While the United States reopens a debate that never should have been closed, the world around us is still suffering with its own issues.
To name a few, over 300 Syrian civilians, about a third of whom were women and children, have been killed in Eastern Ghouta within four days, and hundreds more have been injured. American citizens in Puerto Rico are still in the midst of a blackout after a storm wiped out power on the island – over five months ago. Corruption and authoritarianism in Venezuela has led to economic collapse and starvation, so the people have taken to fleeing to Colombia, a neighboring country that is struggling to sustain the influx of refugees. As the result of anti-vaccination campaigns, Europe is seeing a robust resurgence of the measles.
And political unrest in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has hit its most recent climax with the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Ethiopia has seen years of dissatisfaction with the government, culminating in protests across the country. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the population is being ruled by a very small minority group, the Tigrayans. To put it simply, the government is not representative of the people.
Today, Ethiopia is in an official state of emergency. Desalegn will remain in office until a successor can take his place. The question, now, concerns which of the two major ethnic groups the successor will come from. While the two have been united in their fight against the Tigrayans for several years, the successor will need to take care not to ostracize the other group.
Moving on to Wakanda.
For the few of you who have yet to see the latest movie from the Marvel Comic Universe, Black Panther tells the origin story of the Black Panther, a superhero and king from the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
Without spoiling it (I’ll try my best, but no promises), Wakanda is incredibly wealthy and far more advanced scientifically and technologically than any other nation on earth. This is due, in large part, to the abundance of a rare metal called Vibranium. The Wakandans were fortunate to have a meteor of this alien metal crash into their land, but the fact that they were able to build a thriving nation with it speaks more to their ingenuity than anything. Having an abundant resource is one thing. Knowing what to do with it is another.
To protect the Vibranium, the Wakandans adopted an isolationist policy. They hid themselves from the world. They didn’t meddle in the affairs of others, nor did others pay attention to them. They put up a front. The world thought of them as a simple nation with decent farming and textile industries. In other words, Wakanda was seen as mediocre. Nothing to worry about, one way or another.
And all was well, until it wasn’t. The movie’s central obstacle centered around what to do with the Vibranium – to share or not to share. While one nation thrived beyond imagination right in the middle of the African continent, there was war, starvation, and poverty just outside of its borders.
The Wakandan predicament is one we’re familiar with in the real world. If they choose to open up their borders and share their wealth, their pristine society will cease to function so effortlessly. There will be cultural clashes between various groups of people, and there will be debate over how best to utilize and manage their prime resource.
Alternatively, could they really turn a blind eye to their own people who have suffered for centuries across the globe?
However, in the real world, Vibranium would likely never have been Wakanda’s resource to share in the first place.
The African continent is a sad story in that its history and resources were never really theirs. In the days of colonialism, the land was chopped and screwed by foreign powers who did not understand the people or their cultures. Arbitrary borderlines were drawn without regard for established tribal lands, and the people were diminished to laborers and sold overseas to other colonies as slaves.
The land’s resources were divided up amongst the world powers, exploited and marketed as “precious” and “exotic.”
Inevitably, instability overtook the continent and to this day, it is rife with issues that are remnants of its broken history.
I don’t mean to imply that an entire continent is impoverished – that’s not the case. But what if Africa had been left alone to thrive in its own abundance, like other nations and continents had been able to? What if it was in control of its own wealth, and what if it was given the autonomy to govern itself and develop its own nations as best it saw fit? What if its laws and priorities reflected the rights and wishes of the people? What more could Africa have offered the world that colonizers and pillagers never would have thought to appreciate?
The Americas were similarly desecrated by foreign entities, the indigenous people all but eliminated and the resources taken by force.
Wakanda and the notion of the Black Panther, a just, strong, and respected king and protector, is the answer to these questions. However, even in the Marvel Comic Universe, Wakanda had to magically hide itself from the rest of the world, lest they fell to the same fate as their neighboring nations. In the movie, one of the villains asserted that the Wakandans didn’t deserve their Vibranium because they were “savages.” The audacity, hypocrisy, racism, and ignorance of that statement, even within a fictional movie, illustrates the sentiment that some people – to this day – do not see Africa or its people as they truly are or can be.
This planet is the only one we’ve got and its history has already been written. Whatever happens now is the result of what has already passed. The institutions we’ve established in this world are irreversibly with us. We can’t reasonably remove national borders and redraw them where they always should have been because the distinctions are too muddled now, and the damage has already been done. We can’t undo the slave trade and years of black people being oppressed around the world. We can’t bring back the Native Americans and reintegrate their culture into our own. We can’t fix the millions of injustices and atrocities that have been committed over time – not the big ones, nor the smaller ones that are less well-known, less documented, and less accounted for.
We can only move forward.
In the case of Ethiopia, the nation boasts that it was the only African nation to never have been colonized by European powers, though they had to fight for that title. Throughout its history, it has aligned itself with world leaders, fought off invaders, opened its doors to various religions and groups, and engaged in border disputes with its neighbors. The self-governing nation is home to all three Abrahamic religions and multiple ethnic groups. It’s geographic location puts it right in the heart of civilization, not far from the Arabian Peninsula.
There’s a lot going on there.
And now, not unlike many nations around the world, its people are fighting for a more representative government. As we’ve seen in the United States repeatedly throughout our history, there are often so many incompatible thoughts, ideas, priorities, and beliefs between various groups within a single nation that appeasing them all simply cannot be accomplished. So, we look for compromises where we can, because living amicably with others is often more important than getting everything we want.
That is, until living under a law you don’t agree with becomes unbearable or until “the other side” keeps winning, especially when the side the law favors only reflects the views and desires of a minority group.
It will be interesting to see the course that Ethiopia takes with this opportunity it has been given. Their nation is undergoing an important transition, not unlike ones we’ve seen in other nations. From those examples, we know that these power transfers do not always go smoothly or the way many people expect them to. But their fight is an ongoing one.
It’s one Americans are familiar with.
As we head into the primaries for our midterm elections, there are many issues that we’ll be voting on. We’re fortunate to still have a functioning government in place, and we’re fortunate that our people aren’t being killed by the hundreds – daily – by drone warfare. However, the issues we face often deal with ideology, and the steps we take have global impacts and repercussions. Our issues are not cut and dry, and there often is no right or wrong answer to them. There’s no moral or immoral side, and no solution is without fault.
Still, we discuss. We debate. We argue. We try to encourage understanding. We just want people to see our side of things, because we all want to feel heard. We want to be represented.
And we all want to live the lives we want to live with a government and society that supports growth, development, and compassion.
Here’s to living the dream.