The terrible system called neoliberalism started with guess what? Ideas.

By Dr Wandia Njoya

The terrible system called neoliberalism started with guess what?


A handful of academics in University of Chicago and in Paris, annoyed by the welfare state, knew they couldn’t be blatantly racist and say that social cushions for minorities were a waste of resources. They had seen the civil rights movements and independence movements in the two thirds world, and they knew that people of color would not give up their hard fought for social gains. And with the Soviet Union still strong, they couldn’t dare scare people into the hands of communists.

So what did they do?

They thought, wrote, and developed ideas. They formed think tanks outside the universities which would invite politicians and journalists. Politicians and journalists liked think tanks because think tanks reduced knowledge to sound bytes and their scholars were fairly easy to get on TV.

And then the academics were patient. They waited for an economic crisis to hit the welfare state. The crisis appeared in the 70s,.and in classic shock doctrine style, they told the governments of Reagan and Thatcher: you’re in a crisis? Try this.

Then the purge started. Thatcher crushed the unions. Reagan called blacks socially dysfunctional: their families were headed by welfare queens and their men were criminals. IMF starred to impose structural adjustment programs to break the backbones of African countries by removing support for healthcare, education and agriculture. The West got our curricula changed, and started to teach us that the market means everything and that the role of government is protect the market, not serve us.

The fall of the Soviet Union was the icing on the cake.

So all of you Kenyans who type on my wall foolishness like ” it can’t work,” or “no one will listen,” are bourgeois running scared of the revolution. You sense that your schools have brainwashed you. You think that if we have a new system with a different logic, the few coins that the current system throws at you might dry up. You’re paralysed, waiting for the white people from World Bank to tell you what the next idea to implement in Kenya is.

Well guess what? The white man has also run out of ideas. I’ve seen a few like George Monbiot now calling for a change of the mindset to ideas we Africans have always had for millennia, except that he won’t dare acknowledge that what he’s calling new has been in the two-thirds world all along.

So stop being scared. Use the internet and retrieve copies of the books you burned when you graduated, because at that time, you thought you didn’t need to read any more. Read. Develop your thinking. Before saying an idea won’t work, ask yourself: what is the idea responding to? What does it capture? What knowledge is it based on? Which other BLACK intellectual (African or Diaspora) has spoken about the same thing?

And by the way, the people who did this damage to you in the education system are worse off than you. Every time we mention these ideas, they react because they got their PhDs without ever hearing these ideas.

But if you sit around waiting to trash any idea Kenyans come up with, finding reasons why it can’t work in Kenya, you are part of the problem. You are against change. You are a selfish middle class wanna be, hoping that the system will not change, but open up an extra door for you because you’re such a nice person who follows unjust rules.

So leave the rest of us alone and get out of our way. We have to imagine a new world so that we can work towards it.

And incidentally, while you’re here shutting us up, white supremacy is working overtime to think of a replacement of neoliberalism. The rich think tanks are giving fellowships to our youth to spend time at Chatham House, Aspen and wherever else in Europe, US and South Africa, calling them young leaders and giving them the opportunity to schmooze with the high and mighty of the world. They are doing this so that by the time these youths are in their mid-40s, they will be implementing World Bank programs like they are the next natural thing.

So when you’re here telling us that ideas can’t work, and pulling out history books written by white people to explain why, just know we’re not listening. You’re wasting our time. We’re using our minds to imagine freedom. Our ideas will eventually work.

Amaaaaandla! Awethu!