In 1776, Allan Smith wrote a famous book; Wealth of Nations. More than 50 years later Karl Marx finalised with scraps of his writings to jot down the Communist Manifesto. Where Mr. Smith suggested that the world was a market, his German colleague thought it was a huge village where wealth had to be shared. The two theories caught up the world like a world fire bringing unanticipated rivalry between disagreeing neighbours on who is who (you had the Tanzanians for instance joke that their Colleagues in Kenya pursued a man eat man way of life while the Kenyans responded that they were at least better than a man eat nothing lifestyle!).
Basically, like in religion, one had to go to heaven and the other straight to hell. Karl Marx lost terribly or at least Allan Smith thinks he won. Out in the world, there existed another philosophy. Not written anywhere and not engaged in the big battle it was quite had to detect, the virgin economy.
Five years ago
In a small school in a remote part of one of the regions that make up Uganda, a primary five-door was half open. Inside, a science teacher pointing to his feet illustrates how the red slippers he puts on relate to the topic of the day, preventing worm penetration. In utter amazement, the pupils hope their own feet have developed enough resistance to serve the same purpose. Who says worms are sharper than thorns?
Just then, a Turkana old man goes about telling his grandchildren an important heritage; “All cows in the world belong to us” he emphasises.
Back in Uganda, to be specific this time round in Teso, an aging father starts on the process of tapping his Ajono after a successful brewing night. In a few minutes, he will be joined by his neighbours to drink all they can before he can proceed to sell off the balance. In Teso, age is no bar. Whether you are 18 or 40, it is always one mouth for one person.
At every point in time, many things happen across the world. And so was it five years ago.
A Virgin Economy
In 2008, the world went through a classic recession, several businesses came crumbling on their knees, with banks unable to lend any loans uncountable jobs were lost. A couple of governments too followed in suit. One word for many, hullabaloo. In fact, the world is yet to fully recover. Yet our teacher, the old man, and later on the aging father didn’t care about whatever was going on. To be fair to them, they needn’t know. For them, it was business as usual.
But it isn’t just about the depression. The current COVID-19 crisis too has little to do with these contactless places. They live in the virgin economy. Unmarried and uninterested in anything close to the virus, our virgin has little to worry about the trouble associated with the same.
Brave new world
The virgin economy has continued to thrive in the 21st Century, and this can be explained. The first reason is that the capitalistic world has found greener pastures and secondly the virgins have portrayed themselves as uninterested in matters of capitalism. Their resistance is silence based. In fact, with these attributes, I could almost with certainty bet that one thousand years from now they would still exist regardless of who “rules” the world. The only challenge is that Allan Smith is a naughty chap. Keeping a blind eye in the face of opponents is not a trait he is known for. Karl’s ghost will come out strongly to defend me on this.
But even then, the trend of how our virgin territory has continued to exist together with policies parallel to its workings is commendable. In fact, our trio stands as the only true antagonist if we were to have an overhaul of the world order. Consider the Republicans and Democrats in America for instance. They both think taxation is a sexy policy. The small hiccup within the two is who should be taxed?
Understanding Allan however, it’s high time we ring-fenced the virgin economy. With the greener pastures fast spent, he will likely turn on the virgins. Not that we wish no marriage for them, but because the crux of the matter is that Allan is no island. He has lessons to learn from them first. Even from the much-castigated communism, capitalists learnt lessons such as gender equality. But the virgin economy has much more to offer than the Communists. Being one that has expanded organically as opposed to being crafted by some smart philosopher, it has such uniqueness that will come in handy to shape policies even when it is long gone. Complacency will mean rape for our virgins.
In reality, Allan has already proposed and his request has been responded to in the affirmative. The only unsettled question is when a big party will take place. For instance, it’s predicted that soon the Sahel will particularly be hit by an alarming recession the first of its kind in twenty-five years. Remember our small school; it had to be closed by the government until it was registered by the Ministry of Education. Now it pays tax to the revenue authority. We can however console ourselves even in the loss of the tangible side of the virgins if the lessons they had to convey are well received and jealously guarded.
Thus far, this article serves not as a conveyer of what lessons there are but as a pointer to the existence of the virgin economy. It recognises that there was a time where we knew very little about its existence and that the time in which we shall have the chance to fully understand this economy is short.
A quick Google search on the topic will lead you to articles such as; The body rituals of the Nacirema until you discover that the same is but a sarcastic piece about the lifetime of Americans in the 50s. And for all its worth, the little we studied on the same in high school is but a simple dose that we only recall during a light moment. So often times I am tempted to remind my S.3 sister about the Khoi-San of South Africa who we are told were short yellow people and peaceful unless provoked.
Understandably, these instruments are hardly inseparable from colonialism later on neo-colonialism. Yet even then the two ought to quickly join in the concerted effort for what we talk of is bigger than just master-servant duels. It isn’t a cause for only Africa but mankind. While our continent may enjoy a huge chunk of the world’s intact indigenous communities this is not synonymous with having them all. The Nenets of Siberia as a case in point up to today depend on the reindeer for food, shelter, and clothing. They too live in a virgin economy and face threats not different from other indigenous people across the globe.
It won’t be the first time we are tutored by veterans of the virgin economy. Wole Soyinka has from his indigenous Orisa religion formulated proposals for the world’s most celebrated religious sects. And while it might not be conventionally recognised, the Local Council system is one other policy that we could correctly classify as being a product of virgin politics.
In my subsequent articles, we delve into the lessons. For now, we shall say welcome to the virgin economy.