Fam! We have Kevin in the building. I am grateful that he agreed to share in this experience. He is one of the most consistent and invested bloggers I know. I have been learning from his writing etiquette. This piece is brought to you with love — as we learn about identity. Please go and check out his site, especially his poetry.
Tribalism is described as the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Human evolution has primarily occurred in small groups, as opposed to mass societies. People naturally maintain a social network, according to Wikipedia. In Africa, it is a case of having a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group. For many years, the human population has evolved. Growing from small groups into larger accommodating groups as the population continues to grow. However, in many settings today, we find many resisting to accept this change and wanting to identify with only their tribe. Considering everyone else outside their tribe as competition. Tribalism breeds disunity, tribal conflicts, increased crimes, and sometimes war. Not accepting change in this fast-evolving world can have many disadvantages. Change is the only constant. The article briefly highlights how tribalism or having the wrong sense of identity is both harmful to self and others.
Politics is said to be an enabler of tribalism. It has caused a lot of pain in conflicts, weakened economies through corruption, and created distorted cultures of greed. In Kenya, politics is linked to tribes. People elect their tribes to power, not leaders. A clear indication of how deeply rooted tribalism is. That people are willing to sacrifice their futures for the satisfaction of tribalism today. It’s obvious if you elect your tribe instead of the right leader. There will be consequences such as poor governance. Translating to misuse of resources, among other effects hence a backward growth. I’m assuming this is the case in many countries with such politics.
There are many lessons from the past in the African continent which we are quick to forget. Of their severity brought about by tribe infused politics. In Kenya, the most recent was in 2017. Where many lost their lives. Millions displaced, losing their homes, businesses, and properties, and many others injured. The post-election violence created a hostile environment among the people. It destabilized the business environment. The country struggled economically and a lot of time lost to the peace talks. The talks focusing more on power-sharing among the politicians than peace mediation for the people. In Rwanda, the height of tribalism was witnessed in 1994. When in just 100 days, about 800,000 people were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community. As well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin. Read more. Neighbors killed each other; husbands killed their wives. The churches turned their backs on their congregation. Many say the deep-rooted hatred between the two tribes was fueled by politics. A case of either tribe wanting to be the ruling power.
In Congo, it is estimated that six million people died said to be the deadliest conflict since world war 2. It was unfortunate for millions to suffer for a cause that seemed like a powerplay between the local government and some few external forces. With valuable natural resources and power being given priority over peace and value for human life. We see the same incidences repeat themselves in many African countries. Where many suffer in conflicts that have their beginnings with pollical agendas and greed for power. Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria to mention a few are still nursing their wounds from the effects of such misfortunes. As Fort Newton said, men build too many walls and not enough bridges. All these wars were other people’s doings.
This year 2020 we saw a rising in awareness of the black people struggle in America. Blacks in America have been suffering for many years living in a system that does not support their long-term prosperity but encourages their failure as it is expressed by many of them. Where it is difficult for people of the black race to access good education resolving to other lifestyles to help them get by. Many turn to petty crimes which are very welcoming and the authorities quick to respond with arrests. The judges passing very generous verdicts even for the petty offenses. The government preferring to spend millions in taxpayers’ money yearly to run and maintain the prisons. To flood them with the minority rather than redirecting the funds to projects of empowering the communities painting for them a picture of a better life than that of the projects and crime for those forced by circumstances.
Then, many others view themselves superior to other races especially black and brown. Seeing them as unwelcome visitors in their home forgetting they were once visitors in the same land. Brutally taking it from its original owners, the native Americans, or the aboriginal peoples. I read a well-written article sometime back on how deeply ingrained this level of self-importance even among people of the same color is. It was a story of a young Nigerian girl in America let’s call her Nneka. Nneka’s experience left her shocked and embarrassed at the level of double standards in society. It was at the height of the black lives matter movement which was fast spreading across America. With thousands raising their voices over the aggressiveness on the black community by authorities. Nneka was at a party when she encountered racist remarks from people of the same color. Forcing her to leave the swimming pool claiming that she is not a sister but African. To them, Africans are too black for their liking. For a community that is fighting for a place in a society that suppresses their freedom and expression. Extending the same to people whom they consider their own or at least their roots is a cause for alarm. There are no two sides to racism. Racism is racism even if the discrimination is towards a person of the same ethnicity, race, or marginalization.
In South Africa, we find Xenophobia. Best described as dislike or prejudice against people from other countries or cultures. It is mostly seen in America against Latin, Mexican, and middle eastern immigrants. Globalization is mostly to blame for this since it allowed for free movement, trade, and hence competition. With competition, there’s a constant fight for resources. Evident in the high rates of unemployment, a rise in poverty, and poor service delivery hinging towards politics and corruption. Xenophobia has adverse effects the main one being a violation of human rights due to the aggravated attacks on the victims. The others are; destruction of property, weakening ties among countries, and the spread of violence.
South Africa has been a hotspot for xenophobic attacks in Africa. Being more civilized with a much larger economy than many African countries. It has many opportunities to offer and attractive to foreign’ migrants from other African countries. Unemployment among South Africans has been the main spark for the attacks. Claiming that the immigrants are the cause of this. Reducing their chances to get jobs and their desperation and willingness to work for lesser wages makes it even more difficult. As much as this is true, it shouldn’t be an excuse for xenophobia. All countries in this time and age have immigrants. The world is moving towards the economies of scale. Leveraging on the affordable and readily available Labor force. I think South Africa should embrace this and see it as an opportunity. To take advantage or emulate what is within their means and scope from pacesetters such as India and China on the same. There have also been claims that as much as there is a flood of immigrants offering unskilled labor. The numbers are as high for skilled and those not of native Africa. I find this an area of concern, especially on the latter. Might the xenophobic attacks be a group mindset, shaped by past events and supported by the culture?
All the above identities and their vices stem from the need to belong and identify to a tribe. The sense of belonging is important, but when corrupted or expressed in a limited point of view, it can be destructive. We should embrace that the world is moving towards becoming a global community. Hence the idea of unity and oneness among all should not be any strange. We are social beings, therefore engineered to live in communities. We have to cooperate and build meaningful associations for peaceful sustainable coexistence. Growing past tribalism, racism, and xenophobia is an individual responsibility. When enough people adopt this, collectively there will be true change. As Mahatma Gandhi said, you must be the change you wish to see in the world. If we change our perceptions, the way we experience the world will change. Our identities are tied to our perceptions concerning society. We can choose to change our perceptions to create a beautiful life experience. With values and value.
Remember the three fundamentals of progress – unity, faith and sacrifice. Be united as humans stepping beyond petty old tribalism – have faith in yourself and in humanity – and sacrifice all you can to design a humane tomorrow.Abhijit Naskar