A Moral Imperative For Organizing (ll)

Sat, 1 Mar 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children…(Amilcar Cabral).”

“A fool is a wise man’s ladder (A South African Proverb).’

This is not to say China, like the West, does not benefit from Africa by supplying arms to pariah regimes in Africa, Sudan and others, further adding to the balkanization of the African world. It is to underscore why the research focus of our institutions should be morally expansive and ideologically progressive, pushing through and beyond the concrete narrowness of ethnic, racial, or national trivialities. Peter Tosh also asked that real criminals in society should be clearly identified by the powers that be rather than their merely pontifying about crime. This is a very good question. Who are the real criminals in the dehumanizing enterprise of the non-Western world, particularly of the African world, we may alternatively pose in his behalf?

However, the real criminals may as well include the Eurocentric leadership of the African world, enemies of the African world’s progress on matters related to development, growth, democratization, economic sustainability, and self-reliance. Tosh also said the attainment of equal rights and justice should constitute the moral prerequisites for peace (See “Equal Rights”). That also means it’s the moral responsibility of Afrocentric researchers to smoke out these sheepish Africans leaders, their unscrupulous and shadowy patrons, from their Eurocentric carapace and throw them at the devouring feet of the roaring tigerish masses. But why do we go hungry when Africa has vast expanse of land part of which she leases to Western multinationals and Asians? Why do we import petroleum products when Africa is awash in natural gas and other petroleum products?

Why do we face energy problems when the equator cuts through Africa like a hot knife driven through a solidified bar of butter? Why do we import Western-made chocolate products when Ghana and Ivory Coast count among the world’s largest producers of cocoa beans? Why do we lack engineers when many of our engineers count among the best in the West (world)? Why do we lack health professionals when many of our nurses, doctors, pharmacists, psychologists, and psychiatrists count among the best in the West (world)? Why do we lack philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, linguistics, sociology, English, history, and engineering professors and researchers when many of our people in these disciplines count among the best in the West (world)? Progressive African culture should be part of the totality of institutional or organizational exercise.

What is culture? “The generally accepted meaning of culture is that it’s the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of people or human beings and transmitted from generation to another,” writes Bennie A. Khompa, adding: “It includes, according to Sekou Toure…all the material and immaterial works of art and science, plus knowledge, manners, education, mode of thought, behavior and attitudes accumulated by the people both through and by virtue of their struggle for freedom from the hold and domination of nature. We also include the result of their efforts to destroy the deviationist politics, social systems of domination and exploitation through the productive process of social life (See Khompa’s “The African Personality”). Interestingly, Khompa show’s through his brilliant and powerful essay that thought “culture” may appear “alike” in all societies, in fact, it is not universal.

He, therefore, employs the conceptualization of “African Personality,” a theory advanced by the likes of Nkrumah and Nyerere to buttress his case. Then again, culture has a language dimension and therein lies moral demands for cultural relativism. For instance, Prof. Daniel L. Everett’s influential work calls Chomskyan “Universal Grammar” into question (See Everett’s “Language: The Cultural Tool,” and “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle”; see also Robert Lowie’s “Culture & Ethnology,” Donnelly’s “Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice,” and Roger L. Blackburn’s 2011 study of the “Universal Periodic Reviews”). Among other important conclusions that can be drawn from these works is the fact that there is nothing called “cultural universalism.” Nkrumah’s progressive ideas are still very relevant to our contemporary civilization.

In other words, culture is relative. And culture is not static. “Change is the only constant in life,” as some prefer to put it. Therefore, the changes we introduce in our cultural thinking should positively address Africa’s pressing needs. This is precisely why the theory of Afrocentricity eschews uncritical copying of non-African ideas. Indeed, Molefi Kete Asante has advised us to always make sure, first, we have progressive African ideas firmly in place, then second, we use that as the evaluative foundation upon which other progressive ideas from without should be raised (See “Decolonizing Our University,” international conference held in Malaysia, 2011). These questions directly lead to the political economy of brain drain, political instability, and lack of opportunities for intellectual independence and growth, among others, in some parts of the African world. Consequently, an Afrocentric organization should try to answer these questions without ideological or sociopolitical partiality.

