The following is a ‘guest blog’ by Jon Twigge, an ardent Spiral Dynamics Integral enthusiast and supporter of the Centre of Human Emergence – UK. Jon wrote the piece for his own blog and has graciously consented to it being published here as well.
It was a few weeks ago that I read on the BBC that the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, had praised the way that China deals with Africa. Apparently, unlike the West, China invests in Africa and trades with it which helps it build up its infrastructure. The West on the other hand, according to the Rwandan president, is more likely to offer aid and to tie it more to conditions.
Kagame – seen below with American president George W Bush – went as far to say that European and American involvement was polluting Africa.
Why would that be?
It immediately struck me, from a Spiral Dynamics point of view, that we are seeing a values clash here. Essentially we have 3 different cultural sets of values that interact in different ways.
From a very simplistic and generalised point of view we could summarise the relevant aspects of the 3 different cultures.
Much of Africa still lacks good infrastructure and is based on agriculture far more than many other places in the world. Tribal and power based organisation and values are still very common.
The next stage in Spiral Dynamics evolution terms is for Africa to build much more solid infrastructure and government. This will allow them to build beyond the tribal and power based society towards a more centralised and organised government and control that will allow individuals the safety to work for their families and wider communities more effectively.
China has already got strong infrastructure in many areas, although this is of course by no means universal. This has allowed them to more recently engage in rapid commercial growth in many sectors. China has a booming economy with rapidly expanding exports and is looking to build strong trading partnerships with other areas of the world.
A strong relationship with parts of Africa is ideal for China to expand their economy into with large investments looking purely towards their own commercial growth and success. This investment fits in very nicely with Africa’s need for inward investment to help them build up their own infrastructure.
There is in fact a natural resonance between China and Africa with China sitting just one level ahead of Africa on the Spiral journey first described by Clare Graves. With a mix of values close enough together to allow profitable interaction the relationship can blossom.
A much more complex set of societies than either of China or Africa, the West has a mix of different values driving its industry, growth and social equality. As the strength of liberal equalitarianism acquires ever greater power in Western society, more and more rules are added dictating what is right or moral including in business and government.
Despite a healthy clash in the way that the values of the West re China are expressed, Communism vs Democracy, the underlying vMEMETIC values being expressed are close enough that the western consumer is happy to buy the results of Chinese industry and commerce.
However, when we try to put the West together with Africa, we see a different kind of relationship arise altogether. Without a healthy African industrial engine producing goods the Western consumer has nothing to buy from Africa. In the wake of a strong trading relationship Africa is seen, to Western eyes, as needing help. After all, Africa’s lack of basic infrastructure and Western values is interpreted as a lack of civilisation.
Western governments and NGOs alike try to help Africa with charitable monies and aid. However, seeing this basic lack of civilisation the aid is often tied with calls to get organised and put things in order. Human rights and Democracy come high on the reform agenda.
The trouble is, generally much of Africa is simply not ready for these things yet. Based on the need to meet the life conditions that they find themselves in, there simply is not yet room in their lives to take on board these idealistic Western values. First they must build infrastructure and secure their industrial future.
Too much uninformed Western interference and demands are indeed counterproductive and polluting. Surface implementations of Western morals and values in cultures that do not yet have social stability can only lead to even more corruption and failure.
A difficult road
From a liberal Western point of view this is indeed a difficult dilemma unless the nature of the Spiral of values is recognised. We have to put aside our ideas of absolute equality and rights to allow Africa to grow its own way. Eventually, given time and support, and a stable infrastructure and then economy Africa will find its own ideas of equality and rights for all.
If we do not learn these lessons then in time, our relations with much of Africa and the Commonwealth will be replaced with African/Chinese relations.
We should listen more closely to Paul Kagame, before it is too late. Otherwise Democracy may one day follow the same fate that the British Empire did and be left behind in terms of world relevance.