Tuesday, January 17, 2006

GLOBAL HOSPITALITY

The reason I have chosen to address all the issues on a perspective of Global Hospitality the same way Martin Luther King and Gandhi used non-violence to address their issues is that my initial objective was to design a plan where I could contribute seriously in changing Africa. I wanted to devote my life to the cause of a continent I cherish, I called the project IMAGIN AFRICA 2025 and the focus was resolving conflicts and maintain peace. I saw conflict resolution as the best way to lift the continent using technology, science and media as much as possible. Then it became obvious that I had to go beyond Africa as the world including America is struggling with one major question: How do we live together? Tutsi and Hutu haven’t figure out an answer, Black and Whites in America don’t have an answer, Jewish and Muslims in the middle east don’t have an answer, Africans and French don’t have an answer. Then I started wondering what’s wrong with people that they can’t live together? My mentor Pr. Valentin Mudimbe an eminent professor at Duke pointed to me Jacques Derrida’s philosophy on hospitality .

Global Hospitality became clearly the frame within which I would produce the wording, the discourse and also the frame I would use “to dramatize the issue” to quote John Lewis. The is no doubt that in the actual global context there is a serious regression in the quality of human relationships, at an individual level as well as at an organizations level. That gap is a threat to peace and to humanity. That’s the reason why it’s time to address the question of hospitality at a global level.
I am conscious that hospitality in a leadership context could be assimilated with Affirmative Action but this is relies more on goodwill even if we consider it a moral duty in relation to the “other”.
Is it still possible to imagine a world where we can only live with our piers, our clan our family, people who look like us, live like us in other words, ourselves? Is sustainable to only use “others” when we need them and go back to our secluded world? Enjoying the benefits of the efforts, the traditions, the experiences, the work of the “others” by despising them? What kind of world is it a world where being a foreigner is becoming the most humiliating experience when we know we are all foreigners somewhere? How acceptable the notions of tourism are becoming if we are developing that kind of hostility against the “other”? How acceptable is business when people are seeing the products of their land being sold at the lowest price, suffering from hunger and poverty for the benefits of others. How acceptable is the labor produced a worker at such a low price that he can’t even survive with his family?

When a corporation goes to a country to do business, it’s a duty for that corporation to share life with the people who have welcomed them in their country. They should be sharing the neighborhood, the food, the culture, the problems, the joy, the revenues and the efforts. That’s what Global Hospitality is about.

If we don’t accept all that we have to join the idea that we have a duty towards the “other” that is not me. That duty is about “hospitality”. That other doesn’t have to be my neighbor, that other is any human being I connect with directly or indirectly. Just by sharing the air we breath, there is a duty of in hospitality to make sure that that air is breathable by the “other” that is not “me”.
This philosophy of Global Hospitality will make it possible to call upon all of us who are willing to give a helping hand to the “other” that is not us. And also to challenge those who need that helping end to live up to that gesture that redefines what we are and the type of interactions we want among all of us.
I had to reframe my initial project as we now live in a Global world because there is a risk that a discourse focusing on Africa only could be incomplete and leaving out all human beings whose life is devastated daily by the “narcissism of identity”. The divide is getting bigger

Global Hospitality is about giving a helping hand to the “other” - this could actually be a powerful visual symbol – the Tutsi giving a helping hand to the Hutu in Rwanda, Whites giving a helping hand to Blacks in America, White French giving a helping hand to Africans and Arab French in France etc. This a philosophy that can in my belief help to address issues of conflicts in general either they are interpersonal or intrapersonal, health, family, political, economical, social, cultural, religious related.


On another angle I need to clarify the very notion of Hospitality on a philosophical and religious stand point with the help of Marko Zlomislic’s article on Conflict, Tolerance and Hospitality.

