Anansi and the Future of International Cooperation

Dr. Monk was asked to write a column for OneWorld magazine, about the future of international cooperation. We found that future in an old story about a spider. Ananse is the name, or Anansi, depending on which side of the ocean you met him. He is a witty trickster and West-African god of all knowledge of stories. Born in Ghana, he came along on the slave ships to the Caribbean to become an important folk character. And also to the States, where he somehow evolved into Aunt Nancy. This story is about a pot of wisdom:

Er tin tin, sigri tin tin…
A long, long time ago…

Anansi was an insatiable spider. One fine day, after thinking long and hard, he came up with a plan to become powerful. “Ma Akuba”, he said to his wife, “I’m going on a journey. To collect all the wisdom in the world.”

He traveled the world and gathered wisdom from all the tribes. He learned that there is no me without you. That everything changes and still stays the same. That Everything That Is is connected. Being as greedy as he was, he took everything with him a huge clay pot.

When he came home after years and years, he marched straight passed Akuba and their eleven children, in search of the highest tree. He found a rope, tied the pot to his neck and started climbing it. The higher he got, the prouder he felt – because what was in his pot would surely make him the most important person on earth.

His youngest son was watching and noticed how clumsily his dad was climbing the tree. He shrilled, “Dad, wouldn't it be more practical to tie the pot to your back? That would surely make your climb easier!” Anansi looked down, furious. “Wait a minute”, he thought. “How could it be that there was still wisdom in the world? In his own home?! Did he not put everything in his pot? Would he not become the most important, richest man alive?

Frustrated, Anansi threw his pot to the ground, in the hope of hitting his son with it. But instead, the pot broke into a thousand pieces, and all the wisdom was spread out over the world again.

And Anansi? He is still sulking up there, in the highest tree.

P.S. The moral of this story, for international cooperation? Take your pick:

a) In making new policies, make sure you to listen to the new generation – the international and local heroes, the emerging economies, the youth – and take them seriously. They are the ones with surprising insights.
b) Get down from your high tree or ivory tower. Base yourself on the reality down there.
c) Share generously and spread knowledge and information as widely as possible.
d) Be conscious of our changing position in today’s world. Do not sit around sulking by yourself, but look for smart collaboration.
e) Be nice to your family. The one at home and the one all around the planet.

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