Quite appropriately, this also calls for organizational elasticity and investigational cosmopolitanism, with a foundational focus on Afrocentric Pan-Africanism, that is, prioritizing African interests over all else. Thus, the research focus of an African organization which we are proposing here should encompass the North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, Asia as well as the continent of Africa itself. These questions directly lead to the political economy of brain drain, political instability, and lack of opportunities for intellectual independence and growth, among others, in some parts of the African world. Quite appropriately, this also calls for organizational elasticity and investigational cosmopolitanism, with a foundational focus on Afrocentric Pan-Africanism, that is, prioritizing African interests over all else. Thus, an African organization we are proposing here should encompass the United States, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia as well as the continent of Africa itself.

Again, wherever there is a need to understand and explain the presence, conditions, situations of Africans the researchers of the said “organization” should be prepared to produce official and peer-reviewed reports on a plethora of topics such as quality leadership, economics, environment, youth empowerment, Afrocentric education, environmental protection, good governance, history, social justice, leadership innovation, and women studies. In a nutshell, this means researchers associated with our proposed Afrocentric organization should be well-rounded thinkers, cosmopolitan analysts in their philosophical and activist outlook. Activism implies praxis among others. Pointedly, it should be clear to all and sundry, by now, how far on the social ladder of ideological stratosphere the intellectual and political activism of men and women like WEB Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Ama Mazama, Molefi Kete Asante, Ivan Van Sertima, Mubabinge Bilolo, Ama Ata Aidoo, Maulana Karenga, Cheikh Anta Diop, Toni Morrison, and others moved the African world.

Meanwhile, let’s digress a bit. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) protects the strategic interests of the West. The Organization of American States (OAS) fosters cooperation and regional solidarity among member states in the Western Hemisphere. However, American imperialism, cultural arrogance, and economic hegemony have succeeded in splintering OAS into another regional bloc, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Economic, cultural, and political independence accounts for the major reasons behind the formation of CELAC. That aside, the League of Arab States (the Arab League) protects the interests of the Arab world (and Islam). There is also the European Union. And there is also the Asian Parliamentary Assembly. However, we can say on authority that these institutions are not necessarily ideologically stronger that the African Union. In theory, we believe Afrocentric Pan-Africanism will make it stronger. It’s only a matter of time.

In the meantime, most of these regional organizations have made great strides in their economies, even achieving some level of economic independence from the West except, perhaps, the African Union (Organization of African Unity). Some of the reasons for these successes may have arisen directly from one regional bloc prioritizing its interests above others, particularly of the West, discerning the ulterior motives of the West and vigorously containing it, building a system of cultural pride and cultural independence, harnessing intellectual independence, and, finally, remembering the brutality of colonial history, rejecting Western stifling control and patronage. Thus, hard work and self-reliance drove them to these successes. Again, this is not to say Africans are industrially and intellectually lazy, for, among other things, we practically built the modern world, especially the West.

In fact, our theoretical positions vis-à-vis the foregoing contentions should not be misconstrued. It’s merely to say we should redirect our industry, natural resources, and intellectual abilities toward the development and growth of the African world. What does this mean? It means you obviously are a winner if you are in full control of managing your priorities and destiny. That is, shaping your destiny and handling your priorities are not what you ask others to manage in your behalf. Let’s push our theoretical trolley further. Further, the website of Afrocentricity International (AI) has this to add as far as the functionality of an African organization goes: 1).The recovery of African centeredness in education and economics, 2). The support of Afrocentric work in African organizations and social institutions, 3). The creation of an ethical response to malaise and nihilism based on African traditions, 4). The re-awakening of African youth toward their historic responsibilities to succeed, 5). The defense of African people from physical, moral, and economic assault from any source, 6). The promotion of peace, justice, dignity, reciprocity, and harmony on world affairs, etc.

