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Who's in the Video
Uzodinma (Uzo) Iweala is the author of Beasts of No Nation. The novel, his debut, came out of his undergraduate thesis work at Harvard and was conducted under the supervision[…]

Iweala talks about the legacy of colonialism, US foreign policy and how westerners view other societies.

Question: What forces have shaped where we are today?

Uzodinma Iweala: Yeah, of course. I mean I think . . . I don’t know, I guess I think . . . maybe because I’ve been reading, you know, a lot about it recently. But I mean I think . . . I mean especially within the . . . you know if you . . . This will go back to the idea of being a Nigerian American, and of being . . . I mean that interaction, that . . . The idea of colonialism, and this idea that a certain set of people are more entitled to a certain kind of life than other people; whether it’s north, south, east, west, whatever . . . but I think that has been the thing that has driven pretty much all . . . It’s like look, we have a right to this existence. You guys don’t, but you have . . . you . . . your purpose here is to make sure we have the right to that existence. Terrible. I mean like that’s so many things. I think you see it shaping the world now, I mean especially in the way we behave as a country towards other countries – this idea like, look, we have the right to this particular way of life, and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that we continue to have that right and continue to enjoy this life. And I think you find . . . I think what we’re seeing is that that’s just not working anymore. It might have worked before where people . . . where it took a lot of time for news to travel. It might have worked before . . . before . . . like before there were things like the universal declaration of human rights where everybody understood that, look, we have a certain . . . It’s not just you guys who have the rights . . . like these rights. It’s everyone who does. It might have worked before when . . . when there was less interaction between certain sets of people, and less ability then to be outraged at the exploitation of people. But now it’s not going to work anymore, and I think we see that system kind of falling apart as we speak. But I mean I think if anything that is what . . . I mean the biggest thing I think that . . . whether you’re looking at colonialism; whether you’re looking at slavery; whether you’re looking at, you know, U.S. actions during the Cold War; whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union and their interactions during the Cold War; like that idea that we have a right to this way of life, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to preserve it without acknowledging that there are . . . are other ways of life that are equally useful and valid, that’s a problem. And I think you know . . . that’s not. I’m being heavily critical of this society, but I think other societies are in the same boat. And I think the idea is look, the more we rub up against each other, the more we see there are multiple perspectives that are each valid. And the more we realize that none of these perspectives . . . Again this goes back to the idea of having a multiplicity of . . . of . . . of sort of viewpoints in your growing up, in your existence. None of these perspectives exists . . . can exist without the other, and exist or reform without the input of the others. So you know this idea that this one is better than the other is really absurd, because this one is probably comprised of some elements of the other. And this is all getting very abstract, but I think that’s . . . that’s another force that you see more and more in this world that is shaping the way that people think. And you see it in the way that people look at the environment. And you see it in the way that people look at cross-cultural interactions. And you see it in the way that people look at now economics, right? I think that that is . . . that’s . . . You know there’s this one idea that like we are all discreet entities, and therefore I should do for me what is best for me. Versus this idea that look, we’re all interconnected and doing . . . Doing what’s best for you, if it means doing bad to another person is not gonna help you out at all, you know? But I don’t know. I feel like I’m talking a bit of fluff, so . . .

Recorded on: 10/7/07