Emmanuel Macron is the man of the moment. He is making rounds on the social media not just because he is the president of one of the most popular countries in the world, but also because at 39, he is the youngest to be so.
However, his popularity transcends the dynamics of his position and age. His personal life is intriguing. Macron is married to 63-year-old Brigitte (24 years older) whose second child was Macron’s classmate in high school. Even more intriguing is that his sweetheart was his French and drama teacher in school and at 15, he professed his love for her and promised to marry her when he gets older. Macron’s parents frowned at this with a condition – that he reaches 18 first. Of course, the young man was not one to break his promises. He whisked his sweetheart off to marriage in 2007.
If the emergence of this nontraditional man to the highest office in France leaves the world jaw-dropping, it would leave Africans’ hanging lower. We are acutely dogmatic. We revere tradition and uphold it with all sacredness so much such that we fear to even think about change. We approach unfamiliar paths as though we are always sure of disasters along them. In Africa, individualism and liberalism are flipped down to the exposure of collectivism and traditionalism. Indeed this is our culture and we have to respect it. But if culture is made by humans and for humans, it is apt to deliberate alternatives.
Collectivism propagates the suppression of self-expression. If there is just one reason why the world is not filled up with clones; there is a good reason why self-expression such be maximally explored. The society is made of a group of people. But this group of people are made up of individuals – you and I – each with his/her own uniqueness and abilities. The society is a microcosm of the the human body – a perfectly made system in which every part has its functions and yet all contribute to the functionality of the whole. As the human system is, so also is the society, made up of individuals with different talents, careers, occupations, etc etc all relying on one another for continuity and progress. So by our suppression of individual expression, we suppress the functionality of the whole system. Thus, as long as it doesn’t go as far as causing harm, individuals should be allowed self-expression.
Liberalism and individual self-expression are lessons Africa has to learn from France’s 2017 presidential elections. The French penetrated the lenses of their new president’s marital decisions to allow them a clear vision of the quality of his personality. They were tolerant enough to accommodate his “weird” marital decision. By electing him in spite of this and his age, France has not just given Africa lessons on individualism but on priorities as well.
Before I drop the pen, please attempt this take home: on what basis do you evaluate your choices? Is it based on what has been established or on what is good for your unique self? If you are still stuck on the former, you need to take a forward leap to the latter, because the synonym of progress is forward motion.