The Devil’s Alternative to Development Part 11

5 December 2007 at 23:11 | 744 views

By Mohamed Boye Jalloh, Bergen, Norway.

In the last issue the focus was on the issue of developing a concept of collectivism that is based on decentralised public or private sector institutions. This was illustrated by the simple OSUSU concept that is as of now non profit accruing and follows the traditional social structure common in African societies.

In this issue the focus will be those vectors that normally are not within mainstream development theories but which are vehicles of change if the force of cohesion they carry is harnessed at local, regional/provincial, national levels.

Political thinkers and philosophers have always been apt to attribute progress in any given political economy to the level of cohesion that obtains within political entities and the influence that has on the overall social thinking as it determines the exercise of sovereignty.

This political thought has more or less always been the parameter used to distinguish between states, nations, nation-states and also make broad classifications such as unitary, federal and confederal political entities.

These classifications have always been measures of internal cohesion and functionality of social groupings that have identified themselves as units with one political destiny. The principle and concept of one destiny is always reflected in the overall social, cultural and economic thinking as is reflected in the actions of both the individual and the collective that makes up such political units. This, of course, does not exclude or preclude variances in the norm as man by nature is an independent thinking animal whose thought processes are influenced by a myriad of factors.

As a matter of fact, it is these variances that form the mainstream focus and are some of the factors that in most cases dictate the mode.

These variances emanate from a myriad of social parameters and this paper will attempt to, from a kaleidoscopic point of view, look at some of these as they apply and pertain to the Sierra Leonean environment.

Faiths in Development
From a recent review of the web site of the Department for International Development (DFID) of the British Government, some very interesting areas for research in Africa have been outlined.

One such area is the impact of Faith, values and beliefs in the overall development of societies in Africa. Of course, given the multiplicity of religous denominations, traditional values and beliefs and also taking into consideration the level of diversity in the composite African socio-cultural make up, it is but in place for new development research to be undertaken in such areas. As an aside this can be viewed as an attempt to make amends for and find solutions to the problems created by the demarcation of Africa into political units that are finding it difficult to achieve nationhood during the Scramble for Africa era.

However, it is in place that development scientists take a new look at the contemporary models and at the same time build new models that are in consonance with the realities in Africa. This may be one very big step to putting paid to the conflicts in Africa most of which are results of the failure of statecraft resulting from a lack of cohesion due to the proliferation of ethnic groups and diversity in values, beliefs etc.

Taking faiths seriously: understanding the relationships between values and beliefs, societies, states and development

The statement above is the thematic statement on this site and it has been divided into topic statements, each of which is a research topic. This paper will attempt to take a broad non tested empirical view that is based purely on the domain of experience from the Sierra Leonean point of view. The focus of this is an attempt to build a new hypothetical model, to be tested, and which if found to be true, will serve as the modus operandi for development not only in Sierra Leone but may be all Africa with variances as they are dictated by the geographic or regional differences.

Taking the cue from the above , let us examine the inherent meanings of some of the parameters above and further see how or where some, if not all, can fit into a model of development that can be practicable and applicable to the Sierra Leonean situation. This enquiry is based on the assumptions, if not premise that Sierra Leonean development experts have tried a lot of models but these models, being foreign and western in origin, do not fit into the dynamics of development of the Sierra Leonean situation. Let us start with Faith.


What is faith and how does faith affect our development?

There are several definitions of the word but all point to one meaning, which is one’s ability to develop through the crucibles or challenges of life.

However there are some that are more appropriate to the issue under discussion. In the Collins English Dictionary, Faith is defined as “A strong belief in something especially without proof. A complete confidence or trust.... Allegiance to a person or cause... It is also defined as a means to obtain something”. Wikipedia on the other hand defines faith, amongst others, as “a pathway to a specific desire....

To have faith in the pathway to a specific desire. (The fastest way to a man’s heart is his stomach.) Implies:-
Faith is the development of pathways through doubt. With certain resistances to life, wishing to obtain more life force cause us to develop means and methods to overcome the resistance.

For example: With the development of farming and grocery stores the ability to get necessary food has became easier, takes less time and allows for more living. Everyone still has to eat, but the means of obtaining food has shifted.

Our forefathers used to pray to God for a good crop, as that was part of their faith. Many farmers still do that for us, but now many of us pray that the pay check hits the bank before the cable bill.

When something is wanted and there stands doubt between your current condition of need and the thing desired, systems of faith are employed. A person will first walk along existing pathways already established by faith. If they fail, they will seek to develop other pathways by faith, not knowing for sure if the path they pursue will provide the object they seek.

The desire for things dominates the application of faith. Many of those actively applying faith to specific pathways seek less tangible things, such as love, peace, harmony, or even eternal life. Faith is an individual path. Just because it worked for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for another. Just because I went to my place of employment and got the paycheck with my name doesn’t mean that my brother can do the same. He has to establish his own means to obtain things.

In either case, faith is based upon the interpretation of the intangible (feelings, emotions, etc) instead of the physically tangible and is primarily associated with religion in modern times.

A deep examination of the above definitions gives a relative picture of what faith is, subject of course to diverse interpretations.

Whatever interpretation is rendered to the definitions above it still remains a fact that the exercise of this human attribute can be one of two. It can be individual or collective. Another clear fact is that every human has a faith and it can be religious, political, cultural, economic, even recreational or otherwise.

