By: Patrick Benblag
The Concerned African
Behind every linear present lurks a distorted and crooked past. Also, behind every present failure is unexplored success. It wouldn’t be so malapropos to metaphorically say that the gleeful offspring that wears the night as his skin and is charitably polished by the graceful sun is a vibrant member of a cultural posse of a people defined by lost glory. That gleeful offspring is the African child. Every society and/or culture have unique stories of failures and successes, trials and errors, ups and downs, etcetera, that has played a vital role in the building of their psyche, which is the bedrock of any successful and culturally relevant/dominant society.
The mental and psychological makeup of a people is undoubtedly the basic determinant of their social and political progression. This has characterize the history of the ancient Vikings/Norsemen, Goths/Prussians, the Romans, the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Persians, the Aryans, the Assyrians, the British, the French, and even the present day Jews. The history of these societies’ ab incunabulis, has been the history of cultural domination, informed by a high sense of cultural pride and what can best be described in modern linguistic decoration as “national pride” or “cultural patriotism”. The love for one’s own social and cultural heritage is what I’d like to refer to as “the first law of social, political and psychological progression”. A critical vista of the African society presents us with the picture of a people lacking in cultural pride and who’d rather do anything to see their own heritage extinct in favor of that of another. The Chinese and the Jews are where they are today in the global stage because of looking inwards into their cultural heritage.
The African continent is a land that is blessed both in terms of human and natural wealth. Africa in times past was the cynosure of civilization and human development. This was a land that the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, etcetera, came to learn. It was in Africa that Hieroglyphics, the first form of writing was invented. What could have been responsible for the current mental-quake that has slowly swallowed up the creativity and ingenuity of the Africans?
However, in an attempt to explore the possible causes of Africa’s social, cultural, economic, political and intellectual woes, and in a bid to proffer solutions to the prevalent existential doldrums, a number of factors have been identified as being the primary cause of the continent’s social and mental retrogression. At the center of the blame is slavery and colonialism.
Arguably, the negative effects of slavery and colonialism past and present, and even the present day neocolonialism is all over Africa. Nonetheless, it is not an overstatement when Edem Kodjo in his book – “Africa Tomorrow” describes the African condition as “torn away from his past, propelled into a universe fashioned from outside that suppresses his values, and dumbfounded by a cultural invasion that marginalizes him. The African …is today the deformed image of others”. The slave trade and its attendant colonialism indeed devastated the psyche of the Africans and created a society that was left psychologically vulnerable and politically at the limbo. It drained the African continent of her work force, deprived her of her human and natural wealth, leaving behind a vacuum that took and may still take many years to fill. Colonialism deposited the virus of dependency in Africa that Africans themselves have refused to cure themselves of.
The fundamental questions to be answered here is – why has the African continent refuse to rise after its fall, when Africa is not the only race to have been subjected to human and cultural subjugation? Why has the old generation of Africans pass down the virus of being an inferior race always at the mercy of the white colonial West to their younger generation? What is the future of the African child in a world that is constantly telling him/her that s/he is less of a human? All these are questions that need practical and sincere answers if we are to make headway in solving our existential problems as humans and rising as a continent.
Overtime, the most common trend adopted by the older and even most of the younger generation has been the blame game. As a continent, we continually blame all our failures on our past colonial masters and forget that the past has gone and the present is here.
With utmost candor, I think the African experience of alien cultural invasion and its nefarious aftermath is highly overrated. No doubt, the Europeans invaded Africa; enslaved a good number of her populations and devastated the social, political and economic structures of the continent; agreed. But is this enough reason for Africa to remain stagnant and progress in successive retrogrades? The answer is a capital “NO”. I think that the major problem facing us as a race is the fact that the average African is just good at kowtowing, especially to the whims and caprices of the white race. The black race is just good at playing the blame game and the racial privilege card.
For how long are we going to be blaming the past for everything that Africa is in the present? How long will slavery and colonialism continue to bear the cross of our present inactions and failures to deal with our own existential problems? How many more years do we need to realize that we can actually think for ourselves? The situation has gotten so bad that almost every child born into the continent is made to believe that s/he cannot think for his/herself; that all the problems of Africa was caused by the white race, and that s/he has to spend their whole life looking up to/or depending on the white race for survival. Nothing has done more damage to the future of the black race than this false gospel.
