One of the ideologies often projected to maintain the dominance of elites and superior nations is the ideology of individualism.
Success and failure are individualised in a world where everything happens under the do your own thing and I do my own thing philosophy.
In this case individual failure is seen as the result of what we call personal ineptness or misbehavior; as a sign of moral inferiority.
We are told those of us who fail in society fail as a result of problems within ourselves, some kind of individual short-coming or ineptness.
Ultimately failure is seen as a result of some moral problem within individual personalities.
One of the pioneering and influential American sociologists, Graham Summer indicated that the poor are shiftless and impudent. This essentially means the poor are poor because they are negligent, impractical, and inefficient. This is how the average African is viewed; not only in Western countries, but also across the world, even by fellow poor people from the developing world.
We are viewed as the idle and the intemperate, the extravagant and the vicious. Even our own elites view our own poor people the same way.
Mansions in South Africa look maximum-security prisons because those who own them want to keep away vicious black criminals.
I visited a friend in Pretoria and the first thing my son said to him was “Your house looks like a prison.” He had never seen such a perimeter fence on a house in Sydney, with razor wires and electrified fence.
The founders of social work, together with our helping professionals – the liberals, often see the behaviour and the failure of the victims of Eurocentric domination as a result of their personal misbehavior or the result of their moral weakness.
We believe the world powers dominate us because our leadership is inherently corrupt; we believe that Africa is dominated and subjugated because of some individual shortcoming collectively shared among our people, including among our leaders.
This approach is called the individual moral sensibility, and it is used to justify the culture of inequality. This individualism, this individual moral sensibility tries to persuade us that the global society is equal, and that it makes available to all individuals equal the opportunity to advance in it. We believe our local societies as countries are equally like that; that they make available to all citizens the opportunity to advance ourselves.
Those who fail only fail as a result of their own personal problems. This kind of approach is rationalisation by means of which the society itself ignores its own input as far as the failure of a person or people, such as our people in Africa, are concerned.
This approach helps the privileged to ignore the impact of the social structure upon individual achievement and mobility. The system almost literally eradicates the idea that the individual succeeds or fails within a social structure.
Individuals do not succeed or fail in a vacuum, but in a social system, and as such the social system must be taken into consideration when we evaluate individual success and failure. This in a way implies the possibility that the social structure itself may be principally responsible for the success of some and the failure of others.
We know of societies developed by the imperialistic European, who arrogates to himself the dominance and rule over the vast majority of people, and we know that such societies cannot afford to truthfully and honestly look at the possibility that it is the structure of the Eurocentric society itself which greatly influence the individual and group fates of our people in former European colonies.
We are told by some of our liberals that we are enslaved to history, and that we must stop blaming colonialism or imperialism for the failure of our people today.
These are people who may not see the success or failure, or the condition of our people as a result of a moral problem, and they would possibly argue that the poor are no more morally decrepit than are the middle-class, or are the upper class. They still tend to maintain the social status quo in a modified form by projecting a kind of scientistic ideology, one that always appears to be neutral in its orientation.
Our helping professionals will dutifully tell us of such neutral things like the psycho-dynamic make up of the individual, of weak egos, of lack of personal integration, conflicts between id, ego and super ego; or we are told the dark side of the personality overtaking the light side of the personality. It is always the flowery academic superlatives thrown at us in a seemingly very neutral and honest way.
We are bombarded with all kinds of systems, names and intra-psychic mechanisms designed to explain the subjugation of some people and the domination of others, the so-called success of some and the failure of others.
Our sociologists will tell us of cultural commitments; of those who are committed to mainstream values and mainstream behaviour as against those who belong to an ostensible culture of poverty, people who absorbed a different system of values.
We are offered comprehensive family backgrounds and child rearing approaches that presumably do or do not prepare the individual to deal with wealth creation; with the middle class society. We are told of family backgrounds and approaches which do or do not provide the individual with the ability to solve his or her social problems.
We remain poor in our richly resourced country while our educationists go deeply into the cognitive structures of our minds and will confidently indicate the means by which we are deficient in academic and other abilities.
