Mechanism Against Poverty and Passivity
By Shaheen Sultan Dhanji
Civilisations are like mechanical engines. When everything is working smoothly, communities move forward. Because modern societies are so complex and multilayered, most of us have little idea how the civilisation mechanism operates beyond the parts that most affect us. However, although we may not see the entire mechanism, it’s clear that for a civilisation to function, everyone needs to do his or her part. If the pieces of the apparatus are not working properly, not only does the mechanism not move forward, but it begins to grind.
Almost half of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than one dollar a day, the highest level of poverty in the world. While poverty is at the root of many of the pressing problems Africa faces, so is the poor apparent powerlessness. During the course of the last fifty years, most Africans, in large measure because of their leaders’ attitudes and policies, have come to believe that they cannot act on their own behalf. Self-determination and personal and collective uplift, values embraced by the great majority of Africans in the period just after independence, have been eroded.
Disempowerment — whether through a lack of self-confidence, apathy, fear, or an inability to take charge of one’s own life — is perhaps the most unrecognized problem in Africa. To the dis-empowered, it seems much easier or even more acceptable to leave one’s life in the hands of third parties, whether governments, elected leaders, aid agencies and faith-based organisations. To try to convince such people that one can alleviate ones’ circumstances through one’s own effort is extremely difficult. Whether the poor self-reliance and motivation have been destroyed by decades of embedded state corruption or if there is a pathology of willed helplessness — indeed, a stubborn refusal to help oneself — although I suspect that the loss of a cultural bearings has contributed.
This reliance syndrome is a substantial view to development, as challenging as corruption and poor governance. It has supplemented an extra weight to the work of those who want to enable individuals and communities to better their circumstances. Marginalised communities need to be engaged in their own development, and, by extension, in expanding the democratic space that many African societies need. Just as communities should be mobilised to combat malaria, or HIV/AIDS, hence, they must work together to fight scourges of failed leadership, corruption and moral decay. However, because the margin are more likely to be uneducated, illiterate, and ignored, and feel powerless, this requires both political and economic commitment, as well as patience and persistence to endure substantial changes — the failure comes when results are expected immediately.
In communities that are in the process of breaking down, people become frustrated by their part of the system that is not functioning. They then try to work around that broken area, which only damages the civil mechanism, further angering the people. The irony is that if everybody performed their tasks to the best of their ability, the mechanism would move forward — despite the major hurdles. But if individuals are more inclined to do things that bring the mechanism to a halt or a crawl, eventually everybody becomes a victim. This is labelled as “underdevelopment”.
Proper leadership is the main focus of any civil society, where a leader has common goals in mind for implementing policies that address the needs of the citizens. Unfortunately, most leaders of nations promote false promises when election campaigns are in full force, this setback is mostly endured by marginalised society. Literacy in developing countries should be a high priority which than enables proper and educated election choices when choosing a leader to govern the nation, as this could also actively involve ourselves in shaping policy and the future of the country. As a literate member of civil society, one can have the most profound ideas in the world and still be flushed if one is not in a position to influence the leadership in power and the leaders are not generating sustainable ideas of their own. A society should demand transparency, accountability of a leader — such safeguards are vital to ensure that leaders who misuse money are exposed, that citizens have a means to report corruption, and that implementation of all funded projects and aid is monitored closely, this strategy would work on a multi-layered approach dependent on the active civil participation and leadership of communities, one of the key component and mechanism against poverty and passivity.
(Further reflections in my next piece). Shaheen Sultan Dhanji - www.bloodinkdiary.wordpress.com