The Jews for instance were slaves in Egypt for centuries, they were slaves in Babylon, they were under the imperial control of the Roman empire, were subjugated, discriminated upon and expelled by most European states from the Medieval period down to the modern period, with the worst culmination being the Nazi holocaust that saw the extermination of not less than 6 million Jews in gas chambers. Amidst all these woes, nobody has heard the Jews play the blame game and using their onerous odysseys as an excuse to demand for pity from the rest of the world. This arid nation of just well over 8 million people despite all of their woes have risen above their existential ambivalence to become today one of the best in Military Intelligence and technology, producing and exporting countless Captains of industries that can compete favorably with other nations of the world. This small nation is way developed to the extent of possessing nuclear bombs that the whole continent of Africa made up of a whooping 54 countries cannot acquire.
The same applies to the British, the French the Chinese and even the current world power the United States of America. All these nations were at some point under the domination and subjugation of others, but they decided to look beyond their past and still believe that they can achieve all they could ever set their eyes upon, if only they could just work for it. Why is the case of Africa and the black race in general different? Why does the melanin-rich race continue to dwell on the flimsy idea of a white privileged race? Why does the African keep believing that s/he was born to be inferior when the richest man to ever walk the face the earth in person of Mansa Musa was an African? I think the problem fundamentally lies in the agnotological gospel of the indolent minds.
I must profess without equivocation that Africa, both as a continent and as a race has been and is still living in what philosophers of the post-Medieval era would refer to as the “Dark Age”, since the arrival and the subsequent departure of the Europeans. However, the salvers and the colonial monsters did devastate Africa undoubtedly, but I think that the greatest destruction of this continent was and is still being carried out by the Mephistopheleans and politically polished criminals with rapacious/animalistic instincts that parade themselves as leaders across the various corridors of power. The recumbent educational, soporific religious, economically perfidious, and the odoriferous cultural/social institutions are not helping matters either.
Consequent upon these social, cultural, economic and political perils, a need arises for a revolution in our approach to the African problem. Just as the renaissance of the 14th, 15th, and 16th century salvage the European continent from the woes of the Dark Ages, Africa needs a “Mental Renaissance”. The rebirth we so seek is an intellectual one as this is the basis of all human endeavor. If we can get it right with the way we think, then we can definitely get it right with the way we act. Thus, the antidote that will save us from the poisonous venom of perpetual existential stagnation is that of a mental rebirth, or better still, an intellectual revolution.
In order to avert the social and cultural entropy that is currently lurking about the continent, we need a new kind of thinking orchestrated by a new set of individuals – the African child. This is the best hope that Africa has. The Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin once said “give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted”. This quote best explains why we need to implant the idea of greatness and impossibility in the psyche of the African child. The African child needs to know that his/her progress is not limited by the progress of others, but rather is an opportunity for him/her to show their own uniqueness. We must cure ourselves of all mental/psychological inhibitions. The average African is way too lazy to think, not to mention act. This culture of intellectual stupor is what our mental renaissance must change. If the old generation couldn’t do it, then the least they can do is to support this mental rebirth in the younger generations.
Propitiously, the 21st century African child is filled with so much potential. We’ve undoubtedly seen many agents of social change and new generation of visionary leaders emerging from the current generation. The only thing that is standing in the way of our progress and development is us and the way we see ourselves as a people. The way we allow the opinions of other races of the world to sink too easily into our cerebral hemispheres, and determine the way we act. We need a rebirth in the way we think, act, live, talk, and deal with ourselves and our challenges.
Knowledge in the Baconian parlance is power. The African child must be made to know the value of knowledge, both of his/her culture, race, history, past and present.
It is a lugubrious reality that with so much means available to garner knowledge at this technological age and improve upon ourselves as a continent and our existential lot as a race; people have imbibed the culture of intellectual stupor. Ingenuity has become an antique form of art and curiosity is associated with madness in the contemporary conformist society. Ululations of lampoons have become the public cocoon of the creative and the intellectually dexterous, leaving the avalanche of our society at the mercy of retrogressive progression and conformity.
Africa has a great future, maybe even great enough to become the seat of global government. But the actualization of this potential and the reality of this dream lie in what we are doing today to achieve that goal. Currently, we are not doing enough; or to be blunt, we are doing nothing when compared to what others are doing to achieve such ambitions. Nonetheless, I’ll like to submit by saying that no dream is too big, nor distance too far to be reached, if we sow the seeds of believe and action, not just in our own minds but also in the minds of those around us and our generations unborn as we work together to bring about our deserved future.
Benism Philosophy Series