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Who owns the world, part two

| Monday, October 4, 2021

In my previous column I wrote on “Who owns the world?,” I concluded that article by suggesting that we have a duty to put an end to a zero-sum ordering of world affairs. I also stated that this takes on greater significance for those of us who find ourselves on the periphery of this system. Finally, I also suggested that it will require us to engage this system on its own terms, and on its ruins build a new dispensation based on mutual respect and a commitment to collective prosperity as opposed to parochialism and all forms of chauvinism. Engaging the present system on its terms means being willing to mobilize and organize revolutionary violence. For some, this is tantamount to becoming the devil we seek to slay. This week, I would like to further explain why engaging this system on its own terms is the only way out for Africa in particular. Those who superintend the rigged global system in defense of their way of life, do so deliberately at the expense of others’ freedom and especially that of oppressed peoples. The task therefore is to be free and independent i.e., to be “at home” in the world not on terms dictated by others.

Real freedom consists in having control over one’s life. Even a servile consciousness recognizes the importance of life as the location of consciousness. Indeed, sometimes a servile consciousness gives itself into bondage to preserve its life and, by extension, itself as a self-consciousness. In other words, servile consciousness realizes that in fact, consciousness is contingent upon having life. A paradox arises, however: If consciousness is contingent upon having life, then self-consciousness cannot claim to be free if the life where it is located is at the mercy of another consciousness i.e., the master. As such, to be free, self-consciousness ought to reclaim control over its life by putting an end to being dominated. Therefore, a freedom-seeking servile consciousness must seek real freedom by attempting to put an end to its domination by another self-consciousness and reclaim control over its life as this is the only way for it to be “at home” in the world. To do this, it must bring its essence as a self-sufficient being to bear on the dominating self-consciousness i.e., the master. It can bring its self-sufficiency to bear on the master by either engaging in a trial by death to force the master to recognize its self-sufficiency or building up sufficient coercive capacity to threaten the master’s life and thereby force the master to renegotiate their relationship. Without breaking free from this bondage, without taking its life back from being at the mercy of the master, without impressing upon the master its self-sufficiency, a dominated self-consciousness can never be ‘at home’ in the world. This is the predicament facing contemporary Africa. 

The state of Africans in post-colonial Africa is akin to the state of a servile consciousness. Africans have knowledge of their essence as self-sufficient beings but are unable to effectively externalize it in the physical world owing to continued imperial and neocolonial domination. The end of formal colonialism in Africa brought Africans nominal rather than real independence as the departing colonial masters manipulated the transition to self-rule through installing puppet regimes that were not keen to bring about a fundamental transformation of the dependent relations. This manipulation was also aided by the vulnerability of the newly independent African states which lacked legitimacy and were dependent on their former colonial masters for financial largesse. As such, today the former colonial masters continue to wield significant influence over the political, social and economic affairs of most if not all African states, thereby rendering independence nominal rather than real. Nominal independence presents a dialectical contradiction for Africans: they are free yet unable to externalize their freedom i.e., to assert their essence as a self-sufficient people. Africa’s independence revolution remains unfinished.

Surely, Africa cannot resign itself to domination. So, what is the way out of this predicament? In my view, Africans must actively intervene in the world to bring their self-sufficiency to bear on those who seek to continue to dominate and exploit them. As earlier stated, Africans can assert their self-sufficiency either by re-engaging in the trial by death or building up sufficient capacity to force negotiations with the master. More precisely, for Africans to obtain real independence, they must assert their self-sufficiency either by undertaking violence to force imperial and neocolonial forces to acknowledge their essentiality as self-sufficient beings or by building up sufficient coercive capacity to force imperial powers to the negotiating table for a reconfiguration of their relationship which in its present form hinders the ability of Africans to be “at home” in the world. Such capacity can take the form of nuclear power.

Trevor Lwere is a senior from Kampala, Uganda studying Economics and Global Affairs with a minor in PPE. He is currently studying abroad at SOAS University of London. He is a dee-jay in his free time and can be reached at [email protected] or @LwereTrevor on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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