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Values, norms, and failed states

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

The proceeding story is part two in a three part series. The narrative states the importance of values, morals, and culture, to the prosperity of countries.

The Virgin Islands adopts the western values model of freedom, democracy, tolerance, and multiethnic harmony. This is the result of its historical heritage and geographic location.

However, there are moral gaps in the culture of these islands that can threaten prosperity. Ironically, these gaps developed with the boom in the offshore finance and tourism industry in the late 1990s.

The third and final article will ‘zero in’ on the Virgin Islands cultural model and its present deficits.

Now, the world’s numerous communities, societies, and countries possess varying and distinctive value systems.
These values and cultures evolved over centuries. Cultures, and value systems, drive the direction of economies, societies, and politics, for better and for worse.

Where the values and norms of differing countries unite in similarity and harmony, relations are usually peaceful.

However, conflict between societies, and countries, are also based on human values and norms. When countries possess value systems that oppose each other, there can be misunderstanding and miscalculation, even leading to war.

Now, corruption and poor governance can be easily identified in the wider behavior of the citizenry of a country.

People of countries who hold values that place material acquisition on the highest pedestal, and populations that admire the ‘unscrupulous schemer,’ and the ‘corrupt official’ over the ‘virtuous volunteer’ or ‘honest boy scout,’ these deficits in the moral culture allows corruption to flourish.

A culture of greed and dishonesty is antithetical to good governance and wholesome community.

The institutions in countries with deficits in the moral culture succumb to the poor values and norms held by the citizenry. The institutions become a reflection of the ‘questionable’ values sets the people of the wider society hold.
Eventually, institutions are damaged, sometimes irrevocably.

The society is traumatized and dysfunctional. Suffering, poverty, and death become the social order. This is a feature of many developing countries.

In corrupt countries, dishonesty and theft by men and women in high office is condoned by a majority in the population. When corruption sinks the ship, it is only then, that the citizens begin to cry out for change.

Often, the outrage is simply a regret that their own hands are not in the proverbial ‘cookie jar’. Corruption is a values subset sitting in the hearts of men and women that make up the society.

Such is the case with the African Model of corrupt nationhood where a corrupt governance model exists. Greed and selfishness has become ingrained in the African psyche. Corruption and maladministration is endemic.

Until a mass of the population in Africa value frugality, honesty, integrity, and sincerity, above quick money schemes, and dishonest methods of doing business, then Africa will continue to be the continent with the lowest quality of life.

Ironically, Africa is blessed with a great wealth of human and natural resources.

Then, violence in the Middle East reflects a culture where an ‘eye for an eye’ is the norm. The Mideast possesses a cultural subset that is violent and intolerant. Power and force are respected. Weakness and vulnerability is despised.

The Mid East is patriarchal. It is a world where ‘real men’ dominate. The tyrant thrives.

Consequently the one way to overthrow the tyrant is through bloody revolution. But, even this does not work. The reason for this failure can be explained in the cultural subsets that exist within the region.

In the Levant, the violent and dictatorial personality is frequently found in the new groups that succeed the old violent order. Authoritarianism is a values subset.

It runs in the blood of the culture of the Mid East. This is a culture the Mideast shares with Africa and parts of Asia.

The cycle of conflict, hatred, and violence is unending. This is because change can only ever happen in the Levant with a change of heart. And that heart change must begin with a heart change in the critical mass of the population of the region. This change in culture will be a very difficult thing to accomplish.

In fact it takes centuries of civilization moving in a specific direction to change the direction of a culture. There is no sign that the culture of the Levant is willing to adopt a more sustainable posture of freedom, liberty, democracy, and tolerance. As a result the region is mired in suffering, poverty, terror, and war.

Now, it is not rocket science to understand why personal values ultimately reflect the national value system. For example, Africans blame underdevelopment on imperialism. The white occupier left Africa in a ‘proverbial mess’.
But, the greater truth lies in the African personality.

The African is patriarchal and authoritarian in nature. He is inclined to be more loyal to tribe than to nation.

This has been reflected in Africa’s governance, where dictators remain in power for decades pillaging and plundering their societies until bloody overthrow.

These tyrants are propped up by support from one ethnic group usually. The tribe ignores the evil of the leader, as long as he brings the spoils of his corrupt governance back to the village.

Absolute power breeds corruption. Corruption is the root of poor governance. Corruption is antithetical to national prosperity. Africans are also deferential and obsequious to power, unlike North Americans.

Africans will tolerate poor governance from a strongman, unlike North Americans and Western Europeans who will use every method to change the terrible trajectory of the bad governance model. Uprising by the mass of a population in Africa is rare. Tribal conflict instead, is where blood is shed.

In Europe, revolution and social change, from the time of feudalism to modern democratic freedom is part of the historical narrative.

The Industrial and French Revolutions of the 1700s were major markers of Europe’s evolving political and social culture.

Europe’s history of war, colonialism and imperialism has impacted the way its citizens think and behave today.

The values of freedom, fair-play, democracy, and tolerance, are deeply ingrained in the DNA of European culture. These values derive from Europe’s often bloody and violent history.

Europeans have learned from bitter history not to take the sanctity of life for granted. European culture has been deeply impacted by genocide, mass murder, and bloody conflict. This is something blacks in the Americas understand through a similar history of pain and suffering.

The slave trade and segregation, and subtle and overt racism, have spawned a culture where freedom and human dignity are cherished.

The love of freedom and the hatred of tyranny and authoritarianism are deeply ingrained in the cultural psyche of the western world.

To be continued

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