...it is not the most religious nations in our world today, but rather the most secular, that have been able to create the most civil, just, safe, equitable, humane, and prosperous societies.

(Phil Zuckerman)

The argument

The argument in this paper is devoted to the belief most strongly presented by Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara that freedom from exploitation depends on the emergence of a new man, who shall advance sovereign and true independent nations, working for the betterment of all its people based on principles of justice and equality for all.

This argument suggests that regardless of which religious belief system one adheres to, it will diminish and weaken individual belief in one’s own capacity to contribute to solving everyday problems and thus improve the well-being of the family, community, and the nation. Religious belief systems reinforce the conviction that our daily lives and destiny are determined by a divine force which alone can lead to better living conditions.

This argument moves us to identify some of the causes which have contributed to maintaining former colonies in a state of dependence on external forces, thus preventing building better living conditions for the people concerned. These countries continue to be at the periphery of development, exploited and abused by economic power centers located in the capitals of industrialized countries.

The downtrodden and humiliated

It’s now more than sixty years since Frantz Fanon wrote his famous book, Wretched of the Earth. While most populations of the planet are still oppressed, it’s no longer condemned to remain in misery. This appreciation is supported by the experiences of Cuba which liberated itself from colonialism and US imperialism in 1959. Many attempts have been made to create unity among nations thus enabling them to oppose colonial and imperialist forces. The most famous was the Bandung Conference in 1955 when non-aligned nations with a united voice supported growing independence movements in African and Asian countries. Eleven years later, in early 1966, Cuba hosted a conference with participants from the three continents of Asia, Africa, and South America. It became known as the Tricontinental Conference.

The effect of the Tricontinental was to establish collaboration between the anti-colonial struggles of Africa and Asia with the anti-imperial movements of Latin America. It was far more radical in its attempt to pose a challenge to imperialism. The conference resulted in the condemnation of colonialism, Neo-colonialism, and imperialism.

The Tricontinental added a new dimension to the struggles for real independence and freedom by encouraging armed resistance to fight imperialism at a time when the USA had entered the war in Vietnam. The aim of the Tricontinental was the promotion of a world with real freedom for all people, without hunger or poverty, without oppression, and without inequalities and injustices.

The participants of the Tricontinental expressed support for wars of liberation fought within the ideological framework of Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara, both of whom believed that true development can only come about through awareness by the people itself of the importance of social responsibility resting on principles of justice and equality for all.

They thus distanced themselves from the centralized efforts by Comintern, which assumed that leadership of the supreme party should be the driving force in the struggles for freedom and human dignity. In their search for how such citizens could be formed, they identified critical causes, which contributed to making people accept their subjugation. Hence, they came to see tradition and religion as serious constraints towards the evolution of a new man.

Religion: a tool of oppression

It is well accepted that human behavior is strongly influenced by emotions, which in turn are moved by beliefs about the origins and purpose of our lives, often as revealed by religion. Since the days of David Livingstone, many efforts have been invested into civilizing African peoples, formally with a view of advancing their well-being, but in reality, this would allow Europeans to exploit the continent to their own advantage. Religion, especially Christianity, came to play an important role in these civilizing efforts. Religion became thus an important instrument in the hands of capitalism and its liberal economy. The victims of the adverse impact of a Neo-liberal economy are made to believe that it is outside their power to change the status quo.

Fanon observed that religion as an irrational force anesthetized the oppressed and inhibited the recovery of the individual self. He declared that” The Church in the colonies is the white people's church, the foreigner's Church. She does not call the native to God's ways but to the ways of the white man, of the master, of the oppressor”. More than 60 years after independence, it is my personal experience made in several African countries, that most people have come under religious influence, whereby it accepts the control and dominance of external forces, be they former colonial powers, local elites, transnational enterprises, or the United Nations. This absence of self-reliance is often apparent in the language used by the speaker with such exclamations as Alhamdulilah God is Great and Inchallah – God willing. The question now is, if we find any scientific studies supporting common-sense observations regarding the impeding impact of religion on man’s evolution towards a better tomorrow.

Religion: an obstacle to development

An anthropological study by Phil Zuckerman on religiosity in Denmark and Sweden concludes that the more religious the members of a society feel, the more likely we are to find several undesirable qualities of that society, such as high crime rate, corruption, poor social justice, high inequality, inadequate care for the sick and elderly.

The Christian religion with its focus on the resurrection of Jesus has given faith and confidence to millions of poor people who live in abject poverty. Good Christians living in misery and marginalization are told by the church that they must be patient and they will be compensated in an after-life.

Not surprisingly the USA takes a leading position among this group of countries, characterized by inequality and injustice. Zuckerman concludes that “the fact remains that it is not the most religious nations in our world today, but rather the most secular, that have been able to create the most civil, just, safe, equitable, humane and prosperous societies. Denmark and Sweden stand out as shining examples” What lessons – if any – can be drawn from this conclusion for the less developed countries, where the common view among the majority of populations is that “no nation can fully stand without the prior help of religion…”.

