African writer Nguigo Wa Thing’O elaborates on the dangers of the world becoming a minority of rich nations and a majority of poor nations

African writer Nguigo Wa Thiong’O delivers punches with a smile. “Human greed has decreed poverty and technology and science have made frontiers of knowledge limitless,” begins the writer saying, globalisation is a situation where, “... the prison population is the most rapidly growing sector in both the poor and rich countries. Prison, joblessness, homelessness, etc. are celebrated as modernity. A handful of western nations control 80 per cent of the natural resources. The rest of the world produces and the West disposes...a very dangerous and imbalanced world...a widening gap between minority of rich nations and a majority of poor nations... wealth of few dependent on the poverty of many. In the 21st Century the gap has become wider...and that is the main character of globalisation...”

Thiong’O says that all the countries that have been under the colonial regime have been left with an underdeveloped middle class with no economic power...they are all engaged only in intermediary type of activities. The period of globalisation which is called a period of freedom is actually, “...only freedom for capital to move across national boundaries without state interference but the same period has seen more erection of racists barriers to movement of labour ...In times of colonization, missionaries used to travel with them. No doubt they did good work filled gaps in administration by setting up hospitals, schools etc... Today NGOs are the corresponding missionaries...a parallel state in a way not beholden to the host State but actually financially beholden to the exporting State. Foreign NGOs are part of the foreign policy of the exporting State.”

Thiong’O goes on, “My main interest is in the area of culture...I am seeing the globe being rapidly made in the image of the middle class of the West. I am going to narrow this to the issue of language. If you look at any United Nations organisation, it is dominated by a few European languages. Languages from Asia and Africa have been completely marginalised. Even within Africa, the European languages have become the connecting ones... We tend to think of cultural property too narrowly in terms of stolen artefacts and rights to intellectual property...the original owner loses not only his property but also the narrative about the artefact...language is surely the most important element in the reproduction of any community. Language is that which enables any negotiations in relation to one another or within nature.”

There is a parallel story of the Arab and the camel in Africa with the only difference that the camel is a lion which eventually eats the man. “In the end the lion is the one who is inside and the man who is outside of the former hut and it is the lion which tells the story...man becomes choked with anger...so they say “Aah! Very emotional.” Lion is cool, calculated and even sometimes has footnotes in his expression... Indigenous languages have become like that...European languages dictate the space of knowledge that used to be occupied by African knowledge...” Relating the issue to everyday life, Thiong’O says, “...the homestead is very important in all communities...not just the house but the total environment...the spaces and the activities that go on in those spaces. A house which does not have a way which links it to other homes would not be a home would be a prison... One of the most serious things that can happen to a homestead is when the way is taken over and controlled by another...colonialism has resulted in serious alienation from the cultural environment...” says Thiong’O, giving many examples to illustrate how without one’s own language, one has been turned into a rudderless and valueless being.

“Studies of development fail to satisfy because of over concentrating on economic and political and ignoring language and culture,” says Thiong’o appealing for, “Move the centre...ensure healthy dialogue between the languages of the earth...help in stimulating debate as part of the ongoing struggle for a global alliance for economic centres...not appropriation of all centres and resources of all centres by one super centre.”

Web Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxyigzfSyBY

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