In this paper the impact of collective faith in all it’s domains will form the parameters that shall be examined with a view to how this affects development and how it can be used as an engine for development.

For this to be clearly elucidated it is necessary to break down the examination into temporal (timeframes) as well as social units of examination.

This is necessary because it is necessary to distinguish between the traditional and non traditional faith vectors and how they affect the values systems of social units vis-à-vis the role these vectors play, in most cases unnoticed, in the overall mode of development patterns and rates.

Undoubtedly faith has been one central vector in recent geo politics and global relations. The rise in fundamentalism and its influence on communities, economies and even security is now in a dimension and proportion that can be described as alarming and with impacts that determine a lot of human interpersonal and geo-political relations today.

Every religious denomination has in the last 50 years developed its own form of fundamentalism and these “nouvelle generation” movements are having very great impacts on the minds of the growing world populations as the gap between the rich and the poor widens.

On the inverse or rather obverse side, the global development of secularism resulting from great developments in science and technology has affected the values systems such that great shifts in faith from religious to materialistic reverence or trust are taking place globally.

On the economic level, political events like 9/11, the war on Terror, war in Iraq, geo-political relations between the major actors and the non major actors, has had constantly shifting and destabilising effects that have consequently resulted in shifts in faith in certain currencies and economic principles.

In the process an unnoticed and unannounced development of allegiance to social and economic units or resources that one is more conversant with is developing on a global scale. This is the key vector behind the seemingly unchecked rise in the prices of very important global resources like gold and crude oil along the developing bonds of geo-political movements like the G8, seen in some circles as weakening of the value of the UN.

A close examination of these developments presents pictures that can be difficult to interprete and tag but a point that is clear is that the human race is gradually moving back to the days of the Greek and Roman empires when politico economic units that were provinces were administered in a decentralised administration or the days of the feudal system when Europe was administered in similar mode.

The reason for this, of course,is human and psychological. Man is such a conservative animal that he feels safer in units in which he can identify and conveniently operate with the other elements or sets in that unit. In the process, alliances, trusts and common agendas are formed and transformed into codes that are the foundations of governance and economic interactions.

When such units can wield great controls on its membership then that unit becomes a power broker on behalf of and for its membership. This power brokerage varies according to the most material and circumstantial needs of the unit at any given point in time and the responsiveness of the members of the unit to the changing needs through their value and assessment systems.

Thus every country has its chain of such faith units, some centralised especially in non secular states, whilst others can be non centralised but very effective vehicles of political and economic change, growth and development. An example is the Mafia, Clan or such closed fraternities. These are vehicles of serious political and economic impact that cannot be ostracised or under-estimated or under-valued.

In the case of Sierra Leone, given the existence of numerous fraternities, social clubs, district, ethnic and other such organisations, with the right framework and mind these units can be used as vehicles of progressive instruments of governance, economic growth and development.

The traditional role of some of these units must be given very serious examination by the members thereof and they should endeavour to develop or adopt models that can accommodate programs or capital formation, growth and development that shall boost and improve the present status of not only the unit but the individual members as well. This is not a strange principle as it has been done before.

Imam Basharr Sankoh Yillah had to break away from the central Temne Jammat in Freetown because he had a revolutionary view about the financial management of the jammat and what should be done with monies collected.With the cooperation of some members he started his own movement that was soon to gain popularity and attract new members into the unit because he injected the idea of probity and capital formation and growth based on trust or the Osusu principle using the psychology of surnames to collect huge sums of monies that later were loaned out to members and those members established thriving businesses.

The only unfortunate side of the story was that the members did not take time out to understand the non religious objective of his principle. Instead it was given a political colour and he was eventually co opted into the Central Committee of the then All Peoples Congress (APC) party. He was never able to transform this principle beyond the point he had taken it either as he himself became engrossed in his new found glory and became complacent or succumbed to overbearing political pressure due to his personal relations with the then vice President S.I.Koroma .S.I.Koroma had by then fallen out with Siaka Stevens on the issue of succession and so anyone identified as his friend was subject to overt and covert scrutiny.

Another institution that can be used as an example is the Paddle Hunting Society and other such fraternities. These institutions have a membership, though limited, that cuts across all levels of society and can become engines of change and development if and only if the aims and objectives of membership are revised and amended to meet the demands of the times.

Given the examples and illustrations dealt with so far, it is in place that development consultants begin to look at the impact of Faith as a force of symbiosis and communal relations in the whole matrix of development vis-a-vis the role of the various stakeholders.

As a result the exclusive nature of most of these faith units, be then religious, cultural or otherwise and considering the drive and psychological power they normally hold on their members, these organs of social co-existence must be encouraged to be more participatory in the developmental processes.

For these institutions to function well some amount of decentralisation or delegation of power must take place and in the process cells of development agencies will be created to take care of the collective needs of smaller but manageable SOCIAL UNITS.

The Central Government only has to provide the policy and legal frameworks to ensure that these institutions operate within the limits of the law and not be counter productive to the general interest.

In other words, grassroots organisations must be given more roles in nation building and they must be taught the lessons of development in very simple and manageable terms for them to become catalysts of change and capital growth.