Africans are in majority people with an Abundance mentality, and Europeans are in majority people with Scarcity mentality.
Everything you know about civilization could be explained by these two distinct mindsets.
In 2009, I was living in Paris for already 7 years, and I met a young French girl, with an allure you see only see on the cover of Vogue or PlayBoy Magazine. She was beautiful, but also nerdy, and just broke up with her Nigerian boyfriend whom she was dating for few years already.
We were in the conversation for some time around a glass of Chardonnay, when suddenly she burst into a monologue you often see with people in early stage of depression. She rambled “You Africans are childish and scary. How could some people be so inconsequential. You Never care about the future. Only living in the present. It’s irresponsible. I broke up with my boyfriend because of that. I can’t build a family with such kind of man”.
Like an old shoe, I asked softly “What do you mean? ”
My question got her a little bit nervous. She lifted her hands into the air, and said with a tense voice “He spends his money without thinking about the future. When he has money, he spends it all. He has no idea about saving, preparing for rainy days.”
“Oh! yeah, I understand”, I said. Then she continued “For me it’s very important to have some kind of security. I need to own the place where I live, and also save money to plan trips, and the future of kids. But for him, life is only now and what will happen tomorrow, belongs to tomorrow, and that is not his concern”.
Listening to Christelle, that’s her name, reminded me an accidental conversation I’ve had one year earlier with a stranger in a bus from the center of Paris to the Airport. The conversation, I had with that stranger will widely open my mind and lead to my formulation of the theory of two kinds of societies: societies with scarcity mentalities, and societies with abundance mentality.
The stranger, I’d later discover, was Alexander Mersereau, an associate professor of Accounting Studies at the Elitist management school HEC in Montreal, Canada. At a turn of our conversation, he mentioned a book where the author explained why in many tropical African countries, there were no herding culture, no systematic practice of storing harvest, no developed agricultures practices, while in Europeans countries regardless of the weather conditions people were forced to domesticate and grow animals for food, to invent agriculture tools and practices to get maximum of harvest, and also manage to store food and harvest for long period of time.
The main reason, the speculation goes, is that in tropical Africa, nature is abundant, food if freely available in nature. Like they say in Cameroon, You trow a grain on the ground, you come back the next day to find food. When you need protein, you just go into the forest for game, where they are in abundance. People never have to worry about what to eat, and more importantly there is no reason why to worry about the future, because nature is abundant, and centuries of life in harmony with that nature built an absolute certainty into people mind that whatever ever happen future will provide for itself.
In contrary, if you are an inhabitant of a country like Finland or Holland, you can NOT rely on nature to provide. You have barely 6 month to work hard and diligently extract and store enough food for your family, for heating during the harsh winters. People have to prepare for the future. People have to save for rainy day. Resources are scarce, and unpredictably.
In the African environment, people developed an Abundance mentality. In the European environment, people developed a scarcity mentality. And these two very different kind of mentality lead to two different kind of societies.
Here are the main characteristics of of the two mentalities:
|#||Main characteristics of an abundance mentality society:||Main characteristics of an scarcity mentality society:|
|1.||– Aggression is limited, as competition for resource is limited||– Competition for resource is fierce. Predation and aggression is necessary for survival|
|2.||– Trust is open ended toward all people, even people outside the immediate community||– Trust is limited to the clan, the family. Outsiders are by experience only predators or enemies|
|3.||– People spend more time in contemplation and search for absolute connection with natural forces. They want to protect nature.||– People spend more time in maximizing resources and developing tools for extracting maximum resource from Nature. Nature is a threat!|
|4.||– People are not concerned about time||– Speed is important for survival. Observing carefully natural cycle, and timing one actions are critical for survival|
|5.||– People compliance to social normal is limited or relaxed.||– compliance to social norm is rigorous. One person misbehavior could jeopardize social survival. Individual freedom is limited|
|6.||– People are nonchalant, and laid back||– People are always on their guard, preparing to fight out of danger.|
|7.||– Priests, and Magician are the most powerful member of society||– Warriors are celebrated and heralded|
|8.||– We are all one humanity, nurtured by the same nature.||– A man is a wolf for a man. Survival belongs to the strongest.|
|9.||– Wars are limited||– Wars are permanent and pervasive|
|10.||– Helpless in front of violence||– Skilled in the application of violence|
|11.||– Obsessed about peace||– Obsessed about security|
|12.||– Can’t understand restlessness and speed||– Can’t understand idleness and contemplation|
A story said this.
An European visited an African country and saw a young man lying under a coconut on the beach, enjoying the sun bath and the fresh salted wind from the sea. He shaked his head, puzzled by what he considered to be the laziness of African people. Now, he is here to show Africans how Europeans got civilized, so he approached the young man and after polite greeting asked the young man “Why don’t you climb this coconut and take some of them to the local market for sales, and make some money?” “That’s a better way of spending your time instead of lying here all day long” he continued.
The young men calmly replied “Ok. And then what?”
“Then you’ll have some money, and after several sales you can buy a truck to transport more to the market, and then you can hire some other people to help you grow the business, and if things turned out well, you’ll make a lot of money. You see!”, the European said.
“Yeah, I see. And then what?”
“And Then, you know, you have enough money to travel and also you can spend your time on the beach enjoying life, you know!”, replied the European.
Upset by that European intrusion, the African asked “isn’t it what I was doing before you’ve arrived here?”
Nowadays, most Africans still are operating from the abundance mentality, regardless of the poverty you can see all around. You’ll visit a person who has nothing, but he or she will offer your a meal. A Congolese in Paris will receive his salary at the end of the month, and would spend it all in less than 3 days, without really thinking about what would happen next.
Nowadays, most Europeans still are operating from the scarcity mentality, regardless of the wealth they have accumulated over the centuries. They still are insecure, and worried they could lose all that wealth and become poor again. They still think predation and looting of other nations is the only way to maintain their wealth.
When the scarcity mentality and the abundance mentality meets, this meeting could result in deep misunderstanding like in the case of Christelle, but both mindsets have so much to learn from each other!