Having put the West on a pedestal for a very long time as the bastion of democracy, people around the world must be perplexed by the recent happenings in the US and Western Europe including the election of Donald J Trump as President in America, Brexit in the UK in addition to the strengthening of Far Right movements in France, Italy and Germany.
What we have come to realize is that tribal politics are not isolated only to our African countries after-all. What a relief! The tribes in the West just have different names. For example, in the US these tribes are called progressives, conservatives, alt-right, republicans, democrats, white, black, blue-collar and elite etc. And with such vigor and vitriol, each tribe shouts in the highest voice that it is better than the other and it has all the answers to what ails their country. Sounds familiar?
To the extent that bitterness and hatred for each other has blinded even the most intelligent people to facts and truth, is a tell-tale of the “tribal” slant of American politics. Sitting through last year’s presidential elections, the irony could not be lost on many of us that the elections eerily felt like those we see in many non-democratic countries – they were devoid of any ideological or policy arguments and merely a clash of personalities and the exaltation of the tribal groups.
It seems as if the West and Africa are traveling in opposite directions. As Africans get more informed about their surroundings, the West seems to be getting more unenlightened about theirs. It is amazing to see how the same tools such as social media have been used to achieve these opposite results. On the one hand, social media seems to be enfranchising Africans in becoming stakeholders of their political system and a tool for fighting injustice.
However it seems on the other hand, social media has become a tool of disenfranchisement in the West bombarding the electorate with mistruths or “alternative facts” that will inevitably isolate them from their political system.
The funny part is that as Africans we are well aware of the dangers and consequences of tribal politics. The West is suffering from a form of amnesia, a product of being so far removed in time from their last great conflict which was WWII and having it so good for such a long time. People have forgotten the pain that is inflicted on them when reason is thrown to the side for expediency or the exaltation of a single tribe above all others.
We as Africans are trying to run away from the fire of tribalism as fast as we can, but the West seems dead-set on running into the fire with gusto!