African Liberation Day Reflections
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May 31, 2024

African Liberation Day Reflections

Editor: We celebrated African Liberation Day or Africa Day on 25th May 2024. In commemoration of that occasion, I spent time reflecting on the meaning of the profound word “Liberation.” This word has special significance in the context of our history. According to Marcus Garvey, we can think of progress in a society in terms of liberation from some form of oppression.

Former President of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan in his book ‘The West on Trial’ said that national liberation has three components – Political Independence, Economic Emancipation and Social Justice. We would therefore be making progress in society if we are improving our position under these headings.

Marcus Garvey also taught us that in order for us to achieve social progress or national liberation we must have a vision of it and take action in a spirit of self-reliance to bring it into being These were Mr. Garvey’s words – “chance has never satisfied the hope of a suffering people… Action, self -reliance, the vision of self and future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realised the light of their own freedom.” Martin Luther King Jr. supported this point of view as reflected in the following quotation – “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

We should pay special attention to the word “self-reliance.” According to former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley in his book ‘The Politics of Change’, our societies do not have a spirit of self-reliance. Instead, we are characterised by a psychology of dependence or psychological slavery which is the opposite of self-reliance. This is a legacy of slavery and colonialism.

In explaining this matter, Mr. Manley pointed out that one of the symptoms of a psychology of dependence is the wholesale importation of metropolitan institutions. This is reflected for example in our parliament and schools. I will elaborate on this point on another occasion. We have even copied a jacket-and-tie style of dress that is suitable for temperate countries despite the fact that we live in a tropical region. We must re-shape and re-fashion many of our intuitions in our own image and likeness or tailor-make them to suit our circumstances as a matter of urgency. Apparently, we developed this psychology of dependence as a result of being deprived of responsibility and power for an extended period of time during the age of slavery and colonialism, to the point where we became incapable of responding to opportunity because of no habit of self-reliance. We must therefore cultivate a spirit of self-reliance.

In fact, Mr. Manley believed that the first task for a post-colonial society is the development of a strategy to replace a psychology of dependence with individual and collective self-reliance and suggested that as a part of the process our leaders should mix cement, push wheel barrows, operate shovels, ride street cleaning trucks and perform other actions to break the stigma associated with some types of work or jobs.

The self-reliant person would typically ask himself: “What do I need and how can I provide it for myself?” and would only add as an afterthought, if necessary, the following enquiry – “What can the government do to bridge the gap between what I can do and the totality of my needs?” In other words, the philosophy of a self-reliant person is that the government is a partner and not a provider.

We can cultivate a spirit of self-reliance through a politics of participation by which we mobilise people and institutions behind national programmes aimed at achieving priority social objectives that command national consensus such as improving the performance of our students in Mathematics. The instinct for self-help and community action set the stage for self-reliance. In this proposition, the educator must address his mind to the question of our needs. This entails a traumatic process of release from the psychology of dependence. This whole matter allows us to develop national spirit and a sense of achievement as well as a heroic image of ourselves. I believe that these are important outcomes.

Luke Browne