Thursday, April 16, 2015

Not Unique Snowflakes

The Xenophobia in South Africa at the moment is not a uniquely South African problem. We have come on in leaps and bounds in terms of destroying our fear of others, but we still have an incredibly long way to go. The UK has its anti-immigrant party, as do France and the Netherlands. While these countries were the homes of colonialism, they were also the homes of the enlightenment. We need to remind ourselves that the crazies don't represent the majority. Immigrants don't steal jobs. We need to spread that story. If we all started in a small area of Africa, we are almost all immigrants.

As soon as a group defines itself too narrowly and starts focusing on the protection of that group without worrying about anyone else, it is doomed. Try tell kids not to play with someone of different colour. Try tell kids that their God wills them to kill others who are different. Try tell kids that someone is standing in the way of their progress. Good luck. Kids become teenagers and a teenagers mission in life is to disagree with everything their parents tell them.

That is part of the engine that drives us forward. But it fights against our tribalism. Even as we have slowly shed racism, sexism, and homophobia we still seem to have a desire to form new groups to fight. Whether it is through Nationalism that leads to out groups we can attack or the creation of parties within countries that have to differentiate themselves in order to maintain power. 

Tyler Cowen interviewed Jeffrey Sachs about some of the obstacles to development. One of those is the 'Resource Curse'. Sometimes having a lot of stuff in the ground can actually be an obstacle. It makes you more likely to be invade, for example. Even land can be an obstacle. For the most part, the biggest positive driving force seems to be a desire to get things done. Through looking at history, and looking at how others are doing things - we can learn best practice. Our problems aren't unique snow flakes.

The irony of the Xenophobic attacks is that here we have real life examples of people with nothing making something. Jonny Steinberg tells the story of a man's trip from Somalia to the United States via Xenophobic attacks in Cape Town. Against all odds, this survivor made a life in the harshest of conditions. It is a story that gave me incredible hope in our ability to bounce back. We don't need politicians to sort things out. It would be great if they stopped trying to stop us, but they can't stop us. We need our artists, singers and story tellers to stand up. To tell the story of men like Asad. To inspire. Fighting takes a lot of energy. That energy can be channeled, and we can move forward. 

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