I am looking forward to see Lincoln, the recent film by Steven Spielberg. I want to see it for purely selfish reasons: I am a huge Daniel Day Lewis fan. He plays Uncle Abe and from what I see from the previews, his performance is spellbinding. Those who have followed along with me in this blogging journey from the beginning, know that I used to be a working actor (in what now seems to me like a “previous life”).
I was waiting to see it before writing a review, which most likely would have been from an afro-political rather than an artistic perspective. However I was watching Meet the Press on Sunday and the roundtable panel, which included the Obama apologist and MSNBC sellout Rev. Al Sharpton, were not only praising the film, but the nobility and sacrifice of Lincoln the man, in his fight to abolish slavery in Amerikka. Huh…I could see Sis. Deb shaking her head… and as we Jamaicans say… “sucking her teeth”… at the commentary (i.e. bullshit) they were spewing.
I recall that many, many years ago when I was a university freshman (in what again seems to me like a “previous life”), my final paper in my Political Economics course was based on the premise that Lincoln did not free the slaves for any noble or altruistic reasons, but primarily because he and the Northern industrialists knew that Amerikka could not reach it’s full industrialization potential with a slave based, agrarian economy dominating the South. Cheap labour needed to move North, while capital for industrialization needed to move South and the domestic consumer market needed to be nurtured. My thesis certainly wasn’t an original one, but as a young and very naive Black man living in Canada, who was just beginning to understand the “real” world and how it had been influencing my perspective about myself and those around me, this revelation was a part of the process I had been going through at the time: the stripping away of illusions and lies I had been told about “the good white people” like Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
Now let’s fast forward to the present and speaking of Sis. Deb, let’s be clear. As I watched the Meet the Press segment, I was reminded of an insightful and educational article she did on her blog entitled: Lincoln, the resolute white supremacist — the Changeling’s “homeboy”? I encourage you to read the whole article, including the links… it’s fantastic! It portrays the real Lincoln… in his own words. Another excellent article was previously posted here by brothpeacemaker: Quotations from Abraham Lincoln.
I have come to understand and expect the behaviour of the dominant culture, like that of a drug addict, to constantly feed it’s white supremacy cravings, so as to satisfy its needs to feel superior to the “others”, while at the same time feel comfortable about their white privilege, through the guise of their (supposedly) noble endeavours and sacrifices for these same “others”. We can see this playing out especially among the so-called “White progressives and liberals”. It is their “White man’s (and woman’s) burden”! Hence, no character representing, nor a mention at all of Fredrick Douglass and his influence on Lincoln in the film.
This discussion brings to mind a portion of the lyrics of Fight The Power by Public Enemy, with a couple of minor revisions:
Lincoln was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Motherfuck him and JFK
In order to put this article into its proper perspective, Chinweizu informs us thus:
“It was miseducation which sought to withold from me the memory of our true African past and to substitute instead an ignorant shame for whatever travesties Europe chose to represent as African Past. It was miseducation which sought to quarantine me from all influences, ancient as well as contemporary, which did not emanate from, or meet with the imperial approval of, western “civilization.” It was a miseducation which, by encouraging me to glorify all things European and by teaching me a low esteem for and negative attitudes towards things African, sought to cultivate in me that kind of inferiority complex which drives a perfectly fine right foot to strive to mutilate itself into a left foot. It was a miseducation full of gaps and misleading pictures: it sought to structure my eyes to see the world in the imperialist way of seeing the world; it sought to internalize in my consciousness the values of the colonizers; it sought to train me to automatically uphold and habitually employ the colonizers’ viewpoint in all matters, in the strange belief that their racist, imperialist, anti-African interest is the universal, humanist interest, and in a strange belief that the view defined by their ruthless greed is the rational, civilized view. And by such terms of supposed praise as “advanced,” “detribalized,” and getting to be quite civilized,” it sought to co-opt my sympathies and make contemptuous of examining what it should have been my duty to change and alleviate. For it was a distracting miseducation which tried in every way to avoid questions that were important to me and to the collective African condition. It tried to maneuver me away from asking them; it tried to keep me from probing them most thoroughly; it tried instead to preoccupy me with other matters. But the had realities of the Black (African) Condition kept insisting that I ask: Where did our poverty, our material backwardness, our cultural inferiority complexes begin and why? And why do they persist in spite of political independence?”
If the reader has read the whole quote up to here, Chinweizu is more than relevant here. He covers all the issues we have raised and tells us what to do in reconstructing African history, all the issues raised herein, affected everything about him and the world and real-reality he lives in day in and day out. What Chinweizu is discussing above, is what has been the Achilles heel of African progress and development in various ways.