Kant
In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophic Sketch, Immanuel Kant states that, 'the law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions a universal hospitality'. Kant recognizes that hospitality is something grave, that it to say urgent and not just an inscription on the innkeepers door upon which a burial ground was painted. Hospitality for Kant means, ... the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another. One may refuse to receive him when this can be done without causing his destruction; but, so long as he peacefully occupies his place, one may not treat him with hostility.
Kant goes on to write that hospitality is: ... not the right to be a permanent visitor... a special beneficent agreement would be needed in order to give an outsider a right to become a fellow inhabitant for a certain length of time. It is only a right of temporary sojourn, a right to associate, which all men have. They have it by virtue of their common possession of the surface of the earth, where, as a globe, they cannot infinitely disperse and hence must tolerate the presence of each other.
Kant's notion that the human race can gradually be brought closer to a constitution establishing world citizenship is admirable, yet Kant ends his essay with the words, 'one cannot flatter oneself into believing one can approach this peace except under the conditions outlined here'. We can see that this statement is a call to further conflict because it does not treat hospitality in a radical manner.
Judeo-Christian
In the Judeo-Christian tradition there is a commandment to be hospitable to strangers since one has been a stranger before. Deuteronomy 5 tells the Israelites to remember that they were slaves in the land of Egypt and therefore should accept those that come to them as guests in an unconditional way.
The second notion of hospitality comes from the prophets who urged a general openness to be shown to widow, orphan and alien. In Jewish families a place is kept free for Elijah who may or may not come. Hospitality keeps an empty space, an openness is open to the radically Other. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews 13:2 there is a commandment on hospitality. 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it'.
Derrida
While these notions of hospitality are admirable and are admired by Derrida they still do not go far enough in the direction of the aporia. For Derrida hospitality has to do with responsibility towards the Other in their individuality and singularity. Derrida argues that we have to reconcile the demand for equality with the demand for singularity. This is an aporia. The question is how can we at the same time, take into account the equality of everyone and respect the heterogeneous singularity of everyone?
This is the main question of conflict resolution. We cannot content ourselves with applying existing norms or rules but must make an absolute risk in every singular instant as if it were being made for the first time. These aporias or paradoxes are difficult to integrate into practice but responsibility, decision and hospitality cannot exist without them. The ancient and modern traditions have proceeded from the position of assured knowledge that has often been euphoric, free of contradiction and without aporia. Such assured knowledge is calculated and calculating. It is like a machine without responsibility and without ethics. For Derrida there is no decision, no responsibility and no hospitality without the test of the aporia or undecidability.
This 'impossible' of which Derrida speaks is inseparable from the thinking of justice and from the unconditional hospitality that is required of us. Hospitality focuses on what is most urgent today and the most proper for the articulation of a political ethics of conflict resolution. The unconditional injunction for conflict resolution is: 'I have to welcome the Other' - whoever 'the Other' is, and unconditionally. For Derrida this means, without asking for a document, a name, a context or a passport. I have to open myself to the Other. I have to open my doors, my house, my home, my language, my culture, my nation, my state and myself.


Conclusion
Derrida unconditional hospitality is frightening and transgressive, but it takes us beyond the Judeo-Christian understanding of hospitality where we are hospitable because we may be entertaining Elijah or Angels or serving Jesus or dogmatically serving our parishioners. It takes us beyond Kant with his notion of restricted hospitality that says we should welcome the stranger or the foreigner to the extent that they are citizens of another country.
Kant's concept of hospitality remains merely political in its reference to the state, the authority of the state, to citizenship and to the control of residency. If we decide that everyone will be able to enter my space, my home, my city, my country, my language then there is a chance that the worst may happen. Yes. But we must be open to the best and to the worst in other words to the human animal, or our hospitality will no longer be an unconditional injunction based on justice but a legal formulation. The aporia of hospitality says that we have to welcome the Other, the orphan, the widow, the alien. Without this there would be no hospitality. We must welcome without assimilation. To offer hospitality is to be aware that the other may ruin my space. Hospitality is therefore a risk which has to be negotiated at every instant.
The decisions for hospitality or the best rules to follow have to be invented at every second with all the risks that this involves. Hospitality is the name for our relation to the Other. It is the very principle of ethics. It is and always has been grave and urgent. Seen in this manner conflict can be resolved if the Other is in his own home in the home of the Other ( chez lui chez l'autre).
My leadership philosophy has to do with knowledge of history as a guide in the actions to be taken and hospitality goes beyond a historical invitation between me and the other. With invitation we expect a guest to arrive without surprise. Hospitality requires absolute surprise. We are unprepared or prepared to be unprepared, for the unexpected arrival of any Other. Hospitality is the receiving or welcoming which has no power, protocol or law. It is an opening without the horizon of expectation where peace can be found beyond the confines of conflict.

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