3. We Question because we bear the Scars!!!!
Descartes started his revolutionary philosophy with a query. He queried the basis of reality. He did this by querying the apparatus of our knowledge. He questioned our epistemic facilities. He questioned our perceptual faculties. In one swoop, he turned the epistemological basis of metaphysics on its head. How do we know what we know? He arrived at Cogito. He thinks! That he thinks suffices for him to explain his existence. He thinks, and for him to think presupposes that he exists. He thinks, therefore he is. I think, therefore I am. Cogito ergo sum.
Descartes in spite of his other philosophical, scientific and literary achievements, gained admittance into our most august memories as cogito ergo sum! With that, he was fossilized in the minds of modern man. Descartes was a great. Why would he question reality and existence? He could do that not only because he could think, but because he is a part of reality and existence.
Africans have been questioning their predicament because they have been a part of that predicament, both as victims and sometimes as perpetrators of actions that consolidates the predicament. We question because our frame bears the scars of our predicament. African sons and daughters have been asking where this rain started to beat us. This is a word in that long strain of questioning. The queries gain more relevance today due to the insistence of our predicament.
Today after years of allegiance to imported deities, the jury is out. We are not developing. We have not attained the utopia that was promised us by these deities. Rather, we have been sucked into a vortex of imperial ruthlessness, where we are used and abused for the amusement of other parts of the world, both by internal and external exploiters. Uhuru has eluded Africa. Alien religions did not bring down their heavens upon our earth. It rather bloodied our earth with the blood of our relatives. Foreign creeds did not cure our petty thieveries. It rather gave us tools to elevate them to the ontological level. Instead of giving us a good life for all, it rather taught us to become robber barons in the name of good economics. It neither banished the human propensity in us to covet; it rather sanctified our covetousness with the holy waters of cant. Instead of stealing to feed our hungry stomachs, we can now steal to feed our avarice. Where Igbo philosophy of man counseled “onye aghana Nwanne ya”, imported ideologies canonized greed the basis of good economics. It compelled us to dismantle our social ties to feed individual greed for profits. Where our social anthropology counseled “Egbe belu ugo belu”, imported ideologies countered “rout the competition”.
And the results are there for all to see! The scars are scandalous!
We were co-opted in the sale and marketing of our brothers. We were compelled at gunpoint, into trading our future in the unfairest of terms. Africa was depopulated to make Europe and Americas flow with wealth. The crème la crème of Africa’s posterity was eviscerated. The bridge between the past and the future was torpedoed. The youth that learnt from the elders to hand over to the unborn were forcefully taken across the great ocean; never to come back again. Never to ever fulfill their evolutionary function. With that evaporated millennia-worth of knowledge and experience. Lost forever and never to be regained again. Our homesteads were deprived of defenders. The youths who filled in this role disappeared as if the earth opened up to swallow them. Ours became a society of the old and the infants. That trade decisively changed Africa’s nature, culture, and future. With the slave trade, we allowed and participated in the celebration of a historical atrocity on our soil. We, as a society was conscripted in the sale of our brothers to profit foreigners, as many of us have continued to do till this day. The wailings of our sold brothers and sisters continues to suffuse our ancestors with supplications mourning our stolen heritage. Their backs were broken by drudgery. Their humanity was ripped off them. Many of them were fed to the fishes. Many never got the dignity of a funeral. Many of them died in their chains.
When the industrial revolution rendered slavery unprofitable to their greed, they came for the products of our land. We were forced to sell our commodities at their price. Some of our littoral regions became the Oil Rivers. That name was instructive. We yielded our products to oil foreign economies and the pockets of their robbery gangs, christened traders. We learnt the trade and decided to control our resources. The imperialist grew livid at our quick realization that we could turn the tables to our advantage. Their artilleries were trained at our habitation to lay it to waste. We succumbed to a military invasion designed to control our trade routes. They sacked our kings and exiled our chiefs. Jaja Opobo died in exile. Ovaremwhen Nogbaisi was forced to swallow the defeat of the stool of his fathers. Then the Whiteman took over our government. He hired those at the periphery of our societies and ordained chiefs over us, by his fiat. Colonialism planted its foot firmly on our soil. We left the ways that gave us food without poisoning our environment, polluting our waters, or depleting our soils. We were brought into using chemicals to grow our food and poison our bodies. They brought us diseases we never knew. Instead of cultivating our land to grow our food, we were compelled to cultivate our land to feed foreign industries.
Our motherland still bears the impress of this beast. We are now speaking the language of those who raped us. We were compelled to bury our mother tongues as unprogressive vestiges of inferiority in order to sound modern. At that, we surrendered meaning to what the alien conclaves canonized as such, although local reality kept on exploding our stupidity in this regard. In time we were reduced to murdering our beautiful dialects with dysfunctional embroideries of foreign citadels of meaning.
As all these settled on our embrace, we started believing the view, which defined us as modern and developed, to the extent that we are able to successfully ape the ways and pretensions of the conqueror.
