African Languages and Global Culture in the Twenty-first Century
Ngûgî wa Thiong'o
As we look ahead to the twenty-first century, we also look back on the twentieth century, remembering Du Bois's idea that the twentieth century would be the century of the color line, of race relations; this was prophetically true. One hopes in the twenty-first century to overcome that particular problem and bring our people together. But, in fact, if you look at what is happening and what might happen in the twenty-first century, it is clear that two movements are taking place. One is a movement that is global; a global economy is emerging and a global culture. Whether we like it or not, global culture will continue to emerge through the Internet, faxing, and satellite television.
With these images, there is bound to be a form of global culture, so one movement unites us toward nations and peoples coming together, but there will also be a countermovement. The global phenomenon is a huge phenomenon, and it is likely to be controlled by a number of centers: the Euro-American center with the United States at the center, the European center with Germany at the center, the southeast Asian center with Japan at the center, and so on. But that very phenomenon will probably create a countermovement of localization, a sense of looking for identity and a place in the global community. The question of what, in fact, will link people together becomes important. Is it the wealth of a few connecting a few across the global landscape or is it the poverty of the many linking people across the global landscape?
Traveling around the world, I have observed the terms of poverty; the figure of the beggar has become the connecting link among New York, Nairobi, Johannesburg, London, Paris, and other places, whether in the airport or in the street. The beggar now links the various capitals of the world, with the exception perhaps of a few places. It is important how we organize our economies and cultures to overcome that, making sure there is no beggary or begging in the world. To be linked by a sense of plenty is obviously a