Not only is Africa celebrated or is she unsung for being the cradle of civilisation; her children scattered the world over are positively flexing their muscles to push ahead the frontiers of modern civilisation. One would have thought that after the countries of Africa regained their political independence, they would indeed wake up from the nightmare of slavery and colonisation. If one creates and opens a window of life and observes Africa from a distance, it is not a laughter of joy out of the abundance of economic well-being one would hear, neither would one smile at the mastery with which the people manage their own affairs. The good life of the populace has been hijacked. Africa would be seen struggling to even enjoy the natural resources that are under her belly. Watching the Africans at this stage of life would reveal many who are struggling to even make ends meet. Children of school-going age would be seen engaged in hard labour to help their parents involved in menial jobs so food could be served on the table. Young men and women would have no proper means of employment. The many who by the sweat of their brow are pushing in life do not have the suitable economic conditions to thrive. Meanwhile, self-centeredness and corruption have become the bane of her governance. Africa, in the words of Chinua Achebe, is “no longer at ease.” The pain of Africa is grave. On the rise are conceptions of life and attitudes that are not African. They are antithetical to Africa’s philosophy of life. These have become her woes. The African must rise from slumber lest he or she sells her sense of community. The sacrifice of this Africa’s interconnectedness in life underlies, significantly, her economic struggle.
God Revealed in Africa’s Philosophy of Communion
Upon entrance into a typical African society, one thing is almost always striking. The experience would be like meeting one man in a place of many people; the people are this connected. Our common humanity is almost like a rhythm one must shake his body to. They move like one man, thinking the same and striving towards a common destiny. If you are struggling to appreciate how the one God exists in three persons, you could look upon the Africans and be informed.
God has revealed himself to humanity in an awesome manner. It is through a loving covenantal relationship with humanity that a knowledge of God comes us. We got to know of his love that transcends all understanding. A glimpse of his glorious nature is shown to us. The attributes that mark him as unique become apparent in his walk with people throughout the generations. His omnipotence contrasts sharply with our frailty. The omniscient God and ancient of days was there before us and he lives on whilst we pass away like the grass that flourishes in the morning and withers before the sunsets. God’s omnipresence exposes our limitations with respect to space and time. Yet, that he is a triune person perplexes our minds most extensively; it is a mystery above our apprehension. No wonder this nature of God has suffered a plethora of heretic formulations. Nevertheless, we can look around to draw inspiration towards an iota of comprehension of his awesome being. After all, he has left footprints in the ecosystem. This may be religio-cultural or socio-political contexts.
The oneness of the Trinity finds pointers in Africa’s way of living as one big family. Indeed, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in essence. They work towards one eternal purpose. Africa’s concept of community that is lived out in everyday life reveals this nature of God. It is a way of life that must not be downplayed. Divinity agrees with this viewpoint of life. It provokes a support system that enables the survival of one another. Community is the superpower of Africans. This must not be allowed to fall apart.
The Fall Asunder
The impact of the conceptual West on Africa has been enormous. It is not only the slave trade and colonisation that championed the alteration in Africa’s worldview of life. Verily, these had an enormous impact. The effects are still being felt today. The influx of cultures into cultures has garnered a strong departure if not repulsion of one’s cultural heritage. Globalization is dictating the pace of cultural dynamism. The social media craze and the desire to idolise non-African ideas of life has done Africa in, even to the point of sacrificing our sense of communion. African can do better!
The extended family system has come under attack. Community life has been compromised. Living together as brothers and sisters per the African spirit is in tatters. We have become accustomed to coiling into the shells of self-centredness. It is no more the music of Ubuntu (“humanity towards others”) that is heard, but the dirge of individualism. The implication of this on the socio-economic life of the people is enormous.
Our sense of humanity is a fine support system that preserves life in times of difficulty. Ubuntu has the potency to uplift the fallen; strengthen the weakling, wipe the tears of the sorrowful; and provide the path to the lost. These benefits we have considerably denied one another in the face of the present global economic upheavals.
The reality on the ground is that instead of responding humanly to the discomforting economic situation we find ourselves in, we have become inclined more toward “survival of the fittest.” We don’t need this concept as a people. Such a disposition does not lead to survival but rather destruction. Many are willing to milk others off their economic lot in their bit to survive within a cold economy. Multiplication of prices of goods and services is on the go in an unprecedented manner. This is inhumanity towards one another. It is evil. Sadly, we have burgeoned the economic hardship. By these practices, we have sold our identity and have become something else.
Meanwhile, we also believe in stopping, reflecting, redirecting our paths, and bringing about a time of refreshing. We are of the view that if one makes a mistake and seeks to correct his or her ways, it must be encouraged. This is seen in our adages (orality) and symbolism that define our primal imagination as a people. This is the point at which each one of us must take time to discover our role in the breakdown of our common humanity. There must necessarily be a turnaround. Do not cheat your neighbour for your own survival. What really keeps us alive is the survival of our brothers and sisters; the people we live together with in our society. Amidst this economic difficulty, let us find strength in one another; supporting one another to weather the storm. May the melody of our common humanity not faint away through the chasm that selfishness has wedged between socio-economic struggle and humanity. We must do well not to forfeit our understanding of life, the concept of community that very excellently reveals even divinity. Let us get the Ubuntu and walk in that spirit. Wisdom is not in an avalanche of words. I rest my case.
Written by Dr. Stephen Ofotsu Ofoe