Unlearning the Narcotized Colonial Miseducation
Chinweizu, true to form, delves even much deeper into his soliloquy in the following manner:
“When I turned to the official explainers and interpreters, and to the expert and benevolent meliorists of our condition, and asked for a flash of light, they wrapped my head instead with a shroud of double-talk and evasions; they thrust my head into a garbage dump of facts, facts and more bits and pieces of facts which merely confused me the more by their (deliberately?) disorganized abundance; they punctured the membranes of my ears with slogans, distinctions without preferences, smart phrases which brightly and engagingly misled; they offered me tools, supposedly analytic, which mauled what they claimed to explain, and left me constipated with jargon and dazed with confusion. The experience was thoroughly disillusioning. In my pain I began to suspect that my mind had been, over the years, held prisoner in a den where intellectual opiates were served me by official schools, by approved lists of books, by the blatant as well as subliminal propaganda of films, and by an overwhelming assortment of media controlled by interests inimical to, and justifiably scared of a true and thorough-going African Nationalism. Suspecting that the glittering phalanx of experts spoke to my colonizers and their imperial interests, I felt that, even though I was not an “expert” in these fields, I should nevertheless conduct my own investigation into the origins and circumstances of the deplorable African stasis, learning the necessary skills “on the job” as it were.”
The article above has been pointing out to the ‘self-appointed’ experts that have given themselves the task of explaining to the world, and on the internet what they ‘think’ they know about Africans in South Africa. In this article I contended that these so-called pros know nothing about the Africans of South Africa, and proceeded to breakdown these custom and cultures to make the point that African, South African History, culture, customs, tradition and so on are not static nor non-existence, but, as according to the definition I utilized from Hall and Wilson, to gave us a definition of Culture, which it turns out is right down the pike it was with the culture of the Nguni/Bakone I have written about in this article. This was in an effort to aid Africans to begin to unlearn colonial history and learn their history anew and in a much more informed way and manner. After Chinweizu realized and learned that he can teach himself to morph into his own written account, educating himself about himself and his people anew, made him realized that by thinking so, and was ready to unlearn what he called the “narcotic colonized education” he had to overcome the challenges of deconstructing the Master’s history and rewriting and recreating his own history in his own image and people. This is how Chinweizu addresses this part of the discourse I am talking above in the paragraph below:
“My official education was over. The overthrow of the allegiances programmed into me by it was in swift progress; but there were vital things I still had to learn-things they did not and would not teach me in school; things they would, if they could, keep me from coming into contact with even outside school; things in order to appreciate which I had to painfully unlearn much of what they had instilled in me at school. And so I began a journey of the mind; a journey by a mind thoroughly alienated from its imperialized miseducation. And the purpose of this journey was first to seek out the roots of the Black Condition within which my mind suffered. By the way, if any should think inappropriate my discussing colonial education through imagery of opium narcotics, let them consider that the British, from 1839 to 1842, waged war on China in order to force the Chinese to buy opium which her Britannic Christian Majesty’s imperial agents grew in India. Victory in the Opium War earned the British the “right” to addict so many Chinese to opium that much of the population, nodding and half asleep all the time, was supinely amenable to Western cultural aggression and imperialist manipulation. Now, if they could go that far, why should their use of intellectual opium to subdue, for the same ends, some other unlucky victims seem incredible and outlandish?”
We catch-up with Chinweizu after much articulation as to his transformation out of being ‘narcotically miseducated by the colonizers’, to being influenced by the Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Pablo Neruda of Chile, Malcolm X, Julius Nyerere, Mbonu Ojike, Aime Cesaire, Hamidou Kane, and so forth, to better understand the origins of the African stasis and to the task of understanding the workings of the system, which maintained the deplorable Black Condition saying that “these have been and remain my teachers and my guides as I continue my efforts to cleanse myself of the pollutions from a colonial miseducation.”
We further learn from Chinweizu who clearly states that:
“Having listened to them, I would heed no more, and would more emphatically reject, the pious, self-serving propaganda given out as official and objective truth by the imperialist party. For I no longer believe the official voices of the West. They do not speak for the interests of the imperialized. I now realize that these “official husbanders of my consciousness” would take incredible pains to hide from me even elementary things, the better to conceal all clues that might lead me to correct answers to questions provoked by the Black condition. I have decided to listen closely to voices from the imperialized world, to share experiences and insights with them. What the voices from the imperialized world say, and some are anti-imperialist voices within the West say, continue to make sense to me as I try to understand our specific conditions.”
