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Populism, a consequence of neocolonialism

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(FILE) This photo taken on October 26, 2018 shows co-founder of China’s Alibaba Jack Ma gesturing as he attends an international investment conference in Johannesburg. – Jack Ma, founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, is among the world’s richest people but he has now emerged as a member of another club: China’s 89-million-strong Communist Party. In an article on November 26, the People’s Daily said Ma was a party member who has played an important role in pushing China’s Belt and Road global trade infrastructure initiative — a pet project of President Xi Jinping. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Earlier in 2018, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s billionaire founder, got me wondering about his theology when, in announcing his retirement from the giant ICT corporation said, “God didn’t create human beings to work, but to enjoy the world’s abundant wealth…”.

I couldn’t stop wondering about where he got the fanciful idea from. But when I reflected on the theological history of Asia, I wondered less.

Indeed, persons with little or no theological training, in spite of their worldly successes, must restrain themselves from making public utterances about God and His mysterious works.

Jack Ma’s unfounded remark reminded me of another presumptuous remark by the flamboyant Esama of Benin kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, during one of his birthday celebrations.

The irrepressible chief, rather flippantly, told his guests that the reason God created man on the last day of Creation was to allow enough time for crops to grow!!! His guests, among them senior clergy men, women and university dons, were expectedly in stitches.

But Jack Ma’s remark wasn’t as hilarious, it was a fundamental distortion of theology; and I hope he would, or be caused to correct himself in the near future.

Though I do not hold a certificate in theology, but I have read enough of the holy books to know that God’s purpose is for man to be a co-creator – a fellow indefatigable worker.

Man’s measure of success is therefore to be inseparable from his co-creatorship with God.

In a nutshell, man’s enjoyment is to be derived from his creative works.

In that sense, it is troubling to hear a decided workaholic like Alibaba’s founder suggest, at the sunset of his illustrious career, that man was created solely to luxuriate in Nature’s many riches.

If this erroneous declaration by China’s richest man is considered in the light of his country’s rapidly rising global influence, I see the need to purposefully correct that potentially damaging casual remark.

Ma’s remark is perhaps a wake-up call to shorn humans’ spiritual purpose of avoidable obfuscations.

Critically analyzed, such obfuscations could be said to the reason religious conflicts in particular, and wars in general proliferate across the globe.

Consider what positive impact it would make if it were clearly etched in the human mind that creative productivity is the more credible worship mode of God than the essentially ceremonial form.

The New Testament Gospels specifically made the point: humans’ creative potentials are God’s principal investment from which huge returns are expected.

St. Augustine of Hippo, the 4th century theologian, among notable others, had subsequently written copiously about that proposition, culminating in his magnum opus: The City of God.

Fourteen centuries later, that treatise literally brought forth the Enlightenment Philosophers, whose works methodically led to the overthrow of monarchical governments in Europe.

By making the citizens’ work a form of worship of the Creator, their spiritual and civic duties are optimally reconciled, the citizens’ loyalty to the sovereign is thereby guaranteed, these philosophers had postulated. The logic of the proposition is simply palpable.

Although St. Augustine’s and the Enlightenment philosophers’ works greatly influenced the development of world philosophy, regrettably, however, British eighteenth century colonialism and the United States of America’s post-World War II foreign policy completely missed The City of God’s crucial message.

Instead of looking to their populations and local resources to build their respective economies, the British and the US (and to a less degree, other European nations) aggressively pursued foreign campaigns through which the peoples and resources of weaker nations (notably Africa) were captured and employed to build and maintain their mega economies.

After the British and other leading nations relinquished their colonial holdings, colonialism was surreptitiously substituted with neocolonialism, through opaque financial, economic and trading policies.

Thus, while the developed nations maximally exploited the peoples and resources of developing countries, their own populations and resources were barely productively active and redundant respectively. That was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off – a la the idle mind…

The 2008 financial collapse acted as a trigger for that bomb, which finally exploded in 2016 in what is now infamously referred to populism, the most potent contagion of the modern age.

The barely productive indigenous populations of developed nations are now remonstrating generations of underutilization of their creative potential; these huge populations have been left out of the global wealth creating loop. This is the only objective interpretation of populism in the 21st century.

While the respective establishments of the United Kingdom and the US kept their greedy eyes peeled for exploiting the peoples and resources in distant countries Brexitism and Trumpism happened under their insensitive nostrils.

And as the feeble-voiced head of the UK belatedly learned about the 2008 financial debacle, no one saw the 2016 dual events coming, of course.

Two years after the fact, leading politicians in both the UK and the US have yet to fully come to terms, let alone come up with appropriate responses to Brexitism and Trumpism respectively.

Rather than look critically hither, they as yet look through a film darkly thither, lamely blaming Russian meddling in their respective domestic affairs.

This is no more than making escapism an art form. We needn’t look beyond the previous US midterm elections results and the UK’s blunderings with Brexit to be convinced that Brexitism and Trumpism were domestically-induced.

The Democrats didn’t take the US senate, preparatory to trumping Trumpism as had been widely speculated.

Instead the Republicans increased their majority in the upper chamber; and the much talked about Brexit deal with the European Union recedes by the week, even as the 29 March 2019 exit date looms large.

Right Honourable Congress and British Parliament, please stop the ongoing political poppycock otherwise known as Russian meddling.

Stop looking to justify that allegation for, as the US special counsel, Robert Mueller has since discovered, the evidence of it is a will-o’-the wisp.

The answers to your teeming challenges reside in optimal exploitation of your local populations and domestic resources, consistent with Nature and the Holy Writ.

Thankfully, emerging populist leaders: Donald Trump of the US; Vladimir Putin of Russia; Viktor Orban of Hungary; Recep Erdogan of Turkey; Narendra Modi of India; and President-elect Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, are blazing that trail. These are simply responding to the dictates of the times.

Pity though the reactionary media have quickly branded them as retrogressive nativists, but there is no doubting the fact that time will vindicate their bold initiative, as it ultimately does all truths.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma’s country, under the prodding of maximum ruler Xi Jinping, is pursuing a one trillion US dollars “One road, one belt” global project that would, in less than a century hence, as likely make Brexitism and Trumpism pale into insignificance in terms of politico-economic upheavals.

Ma, Jinping and other similarly oriented persons should be offered crash programmes on history and theology to hedge the world from the risks of an amplified version of the emerging consequences of neocolonialism.

Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.


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