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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
X-UIDL: V]@"!B)3"!g]4"!U#=!!

Kwanzaa and the ethics of sharing:
Forging our future in the new era

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 responsibility.

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, and education

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."