I recently launched a blog in one of Africa’s indigenous languages, answering the desire of my heart to write in the language I learnt as a baby at the hand of my mother.
It touched on ‘business’ and ‘business-ethics’ and ‘a new kind of business’ and some of my english readers requested that I ‘translate’ it.
Rather than translating it I decided to create an original english version talking about the same ideas.
If you know ‘Afrikaans’ you will find the original post here: ‘grootendeels‘.
Business is not an impersonal thing.
Business is exquisitely personal.
It is human.
It has heart.
Or it should have.
I think the industrial revolution did a lot to make it something mechanical, something desperately lacking soul, and that has been the greatest loss of the recent history of our kind in the west & countries colonized by the west from the late fifteen hundreds up-until the second world war.
It is, in my opinion, only after the second world war that the west’s colonization changed.
It wasn’t lost or abandoned.
It just changed.
The energy behind colonialism was greed.
You can look at it from any and every angle, the energy remains the same.
It was and is driven by a desire to obtain resources & markets.
Obtain in the sense of conquer, control, own.
After the second world war America emerged as the new global power. They won the war & settled the dispute which Europe could not win or settle.
And since 1945 America has been the peace keeper.
The head of NATO & the UN.
Waging war in country after country to bring peace.
Conquering & controlling – this is the legacy of the west through centuries.
From the time of Julius Ceaser through the Roman Catholic Church’s Crusades slaying uncountable Muslims, to Germany’s attempted genocide on Jews, into the present day in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And it is infectious.
This western violence.
This violent destructive drive to overwhelm & own.
It is deeply planted in our being.
Even in the way we’re encouraged to raise our children, beating them into submission and obedience, teaching them to do as we say or be violently destroyed through violent punishment as we give hiding upon hiding so that they will ‘listen’.
It contaminates the conquered & destroys culture upon culture upon culture.
In Africa, where colonialism cut its deepest, drawing blood, sucking the soul from our being this contamination is the most visible.
A continent infected by war upon war upon war.
Wars fed by the animosity & greed of the west, as in cold war days it became the gaming board where communism & capitalism fought for power & control.
The cold war over, the war still waged.
Communism & capitalism are both western philosophical ideas.
Karl Marx was a westerner.
As was Adam Smith.
Their off-spring socialism & democracy share their DNA.
It is an ugly legacy.
One I will have a hand in, unless I shed the skin & find my heart.
I cannot deny it – that I am an African is a direct result of this western hunger.
One line of my forefathers came from France, fleeing from the sword of Catholicism via Belgium & Holland.
Another came from Ireland, fleeing as well.
From the same evil spirit.
From England’s oppressive rule on their island across the little bit of stormy sea.
To the English the Irish were no different from the indigenous people of Africa.
Perhaps they still are.
More than 3 centuries later, although some of my roots could be traced to a different world and continents, I am not European.
I am not a westerner.
I am an African.
I’ve been to England.
I’ve seen Europe through the looking glass of television & film & stark black letters of stained pages.
I do not belong there.
I am not a part of it.
I do carry the poison in my blood.
As many of us do.
Most of us.
Perhaps this is the cure we need to find.
Not ‘independence’ under western democracy applying capitalist economic systems as far removed from Smith’s original ideas as I am from Europe, but independence in a spiritual sense.
Inside of us.
Rediscovering our heart.
Our African being.
It could start in business.
It could start in our little bit of world.
Right where we are.
Industrialization & colonialism is driven by greed.
It has alienated us.
From our selves.
From our creativity.
From our inter connectedness.
It has de-humanized us.
Stripping us of trust & relationship.
Reducing our interaction to worthless paper & code.
Business, any business, is human.
The global sorrow over Steve Jobs’ death is a global cry for this.
He gave computers personality.
He gave it character.
He gave it style.
Business is a person who creates something & wants to share that something with others.
Be it a phone or computer or a place where people can sleep when they are traveling or a place where people can eat when the want to be together or a place where people can find what they need.
Someone created something.
But we do not buy our groceries from someone anymore.
We buy it from a ‘brand’.
In South Africa from a SPAR or a Checkers or a Pick ‘n Pay.
In America from a Costco or a Walmart.
Seth Godin believes there is a global shift. A move away from this impersonal industrialised environment. A shift from ‘job’ to ‘art’. Not ‘art’ in the sense of paintings & sculptures on display at galleries. ‘Art’ in the sense of artisan bread & chocolate & coffee instead of mass-produced mediocrity.
Hopefully I agree with Godin.
I’m not hoping that I agree with him.
I’m agreeing with him in the hope that he might be right.
For that would indicate that something has woken up inside of us.
That our ‘business’ would not be about where I get the cheapest deal or where I can make the biggest profit.
But rather about who I am in relationship with – the person creating the coffee as important as the coffee itself.
Creating not producing.
I want to create.
I want to create in relationship.
I want what I create to be connected to someone else.
I want it to be enjoyed, not consumed.
I want its enjoyment to be an enlarging experience, not an enriching transaction.
And I’m starting with it where I am.
I’m creating radio media which is about more than just attracting the most listeners, through mindless superficial entertainment, so that I can have the biggest platform which I could sell for the biggest profit to the wealthiest advertiser to brainwash a nameless demographic to consume and consume & consume, while I count my profit & use it to amass obscene wealth, buying stuff I don’t need & rarely use.
I’m creating radio media with soul.
Radio media for people with soul.
Radio media which is glocal.
Aware of a global connectedness, but intimately connected to where we are.
Radio media which is relational.
Not only in its programming, but in its business.
We meet people.
We share their creations.
We love what they do & as we live in relationship others love what they do too.
Heartless corporation do not get this.
They’re all about a single bottom line, not a triple bottom-line.
But we forge ahead.
Hoping that somehow something will cure the poison of centuries injected into Africa.
And perhaps others will find this new way.
Stop concluding transactions.
Start sharing creation.
And maybe, somewhere down the line, as the poison is eradicated from our blood, we could rediscover our African thinking.
Not socialism or democracy or republicanism or capitalism.
Focussing on our allegiances & relations with each other.
Realising that I am what I am because of who we all are.
Desomnd Tutu verbalises Ubuntu in this way: ‘A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.’
Imagine if we create & do business & live & experience & build in this way.
Imagine if we discover this & infect Europe & the Americas & the East with it.
Imagine how different our world would be.
It will not only be ‘a new kind of business’, it would be a new kind of being.
For this I pray.
Yes, I pray for it.
For it is a spiritual thing, as much as capitalism & communism & democracy & socialism is a spiritual thing infecting our being & spreading to our actions.
I pray for it – not to the God of religious christianity or institutionalised Judaism & Islam.
I pray for it to the being of whom all three those religions speak in their creation stories.
The being who brought this universe into being.
I ask that I will carry this love in me.
A love for myself in us.
A love for who I am in community.
And as I pray, I live.
I hope to let, what is growing inside of me, flow into my little bit of world as I raise my children & create media & write & converse.