In the USA presidents and members of Congress and the senate eagerly share their religious affiliation with the electorate. In fact, it is unlikely that somebody would be elected for public office, if he/she was not a regular churchgoer, whereas Scandinavian politicians would hardly receive any votes if they were known to believe in religious dogmatism. There, man is his own destiny and decides his own fate. Between 8 and 13 % of the population in Zuckerman’s study mention that they attend church regularly. Statistics on the Cuban population show that merely 25 % refer to themselves as Christians.

Phil Zuckerman‘s study on the supposed positive impact from the absence of religiosity in Denmark and Sweden, gives support to the importance of the development of the new man, as proposed by Fanon and Che Guevara.

Behavior changes at national level

We assume that the relationship, observed by Phil Zuckerman, between a high level of welfare benefiting citizens in the Scandinavian countries and Cuba and a high percentage of the absence of religious beliefs, is a valid one. Therefore, it becomes pertinent to ask how a nation on the route towards development for all can promote a citizenry, which has confidence in its own powers to take control of the future.

Behavioral change is usually focusing on the individual rather than on groups of people and rarely or not at all on changing behavior on the scale of an entire nation. Individuals will call upon expert help when they want to quit smoking, drinking, or overeating, but rarely -if ever - does a government ask media experts and social scientists for advice on how to address bad and undisciplined behavior among its population. Although it is widely accepted that no country will be able to develop without discipline, only a few countries address this problem on the African continent.

Changing dysfunctional habits

If changing behavior at the individual level is a great challenge to psychologists, behavior therapists, as well as psychiatrists, it is even a greater challenge to political and social scientists, media experts, and politicians. However, analyses emanating from Scandinavia, Cuba, and China are convincing. It is indeed possible to turn entire populations around and make them feel good about their discovery of their potential life-changing awareness.

Once we have recognized that our thoughts, our emotions, and our beliefs are at the heart of our behavior, we must obviously also conclude, that we have the power to change them, by organizing our world and the environment which surrounds us in a manner, which will promote and reinforce desirable behavior. The challenge is to identify the reasons/causes underlying our habits, which often are dysfunctional to the development of a just society based upon principles of equality and dignity.

This is particularly the case if one has been raised in a market-driven environment. Leaving the destiny of mankind to the market has created a world, where a handful of individuals own as much wealth as half of the population of the planet. This is the reality tailored to enslave entire populations who have become accustomed to enduring daily humiliations and contempt. The result is a world where the majority of people live in abject poverty, oppression, and exploitation. The profiteers from the current Neo-liberal economic system justify commercial and military interventions with an excessive apparatus of moralistic vocabulary. Following the US war in Iraq, they have even coined the term ‘humanitarian interventions’, disregarding Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary renditions, and the use of torture. The purpose is to present the USA hegemony as benevolent since it acts as a moral tutor to the rest of the world – no matter what it does.

To realize another world than that which has been presented by Frantz Fanon in his ‘wretched of the earth’, we must implement the ethics of humanity, which aims at providing a foundation for another kind of existence based upon principles of dignity for all and a life with real equality for all. This presupposes that we become conscious and dismayed by our inhuman and undignified existence, partially formed by daily influence from mainstream media.

Acting towards modifying behavior into a more altruistic orientation requires a mental effort invested into a meticulous review of one’s outlook and belief patterns. It’s therefore pertinent to ask how such a process can be initiated since the average, the individual person is unconscious of the root cause of his/her dysfunctional and egocentric behaviors, which merely support consumerism and narrow individual goals. Change of direction must begin with an honest and true presentation of our reality, which contributes to making us into whom we are. But the Neo-liberal masters believe that truth must be concealed since telling the truth to people is fraught with danger to their continued exploitation of man and the planet. Therefore, the current system has no interest in setting man free, especially not when this could result in the creation of a new man, conscious of the forces which shape him. He must remain enslaved and held in check by tradition and religion.

Dominance through humiliation

Efforts by former colonies to liberate themselves from continued dominance by the metropolis are usually met with serious countermeasures and even assassination. The objective has always been to maintain current roles of dominance over less-developed nations and to ensure that entire populations continue to accept being instruments for a ruling, national elite, who govern as if nothing has changed. After the wave of independence in the 1960s, we have witnessed that the control of former colonial powers has been replaced by the imperial power of the USA. Those who can imagine another world than one which focuses on entertaining and satisfying the shortsighted needs of a consumer-hungry populace are diminishing. The ongoing war in Ukraine underlines Europe’s subservient role vis-a-vis the USA. The triangle of the USA, Europe, and Japan, maintains a global dominance of the people of the planet.

A world without humiliations

Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon. were both medical doctors and both died in their thirties. Fanon declared that “decolonization is nothing less than the creation of new men”. Fanon observed that nominally free and independent nations continued on the same track as that which was laid by the colonial powers. He stated that the greatest threat to Africa's future was not colonialism, but the great appetites of post-colonial elites, and their absence of ideology”. Both Fanon and Guevara would agree that nobody can be free to develop a new character, if one continues to view the world and man’s opportunities to take charge of his own development in the context of opportunities provided by transnational corporations operating from the capitals of former colonial powers, with the support of religious dogma.

