A friend of mine told me the other day that he does not like to socialise with the new African middle class.
“I find it difficult to have a decent, soul-nourishing conversation with them,” he said.
He went on to add: “All they talk about is government tenders, contracts, money and how to make more money.” I could not agree with him more.
For some time now I have been disturbed by the lack of meaningful conversation that appears to afflict social company in the African community.
Thinking people deserve a high level of engagement from high-flyers, especially our politicians, business people, professionals, academics and (wait for it … ) church leaders.
It is increasingly difficult to find someone who commands a great deal of respect simply because of what comes out of their mouths. There are far too few people, especially in the so-called African middle class, who have mastered the art of conversation.
We all know that what makes a person is not what they put into their mouth as they indulge in sumptuous meals in luxury and splendour, instead, it is what comes out of their mouth that gives you a sense of the person’s character and what they are about in life.
But the tendency among Africans is for any social engagement to soon degenerate into status, position, cars, fashion, money and everything else that money can buy.
This is what tempts some of us to believe that African people are, largely, empty of wisdom, knowledge and information. Of course, it is easy to say that African people, especially the elite, are not the only ones who obsess about money and material.
It may be true that this is a universal problem in a money-worshiping world, if you like, as you find the same pattern of low intellectual and social engagement in other communities.
But it’s time that someone did something about the celebration of ignorance and stupidity among Africans who seem to think that money is the only thing that makes the world go round.
The Africans, especially, need to go back to the basics where they can explore the deeper question of who they are and where they are taking this country with their new-found money-worshiping ways.
For a greater part of the last 16 years since the dawn of so-called freedom and democracy, the only thing African middle-class people think and talk about is government tenders, contracts and, of course, money, money and more money.
This has even filtered into branches of political organisations where people now fight over positions simply because that is the quickest route to get-rich-quick schemes.
For better or for worse, this is what is responsible for the moral degeneration, corruption and loss of vision that now plagues the most promising nation on earth.
It is not difficult to gain insight into how African people have discarded any value in wisdom, knowledge and information, for instance.
In fact, it is true that, now, many Africans are more interested in clothes, shoes, cars and other forms of material progress than in ideas, books or how to make this the greatest nation on the continent, for instance.
People may tell you, for instance, that there is now a big increase in the number of book clubs.
But these are part of a new culture of blatant material display where people invite each other to their homes not to discuss ideas or literature, but to show off material accumulation.
Creative fora have been transmogrified into social networks to discuss more ideas to make money.
What you’re likely to find is people who are more concerned about what benefits money has brought them, what they are serving for lunch, where the eating utensils have been bought, the quality of furniture in their homes and the clothing label on their back.
Without being cynical, this is what has convinced some people that there is no genuine interest in ideas or books among those who belong to book clubs or political parties, for example.
The thing is, all of a sudden, African interests have become material and common place.
In a way, it is unexpected that people who were prophetic visionaries with high standards of idealism for a new society can, overnight, degenerate into philistines.
Just like my friend, I have found myself asking: “What is the purpose of African life, now? What do Africans want?”
My friend’s concern has been aroused by the desire and love of money, money and more money, especially from government tenders and contracts. And the money is rarely used to improved material conditions among the poor.
There is a relative absence of intellectual engagement and stimulation.
If you walk into any café, restaurant, coffee shop, bar or home, you are most likely to find groups of people who are talking about how to make the next deal or what they would do if they won the Lotto.
I guess it is a good thing that some people are, increasingly, profoundly bored by the African social and cultural experience where people spend the entire time speaking about material things, especially money.
You can spend 10 years without seeing a colleague, friend or acquaintance. But the moment they see you, all they are interested in is your address, your position, the car you drive and, of course, the size of your bank account.
This obsession with superficial issues has been confused with genuine concern for how a fellow is doing in life to measure success and progress.
But the focus is not on empathy, intimate personal interest and knowledge of what makes you tick as a person.
We must problematise this tendency of Africans’ wishes to become part of globalisation and want the same success as other people, especially whites.
In Africa, money should not have a privileged status over history, wisdom, knowledge and information.
We love and live for humanity.