Friday, May 05, 2017

Not a Zoo

Wifi is not a product of colonialism.The Renaissance was more of a Naissance as trade, travel and communication brought Northern Europe's 'Barbarians' into the fold of the globe's team effort of learning. Much like happened in China after Genghis and Kublai (Mongols) 'conquered' China and founded the Yuan Dynasty. If Wifi (or anything 'modern') is a product of colonialism, then the Industrial Revolution wasn't born in Britain. 

We learn off the back of what has been learnt, bring our own understanding to whatever we hear and see from others. Our collective knowledge far surpasses anything any one of us will ever know or understand. So yes, the Industrial Revolution was born in Britain. It was born to ancestors from all over who discovered and created maths, writing, philosophy, science, politics and all the other bits that created the conditions.

My two homes, South Africa and the United Kingdom, are struggling in different ways with the idea of decolonisation. 

The 'Mud Hut Fallacy' is the idea that before European colonisation, there were only savages living in Mud Huts. This fits nicely into the idea of a 'Civilising Mission'. A naive understanding of decolonisation would have it that that means going back to mud huts. 

Decolonisation is linked to the Anti-Globalisation movement. Neocolonialism is the idea that multi-national corporates, and capitalism, are continuing the domination, but just in a different form. A push back on one global solution being imposed on local people. Ironically, it seems the 'Take Back Control' Brexiteers end up sharing language with those who would consider themselves on the far left. Even if their motivations are different.

Both the colonisers and the colonised want control of their local areas. Time has past and you can't wave a wand and undo it. Our identities have changed. Our histories have changed. You can get an understanding of that. You can do a better job of empowering local communities while improving essential freedoms of movement.

One of my Pet Peeves is when visitors to South Africa, or other parts of the continent, moan about how some of the cities look like anywhere else in the world. Authenticity gets mixed up with lack of technology. Uniqueness or difference as a territorial constraint rather than a natural development. Game parks, yes. Bustling cities, no. My gut reaction is, 'we are not a zoo'.  The technological progress that comes around the world belongs to us all. A big chunk of the Tech Wizards of Silicon Valley are immigrants. London has also changed drastically. Authenticity doesn't mean protecting your vision of what others should be.

The fact that London, New York and Johannesburg are closer siblings than to their respective rural areas creates lots of tensions. Rural areas tend to protect identities. Cities create them in a constant process of creative destruction. Both have value.

At the heart of the problem is a tension between control and respect. Empowerment and power. Discovery, and protecting what is important to us. Identity politics where our identities are up for grabs.

Lions don't wander the streets of Joburg

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