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Cocktail party growing smaller and access to

By Kole Omotoso   |   18 June 2017   |   3:30 am

In the lighter moments of the Travels of Trouble, Mr. Dafida Trouble and his assistant Child-Wiser-Than-Elders would jubilate (what is the relationship of this word ‘jubilation’ to the isiZulu word ‘njabulo’ with such similar meanings?) would jubilation on profound human simplicity and lessons. Remember the bantustans of apartheid South Africa? They were so-called independent countries created by the Afrikaners to house the Africans in the poorest ecological parts of the geographical area of the country. Over these number of ‘unrecognisable’ and ‘unrecognised’ nations ruled some of the greatest collaborators with the ‘downpressors’ of Africa and Africans? How can you ‘op(up)press human beings while keeping them down? One of the responsibility of Africans speaking foreign languages is to help such languages purge some of their hypocritical vocabulary making the languages say what they mean. Any way to get back to the bantustan and their rulers. The countries did not go beyond six feet into the ground. Beyond six feet (enough space to bury themselves) belonged to apartheid South Africa. Sometime before Mandela was released from prison (like AD and BC so is BM and AM!) a bantustan leader visited the United Kingdom and Great Britain. When he was welcomed to Great Britain he wanted to know if he would have time on this trip to visit the United Kingdom.

He was assured it could be arranged. He visited the Labour Party and discussed with the leaders of the party. He was also taken to the Conservative Party headquarters where he met the lady in charge and chatted to his heart’s content. When he returned home, he was questioned about his trip, he complained that he had not been able to visit the United Kingdom. And of the party headquarters he visited he liked best his visits to the headquarters of the Cocktail Party. He liked them best and he visited them many times because their headquarters were all over the place.

One of the wonders (puzzles really) of writing about post-colonial economy in English is the embedded contradiction caused by the peculiar relationships of colonial economics. Imagine the import of the following statement: “Consequently (to following colonial land ownership and occupancy) many estates were broken up and had a plethora of owners. The size of any given property segment subsequently grew smaller and smaller.” Whether settler or non-settler colonies, the colonials took the largest shares of anything the colony had. And whatever amenities the colonials created were created for their comfort with no space given to their discomforted hosts. Post-colonial situations meant everything is open to everybody, including the previously excluded Africans. Consequently, such amenities have to be sub-divided among millions of people. Instead of a few hundred colonial authorities enjoying these amenities, millions of Africans have to make-do with their little smaller-yanan portions. Their shares have grown smaller. And it will keep growing smaller as their population increases. But this is not growth. Described as growth Africans do nothing to change it. After all it is said to be growth. They even speak of negative growth sometimes. Isn’t the right English word ‘diminish’ and ‘diminishing’? If this right word was used maybe something would have to be done to reverse it. After all, how do you reverse ‘growth’?

The questions always arise. Trouble has been everywhere. He has been in the north and in the south. He has been in the east and he has been in the west. He has sailed the oceans and waddle-walked in the deserts of the north and those of the south. Of the three forms economic arrangements which did he like best? What would Trouble choose from capitalism, socialism and mixed economy?

By nature, humans own nothing. They rule over imagined spaces and places. They own nothing. Born naked, they die and the clothes they die in is irrelevant be the clothes of silk, leather, iron or rags. That said, choosing capitalism or socialism or mixism is no choice. Choosing gives the impression of ownership. Ownership is a mirage, a deception and a clouding of understanding of human existence. The blessing nature bestows on all living things is to share in the abundance that surrounds. To share and make do with little when there is little and, in the nature of living things, to gorge ourselves when there is plenty.

There is need to put this in a neater format. The idea, the concept is to have access to rather than to own. We have access to the air we breathe. We do not own the air we breathe. We cannot package and portion and parcel the air we breathe and secret it in some air bank and own it in monetised numbers, using and abusing it the way we want.

We have access to water in the rivers, in the seas and in the oceans. We do not own the seas and the rivers and the oceans. Neither do we own the rains when the fall and when they do not fall. But we have access to the rain. Why then do we wish to own the materials of the earth, which have been provided in sufficient amounts for our need rather than our greed and personalised creed?

Ownership, mine, ours, his and hers, their own, are borders with which we keep others away. They are also borders in which we imprison our possibilities. We need to release ourselves from these borders, open up our spaces and places to the freshness of sharing.

Organised on the basis of all human beings having access to what they need rather than owning what they need would help the earth to recover from the misuse and abuse that is killing the earth. There is no grave to contain all our wealth. And no crematorium would burn our houses and motors and clothes and shoes along with our ashes because those possessions are meaningless where we are after death. There is abundance. There are also lean years but there is no sufficiency. Access to, not ownership of the earth, should be the credo of the world.


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Kole Omotososouth africa


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