"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

7.23.2010

Gettleman discusses Somalia on NPR's Fresh Air:
But the problem is when you have these places that remain mired in the state of anarchy for that long, every day that's like that, it gets harder and harder to reimpose authority. In Somalia, people adapt. They get used to the fact that there's no central government. Businessmen start schools. Neighborhoods band together to provide their own generators. I even saw, during my first visits to Mogadishu, a privatized mailbox where you buy a stamp from a businessman, stick it on a letter and stick it in a mailbox and they deliver it for you. And then you have this young generation in Somalia. These kids who haven't been in school for their entire lives, if they're 25 years or younger, basically this is all they know. They don't know what a functioning government does. They don't know the need for it.
I frequently pick on Gettleman for stereotyping the African continent as a land of disease, distress, and despair. While there's certainly some of that in this discussion, on this point about state authority, he's right. Here we get a glimpse of the incredible strategies with which people in collapsed states come up in order to survive. This is key to understanding life in extremely weak states. People don't sit around waiting for help to arrive. They use their talents and skills to make what needs to happen, happen.

That said, I'm not sure that young Somali adults who've grown up without government "don't know the need for it." Most people of about the same age in the DRC are acutely aware of the need for an entity that can protect the territory, enforce public order, and guarantee contracts. Somali survival strategies are remarkable, but in the end, life in a collapsed state is hard. Most of us would prefer the alternative.

2 Comments:

Blogger Derrill Watson said...

Sounds like you've discovered Libertarianism

Friday, July 23, 2010 11:23:00 AM

 
Blogger Monique B said...

this is absolutely fascinating. i'm nerdishly anticipating your dissertation on the topic.

Friday, July 23, 2010 4:35:00 PM

 

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