With this dissonance, we internalized the manufactured narrative of inferiority peddled about us. We started arranging and conducting our lives on other people’s terms. As we scrambled to come to terms with the shock that has rearranged the tectonic plates of our society, the next shock loomed on the horizon. We were thrown into a dangerous dilemma, and forced to take a stand. Either we define or allow ourselves to be defined according to the canons of this narrative, or we spend our time vehemently rejecting the image of us constructed in this narrative. Either way, we are forced to a reactionary position. It is a dangerous position. Here we can never win, no matter how hard we try. History is a weapon. Whoever tells your story has the keys to your destiny. He can deploy that story to the ends and aims of his choosing. We ran the risk of being conjugated in foreign verbs by narrators, who pontificates over our history to direct our destiny. Or we resist their badges and create our own. Our attempts to create our own were immediately dismissed as heretical dissimulations of victimological nature. The microphone was pried off our hands before we can even announce our names. Our voices and literatures become banished to be read in the dark basements of leftist radicals.
It was a Machiavellian gambit. Imperialism knew that the more time we spend trying to define ourselves or defend ourselves from the definitions peddled about us, the more we lose sight of the big picture. Imperialism subsists on the oppressed losing sight of the big picture. For any imperialistic enterprise to be successful, the target audience must be kept busy pursuing rodent
s. This keeps them amply busy, while the rogue power delivers the viral software that brainwashes them into believing that it is in their best interest to serve the rogue willingly and religiously.
The conqueror put a knife to cut all that held us together. Our society was torn apart. Our beings became a warfront for conflicting allegiances. This dissonance opened the gates for poverty to invade our experience. Atavistic competition that hallowed individual greed above the common good rose to impious prominence. We joined the orchestra of greed. We learned the philosophy of destruction. To prove our proficiency, we started singing symphonies of exploitation. With poverty, we condemned many of our kind to crime. Our resources could no more finance our existences. We were marched like herds of goats into urban pens, to rip open the bowels of our earth, so that the conqueror would have coal to drive his industries and war machines. We were configured into yielding our labors and resources to service foreign economies. We were rewired and re-tooled into abandoning our needs and aspirations to devote our lives and entire existences to servicing the conqueror needs. None was left for our lives. We called it modernity and civilization. In time we started competing for the most basics of necessaries. Competition invited a jungle. Before we knew what was happening African children were marched off to war; pumped full with drugs and ordered to rape their mothers, cut off their father’s genitals, chop off their brothers’ hands and feet, and shoot their most intimate acquaintances in a surreal theatre of oedipal perversity: all in defense and/defiance of geopolitical monstrosities bequeathed to us by Europe as states and nations. Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Uganda, all played hosts to this dimension of bestiality. Our country-sides were turned into murderous battlefields, where we kill each other in the name of our various gods. Jos, Nigeria is one such theatre. African politicians are empowered by the imported cant known as western version of democracy into going up to the capital cities, which ape imperial power centers, to steal legally from the commonwealth, in service to their individual greed. There, they go to execute and crucify the African principle of community, which counseled that the individual exists because his community exists.
The list is so long as to defy enumeration!
4. The Neutrality of Ideologies?
Importation of theologies or ideologies is neither positive nor negative in itself. After all, every theology is an agglomeration of borrowed myths and contrived projections. Some are fractionally distilled legends echoing subconscious wishes of the human heart. Others are primitive needs and will to power elevated to the ontological level. But be that as it may, each of these must acquit itself positively if it is to assume some relevance in its new abode. It must conduce to the use designed and intended for it by its importers. If not, it would be jettisoned in time. Human experience has shown that culture is dynamic. Cultures borrow and lend to each other across time and space. They import and export some of their pedestals as contact with others increases. To this end, some have arisen to define civilization as culture at an export level.
I have personal reservations at this definition.
Epistemic Imperialisms and cultures of nihilistic savagery have been exported across cultural lines over time. Besides the fact that my philosophic vocation would never permit an unexamined acceptance of any definition that offers itself up for consideration; I wonder if I would accept that as civilization, without any qualification. I eternally refuse to accept the slaughtering of the Mesoamericans into extinction by the rampaging avarice of a buccaneering Europe, as a civilizing mission. If I am to accept that, what would I in justice, tell the Sapa Inca and his Inca people of Peru and South American Andes? Should I tell them to accept their massacre in good faith, as that is the price of civilization? How could I ever justify the plundering, dismembering; the physical and mental enslavement of generations of Africans? Is it civilization that African humanity was packed in the putrid holds of ships; in chains that reeks with inhumanity, and sold off as articles, to masters who would rape their labours, their genitals and their humanity?
Could anyone be justified in labelling that civilization?
I forever refuse to utter or invoke the names of Pizzaro, Cortes, Columbus, Francis Drake, James Cook and other arrant pirates of expired European Empires with any reverence in my breath, no matter what the doctored historical books pretend to tell. Justice and the deities guarding her portals forever hold that the ghosts of megalomaniac rapists like Leopold II, the butcher of the Congo would never rest in any sanctuary of good odour. If Leopold II and other such imperial sadists are not manifestations of savagery, why the pyramid of chopped hands harvested at his orders in the Congo? Is this guy, and every other such knave, not the perfect proof of the obverse of what civilization should be? On the contemporary front, I wonder if I would ever accept the fraudulent falsehoods peddled by Washington under George W. Bush, and Whitehall under Tony Blair to explain away their bowing to the rapacious covetousness of their elitist constituencies for Iraqi Oil, as an operation to give Iraq the gift of democracy. If all these could be accused of being civilizing missions, then we must elevate Adolf Hitler to the sainthood. We should then apologise to the Nazi henchmen executed at Nuremberg. We should beatify the psychotic tyranny of Josef Stalin and all other scoundrels of history.