinions are there that they are meant to rear children and sit in the kitchen.

Whether the argument is positive or negative, the coming of the 21st century and the new millenium has led to the rise of contemporary issues on women. Whether east or west, south or central, Africa or Asia, the Beijing movement holds true and the cries of women are arising from every corner. A question comes then, that who are women? What are the contemporary issues creating conflict on this subject?

    1. Crying for leadership and recognition. Women want to be felt all over the world, to be recognized, given space and due recognition.
    2. The rise of working women and reservation seats. The number of working women are increasing and most governments are taking steps to make reservations for women.
    3. Women and the subject of prostitution. AIDS and the HIV virus are constantly associated with prostitution.
    4. The rise of women’s rights and liberation movements. There is a rapid increase in divorce and single parenthood. Whenever a nation suffers from the effects of famine, war, floods or any calamity, the most seriously affected people are women. What security do women have in the present world? Is there a need to empower women? If so, to what extent and how? There is a rise in the level of hardworking and educated women. Women are no longer housewives but bosses and headmistresses.
    5. Women’s groups, organizations and development are a striking feature of contemporary women issues. Many places of worship also have women’s associations. But there are no men’s association in these places. In the words of Mrs. Anita Bishwas, teacher by profession and deputy principal in a government school, "Men and Women alike should be taught about the relevance of these things in order our society." Mrs. Thabo Mbeki of South Africa quoted in Pretoria that "...spend less time at women’s forums and more at educating men to help them change their behavior, women already know about poverty and child abuse."

Thus, special plans of investment programmes, anti-poverty eradication, income generating projects, co-operative movements, women’s investment banks, women universities and education centers, women’s employment and recruitment boards, etc., should be encouraged in the present world in order to improve the conditions of women. Women are like gods and should be appreciated, attended to, encouraged and supported.

Women have the tendency of saying that they can save a family home, house, nation, and the world. May the world have this and think positively about what should be done in Washington, and among the Dalits in order to improve the welfare of women.

 

A REJOINDER: WHAT BOB DID NOT TELL US

By: Isaac

Mr. Bob, I read with interest your piece on ‘WORLD PEACE AND DIPLOMACY’ and I do agree that you told us a lot of things on the same. Like all of us, I want to think that you also feel saddened by what we are witnessing today...the voracious appetite for wealth, the massive dislocation of more than two-thirds of mankind by inhuman economic systems, the seemingly endless blood-letting, in short chaos (on an unprecedented scale).

But Mr. Bob, in my opinion you seem to have forgotten some pertinent and yet very fundamental issues underlying this state of affairs we all seem to be ‘trapped’ in.

For a start, we do not know whether diplomacy, which has now been around us for decades upon decades, is the only avenue through which we can express our desire for peace. And if so, Mr. Bob why has it failed so miserably in helping find ‘genuine’ peace in our lives? Are these so called diplomats making peace or are they making deals? You have asserted, yourself that ".... religious conflicts , disaster ,calamities , corruption...are the characteristics of the modern age." The operative phrase here would be "the modern age." So Mr. Bob, if this is a character of the modern age, don’t you think we should rethink and then evolve our own mechanism(s) of perceiving, comprehending and then responding to these phenomena?

Mr. Bob when someone "invades" a community, disturbs the natural pattern of things in that community, introduces a whole ‘new’ lifestyle to that community, watches that community disintegrate with cataclysmic consequences, then that person/institution/entity deserves the worst adjective that one can imagine. And as that community struggles to adjust to these phenomena commands/preconditions are issued .You are told to reform, structurally adjust, sign multi-million dollar agreements all with incredible speed! When you struggle to adjust to these phenomena, it should be obvious that the resulting shifts in socio-economic systems will lead to violent reactions, for which you were never the cause of, in the first place. The wars that erupt? They call you UNDIPLOMATIC, UNCULTURED, BARBARIC, BACKWARD?

