My trip to Ghana changed my life. And it continues to do so even now. I’m reading a book called “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” by Walter Rodney. Now before we get ahead of ourselves and start jumping to conclusions, I decided to take as neutral of an approach as possible. I have been advised to remain aware of my consciousness while reading the works of passionate leaders throughout history, as they may have an impact on my psyche and perspective without me knowing it. Well, this book has shed some light on some very interesting aspects of history regarding societal development.
I first learned that most societies developed in a similar pattern. They started off with a system called communalism in which families lived off their land and everything was focused on making sure everyone had what they needed. There wasn’t a lot of competition or socioeconomic separation. It seemed peaceful. I’m sure there were some disadvantages but considering today’s society and the results of capitalism (some folks do great and others don’t), it must have been a very community-focused lifestyle and less individualistic. I guess communalism has some commonalities with socialism. I’m not completely familiar with these economic systems and so I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.
There seem to have been some differences in the emergence of civilizations in that Africa had many independent ethnicities and less focus on large-scale government- at least initially. It seems as if Africa, Asia, and Europe all experienced some feudalism in which some folks decided that they were better than everyone else and started “owning” the land, forcing those without land to work, pay taxes, and essentially be dependent on the folks not doing any work. Like I said, I’m not leaning either direction yet, but those who know me know that I’m a passionate advocate of economic equality when it comes to opportunity. What led to the rise of the class system? Well it seems that trade, specialization of labor, and military had a lot to do with it.
If there was a small class which monopolised most of the land, it followed that there was a large class of landless. p. 57
This all goes to show that Africa and the rest of the world wasn’t that different until Africa started getting bullied. 😦 Even under feudalism, I don’t get what makes some people think they can brutalize others just for their own benefit. I remember when Ani brought up this point when we were in Ghana. The other thing I don’t quite get (that happened everywhere) was the emergence of royalty. Who decided who was royal and not? Maybe some people emerged with natural leadership ability and then established a royal lineage? That could make sense. I’ll have to look more into that.
Shout out to Egypt. Egypt is seen as one of the most progressive African entities all the time. Key thing to pay attention to is that Egypt is in Africa! However, we do acknowledge that Egypt came under Arab rule sometime around the 8th century. That does not negate the fact that the Egyptians were handling their business. We also note the advancement of the Ethiopian empire, with strong Christian influence. They too developed a ruling class of landlords that exploited the peasants. To their point, there were a lot more impressive feats accomplished as a result of organized labor that wouldn’t have happened necessarily under the organic desires of communalistic families. It’s just unfortunate that we had to produce these awesome monuments by essentially enslaving a subset of society. And to boot, the nobles didn’t pay taxes most of the time. Sounds familiar!
Nubia had a similar development to that of Ethiopia in that the Christian church quickly ascended into the luxurious lifestyle of a select few, in that the church was the center of all things in society. It’s interesting that many of the peasants that were used to build the church (literally and figuratively) were illiterate and non-Christians! Fancy that! Kush was an economically advanced kingdom, rivaling Egypt even! So, we have several examples of how progressive these societies were even with foreign influence. Unfortunately, economic classes did emerge at the expense of the majority in favor of the few, but we can’t deny the impacts that this had on economic development.
More to come!