The guilt of the innocent consumers

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guilt of the innocent consumers

Beta-suya beta-suya, n’ahu nnama is an Igbo adage that emphasizes the effects of our lifestyles on the globalized human society. Literarily, it implies that the rise in our demand for barbecue results in a rise for the death of livestock. Whatever cause of pleasure we consume in the society has been, and is still being paid for by other persons/factors. Each product we consume is a composition of several elements that are derived from different parts of the world.[1] Many of us do not ask how our governments or relatives obtain the resources for these products. And, if we continue to consume the world’s resources without questioning its costs on other people, we become liable to the guilt of the innocent consumers.

Every human being has physical and material needs: food, house, clothing, family, companionship, health etcetera. Human society is formed by the agreement between members of the society to collaborate for producing what they need from the resources in the society.[2] They agree to develop, multiply and distribute resources for satisfying the basic needs of every member of the society (social justice). Despite the alleged initial agreement for social justice, – satisfying citizens’ basic needs – many people are still living in extreme poverty and disease.[3][4] And when some people/countries cannot obtain resources for decent lives, they become desperate and dangerous to the beneficiaries of social injustice.[5]

Not all beneficiaries in the situation of social injustice are directly involved in creating the unjust situation. Citizens without direct public-responsibility quickly exonerate themselves from local and global injustice since they are not among the decision-makers. Relatives/associates benefitting from exploitative activities of public officers quickly exonerate themselves of any culpability in social injustice. Private Citizens and lower public officials of imperialistic nations who oppress and exploit other nations quickly exonerate themselves of any involvement. They believe they are not directly involved, they only make demands on their government or relatives for higher provision without considering the cost. Yet, they bear with them the guilt of the innocent consumers, for pushing others to the main crime.


Societies react differently to the problem of social injustice, which is the INEQUITABLE distribution of opportunities and resources for satisfying basic needs in the society. Societies with organic political structure readjust their welfare-policies for citizens’ sustenance and productivity through proper education, adequate employment and sponsorship for initiatives. Societies with unresolved political structure increase legal and security measures against the socially disadvantaged, who are made desperate by poverty, hunger and diseases. The beneficiaries justify the suppression of the victims of social injustice by criminalizing agitators and blaming them for their misfortune.[6]

unemployable youth created from bad policies

What is the effect of our consumption on other people around the world? How much do we contribute to the global problem of hunger, poverty and war just by making extra-demands on our governments and relatives? Have we moved from being accomplices in global death and exploitation to instigators of death and injustice? Or are we insulated in the guilt of the innocent consumers, who benefit from injustice without actually inflicting the injustice?

There has always been social injustice in the history of mankind, but the present global gang-up of social injustice was instituted during colonialism.[7] The colonial enterprise installed alienating and exploitative governing structures to disorganize the social-support-systems in the different colonies. This disorganization of social order resulted in the denial of the aboriginals’ access to their resources for production in favour of the exploitative colonialists.[8] Hence, the hungry and poor aborigines are made to fight for their rights against indigenous puppets/collaborators of foreign exploitation.

In response to outrage about the sad effects of this social injustice, charity organizations are established by conscientious people, as well as beneficiaries and agents of social injustice. In some widely-reported manifestations of social injustice, charity organizations sprout to reduce or mask the effects of social injustice.[9] Many charity organizations use the opportunity to make more money for themselves.[10] Africa and some parts of Asia and South America have become world charity theatres for people who seek to appease their guilty consciences, to shore up their philanthropic status or to identify with a humanitarian cause.[11]

However, the problem of social injustice may never be solved by provision of food, drugs, cloths, arms and ammunitions to unproductive people. Instead, it may be solved by establishing organic social structures for people to collaborate in utilizing what they have to produce what they need.[12] These are the types of social structures that respect the differences in people’s origin, ethnicity and worldviews. These are the types of social structures that empower the individual with technical knowledge and freedom to access resources for productivity and fulfilment.[13] These are the types of social structures that encourage free negotiation and agreement for collaboration among peoples.

workable social structure
Arrangement for workable social structure

Many people in the ‘developed world’ regret the roles of their nations in the barbaric history of colonialism.[14] Some moved from denying their nation’s roles in disorganizing and exploiting other societies to blaming the victimized societies for their colonial misfortune.[15] Yet, their governments continue to benefit crude resources from the social-structure of exploitation installed during colonialism.[16] Some would be eager to expunge the pages of their barbaric roles from the history books of the world. Unfortunately, the past may not be undone, but the future effect may be re-ordered through acts of contrition and restitution.

impose peace and unity in Nigeria

Indigenous beneficiaries of the global exploitation, the favourite slaves of foreign exploiters, assume innocence as they publicize charity works. They rob the people, who are made to beg for parts of their rights as charity. Charity works are not enough to free a people who have been caged in the alien-social-structure imposed and sustained through foreign-policies. In some cases, charity work is like sending ones’ children to feed caged lions that desire freedom to fend for themselves. No matter the type of chicken and chips offered to a caged lion, it may never fulfil its full potential.

politics of charity

The disorganisation of the social-support-systems for the pre-colonial African communities led to irresponsibility of the new African elite-class.[17] The different handlers in different levels of the imposed form of government are not answerable to the people. They are only answerable to the colonialists who imposed and sustains the alien political structure from which they benefit.

Oba Akenzua II, c. 1937 [Matphson/Matthieson – colonial on left]
Having a situation requiring charity creates opportunities for people to appease their guilt of the innocent consumers or to show off their philanthropy. But without addressing the cause of the problem, we continue to hide under the guilt of the innocent consumers. Both the armed robbers and the partakers of the loot are guilty in the result of the action. Religious, traditional, academic, charity institutions and citizens who benefit from social injustice, without rebuking the perpetrators are equally guilty. They can only attempt to hide behind the guilt of the innocent consumers, as instigators or causal factors, .


[1] Leonard Read, I Pencil,

[2] Cf. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan Ed. Michael Oakeshott (New York: Macmillan, 1962).p187



[5] Aristotle,

[6] Jon Snow, One Law for the rich and another for the poor. retrieved on 01/10/2017

[7] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa. (2009 edition) Abuja: Panaf Press, 2009. P164. The concept of global economy is a Western gang-up installed in the colonial era to perpetually exploit African resources

[8] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, Are Nigerian youths truly unemployable. Retrieved on 30/09/2017

[9] cf. Richard Dowden, Africa, altered states, ordinary miracles. (New York: Public Affairs, 2010). p8

[10] Richard Dowden, p8-9

[11] Richard Dowden, p9

[12] Olusegun Oladipo, The idea of African philosophy, third edition (Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2014). p114

[13] Olusegun Oladipo

[14] Daniel Pipes, In Europe Remorse has turned to Masochism.  retrieved on 01-10-2017 – commentary on Paschal Bruckner’s La Tyrannie de la penitence

[15] French President blames babies, not imperialism for problems in Africa.

[16] Walter Rodney, op. cit. 164

[17] Cf. Richard Dowden, op. cit. p445.