During periods of general decline, social stagnation and utter decay, there is limited space for creative thinking, for smart innovation and for the potentials of young people to blossom. Culture doesn’t flourish. Science gets on the back burner. The technical level of the people remains underdeveloped. Society enters the throes of death. Everything seems to be dark and it is as if no one is worthy of a glorious future. “I think our country sinks beneath the yoke. It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds” says Shakespeare in his book Macbeth. Liberia represents a concrete expression of Shakespeare’s words. The country is indeed sick. It is battered, shattered and at the brink of collapse. Are there men and women with strong stoicism; is there an alternative social milieu to resolve these anomalies? The search for such breed of national leadership, the building of such alternative social milieu is the task history has bequeathed to us.
Unfortunately, we have a section of the population that instead of inspiring hope among the young people to take seriously such historical task, continues to spread the myth of “Liberian youth mediocrity”. Some say the general decline of the society is mutually exclusive of our destiny. They say we can unleash our prodigious ideas and talents like entrepreneurial marvels amid the social decadence. Thus, we must delink from the social discards and settle for self help initiatives, hard work and sacrifice as some have defied the odds and risen to a celestial height. But these people have failed to state the statistics of young people who have moved the needle on poverty through these little self help initiatives.
How would entrepreneurship spur under the condition we analyzed above? How do you expect the spirit of enterprise to be lifted when hundreds of thousands live from hand to mouth and the youth are without income, capital, skills and market for new products? Ok. Let me go back to my old notes on Economics. We create a consumer market when an enormous chunk of the population is employed and making decent wages. Income equals saving and consumption. The former goes to the financial market, and the latter goes to the consumer market. Both are necessary for entrepreneurs. A surge in saving decreases interest rate and provides cheap credits from the financial market to the entrepreneurs, while a stellar rise in consumption creates demand for luxury products and services offered by the entrepreneurs. Thus, the more consumers and savers a population has, the more entrepreneurs it produces.
Despite the economic collapse, we still have hundreds of thousands of Liberians especially young people struggling to unleash their entrepreneurial potentials and become the tour de force of wealth creation in their country. Don’t you see them in the large informal markets as middlemen of the large commercial enterprises owned by the Lebanese, Indians and Nigerians? This gives a lie to the myth that Liberians are not taking advantage of the economic climate to engage in entrepreneurship. We are an illustrious people but continue to be incapacitated by the general decay of the society. How many of our young people, market women, petite traders, handicraftsmen, etc. have access to capital to expand their businesses to compete with the Lebanese and Indians merchants?
Have you heard sorry stories of how hundreds of Liberian businesses have collapsed because of the unhindered access the foreign merchants have to the retail and service sectors of the economy?
That’s how it is. The Liberian government gives these foreign merchants import permits to bring in building materials, edibles, pharmaceuticals, etc. and make millions in profits which are not reinvested but repatriated to their countries of origin. Where is the state bank that provides access to capital for our Liberian businesses? Where are the institutions and think tanks that provide training for our entrepreneurs? Where are the policies that protect the retail trade, tourism and hospitality sectors only for Liberian entrepreneurs? Where are the agrarian reform policies that reorganize agricultural productivity in the rural communities and allow the Liberian peasantry to leapfrog from subsistence farming to commercial farming, so they would produce economic surplus and use same to change their social environment, increase their cultural levels and confine to the dustbin cultural practices such as FGM that do not conform to their current reality?
We are in the era of globalization. Therefore, we do not oppose the injection of foreign capital in the Liberian economy. But what we are against is the super-injection of foreign capital in our economy with zero control or regulation, which creates dire conditions that kill off the creation of indigenous wealth. Remember there is zero evidence in history where a country has built indigenous wealth with a patently unregulated market at the very outset. The national bourgeoisies of Europe and North America and China are beneficiaries of state interventions such as protectionist policies, the provision of subsidies, capture of slave labour, colonial markets, colonial raw materials, etc.
The concept of globalization got in vogue when the local industries became strong enough to shrug off foreign competition and were looking for oversees market and cheap labour to continue with the spree of endless accumulation of economic surplus. Even now, European, Americans and Chinese corporations are bailout and subsidized by the state when crisis hit in order to avoid economic collapse. The trade war between the US and China is an attempt by the two hegemonic powers to protect the interests of their banks and corporations. On one hand, the US doesn’t want Chinese corporations to dominate its internal and external markets. On the other hand, the Chinese government has prepared the Chinese economy for global competitiveness and wants to continue with the penetration of the US market and thus chase American corporations into the sea. The British government is taking decisive steps to prevent takeovers of British companies by Chinese investments. The British Parliament is reviewing the Enterprise Act to protect British capitalist investment within in the UK. In defense of the move, UK Business Secretary argued that the “UK is open for investment, but not for exploitation.”
Unfortunately, governments in the global South like the spineless one we have in Liberia are lured by the cook up economic methods of the IMF , World Bank, WTO and etc. which are influenced by the US and EU that have reached the highest peak of development. They say open market, free enterprise, private ownership of the means of production and minimum state participation in the economy can crudely be applied to our reality which has not even achieved 5percent of the economic feats of Europe, South-East Asia and the US. When we speak of general decay and social stagnation, we use such a material perspective to discover the root causes of inequality and poverty in Liberia and Africa.
Political consciousness arises because of the aggravating economic crises created by the contradictions we analyzed above. Hence, much of the reasons why a sizeable chunk of the population becomes active militants and political enthusiasts. Young men and women, students and professionals debate over what is going on to find a way out of the nightmare. But here come our accusers cynical and naïve and from a conservative perspective who loath such attempt at solution-finding. Such elements who are intensely against the level of politicization of the society argue that the youths are rude, lazy and lack innovation and creativity unlike their counterparts in other countries. These wiseacres do not see beyond the surface of reality. They must be either crushed by the revolution or sent to reeducation camps to have a radical transformation in thoughts!
Young men and women do not precondition themselves to become politically radical. The rise in political consciousness is the product of the social or objective condition of society. As Marx argues it is the social condition of man that determines his consciousness and not consciousness that determines his social condition. In other words, for man to think or philosophize, he must have the basic means of life. If the condition existed for young people to flourish, I am convinced just a few would choose a field in politics or the social sciences. Thousands would say they want to become doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, pilots, nurses, teachers, bankers, etc. Unfortunately, they cannot reach their full potential because of the conditions of society. Thus, we struggle today so that our children may enter the realm of civilization tomorrow. So they may not be denied the right to work, to daily bread, to a better life! This is the history of all civilized nations. So it was then when the various revolutions in human history erupted and reconstituted society. So it is now in every society that suffers the fate of humiliation! And now the choice remains: struggle or perish. There is no third way!