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close this bookThe Self and the Other: Sustainability and Self-Empowerment (WB, 1996, 76 p.)
close this folderCulture and development
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View the document''Culture and Development''
View the document''The south slope of liberty''

''The south slope of liberty''

("Versant Sud de la Libart
Excerpts from a video written by Mahmoud Hussein (pseudonym for Bahgat Elnadi and Adel Rifaat), directed by Bernard Favre, and produced by Patrick Sandrin

This video explores the emergence of the modern individual in Egypt, India, and Senegal, countries that differ from one another in size, culture, and history. The inhabitants of these countries are caught between two epochs: the pre-colonial traditional society in which the individual built his or her life around a community framed by religion and tribal or ethnic unity, and the modern "independence generation" in which the individual has been shaped by the transformation of society resulting from colonialism, World Wars I and 11, and the national liberation movements.

In Europe the individual took on personal responsibility as a result of the teachings of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. In countries in which European systems of education were imposed by colonial powers, the individual was pulled away from traditional modes of thought and encouraged to develop individual self-awareness, only to be thwarted in this new self-expression by the repression of the colonial regimes:

The modem rationality being taught at school [under colonialism] shattered traditional religious structures. It opened up an intellectual wound that gapes wide to this day.... Colonial subjects. . . watched the protective shores of their communities receding and were left isolated in their confrontation with the...colonial master

The video examines the effect of World War I on the thinking of the colonial populations under colonialism as they were sent to fight someone else's war and returned home in anger and frustration to take part in national uprisings that were crushed by the colonizers. Following World War II, the colonial powers could no longer ward off the momentum of national liberation movements, and party leaders became heads of state.

The further disintegration of traditional societies is shown as urbanization, industrialization, and secularization unfolded in the 1960s and 1970s-phenomena that were generally not accompanied by increased economic productivity or a transition to democracy, despite the expectations of the independence generation with its new political awareness. Governments repressed the voices of dissidents, and this generation was unable to express its ideas.

The video attributes the rise of religious fundamentalism in countries in which democracy has been blocked to the individual's disillusionment at seeing politics dominated by a corrupt elite. Religious practice has been embraced as a code of social and moral conduct that offers an alternative to the unease of secular life and the inability to promote societal change through the existing political system:

Religious practice, as well as ethnic and tribal solidarity, had retreated temporarily as long as the individual was faced with the belief in the united nation end continued progress. The collapse of this belief brought each individual back to his or her intrinsic solitude. Then religion once more opened up its protective wings . . . [to] reintroduce the divine into politics and graft the individual back onto the community ... nurtured by tried and tested values rooted in religion, race, or tribe.

In Europe individuality meant liberty, progress, and initiative. In the colonized countries it meant alienation, the loss of familiar frames of reference, and bewildering solitude. The birth of individual self-awareness in the South was felt as a series of shocks inflicted by the colonizer - Bahgat Elnadi and Adel Rifaat