Rejected by the state

It was only a snippet. I did not hear what went before nor what came after. But the gist of it was that a Nigerian writer has collected short stories from all over the continent which describe the life of ordinary people in post independent Africa. His point is that the first generation of writers took nationalism as their subject and issues surrounding independence. But once the new nations came into being people found they were “rejected by the state”.

It is a devastating judgement. Once the people had backed the nationalist leaders in their struggle for freedom and attained their goal they were simply pushed aside while the leaders pursued their own agenda of acquiring power and wealth. A painful sight, which regrettably we are now used to, is to see countless young men sitting about in our cities. They seem to have no purpose in life and wile away the day chatting and watching life go by. They try to sell juice cards, mirrors, combs, crafts, etc. You see this in every city on the continent. A whole generation is idling its life away.

The gift of a meaningful life, the gift of fruitful work is denied them. The riches of the country which should be used to create employment are diverted by the powerful for their own advantage and the rejected ones have no leverage to do anything about it. So they sit on day after day.

For as long as societies existed there were always some thinkers who tried to work out how they came into being. Philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century pushed the debate front stage when they worked out the implications of a “social contract” between governments and the governed. Basically this meant that individuals surrendered their autonomy to a person or persons who could safeguard the survival of the group by organising a structured society which could defend itself and provide the conditions for each member to secure his or her livelihood.

“The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.” (Wikipedia)

Even other species – animals, birds and insects – have developed their own forms of “social contract” to enable them to survive.

This may sound theoretical but the bottom line is that societies are there for the benefit of the people who inhabit them and it is the rulers’ job to ensure that there are benefits.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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