Liberation from religion and habits formed unknowingly is therefore a sine qua non, for the emergence of the new man, disciplined by his guidance by moral and social principles, derived from an egalitarian worldview. Initially, citizens will have to be guided by equal-minded companions prompting them to act towards the model of the ‘new man. The image of the new man is not imposed upon the individual from above but grows out of individual awareness about the surrounding society and community. A change in man’s behavior must be undertaken on principles of legitimacy and right, derived from the ethics of humanity.

In the words of the Cuban communicator, Julio García Luis these principles aim at a world “without hunger or poverty, without oppression and exploitation, without humiliations or contempt, without injustice or inequalities, where everyone might live in full moral and material dignity in true liberty”. The new man will be guided by a sense of duty, which again is the product of one’s understanding of one’s role in society. Without an understanding of one’s function, one’s duties appear ‘unknowable’. Consequently, one will not be able to act with discipline and social responsibility.

The ideal man of transnational corporations

Disguising the exploitative nature of relationships with countries in the south, most transnational enterprises have developed departments responsible for ‘corporate social responsibility. Operating from the base of a Neo-liberal economy, entire populations are habituated through forced assimilation to the capitalist way of life by prioritizing values, which give priority to individual freedom at the cost of the welfare of the community. Millions of people who fail in profiting from this find comfort and consolation in the promises of a religion, such as Christianity which preaches hope to the poor and oppressed of eternal life in paradise, when death puts an end to all earthly misery.

Assimilation to values reinforced by the Neo-liberal economic system is undertaken by parents, the community, the school, the church, and especially the mass media. The media houses assume that man can be molded into any character, which pleases the market. There is, however, one great handicap associated with the model-man of the capitalist world: it results in growing inequality in a world, where already eight people own as much wealth as 50 percent of the global population of 7.5 billion people. This situation constitutes a permanent risk for conflicts and wars - a fact which is not an entirely unwelcome situation to the arms industries!

Universities teach marketing strategies on the assumption that man wishes to feel empowered, and that this empowerment is best achieved through the possibility of a multitude of consumer options. The feeling of being empowered is reinforced by the degree of one’s access to the purchase of consumer products, regardless of whether they satisfy real or imagined needs. Recent data show that the largest advertiser globally is Procter & Gamble which spent eight billion U.S. dollars on promoting its products worldwide in 2020, when L’Oreal, Unilever, Amazon, and Nestle close the list of top five advertisers. In 2021, advertising spending globally was 763,2 billion US dollars. Advertising aiming at stimulating consumer behavior and building a man’s identity as a consumer is good business.

Makers of fake news

In spite of assumed efforts by UNESCO to encourage investigative journalism by marking a World Press Freedom Day each year on May 3rd, the majority of journalists have sold their souls and professional freedom to big business. A journalist working for a TV/radio station or newspaper will often be subjected to censorship since it is more than likely that his employer forms part of a business corporation. News Corporation, run by the Murdoch family owns more radio stations, newspapers, and TV stations (Sky and Fox) than any other company. Murdoch owns about 200 newspapers worldwide – all of which advocated for US intervention in Iraq. Murdoch’s Board of Directors includes a former Prime Minister of Spain, directors from JPMorgan Chase Bank, and the Rothschild Investment Trust Capital.

The Walt Disney Company, which through the film industry impacts millions of children and young persons, offers a similar picture of its board of directors being composed of representatives of Este Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Boeing Company, Cisco Systems, Apple and Sears Holding Corporations.

The global media houses have proven their willingness to serve the interests of the highest bidder and thus disguise lies and fake news as truth. The most blatant lie is telling consumers that the market and democracies are complimentary, while common sense informs us that our era is characterized by democratic decline, with more inequality, oppression, and injustice suffered by a growing number of people. On top of it all, glaring inequalities with huge wealth concentrated in a few hands after the adoption of free-market democracy have in many places led to ethnic hatred and wars.

The new man in Africa

Cuba has shown us that a better and more just future is possible for everybody. This has become possible by men carrying arms with which they overthrew an abusive and dictatorial government. Events that on the surface resemble the Cuban revolution have recently happened in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso in West Africa, where the populations suffer more than anywhere else from the impact of Neo-colonialism. With popular support, the military has there ousted so-called democratically elected, yet corrupt presidents. But the situation in African countries today is quite different from that which existed in Cuba more than 60 years ago.

African leaders who have dared to dream about a future sovereign nation, free from colonial and imperial dominance have been eliminated, sometimes in the most gruesome way. This happened to Patrice Lumumba in former Belgian Congo, Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, and Modibo Keita in Mali. France has maintained and reinforced the dominance of its former colonies in West and Central Africa through its monetary control of the CFA. The continued presence of former colonial power, in this case, France, nourishes feelings of humiliation and degradation.

It is indisputable that the new man as advocated by Fanon and Che Guevara will not come about merely through traditional election procedures. It is too early to foretell if any African Government, founded by military or by popular vote, may be open to the creation of the new man as advocated by Fanon and Che Guevara.