Above, you have also drawn our attention to some ‘issues’ which of your esteemed readers may find trivial! You have said ".... the Lewinsky scandal of USA, Diana’s conspiracy theory of England ....you cannot survive in the modern dramatic world ". Now, now, now, Mr. Bob, without exhibiting any disrespect to these two human beings, I think many of us have unwittingly become victims of the massive amounts of de-contextualised information that the international press feeds into our (public) consciousness. Like you sir, millions of us around the world find it difficult to see and make meaning of the things taking place in our immediate environments, primarily because our creative and imaginative instincts are being blunted and manipulated by creations of the ‘modern age,’ namely THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA. And we have become helpless spectators! And we cannot set our own priorities /agendas because these have been set for us.

And you also tell us, "A real world peace cannot be achieved unless we know what the world needs...."Hey sir, you have hardly told us what YOU (and the people around you) need! You go ahead and say, with a tone of finality, that "a major discussion...should be centered upon trying to get an agreeable solution or tool that can be employed to solve the current crisis "Well, agreeable solutions are not solutions !They hide, disguise and camouflage deep rooted problems while effectively keeping these same problems festering and waiting for an ‘opportune time’ to explode/erupt. Remember volcanoes in a docile stage! On the whole it appears to me, that you are looking for solutions in places where they have hardly ever existed

Maybe for a start, we need to know where some of these phrases, which are freely shunted around, originated. Diplomacy, would be one such word for me.

Quote of the Week:

"It is the mark of a cultured person that he\she is aware that equality is an ethical and not a biological principle."

- Oscar Wilde

Quoted in Times of India, October 13, 1999

 

November 5, 1999

SCHOOLING: A DOUBLE DOSE OF TRAGEDY

By Josephat Kerosi Bosire

Man like many animals needs freedom, Life as an explorer, where interactions and encounters aren’t planned for, built purely life melodies. Disagreements, arguments, imaginations, upset, all simple and complex make the present to roll.

Thinking of how life in the last decades has been spent by many on bookish knowledge, a dose of fear engulfs everything - fear of failing to match the standards of losing the defined targets and looking odd. Betwixt many others a feeling of despair and resignation sometimes encroaches within not to follow the common path. Man has always been compelled by circumstance to reason like others or as recommended.

Nothing seems interesting like the few moments when one is drowned into the ocean of imagination. What could the world be like without money, weapons, churches, industries, schools, radios, TVs, and even computers? Could there have been divisions on class, merit, and fortune?

Exploring various other avenues of learning are blocked. Children are instructed/coerced into remembering specific patterns to model their lives, regardless of their varied nature. The idea of natural learning dies off leaving no room for evaluating learning according to one’s sensitivity. One is always uncomfortable with self because non-exposure to diverse ideas, experiences, environments and possibilities. No wonder homes have lost their true values as creating free environments for learning (not home teaching) choice of what to do and what not to do. Envy has been created between parents and their children. They expect and demand so much from them and any deviation results into punishment or rage. School teachers fed up with these pupils, students who can’t listen and duplicate keenly and procedurally, slap them or throw them out, the state tired of criticism and rebellion, jails or assassinates such active persons. Those who have been true products of the ‘school industry’ are always loyal, fear hard work and innovative ventures. I can not understand what is taught! Physics, Arts, History, Geography, Literature in English ... of what big value are they in life. Do they enhance humility, trust, love, hope, happiness, patience, peace? Aren’t we all destined for a double dose of tragedy?

Ask many students or even parents, why schooling? A great percentage applauds the results expected of it (a well salaried job) A life of frustration on becoming jobless (unemployed). Then a total lack of interest results, meaning, one ‘needs’ no more knowledge. One sees suicide and psychological breakdowns also resulting. The fortunate products of schools despise those who deviated/changed direction to manual work, carpentry, pottery sculpture etc who provide labor by implementing ideas. Yet with pseudo-dignity they brand them uneducated folks. (A big shame)

The old beautiful natural vegetation has disappeared displaced by institutions called schools. The good old crafts of weaving, gardening, cooking, and dancing have been sacrificed merely because we should be ‘improved’, ‘shaped’ and ‘packed’. It is time the calyxes of gold reveal subtle support. The perfidious teachers who have already gotten an overdose of teaching and are now victims by doing should not be enemies but friends after gaining freedom from enslaved routines. The zealous for freedom of self-knowledge grants impulses of continuous learning from childhood throughout till death, for it does not matter if you win or lose till you lose.

 FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

There are two things people worry about these days, one is that things may never get back to normal, and the other that they have already.

 

DEVELOPMENT?

By: Isaac

Development? I have heard that word before, haven’t? I swear I have heard it somewhere, now, let me guess... over the radio? No! On television? No! In college? No! In the newspapers? No! From my friends? No! But, where? Oh yes, now I do remember, from them all. Everywhere! Everybody talks about it. The only problem is that when everybody talks, nobody listens.

First I will tell you what development is not. It is definitely not technology and its related milieu. But many of us have accepted this (that it has nothing to do with technology) So the emphasis seems to be shifting towards the individual. One school of thought feels that if the individual is happy/satisfied/contented, then regardless of what he/she is using/consuming then he/she should be ‘developed’! Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if I am satisfied with my technological apparatus car, personal computer, TV etc then naturally I should also be comfortable with the manufacture and use of handguns, ballistic missiles, atomic bombs etc because accept it or not, these too are products of technology. For the sake of consistency, I should also not let my conscience be pricked by the destruction of forests, depletion of the ozone layer, unmitigated environmental pollution etc because the products which I use, were not made without attendant consequences.

And, why do we want to evaluate the utility of technology in terms of its benefits to us personally? Why can we not ask ourselves, for instance, where the acidic and other chemical waste material that result from the manufacturing processes are dumped? Where is the human side of us? Do we ever think of the millions of our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world who daily become the victims of technology in it’s assorted varieties? Do we ever think that the decay that we witness in society today is as a direct result of development?

In our discussion group meeting (29-10-99) a point was raised about social indicators of development, life expectancy, mal-nutrition (the absence), child mortality, literacy etc. Now why would a few ‘elite’ characters sitting in opulent surroundings, multi-storied complexes in Washington DC (or is it New York) apparently working for one influential body (UNDP) coin phrases whose legitimacy and contextual origin beg questions and leave us with more disillusion than solutions. Again where is the human side of ourselves. Why do we want to measure/quantify/categorize human beings? How does one measure a human being? How does one ‘improve’ a human being? Why does one want to ‘improve’ the standard of living of a human being by using the same thinking and mechanism that caused that ‘standard’ to fall in the first place? The characters at the UNDP who want to ‘weigh’ those Africans, those Asians etc must have had a motive. And that motive is/was not out of human compassion! Certainly not.

These acronyms HDI (Human Development Index), IPC (Income Per Capita), CM (Child Mortality) produce statistics. Very quickly you begin to imagine that you’re dealing with numbers, rather than human beings. Your focus is shifted to things, rather than people. It’s like watching the evening news on TV. "This year there were 3000 less deaths than there were last year!" What? Are we supposed to feel triumphant? Or better yet, are we supposed to feel ‘developed’?

Now I can hear you asking what my definition of development would be. Sorry to disappoint you friend, I will not legitimize it by defining it! Because having accepted that it is a foreign/exotic phrase used by some person nowhere near my locality, why then, i pray, would I want to expend my mental energies ‘defining’ words and phrases that have been thrusted upon me and my people? Many writers in the ‘alternative media’ have continually expressed the need for us to evolve and construct words and phrases ‘closer home’... words and phrases that are contextually familiar to us.

John Samuel (civil society) says "THERE ARE TOO MANY ‘PLASTIC PHRASES’ GOOD FOR PLEASANTRIES AND INTELLECTUAL DECORATION AND LITTLE ELSE" In struggling to define these words(which thanks to the pervasive influence of the mainstream media), are freely floating in public discourse today maybe we are limiting our perceptual view, maybe we are marginallising our creative instincts... our ability to be innovative... to build visions of our own. I firmly refuse to define that word development because for me it just does not add up!

