Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Narrative of “Progress”

This commentary was meant to be a facebook status update. Some times is good to embrace spontaneity and it is shared here without any profound change.


In the interest of slaking Facebook (which proved to be an important invention of controlling mechanism in power relation of this era  – I mean if you dare to see behind Mark Zuckerberg ) desire to know what is my mind, I offer this ( I think again) status update.

‎#Capitalism or ‎#neoliberalism ,in its new form, is torturous system in a dangerous way. The reason many people seem not to get that fact is because most often the torture does not take place in places like Guantanamo and because it is not physical one. The torture is in the mind.

The system either wants to colonize your mind (and this practice has got numerous neutral like expressions – “go with the flow” , “be positive” [to exploitation and injustice] “open up” “be change” and etc ) in which case one will promote the system and be promoted as “insightful”, “bright”, “progressive” with a desire “to make a difference” or “change the word.”

What “changing the world” looks like on the surface aside, a moderately reasonable person with a fair reading on colonial history could easily see the connection between the historical outright military occupation &cultural demolition in a way to serve capitalistic expansion (which many historians, according to Edward Carr, in the 19th century Europe hailed as an important step for world economy &were optimistic about ) on the one hand, and the new and more subtle form of colonization through colonizing young minds who are passionate about ridiculing the identity and social values of societies to which they belong with the pretext of “making a difference” “poverty eradication and what have you , on the other.

If the 19th century colonization left ‎#Africa poorer, I don’t really get the foundation of optimism that the new form of colonization would leave #Africa prosperous. While the US has its own economic wound to scratch at home, it unveiled,through the “progressive and eloquent ‎#Obama ” to Africa  $7 billion  in aid and donations. If one is to curiously study how this fund will be spent, it is very likely to see a pattern that is related to the new and subtle from of colonization. And one should not forget that #capitalism / or its new form #neoliberalism is never an altruistic enterprise. It is not short of the motive of the 19th century colonialism. It could only be worse.

If you have a resisting attitude towards that enterprise, there is what seems to be “non-violent” – If I may call it that way- but incredibly brutal systemic torture in the mind the result of which would be hard to bear unless one is  aware of what is happening and why it’s happening. Needless to say, there is, most often than not, a cost to pay when one dares resist something and the cost one pays has nothing to do with ones fault. It is meant to be paid and we need to understand it that way.

Before a practical and first hand experience of what capitalism looks like, I happened to read ( I mean apart from reading on capitalism) Sisay Nigussu’s last novel : “ረቂቅ አሻራ” That is like twelve or so years ago. It didn’t occur to me that he captured the problem the Ethiopian society was facing. A good part of it is a narrative of corruption and the social influence of corrupt people – which is related to social decadence. he also noted the dilemma a diaspora Ethiopian was facing in the United States. The conversation on why an Ethiopian guy abandoned the US and went back home was meant to be insightful but that too did not occur to me back then: “የውጪ ሃገርም እኮ ለምን ለሚል እና ለሚጠይቅ ሰው አይሆንም” Clearly it was a reference to a resisting mind.

What is the point of all this talk today? I’m telling facebook how I am feeling. It’s reiteration that even part of the world that appear to be free is not really free. If one happens to follow “injustice facts” and other critical voices (on twitter) , it is possible to get data essential to give a clue as to what is happening. Forget the wars the US waged and is waging against other countries, forget occasional shooting rampages in the US and think about this data I saw yesterday: Every 31 minutes 1 person is a murder victim in the US! Forget the number of homeless people in the US and mental health problem. Does this go well with the narrative of “progress”?

Even in terms of institutions, I have a feeling that if this system is not checked in a  timely fashion, it is likely to degenerate into ‎#neoliberalfundametalism and there might come a time to forget even about the relative freedom of expression we are “given” now.

To feel unfreedom is not of course a joyous (for lack of a better term) experience. And to have the perception that “change makers” and leadership in Africa do not seem to grasp the state of unfreedom is equally not joyous. It’s not joyous because it gives clue on the prospect of being free which seems like a mirage as things stand now.

Dimetros Birku

you can follow the writer  on twitter @dimetros



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