Chary picking

We Westerners may have a thing or two to learn from our primordial ancestors. I’m not saying the Egyptians, the Greeks or the earliest natives of Africa have risen above the vulgar allure of capitalism and all that it entails – the likes of garbage, pollution and climate change – but we perhaps owe it to ourselves as a human race to be circumspect of the direction in which we’re so gleefully heading. In doing so we must at a minimum adopt a platform of open-handedness. It continues to be an undercurrent of my catholic thesis that in the end it is cooperation that spells profit and success all ’round.

As a visitor, I quickly noticed that this value permeates many aspects of daily life in Senegal. Teraanga emphasises generosity of spirit and sharing of material possessions in all encounters – even with strangers. This builds a culture in which there is no “other”. By being so giving to all, regardless of nationality, religion or class, a feeling grows that everyone is safe and welcome.

It is treacherous to engage in wild generalizations – especially from an already windy perch. The universe is ultimately personal. As such I am bound by local detail which includes both the Canadian and the American experience. The human animal is at times sadly terrorized by native visceral impulses which of necessity compete with the more elevated ambition of sharing. I say this with no inconsiderable affection for complacency – that personal contentment which goes so far to isolate us from others. Who among us has not on occasion raised his nose well into the air as testament to the patent differences between us and others? Regrettably superiority – like money – is something you don’t talk about if you’ve got it. Yet whatever our record of self-absorption may be we cannot escape the inevitability of similarity. It is a disservice to ourselves to capture the elements of incongruity which – often by definition not nature – separate us from one another.

Lest my reader thrills to remark that these are the pansy musings of a leftist liberal I invite you to be specific. Otherwise I can only assume that you prefer to lapse into the cradle of infancy – your inborn appetites – as protection from the fearful future. Without doubt there are unnerving shadows all about. If however we’re determined to “make this work” then at the outset we have to start listening to one another.

Quite apart from my humanitarian concern I am curious to an Olympic degree to discover why the voters of the United States of America are almost equally divided. To listen to the “parleurs” on both sides you’d conclude there is some critical difference; but from what I’ve seen the disparity has been clouded and overtaken by self-interest. The issue for some is only, “Who wins?” I cannot think of any human association other than deliberate competitions wherein winning is the goal.

It irks me that the invitation to teamwork is reckoned as obstruction. This comes from both sides perpetually calling one another names.  Such puerile activity does nothing to strengthen one’s guard but rather to expose the flank. Certainly leadership has a bearing but I personally don’t hope to smother blindness with fascism or any other manufactured anodyne. This isn’t rocket science. Surely we know enough to accept that relentless debate isn’t making the cake!