From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Sat Dec 30 18:08:56 2000
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2000 14:03:51 -0500
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Charles Brown <CharlesB@CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject: Founder of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa and the ethics of sharing:
Forging our future in the
By Maulana Karenga, in The Michigan Citizen, 30 December 2000
At the heart of our celebration of Kwanzaa is the practice of pausing
and turning inward as persons and a people, and thinking deeply about
the wonder and obligation of being African in the world.
In a word, we are to measure ourselves in the mirror of the best of
our history and culture and ask ourselves where we stand in
relationship to these highest of human standards.
Although this dialogue with our culture is emphasized during Kwanzaa,
we know well that we are also obligated to engage in this essential
self-questioning throughout the year, and indeed throughout our
lives. But clearly, this ongoing conversation with our culture takes
on a special meaning this Kwanzaa.
For this transitional period marks the end of one era and the
beginning of another. Among the changes that define this era are the
new technologies, especially those in information systems,
biomedicine, and genetic modification and manipulation in humans,
plants, and animals.
In such a context, we must ask: what does this actually mean for us
and the world? Further, should we consider every scientific pursuit
worthy, and every technological development progress? What do these
activities mean for our concept of human dignity, and what is the
difference between more access to data (which our computers give us)
and real knowledge, critical thinking, and grasping the essential for
a good life? Equally important, what kind of world will we leave for
future generations, and how can we struggle to insure that all real
advances are a shared good? Also, this era is clearly defined by the
increasing privatization of public and natural space; the suppression
of liberation movements by major powers in the world and their client
states and domestic dictators; and the widespread exhaustion of old
liberals, progressives and even many radicals. And we must ask what
this means for human freedom and human flourishing and, again how do
we intervene to ensure both.
Our foremother, Mary McLeod Bethune, taught us to respect the fact
that we are heirs and custodians obligated to bear the burden and
glory of this legacy with strength, dignity, and determination. Our
tradition teaches us that the best good is a shared good. Freedom,
justice, love, sisterhood, brotherhood, friendship, family, community,
culture, and indeed life itself are all shared goods.
We speak here then of the creation and increase of the common
good. Indeed, the Odu Ifa, the sacred text of our Yoruba ancestors,
says that essential good comes from a gathering together in harmony.
But to cultivate and maintain this harmonious gathering together to
create and increase good in the world, an ethics of sharing is
indispensable. And this sharing must be in at least seven areas: (1)
shared status; (2) shared knowledge; (3) shared space; (4) shared
wealth; (5) shared power; (6) shared interests; and (7) shared
The principle of shared status is the foundational principle of the
ethics of sharing and reaffirms the equal dignity and inherent
worthiness of every person and people.
The principle of shared knowledge speaks to the indispensable need for
knowledge for human development and human flourishing and, therefore,
recognizes education as a fundamental human right.
The principle of shared space requires sharing our neighborhoods, the
country and the environment with others in an equitable and ethical
way. It speaks to morally sensitive immigration policies, urban,
neighborhood and housing policies that preserve and expand public
spaces and an environmental policy that respects the integrity and
inherent value of the environment.
The principle of shared wealth requires an equitable distribution of
wealth and just treatment of the worker in the interest of the common
good, and it links the right to a life in dignity with the right to a
decent life, a life in which people have the basic necessities of
food, clothing, shelter, health care, physical and economic security,
The principle of shared power is essentially the right of
self-determination, the meaningful and effective participatio [...]
determine our destiny and daily lives in the context of cooperative
efforts toward the common good. It speaks to the ancient Egyptian
concept of politics as a shared ethical vocation to create a just and
good society and a better world.
The principle of shared interests stresses the need for common ground
in the midst of our diversity, beginning with our mutual commitment to
the dignity and rights of the human person, the well being of family
and community, the integrity and value of the environment, and the
reciprocal solidarity of humanity.
Finally, the principle of shared responsibility speaks to the need for
our active commitment to and responsibility for building the
communities, society, and world we want and deserve to live in. And it
emphasizes the need for us to recognize both the significance and
urgency of our shared active responsibility. For as The Husia teaches,
"every day is a donation to eternity and even one hour is a
contribution to the future."