Unnecessary borrowing is a habit adopted by people, nations, countries, and continents to keep up with modern advances. Even the countries encouraging borrowing and spending are in debt as the United States is currently in debt to China for trillions of dollars. Some of our elders categorize this behavior as “living above your means” or having “champagne taste with a beer pocketbook”. Nevertheless, our people will rather keep up with trends, enjoy technological advances, and develop a palette of foreign foods than be content with having enough of what is necessary to live.
Chinweizu in “Decolonizing the African Mind” speaks of Nigeria’s willingness to unnecessarily enter into debt. This African author explains that the habit of spending beyond means is the reason for the inability of the country to get debt free. He goes on further to explain that with the sacrifice of the citizens and officials, the country could have gotten out of debt in two years. He accurately predicted that the government and the people would be unwilling to go without the new luxuries that they had only recently become accustomed to in order to eradicate what is owed.
This thought process was expressed by an African author in a book copyrighted in 1987. His arguments and support provided is applicable today in regards to the mindset of our people. When it comes to accumulating things, some desires are inappropriate when considering the value of the household income. A lot of our people desire to, or own, an expensive vehicle while renting their residence. Purchasing property can put a person in debt if they choose a home outside of their means, but when comparing the owning option to the rent option, owning gives the opportunity to be debt free long term.
Today, debt acquired for materialistic desires has extended to designer clothes and accessories. There are purses and shoes on the market that cost thousands of dollars. What is the mindset of a woman who would want a Birkin bag with prices ranging from $40,000 to $500,000 that doesn’t benefit from multiple successful streams of income with assets? What would be the requirements that need to be fulfilled before desiring such an expensive accessory? There is no reason to discuss whether it is a necessity because it is an accessory.
With debt comes control. In the countries experiencing a debt trap, severe hardships tend to be imposed on the population. An example that Chinweizu uses is the “semi-permanent social unrest” when describing the conditions experienced by the people in Brazil when the leaders agree to the terms of paying back the debt and service charges. This does not only apply to the South American country but to the model of debt itself when there are multiple classes involved.
Our current way of living is a result of our desires. If we want materialistic possessions more than financial freedom, that is what we will acquire. It was not until I read “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki that I realized a house was not an asset unless it brings in income like in the case of it being an AirBNB or rental property. Purchasing a home and getting the tax write off for property taxes and other benefits is better than renting but it is still a liability. We must intelligently do what is best in our specific situations while financially allowing for excess. The decolonizing of our minds includes the need of being debt free, so we definitely do not want to enter a debt trap situation willingly. A debt trap is one of those situations that is easy to get into but hard to get out of.