‘Only where there is life is there also a will not a will to live however, but so teach I thee a will for power’– Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s testimony about the human condition is an ode to power underscoring the human will to dominate and control his natural environment. God after all did give Adam dominion over all his creations thereby triggering the human will for power. It may be inappropriate to synthesize Nietzsche’s atheistic thoughts with religious doctrine but there are those rare cases where the two may actually complement one another. Indeed, the historical evolution of mankind may border on the intrinsic desire to be in control exercised by past civilizations and empires from the Romans to the Americans. Major shifts in human history have been characterized by the transfer of power from one hegemony to the next.
The intrinsic will to dominate is expressed in all living entities as perceived by the German philosopher and can be seen even in quotidian social comportment. We all attend job interviews aspiring to be the best candidates, we all wrote school exams hoping to be the best students, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal would always want to win the English Premier League never settling for second place. Surely, Usain Bolt runs with the aim of dominating his rivals and remaining the best sprinter out there with a record that may never be overshadowed or broken. Indeed human society revolves around the drive given by competition as well as the quest to be the best amongst the rest. So Nietzsche’s contention that, mankind is in fact motivated by an intrinsic longing for pre-eminence seems to carry credence. The interesting thing though is to observe how the will for power impacts upon human behaviour. Do we allow ethics and morality to guide our eternal quest for domination? In the political arena, the Machiavellian assertion that the end justifies the means seems to carry weight. For politics as the famed Italian thinker would have us believe makes no room for domestic ethics and the morality of the church. Nietzsche and Machiavelli therefore appear to purvey a realist mindset that underscores success, power and dominance at the expense of ethics and morality.
An amplification of these two views can serve as an appropriate basis for understanding the inner workings of international politics. As previously indicated, the history of mankind is predicated on the endless exchange of power from one hegemony to another. The current custodian of global hegemonic power is the US, forever challenged and threatened by smaller and lesser components within the international political system. Detractors are quick to point out that, Americans are cheats and refuse to play by the rules outlined by international organizations. Realpolitik however, shows that the dominance of the US and the tendency to function with a foreign policy that is self seeking and power oriented is no different from the doctrine practised by previous hegemonies. Imperialistic domination by any means necessary is not an American invention. Alexander the great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte and the like perpetrated equally severe atrocities to entrench the supremacy of the empires they were ruling. Doom therefore, has been visited upon mankind many times before because the leading state did not want to cede its power.
Lately, mention has been made of America ceding its power to an ever growing China. Again America’s critics and detractors have argued that, the world would be the winner for this shift, because the re-arrangement of global power may usher in a new superpower with a foreign policy that will be less self seeking and more benign. History as we have already seen does not seem to corroborate this viewpoint. The philosophical purveyors whose views opened this article were on the money when they cited self interest, power, and aggression as human trademarks for perpetual rule. The anarchical nature of international politics calls for the accumulation of power in order to advance self interest. This paradigm for global power did not start with Americans and surely will not end with them. The realist thought calls for the adoption of similar methods by lesser states in order to gain a foothold in the dynamics of international politics.
G 20 summits now call for a stronger Chinese currency because a weak Yuan cheapens Chinese exports and makes them more competitive on the world market. America’s unhealthy trade deficit with China is predicated on this argument. If unemployment in the US still hovers around 10%, it is in part due to the export of labour from North America to the Far East. As I write this article, I am tuned into an Apple iPod made in China. Now will somebody tell me how an iPod from the most American of conglomerates, APPLE, is made in China? The weakness of the Yuan means that it is cheaper for Apple to assemble its products in China where labour has invariably become cheaper not because of a depreciating currency but rather because of a devalued one. The made in China iPod I possess represents a loss to the American labour market for the worker who would have assembled this very useful musical device in America has lost his job to the counterpart in China. Now, American entrepreneurs like Donald Trump have called the Chinese cheats for manipulating their currency but what the real estate mogul is failing to mention is that Americans have cheated too. For the only way to survive in a competitive global economic environment is to bend the rules for personal gain. The end indeed justifies the means and the subscription to unethical tactics in order to attain success in the international political arena is not only allowed but has proven to be a necessary evil. To think otherwise is subscribing to a level of naïveté that can prove to be costly.
The African tragedy is in part due to the unfortunate belief, that the world owes the continent for past atrocities meted out to its inhabitants. The tendency to blame the west for the continent’s woes has been advocated by intellectuals and politicians alike. This argument however, in my estimation has lost its appeal and needs to be revised if the continent is to move forward. Indeed, the unfair and unjust nature of the colonial process is a well known fact and has been well documented to highlight the damage it caused the continent. The slave trade was indeed diabolical, and the legacy of such an atrocity cannot be downplayed. Neo-colonialism impeding the growth of African states particularly in the francophone world is again unfortunate but it is the duty of African leaders to pull their nations out of the quagmire of underdevelopment. To argue that the west will not allow such a thing to happen may be accurate for an egalitarian world structure is undesirable to the dominant states. The time has however come for African states to re-group, re-organize and re-strategize to beat the West at its own game.
2010 will be remembered for South Africa’s ability to successfully host the FIFA World Cup where Ghana, a continental powerhouse in football nearly made history by becoming the first African country to reach the semis of the global football fiesta. How appropriate it would have been, if Africa had seen its first semi finalist at the World Cup on home soil. What could have been a continental glory however became another tragedy when Ghana’s top striker Asamoah Gyan, missed the all important penalty that would have sent every person of African origin and all watching neutrals into sporting euphoria. Louis Suarez the infamous Uruguayan striker whose handball incident denied Ghana a famous victory has often been cited as a cheat. But again cheating at times is part of the game for the unfortunate reason that, the world is far from perfect. Victories at times are crude and unpleasant but they are victories nonetheless. Gyan’s failure to capitalize on the resulting penalty kick encapsulates the continent’s failure to make better use of opportunities when they matter most. Suarez may have been declared persona non grata on African soil but in his native Uruguay
and Latin America in general his handball was hailed as a heroic act that brought victory to his team. Latin Americans were supporting Uruguay as the last surviving team from their part of the world just as Africans were supporting the Black Stars, as the final custodians of Africa’s hopes. Blaming Suare for Ghana’s inability to progress in the tournament is a resurrection of the general African tendency
to blame others for the continent’s failures.
The time has come for Africa to be introspective and overhaul the continental thesis for development by seeking inspiration from Asian tigers like China and Japan who have adopted useful economic policies that have guaranteed economic growth even though they were at variance with international norms. The notion that the continent’s salvation or redemption from poverty lies in goodwill from developmental partners is unhelpful. Reparations for past damages merely perpetuate a dependency mentality which only serves to further subjugate the continent. The so called African Renaissance must lie in Africa’s ability to be self sufficient and hold its politicians accountable for their actions through the democratic empowerment of its people. It is therefore, imperative to give the tendency to blame the west a rest, if the continent is to develop a proper agenda for growth. Rather Africans must begin to think out of the box and seek a new age mentality that seeks growth without blaming outsiders for the continent’s shortcomings. If we were ill prepared to compete effectively in a competitive global economic environment, then continental heavyweights like Nkrumah made a mistake fighting for our liberation from colonial masters. Africa’s rebirth is long overdue and it must start now with the African taking responsibility for Africa.