Why Does the World Hate Us?
Kukomola Philosophy of a Truely Righteous Life
Why do they hate us? Americans have asked this burning question and its many variations numerous times since 9/11. There are continued terrorist incidents and threats directed at Americans and the West and their allies. The American nation and the Western societies have been wringing their collective hands in serious and honest soul-searching. One of the most common chorus of response among Americans and the West is that they are generous and donate billions of dollars in food and other aid to foreign Third World countries and others in need all over the world. “Why anyone should have reason to hate us?” they ask. People should be grateful. Of course they always turn to the learned experts and the informed in their think tanks, government, and institutions of higher learning for answers. Experts in history of major religions, international relations and conflict, causes of World Wars, causes of inequality in international economic development have all had their say. I don’t know about you. But I have had the troubling intuition that these answers are inadequate. So I have been thinking about the question for a long time. The correct answer may be in an unlikely place; an African village that is as far as you can get from the sophisticated learned experts in New York, Washington, D.C., London, Tokyo, and Paris.
The answer suddenly hit me one night lying down in my candle-lit African childhood village hut when I lived there for six weeks in 2002. Among the Tumbuka tribe there is a concept that both explains and provides answers as to why the Europeans and especially Americans are hated to day; kukomola. Every adult, child, and especially young brides and bridegrooms are taught not to commit kukomola because it is considered a vicious, cruel, and particularly heartless practice. Typically, a woman of the house is cooking a meal in full view of everyone in the household. A tired, hot, thirsty, and hungry stranger suddenly arrives as the meal is being served. Such a man among the Tumbuka is said to be in a state of kuzama which is a severe condition of starvation. The woman never invites the stranger to partake in the meal the family was enjoying. The starving stranger walks away distraught never to forget and forever to narrate his horrible experience of kukomola by “that woman” at “that household”.
A man, woman, or child commits kukomola whenever he or she deliberately denies another human being something that is a need or essential or crucial for human survival; that may be water, food, clothing, or shelter. Kukomola is a special concept because it only vividly depicts situations in which the denial or withholding of something essential or a need is deliberate, open, and unmistakably obvious and cruel on the part of the owner of the goods or a service. Flaunting wealth, material possessions, and feasting amidst individuals who are in abject poverty, deprivation, or starvation is regarded as a particularly callous and senseless form of kukomola. The concept can apply to individuals as well as to affairs between nations. Kukomola is a Tumbuka verb which is derived from a specific physical pain a person endures when they are accidentally scalded with boiling water. The resulting extremely painful peeling of the skin is known as kukomoka. The concept is not used lightly as its use is only reserved for those specific deeply painful experiences that humans may deliberately or unknowingly inflict on each other.
Do Europeans and the US deliberately deny food to starving billions in the world when they have too much food and even have problems of obesity? Do the Europeans and the US enjoy affluence, abundant freedom and democracy but deliberately deny or with hold it from other nations? Does the majority in many nations of the world enjoy prosperity and freedom but deliberately deny it to minorities?
Do the Israelis enjoy a good standard of living, freedom, and democracy when Palestinians among them live in poverty, degradation, and squalid refugee camps in clear view of well-off Israeli citizens? Did the whites in Zimbabwe own large pieces of land when large populations of blacks had no land at all? On an individual level, do you eat a meal in front of a starving perhaps homeless person? Do you as a man enjoy better material conditions and privileges than the woman you might be married to? Do you as a member of the middle class enjoy an affluent life style compared to the poor lower class people? Do you wear luxurious clothes before someone who is poor and cannot afford clothes? Does a sexual partner, wife or husband, deliberately flaunt his or her sexuality before a sexually starved partner? All of these are instances where kukomola may unfortunately be committed perhaps deliberately, unknowingly or out of ignorance.
The solution to kukomola is to always share with someone who has less, has nothing, or is in need. In the food example, if the woman can absolutely not share the food for good reasons, she is then expected to find ingenious ways of having the family children eat the meal without the starving stranger knowing anything. In spite the difficult situation, the woman in the Tumbuka culture would later be praised as very humane and kind for averting the poor stranger from experiencing kukomola.
How rampant is kukomola? It is very common because the 1.6 billion people live in poverty and disease everyday in the Third World. But Americans and the West, who constitute only 15% of the world’s six billion people, not only enjoy a rich and affluent lifestyle, but globalization ensures that this affluence is flaunted to the poor majority of the world through television, video, news, tourism, electronic super highways and other mass communication. This is why Americans, the West, and the affluent may be hated because they commit kukomola or are the symbol of it to the rest of the world every day. The solution to ending terrorism is to eliminate kukomola and genuinely share what they have with the rest of the world. If the Americans and Europeans cannot share for good reasons, do not flaunt the luxuries to the rest of the world to avoid kukomola among the poor in Africa, the Philippines, Afghanistan, India, and Indonesia.
The best strategy for achieving universal peace and tranquility is the spreading of love all over the world. And what better ways of expressing love to others than averting kukomola everyday? Skeptics will laugh. But what choices do we have? We have always perceived the world as separate countries. Such that when we see people on TV elsewhere who are starving, being victimized through genocide and ethnic cleansing, sick, dying, experiencing crushing poverty, human rights abuses, war, the West simply shrug their shoulders and send donations or aid. But these conditions always expose other humans to kukomola.
In some cases compassion fatigue simply makes them say “too bad’ and they go on with their lives of privilege telling their children to finish their meal because children are starving in Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia, or India. Besides waging war, new strategies for truly eliminating terrorism will have to be designed involving a genuine humanitarian approach unprecedented in human history. Just as the late John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corp., President Bush should have created “Operation Eliminate Kukomola”. If it wasn’t for the economic recession that has hit America and the world, President may have been in the best position to initiate “Operation Elimintate Kukomola” in the global world. This should be a massive world-wide exchange program spear-headed by America and the West and other well-off countries like oil rich Middle Eastern Countries, Botswana, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and wealthy Pacific Rim countries. Millions of ordinary adults and young people from different religions, ethnic groups, and economic backgrounds should live in each other’s countries for at least one year in the massive exchange programs.
Lets eliminate the deep racial, ethnic, economic and religious divisions that plague the world today that inflict deep and painful experiences of kukomola. Churches, farmers, peasants, scientists, the rich, the poor, the uneducated, the very educated, Asians, Africans, Europeans, Middle Easterners, everyone from all walks of life should be involved. Only when your neighbor, in reality and in thought, is everyone from any part of the world, are we going to have a genuine chance of eliminating the kind of mind boggling terror and tragedy that September 11, suicide bombings in Israel, bombings in Bali, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other acts of terrorism that have been tragically brought to America and the World.
***A shorter edited version of this the kukomola philosophy of life was published in one newspaper.
Mwizenge S. Tembo, “We can Eliminate the Hatred” Daily News-Record, March 18, 2003.
Kufwasa has been successfully used in teaching in Cultural Anthropology and African Cultures in college courses during the last two years.