 

DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT

By: Randa Isaac

Development process covers economic, social, cultural and other aspects of life in the society .The overall aim is to raise the standard of living and the quality of life ensuing to a greater majority of the community (May Volkov et al; 1990). People must be the subject of development, (Nyerere 1968) in terms of improved health, comfort and understanding. The characteristics of the phenomenon should be seen in the greater freedom acting upon informed judgements to eliminate hunger, disease and poverty. The main objective of economic development is to raise the standard of living and the general well being of the people in the economy.(Bannock, 1978). According to Bannock B. the process of economic development proceeds through economic growth in total per capita income of developing countries accompanied by a fundamental change in their economic structures; increased industrialization, exports, urban shifts in population (labor), diminishing reliance on aid, greater democratization of the political system, lessening dependence on imports and the building of a capacity to generate growth themselves.

Human development is the end - economic growth is a means (UNDP-1996). The purpose of growth is to enrich the people as seen in the parameters of :Life expectancy at birth, availability of health services, safe drinking water, daily calorie supply per capita, adult literacy rates, infant mortality rates etc. Other concepts, the concept of development has been dynamic and words like sustained development have come, alternative development similarly has been used. Sustainable development, the meeting of the needs of the present generation without impairing the needs of the future generation to meet their would be needs (Brundtland 1987). It attempts to strike a balance between the demands of economic development and the need to protect, the need to protect the environment here can take several forms;

Culture social geographical balance according to the UN sustainable development, means ‘improving the quality of human life ‘ while living within the carrying capacity of supporting the eco-system, inherent in this definition in "the development of natural resources to meet the immediate needs of the present population" without hampering the requirements of future generations as well endangering the ecology and the environment (Anju Kholi et al 1997).

Another dimension touched in the above definition are appropriate technology and intermediate /soft technology .In general parlance appropriate is in terms of it’s affordability while soft technology is environmentally friendly, polluters must be made to pay and this category include dampers.

Suitable development can minimize the malady and maligned misjudgment of resources by a select few developed nations misleading and mesmerizing the mass majority of the third world who remain contented and deeply entrenched in their own limited world (God’s mercy), barely hearing the alarm and warning which so stridently ring for all.

Sustainability may, therefore mean to stand for both growth and development with objectives such as

  1. 1 survival, i.e. keeping the communication alive.
  2. Following ecologically sound and acceptable production systems in which what is removed once is replaced once and positively.
  3. In social sense a thriving economy and social rider with a fairer and equitable distribution ensured of income, power, peace and opportunities.
  4. Ensuring the long-term carrying capacity the regions for generations to follow.

It will not suffice to close the discussion without saying a thing about the" Alternative" or "another development."

Opposing the western world model of economic development is like trying to compete in the race that will never be won. Currently all economic policies are geared to emulate the experiences and experiments which were tried by western countries in the 50’s and 60’s and early 80’s in the war of economic growth and industrialization. This was essentially built on the foundations of export oriented trade, liberal trade, technological transfers through direct, foreign investments, globalization, market conformity, reduced government intervention etc, to strengthen the forces and the game of sustainable development approach. (Husa H and Wohlschlal H; 1996)

The concept of another development emerged at the special session of the United Nations covered general assembly convened in 1975 to exclusively discuss "development of Asian, African and Latin American countries," according to this theory, it is not increased production and consumption of material values that should be the decisive goal of individuals and societies as whole but an inner self perfection of man, upgrading his qualities and creating a system of new values will not by far be hold the first place but man’s spiritual world and self absorption plays a greater role. (Dag, 1975)

This model is characterized by basic features: Its means is to use man’s own abilities (empowerment). Its expected result is human society in harmony with the natural environment.

CONCLUSION: "An analysis of different definitions give us their main object, the humanistic element governed with the determination to improve the quality of life and standards of living by conscious efforts of the people by enchasing enabling capacities, in the process of achieving today’s welfare at the same time not impairing future capacities for the future generations.

 

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS AND THE FAILING WORLD DIPLOMACY

By: Joseph Bob Odhiambo

When we talk of the middle- east peace we talk of the conflict that has been there between Israel and it’s neighbors. Several countries constitute the middle east .The growing conflict and tensions among these countries should be resolved.

Israelis and Palestinians have had conflicts and misunderstandings since 1947. Each party feels suspicious of the other. They have fought several times and Israel has always emerged victorious with the exception of losing in three battles ,that is . The conflict between the Israelis and the Syrians is as a result of the Golan Heights. The Syrian Government demands a return of the Golan Heights a place the Israelis captured in 1967. As Israelis demand for full normalization of ties, the Syrians demand for the return of the Golan Heights.

In Lebanon, the Hezbollah guerrillas are fighting to end 21 years of occupation by the Israelis of Southern Lebanon. The constant air strikes by the Israelis must be resolved. The conflict between Palestinians and the Israelis and in fact the major obstacle to the middle- east peace is the West Bank land. The major characteristic to the middle- east conflict is border or land dispute between the countries in the region. The increasing interest in and support of the Americans. In fact America regards Israel as part of its own state. The Arabs have also formed blocks. The organization of Islamic countries also exists. All these pose a threat to the intervention of neutral parties like the UN. Some people view the middle east crisis from a religious perspective that only the super natural deity can give a solution. The question comes here that can we find a solution to solve this crisis amicably. What should be done to resolve it? Can we employ the Americans and the Clinton’s diplomacy? A time has come when we must find a solution to world peace in to make the world a better place to live. We need to research and find answers to the question of how to make this chaotic world better.

Quote of the Week:

"Many of those who have been resettled are people who have lived all their lives deep in the forest with virtually no contact with money and the modern world. Suddenly they find themselves left with the option of starving to death or walking several kilometres to the nearest town, sitting inthe marketplace (both men and women) offering themselves as wage labour, like goods on sale.

Instead of a forest from which they gathered everything they needed - food, fuel, fodder, rope, gum, tobacco, tooth powder, medicinal herbs, housing materials - they earn between ten and twenty rupees a day with which to feed and keep their families. Instead of a river, they have a hand pump. In their old villages, they had no money, but they were insured. If the rains failed, they had their forests to turn to. The river to fish in. Their livestock was their fixed deposit. Without all this, they’re a heartbeat away from destitution...

For the people who’ve been resettled, everything has to be re-learned. Every little thing, every big thing: from shitting and pissing (where d’you do it when there’s no jungle to hide you?) to buying a bus ticket, to learning a new language, to understanding money. And worst of all, learning to be supplicants. Learning to take orders. Learning to have Masters. Learning to answer only when you’re addressed."

- Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good, 1999

 

November 19, 1999

THE ENVIRONMENT AND US,

SORRY, THE ENVIRONMENT IS US

By: Isaac

As part of our weekly discussions, we had a debate on development and as you might expect, a debate on development (as it is currently understood) is incomplete without a mention of its effects on the environment.

When i said this:

"Forest people (those who live deep in the forest) are not suffering ... they are not poor, WE are suffering." This observation generated a great deal of laughter from those present, not that I never expected this (laughter) anyway. But seriously, do we think that our school and university degrees have enabled to know more (intensively and extensively) about the environment than those who live in the forest?

‘Forest People’ have a deep, personal and intricate connection with nature. They bear a spiritual allegiance to nature. They adore it. In fact, the link that exists between them and nature is so powerful that you will practically fail to distinguish the two. To ask them about the environment would be like asking someone,

"Between your left and right eye, which is more important? Silly question, huh? The Forest People know:

    1. The river and the varieties of fish that live in it, the aqua culture in poetic detail, even more, they know the entire ‘riverine’ system and the river bed beneath!
    2. They know the trees with their names, their ages, the leaves, which leaves have medicinal value, which ones are edible...
    3. The birds, with amazing clarity, the hundreds of bird varieties that exist, just by listening to their sounds...

They know all these with such pinpoint accuracy that an environmental scientist will appear "illiterate" in comparison (not that i want to compare anyway).