Technically, why are we pushing for a particularized advocation for an Afrocentric organization? Fortunately, Prof. Jerome H. Schiele seems to have an elaborate and sophisticated answer. In Chapter 5 of Janice D. Hamlet’s book, “Afrocentric Visions: Studies in Culture and Communication,” an essay titled “Rethinking Organizations from an Afrocentric Viewpoint,” Schiele writes: “Although possessing widely differing assumptions about organizational and human nature, organizational theories all have one thing in common: They reflect the conceptual frameworks of Western social science, which are derivatives of Western ideology and thought. By exclusively reflecting the values and notions of Western society, these theories are circumscribable and biased and omit different conceptualizations of human beings and society found in other cultures. To this extent—and because Western social science has negated the worldview of African people—some have argued for development of an alternative social science model reflective of the cultural background and cultural reality of African people. This alternative model is known as the Afrocentric model (See also the “Journal of Black Studies,” Vol. 21, No. 2, Dec. 1990, p. 145-161).

However, Schiele notes in another brilliant essay: “An official goal of the social work profession is that of equality for all. However, social work’s ability to achieve this goal is hampered by the Eurocentric world view, wherein reality is structured to emphasize fragmentation, conflict, and domination, which fosters inequality. A better philosophical ‘fit’ for social work is the Afrocentric worldview. Its view of reality that underscores interdependency, collectivity, and spirituality places it in an excellent position to promote equality.” Here is the most interesting part: “Social workers are encouraged to apply the Afrocentric paradigm to transform social work from a profession primarily concerned with direct practice to a social movement of equality and justice.” Among other things, Schiele demonstrates the theoretical malleability of Afrocentricity in another important context, that is, social work or human relations. This was what its theoreticians developed the concept to serve: Equality and perspectival relativism.

What is Schiele precisely saying if we replace “social workers” with “Afrocentrists,” “social work” with “the African world,” “a profession” with “Eurocentrism,” and “a social movement of equality and justice” with “Afrocentric Movement” (See “Afrocentricity as an Alternative World View for Equality,” published in the “Journal of Progressive Human Services,” Vol. 5(1), 1994)? We also know Asia, especially India, is taking all the necessary steps to decolonize its universities (See “Multiversity’s Non-Eurocentric Undergraduate Philosophy Curriculum”). Then, Molefi Kete Asante’s edited volume “The Global Intercultural Communication Reader,” a comprehensive book co-edited with two international scholars, Profs. Jing Yin and Yoshitaka Miike, his former students, “take a distinctly non-Eurocentric approach to analyzing and appreciating the diverse ways of communicating in different cultures, and incorporates African and Asian as well as Western perspectives.”

Importantly, Profs. Yin and Miike, both Asians, have converted the theoretical currency of Afrocentricity into a hard theoretical currency of “Asiancentric thinking in communication.” Further, how do products of institutional research get to the people? Publications should be distributed in articles, reports, books, pamphlets, and newsletters to a wide range of audiences including domestic and international policy makers, social experts, community leaders, and educational directors. Going beyond this, we may argue there should be editors to convert extravagant technicalities in institutional research publications to familiarly simple orthographic forms so as to encourage easy readability by school children and the lay public. Researchers may then travel around sharing research findings in secondary schools, universities, churches, mosques, etc. Electronic and print media—newspapers, journals, newsletters (periodicals), magazines, radio and television—may also serve similar disseminative purposes as well.

That said, what should be avoided is arm-chair theorizing, something our mostly Western-trained scholars are closely noted for. To wit, regurgitating and parroting Eurocentric ideas, of little or no use to the African world, have come to characterize the public intellectualism of many of our scholars. Therefore, the quest for empiricism should seek to mediate ostensible tensions between theory and praxis. In other words, our researchers must seek to test their theories, have their social and cultural efficacy proven beyond reasonable doubt, possibly via experimental design and any other reliable scientific approach, before, consequently, being acted upon, but, once again, without researchers’ firm purchase on constrictive allegiances to ideological partisanship. Finally, an Afrocentric organization should wear an elastic mask of institutional globalism, which implies it should enjoy locational presence in every continent.

