In case you haven’t heard, the north of Mali is entangled in a pretty complex conflict. It mixes politics, religion, radicalism, and god knows what else into a potent, complex, and devastating war. Started in 2012 when armed groups from the north staged a coup d’etat and began a campaign for greater independence and autonomy. The north is largely inhabited by the Tuareg population while the south is largely decedents of the Bambara tribe. They speak different languages, have different cultural practices, and as it turns out have vastly different political and religious views.
In trying to understand some of the root causes of this conflict, or even to make sense of it in a general way I often ask people about there sentiments on the issue. I was talking to a new driver at work about it and he said basically you can sum up all of Mali’s problems in one sentence “They’re only thinking of their own interests.” As he explained himself he said that it was people’s inability to identify or advocate for the interests of the country because they are so caught up in their own interests. When you combine that kind of fervor with very high youth unemployment rates you get a prime breeding ground for radicalism to take hold as people try to define new opportunities for themselves and find a way out of poverty.
I am not an expert on the conflict – but I can’t help but compare that to the the ideaology of caring for your country’s interests. Fundamentally aren’t they sort of two sides of the same coin. We are clinging to what we think is right and to what we think will bring the type of change we want to see. Whether we are doing it for the country we want to be a part of, or fighting for our own interests we still are holding one worldview as more important or valuable than the others.
At the risk of sounding like my rose tinted glasses have become full on neon pink shades – what would happen if we tried just for one second to understand all the perspectives and saw what it was we had in common that we all wanted and worked to meet that goal together. Okay enough rosy optimism, back to real life. But think about it and maybe try to be a little more open minded to the variety of perspectives and stories today.