Now take ‘us’, with our school and university ‘education’. To begin with, our human link with nature has been so badly dismembered, that it is almost severed. We have become, not part of, but (artificial) appendages of nature. We have a hard time imagining life before big industries, big factories, TV, cars etc. We have refused to imagine a life of forests and quiet (Jerry Mander, In The Absence of The Sacred) The information that NATURE offers to our senses is nearly absent from our lives. In school and university we are taught how to ‘manage’ the natural environment using technology! The irony is illustrative of how ‘re-actionist’ we have become.

After you are through with university, you have the teachings of one Maslow, present in your imagination. Maslow tells us about our ‘basic’ needs ... food, shelter and clothing and that these needs precede any other needs that we may have. This makes very little sense really. Why? Because in our quest to obtain these so called basic needs, we will HAVE TO exploit the environment. This can form the basis of a justification to exploit the environment. Consumption and destruction then become partners. What the teachings of Maslow fail to see is the inter-connectivity of things, of relationships. For me to genuinely expect a healthy environment, i must treat the environment with the same reverence with which i treat the food i eat, the clothes i wear, the house i live in and any other physiological need that i may have. And if i want self esteem for myself, then i must extend the same to the natural environment and further, to my friends, my family. I must see the spiritual connection of things, rather than bits and pieces, parts and packages, some taking second priority and others first. Which is exactly what Maslow’s hierachy theory (illustrated by the stratified chart) does to our thought process. It breaks our thinking and perceptions in ways that contradict our normal human relations and the extremely intricate emotional make up that go with these. A human being cannot have definite limits to his/her needs, as if one is dealing with commodities on a Weights and Measures scale! Our link with the natural environment should not be so impersonal, mechanical and superficial. There is an inextricable link between human beings and nature... a link that may not appear visible for those of us trained to take a simplistic, casual glances at ‘things’ (if i may use this expression)

These days it fashionable to hear ‘educated’ people issue proclamations about how stricter legal measures can reduce pollution, moves to introduce ‘soft’ technology, efforts made at ‘greening’ the environment etc. Also available is detailed literature by environmental scientists and appeals by high profile personalities on the need to ‘save’ the environment etc. But i am afraid that however noble such efforts may be, however well intentioned such exercises might be, they are too reactionary, mean too little and one may even be tempted to say, the proclamations/appeals smack of rhetoric! So should we go back to the past? Should we exhume history? Sorry, it is not my brief to decide for you what to do. A change in our perceptive intelligence, maybe an entire shift in our conceptual framework could be a starting point. But then i am aware that our understandings can differ according our intellectual training and spiritual perfection (depending on one’s point of view) Or maybe for starters we can shed the extra baggage about how we are saving the environment because we are not saving the environment, we are saving us since THE NATURAL/PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT IS US.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ECCLESSIASTES 1:14-18

By: Joseph Bob Odhiambo

I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all is useless. It is like chasing the wind, you cannot count things that are not there. I told myself that I have become a great many far wiser than who ruled before me. I know what wisdom and knowledge really are. I was determined to learn the difference between knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and madness. But I find out that I might as well be chasing the wind. The wiser you are, the more worries you have. The more you know, the more it hurts.

So what have I gained from being so wise? Nothing, So life came to mean nothing to me because everything in it had brought me nothing but trouble. When I talk of development in the present world situation it means to my mind that it is the provision of the lacking elements to make life meaningful for the people. This process is done by making them decide for themselves what they don’t have and with the help of the people the lacking elements can be fought for collectively and jointly so that everybody’s participation and co-operation is obtained. In order to make the so-called elements sustainable, to make individuals tap their locally available resources and improve their quality, quantity and standard of life without adjusting to any external pressure. This may be in rural development, women development, urban development, national development, tribal development, communal development, children development and world development, etc.

Whatever element is brought to the present existing situation must be able to give positive impact to the objectives set, not assuming the concerned people and must be progressive and sustainable.

Quote of the Week:

"Thus, science takes on a dual character. It offers technological fixes for social and political problems, but de-links itself from the new social and political problems it creates."

- Vandana Shiva, 1992