Yet again, what must be the aim of a typical African organization? A typical African organization should seek to “provide practical, innovative, and agency-centered analyses, critiques and reports to encourage and support a more secure, safe, and productive national society as well as to positively impact the ordinary lives of African people.” We should aim at the following as well: 1). Identify proper sources of African knowledge pertaining to cultural, economic, and social phenomena, 2). Encourage the generation of new economic initiatives and businesses, 3). Analyze and critique domination in all circles and rescue language, symbols, historical documents and monuments in the name of a renascent people, 4). Create and disseminate ideas that center people of African descent in their own historical experiences as a way of converting problems into solutions, and 5). Influence all African public policy in every continent and every country in order to accelerate the rise of Afrocentric consciousness.

How do we realize these noble goals? The first step is self-financing our organizations, namely, avoiding reliance on external or foreign financing. The next step is training urban teachers, social workers, policy makers, religious institutions, chiefs, queens, and kings, and community leaders engaged in African American Studies, African history, innovative leadership strategies, and social and economic development programs. This is bound to be challenging nonetheless. Against this backdrop, an Afrocentric organization needs to maintain as well as tolerate a diverse group of specialists with a broad range of viewpoints on themes and subjects as they relate to promoting Africa’s cultural agency, rejecting the marginalization, peripheralization, and dislocation of African people. These are the primary tasks an African organization should seek to accomplish.

Finally, a “proper” African organization or research institution should be involved in creative scientification and technologization of outmoded practices in contextualized adherence to progressive protocols, in other words, within the moral circumference of “consciencism.” Once again that means we have loads of precedential lessons from history to fall on for preventive or corrective reasons: Scientific racism, Nazi and American eugenics, Apartheid South Africa’s Tot or Dot System, Congolese Genocide (Belgian colonialism), Herero and Namaqua Genocide (German colonialism), Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, etc. That is, an African organization should not use revolutionary scientific and technological breakthroughs to underwrite ethnocentrism as the West did and continues to do with racism. Uncritical imitation should be avoided at all cost. Originality and critical thinking should be encouraged in every nook and cranny of the African world.

Ideally, science and technology should neutralize unhealthy differences, support unhealthy antagonisms, promote sanitary conditions, either through individual or public psychology, and foment positive growth and development. Now, granted that the revolutionary scholarship of Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the world’s greatest thinkers whose “melanin dosage test” enriched or added investigational currency to Western forensics, a methodology for determining the racial identity of seriously burnt bodies, exposed unhealthy dose of cultural bias in scientific research, how hard are we working to put in place relevant protocols to Africanize scientific research? Diop said science should be man’s friend, not his adversary, a view we unreservedly share. This is one of the most indispensable questions which an Afrocentric research institution should attempt to answer.

Let our Ghanaian and African organizations look up to the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies for technical, intellectual, spiritual, and moral inspiration. There is no moral excuse for the African world’s remaining the “ladder’ of Eurocentrism any longer. Why? Because the theory of Afrocentricity, now the African world’s “wise man,” has turned the epistemological personality of Eurocentrism into its “ladder.” We should learn to be the wise man then! What is more intellectually poignant than this! Finally, let the organizational spirit of Afrocentricity International and of the wisdom of Kwame Nkrumah serve as our intellectual guidepost as we solemnly embark on a journey of self-recovery, of Afrocentric reconstitution, of Diopian reorganization, of the African world, an intellectual exercise actualizable along innovate pathways of Nkrumahism or consciencism. Nkrumah has spoken and it’s up to us to follow his wisdom!

“It’s only a foolish man who sees light and still decides to follow darkness,” so say our elders.

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis