Addressing the Missing Social Links First

Addressing the Missing Social Links First

The family is the basic unit of society, for it is within its confines that the individual is first given birth to, formed in terms of mental capacity, and given the ability to connect with the other individuals that form the whole organisation of the macro entity that is expressed in the form of human society. The well-being and the welfare of any given society largely depends on how the individuals are given their first steps in the process of socialisation: the adoption of the behavioural patterns of the cultures surrounding the individual from the point of birth onwards through infancy, puberty to the point where the individual is deemed an adult.

This means that an individual not properly socialised is bound to be and to act differently from the set norms, in the end being a poor contributor to the maintenance of the customs, traditions and cultures that keep the core of society functioning harmoniously enough to enable the given society to progress without hitch. The family in all essence enables the proper functioning of each individual in the light of the process of progress, which is only possible if individuals act effectively in their roles as taught in the course of the socialisation phase of growing.

Those individuals that are properly socialised end up being positive contributors to the process of societal progress, for they are familiar with the lores that govern the customs, are aware of the true essence of long-held traditions, and thus can be stewards of cultures that exist within their given society and perhaps other societies they may come across in the course of their lifetimes.

Culture consists of all the knowledge and values shared by a society, custom consist of specific practices of long standing (that is, those that carry the machine of societal progress for centuries, even millennia in certain cases), tradition is made of inherited patterns of thought or action and if they are good they are bound to aid the progress of society. The three, that is, culture, custom and tradition, are inculcated into the individual from the point of birth right into adulthood in that process termed as socialisation.

If it goes right, then the society is made of individuals that work together in harmony for the betterment of their society. If it is done in a wrong manner, then the society ends fragmented as self-interest without considering the basic rights of others within a single society ends up being the norm of the day.

African society in pre-colonial times must have been a united unit, for one could still see the last vestiges in the 1980’s. An individual could leave their home with only the clothes on their backs and no provisions but still safely complete the cycle of their journeys without hindrance, for the customs in those days were still aware of the travelling stranger come in from the cold with a need for a place to rest and a meal.

Industrialisation gave birth to the current selfish individual, the figure now common on the global landscape whose main preoccupation is the self-(enrichment, interest, centredness). This narcissistic fascination with self has in a lot of ways led to the corruption rampant not only on the African continent but the globe as well.

The main point of interest in this case is the success of the individual, the individual, and the individual (the me, myself, and I type of mentality) that acts without regard to the needs of the others that surround the individual that in one way or another contribute to the rise and the ultimate success of such an individual. Victims to these unchecked binges for the sake of personal glory are the poor and the vulnerable, the women and the children that take the brunt of the carelessness associated with the endless episodes of self-aggrandisement at the expense of the welfare of those women and children one sees on a regular basis since they began being published in Time Magazine, Newsweek, and other forms of media over the years.

We end up with the type of society where levels of poverty, unemployment and disease rule the days because of the simple fact that we raise individuals in an environment where the more debased tendencies are allowed to take precedence over what is right. Those old cultures that encouraged sharing are shadowed by the lame excuse expressed in the now old, “Every man/woman for himself…” based on the weak premise that the times are hard and therefore mean that there is nothing to share. This bad habit could easily be countered by simply waking up to the fact that the truth is that there is always something to share, the only problem is that those that have access to resources tend to hoard them at the expense of those who have little or no access to them.

The philosophies of Botho/Ubuntu give rise to such noble pursuits as unity (as is found in Letsema where focus was on helping the poor and the vulnerable), non-racialism/ethnicity (as is found in the ethnic and cultural diversities on the continent of Africa that share the same basic spaces), and peace (as was seen with the rise of Moshoeshoe I and the birth of Basotho as a nation). The missing component in the socialisation of the individual in this case lies the individual not being made aware that there are others whose needs and interests may differ from those of one but are equally as important in the maintenance of the fabric of society.
Though one may blame colonialism as the main culprit in the societal breakdown of Africa and other parts of the world, the truth may be found in the analysis of the process of change, whether it be in the mode of production, ideology, and enculturation. The shift from the feudal mode of production into the industrial age affected not only European or other colonising societies at a state or national levels. What the shift did was to incite an air of anxiety in the individual resulting in undesirable scramble for resources as farm-hands left their quarters on the farms for lofts in the thriving cities. The city offered the promise of a better future as the farms dwindled due to the sudden shift in climate patterns and economic ideology.