Our social psychologists will always offer us explanations in terms of interpersonal competence and behaviour, and the failure of communications that occur between family members and other people. We get a host of definitions and numerous quotes from Eurocentric founding theorists of social structures who ostensibly are the authorities in defining human behaviour.
There are never any shortages of definitions and explanations. However, we rarely, if ever, get an approach that looks at the political system and the political aims of the current world order, and in what ways those aims contribute to the critical situation that we see ourselves in today.
What is the political system that founded and defined our education system as former colonies? What were the aims of that political system?
What is the political system that defines our own academic culture in Africa today? Are our helping professionals trained to solve our situation, or to help perpetuate repressive explanations that only perpetuate our dependency, our poverty, and our culture of perpetual consumption?
Our own universities train us to justify our own poverty, to normalise it, to explain it in scientific terms, and to get us to believe that only benevolence from European countries is the key to our success.
Our leading opposition leader says the key to our economic success lies in Washington, and openly brags that he has what it takes to beg for enough money to develop our country. He even brags that only him can unlock billions of aid dollars from the Americans. And isn’t he popular?
He is trained from a few of our African Universities, with at least five degrees to his name. The more the education we get the more convinced we become that we are born with individual deficiencies to create any wealth for ourselves – that we depend perpetually on the innovation of the white man.
Western social scientists, especially psychologists and sociologists, and our so called helping professionals like our social workers, judges, lawyers, counselors, teachers, and so on and so forth; come to the aid of Eurocentric domination with what we call deficiency explanations.
In the study of the black child, and the study of black people within our own universities – we get a bevy of deficiency terminologies or jargon and we get long semesters of courses about the deviant behaviour of black people.
When we start to compensate white farmers from whom we repossessed our colonially stolen land, like we hear is happening now; our academics interpret that to mean we have seen the error of our ways when we tried to upset the natural system of white supremacy.
They argue and say only after we beg the white farmers to come back and retake our land will we ever produce agriculturally again. Our neighbours in South Africa will openly say they will never kick out white farmers the way we Zimbabweans did it because that can only result in derelict and unutilised tracts of fertile and productive land.
So we took our colonially stolen land and our trained helping professionals will help diagnose our mindset as utterly disturbed, and we are told we allowed unthinking and traumatised war veterans to irrationally and barbarically destroy what used to be our mainstay food supply.
We Africans are not individually endowed with the psychological capacity to think properly in terms of creating wealth or producing economically.
We are an assortment of individual labour inputs created to help Eurocentric investment models achieve their aims of creating wealth across the world.
Our courses in our own universities use the white middle class child and the white middle class itself as a measure for all other peoples. That is how we understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, how we understand cognitive development of the infant, how we conceptualise organisational structures, how we view civilisation, how we shape our aspirations, and so on and so forth.
Those people who do not measure up to the standards of the white middle class are seen as deviant or deficient in one form or the other.
Our misguided aspiration to catch up with the white middle class made the colonised generation of our fathers name some of us these absolutely ludicrous English “names” like Reason, Clever, Beauty, Innocent, Privilege, Prestige, Anyway and so on and so forth.
India was colonised by the British for far too long than we were colonised but there is no Indian I have ever met with an English name, not even a proper one like Mark, Harry, Kate, or William.
No wonder India is in the top 20 biggest economies in the world today, and is making a lot of money through medical tourism. They were colonised like us, but they largely remained with a liberated mindset and culture. They even preserved their own dressing, and we have the temerity to mock their dressing.
We are stuck as a nation, and we keep blaming Western economic sanctions because we are essentially mentally paralysed. We cannot do anything with our own natural resources unless the Westerners come and do it for us. We deride and mock any effort at innovation by anyone from our own ranks.
We have a sickening begging culture, and our politicians are a sorry excuse for leadership. The only policy they have depth in is the policy of borrowing and begging for aid, as well as consuming and using money: not making it or creating wealth.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
– Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydeny, Australia.