Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Sink Or Swim

Sub-saharan African (SSA) politics tells us a contemporary tale of why the virtues of political liberty and freedom are still pretty much an idealist's dream. In spite of a successful campaign in bringing mulitparty and parliamentary politics to Africa (relative to Middle East instances such as Iraq and Afghanistan), many SSA states still run under dictatorships wearing the legitimized garbs of democracy and the rule of law.

Many SSA people still see the state as the ultimate prize for which they can attain resources to ensure the safety of their kin and ethnicity. One can't build a nation based on ideology as long as nobody cares enough beyond basic survival, as lives are still led in poverty. In the end, people only vote based on ethnicity because that is the only thing they are willing to trust in other to have their own interests secured. This has obviously resulted in many of the civil and ethnic clashes that are still pervasive today and hindering progress in the development of national cohesion in SSA.

The Prisoner's Dilemma is a microcosmic representation of many other social situations that can occur on a day to day basis, and as long as each individual perceives the losses to be great when the opportunity to gain from killing or stealing comes by, one can't depend on people to choose to act in goodwill. We are after all wired to act most conservatively when outcomes are presented to us in terms of losses, and these people in SSA have much to lose.

Only when the basic infrastructure of an educated civil society that doesn't have to grapple with the burdens of poverty is established can there be the hope that a stable democracy that upholds rights of liberty and freedom can run on its own.

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