The farm and the village did not look a desirable place to live for the ordinary young man, and the new lure in the form of the throng of the crowd and the closed quarters of the factory floor became the primary motivation that saw the migration to the city that broke up the family: the basic unit of society. One sees the same scenario in the mountain kingdom that begun in the mid-1800’s with the birth of Kimberly and Johannesburg, the individual has been entranced by the “bright lights effect” of the city and there are mass migrations from the rural villages to the urban towns. The individual sacrifices the vast open spaces of their home village to go and live in a tin can house in the city leaving behind children they should be imparting the first lessons of life to with regard to culture, custom and tradition.

The pattern that has been going on for close to two centuries is only revealing itself in the individual’s intolerance for the interests of other individuals within and without a given society expressed in different forms that include extreme self-interest, social strife, inequality, xenophobia, polarisation along political lines, and uprising. The corruption on the continent is largely due to self-interested greed for riches and instant wealth, and this hunger leads to increasing rates of crime as the youth try and copy the lives of the famous figures flashed daily on their screens.

The attacks on fellow Africans are the seed of increasing unemployment exacerbated by poor access to resources that breeds a volatile spirit of competition between the two sides of society (the local and the foreign). Uprising comes as the result of society getting fed up with the increase in inequality levels that are not addressed by the relevant governing bodies due to differences in opinion with regard to the basic needs of the citizens. It does not matter much how the differing sides may address their grievances to be, the basis and the gist of the strife lies in one side feeling short-changed with regard to the solution of their problems. The main culprit is always the fact that issues are often politicised instead of being amicably addressed factually as it should be.

It is often the defence of the ruling government that the representatives of a given organisation addressing the needs of their members are serving the interests of the opposition. The truth is that basic needs know not political colour, religious group, race, or personal belief: basic needs demand to be addressed as they are in actual fact. A hungry child dressed in rags or running naked due to lack in terms of clothing needs to be fed and clothed, and it does not matter to what political party the parents thereof belong. The sense of empathy should be seen as the guide in the decision-making process instead of political logic that often makes sense mainly in the party follower and not in the ordinary non-voting citizen or minor.

This means that social problems should be tackled at a level above and beyond petty mentalities and interests of polarised politics. If the southern part of the African continent suffered under the weight of the Lifaqane largely driven by tribal wars, it vexes one’s understanding why the same mentality that nearly annihilated a large part of the African continent should be allowed to come back into society in the form of political affiliation and colour. Moshoeshoe I proved that there is commonality in what is different, and he proved it by forming the Basotho nation now being torn into political splinter groups, as if we do not see what Moshoeshoe I saw: that all of us are human and equal.

The main error and fallacy is brought by the fact that we most of the time fail to see things as they are for we feign amnesia in terms of the historical similarities between different social phenomena. This is one of the reasons why the continent beats a dead dog when it comes to addressing the real pressing concerns affecting the large numbers of citizens resident on the continent. An issue that was discussed twenty years ago is treated as a novelty with each passing regime, and this means that there is that unnecessary return to the same methods that failed dismally.

One often looks on with exasperation as slogans that were chanted in pre-independence go on to be sung in the post-independence period, and the main question is: what is their relevance? Same discussions go on to be carried around tables despite their having been discussed a thousand times before with no point of consensus reached with regard to their effectiveness in resolving salient issues.

The argument in this case is that each proposed change needs to first be rigorously discussed before any decision to tackle it as an issue is made. Failure to do this ends up in the failure of countless commissions that greedily guzzle the contents of the fiscus and leave those sectors that really need state help or welfare initiatives disparate.
The talk of the moment is the 400 year long Trans-Atlantic Slave trade that wrested away more than 66 million Africans from their homelands into blistering hot cotton fields and tropical sugarcane fields of the slave owners. It is well and good to remember, but the question remains: what are we doing about all the past maladies? Are we factually addressing them or merely using them to support our personal arguments? One cannot speak out against colonialism but still be seen to adopt the same attitudes that got the continent colonised.

Bringing about changes that put the country and the continent of Africa at stake for the sake of political support might just send us back into the arms of colonialism of a new kind, that is, of the type where national debts end up being paid up with the mineral resources and vast tracts of land for use and benefit of the lenders.

The family was the first link to go when colonialism first came, the single-parent family is the new phenomenon brought about by the splintering of the family for the sake of livelihood found in the mines and the cities. The current systems seem to focus only on the individual and not the family or society as a whole and what needs to be recaptured is the clear understanding of the true values of the family in the process of progress and the current focus on the individual will lead to total disintegration of African society.

We could gain a lot by ensuring that whatever system related to the process of change does not threaten the well-being of the family as the basic unit of society, for those that come in to invest and to lend have it as their basic guiding light in terms of industry. The now prevalent every man for himself type of attitude does not benefit the continent or the country at all.

Tšepiso S Mothibi

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