Citing Chinweizu at such length is very important for the political/social historical theory for the presently dysfunctional people of South Africa. Learning and reading up on such works such as these presented by Chiweizu and those who are at the front of the African struggle and liberation, they who spin history to be user-friendly for the oppressed, in the process imparting knowledge and ways and means and new ways of learning and thinking about what he calls the “Black Condition”, are important links for Africans to use to manipulate and meander through all the obstacles that are thrown their way, whenever they try to unlearn what Chinweizu calls “narcotized colonized miseducation”. At this juncture, we take some lesson from Chinweizu when he sutures, tightly, his argument and reasons as to why and how we should unlearn this devious form of miseducation of Africans by the West. Chiweizu finally points out that:
“If my experience of it is at all representative, colonial miseducation is something its victims need to cure themselves of. And this is not easy to do. We are all, I believe, rather a little like colonized boy who, we are told, had learned from his colonized milieu to be ashamed of his local Africans weather. In our efforts to wash from our consciousness the harmful pollutants deposited there by our colonial miseducation, we are apt to act like the child who rubs his/her belly endlessly with soap and water, doesn’t touch any other part of his body, and when he tires of it all, runs to his/her mother to announce that he/she has taken a bath. Clearly we need something like a communal metal bath, one which we shall scrub the crud off one another’s backs, and especially from those corners which our hands cannot thoroughly scour. I believe that even a layman ought to share his results with others, so we can move more rapidly to a deeper, more thorough, and more useful appreciation of our collective condition.”
Chinweizu trudges on:
“If we wait for our official experts, who knows when, if ever, they will dare feel free, or find it profitable, to talk candidly and intelligently to us? For there are three sorts of experts: those for our liberation, those against our liberation, and those who contrive to appear to be on our side while they are indeed subtly working against our liberation. Advice from an expert who is not on your side, or from one who is against you, can be far worse than no expert advice at all. The layman, I believe, ought therefore to be very discriminating in choosing what expert to heed. It is, in every situation, very much like choosing a lawyer. For there are some experts, some Africans included, who deeply cherish the privileges that go with defending or furthering the interests of the imperialists. Under the guise of professionalism, of offering objective advice, some will subtly legislate against, or turn the unwary client away, from things that are in the client’s interest; some will gloss over differences that matter; some will conceal facts or omit considerations that are vital. Because of these kinds of experts genuinely on the client’s side are as capable of honest error as anyone, the client ought always to exercise vigilance and common sense in taking advice from experts. For eternal vigilance, in all matters, especially over the minutest details, is still the price of liberty.”
Given the psychic and ideological foundation of our subjugation, of both the colonial subjugation from which we thought we had escaped and the neocolonial form that has manacled us, any spirited drive for genuine freedom must begin with a thorough critique of the bourgeoise culture that has made us captives; of the process and content of the modernization that has lured us into captivity; and of the relation, if any, between technological modernization and the Christian bourgeois culture. It is precisely the existence of such a milieu that is retarding African progress today, because these petty-bourgeois elite who kowtow and pander to the West and are flinging themselves pell-mell into its orb, disregarding any protestations nor opposition that stems from its African voting polity, as in the case of Africans in South Africa.
According to Chinweizu, we should be circumspect of experts, all of those pretenders and false analysts who make out as if they have African people’s interests at heart, meanwhile, behind the scenes (mentally or otherwise) scurrilously fleece you to the marrow of your soul by denouncing every little thing about one, in order to dominate and confuse you. This is how Chinweizu concludes this matter:
“In exercising our rights as citizens, and in meeting our obligations to examine, discuss and pronounce upon all matters that affect our general welfare, we are bound to come up against the resistance of that kind of expert who rises up in arms whenever a layman “trespasses” on his “jargon-fenced bailiwick”. Such experts, while misinterpreting facts and gerrymandering arguments, are prone to mount some high pedestal of laurels and reputation, and from there demand the “intruder’s” credentials, in hopes or overawing him into irresponsible silence,or intimidating him/her into acquiescing in arrant nonsense.”
Chinweizu concludes thusly:
“In such situations, it is perhaps prudent to remind oneself that the loftiest credentials have never been a barrier to uttering nonsense; nor is a total lack of credentials a barrier to talking sense. A decolonized and re-educated African ought always to demand that matters be explained from an Afro-centric viewpoint, with scientific tools, and that the results be translated into intelligible common sense. By so insisting, we enable ourselves to spot and avoid ideologies, open as well as hidden, by which we are liable to be confused and misled, and attractive myths by which we are liable to be tricked and lynched en masse.”
We need to raise our level of vigilance, read and know our history, find ways and means to get it from FB to the man in the street who has no such knowledge or awareness and expounded upon by Chinweizu; be able to break down these advices to be in tandem with the understand, needs and relevance to the the poor Africans of South Africa. This is the job of all those who are reading this posted piece now to take it from here and make it reach the people, or print it to give it to the ordinary and poor people in community who do not have access to computers. We need to begin to use FB to inform and form positive dialogues with our poor masses who are denied such knowledge; we should not only boast about the fact that we are the only one who know this type of information, we should make it possible for the children, youth and elderly to have access to this information, whatever it takes. We, as Africans of South Africa, are much more better than what we are now experiencing and facing as a people.