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Development from the prism of the 'Illiterate'

Intellectuals have a very complex attribute of complexifying every issue. It is as if one of the taboos of intellectualism is simplicity.

To be simple in analysis is to betray the rhythm of intellectualism. The language the intellectual uses in their discourse analysis is so technical and nuanced that the non-intellectual is unable to unravel and unpack for clarity.

It is very easy for the 'illiterate' to say Africa is underdeveloped than the so-called intellectuals. Intellectuals have the logic of perspectivism and particularism. Universalism is hardly accepted, except when it is in the interest of the intellectual.

The 'illiterate', who has no access to potable water, electricity, medication, lives in squalid and poor sanitation conditions, has nothing in terms of money to support the education of his/her children, hardly has enough to eat etcetera, has a clearer and better sense of Africa's underdevelopment compared to the intellectual, whose brains are so foggy that he squirms at the wisdom of the ‘illiterate’.

Obviously, the intellectual in Africa is likely to be bourgeois, petty bourgeois, belonging to the middle or upper class of society; and has good drinking water, lives in a gated house, eats more than three times a day; has doctors to attend to him/her; sends his children abroad for education; freely access internet; able to support his physically and mentally challenged children; and able to influence the superstructure and infrastructure of society to his advantage.

Because of the privileged position of the intellectual, he has the time to debate and even use all the arsenals of postmodernism to critique and shut down the 'illiterate' when the illiterate cries that Africa is underdeveloped!

By dint of acquiring ‘education’ (perhaps schooling) and remaining at the apex of the Ivory Tower, the intellectual aspires to be like his counterpart in the developed (sorry, relatively developed) world.

He desires to speak impeccable foreign language, speaks like the intellectual in the metropolitan country, occasionally quaffs some good imported rum to cool off, after hours of thinking to critique a theory, eats imported foods, patronises consumables goods at the malls (which are dispossessing the ‘illiterate’ peasant of space to trade tomato, pepper, and prekese).

The intellectual, therefore, sees the world not from the point of view of the peasant or proletariat, who trades his labour, and yet remains poor and the scum of the earth.

Throughout the ‘illiterate’s’ life, because he is conventionally unable to break loose from the 'eternity' of the Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' theory, he is likely to pass on the 'gene' of poverty to generations yet unborn. Here, I have in mind, 'Kofi Awoonor's 'Dzogbese Lisa'.

Who will listen to the 'illiterate' when he tells the intellectual that Ghana is underdeveloped? Who will listen to the 'illiterate' when he says that Africa is trailing behind? Who will listen to the 'illiterate' when he says that the intellectual has a foreign taste? Who will listen to the 'illiterate' when he tells the intellectual that the intellectual is the reason for Africa's underdevelopment? Who will listen to the ‘illiterate’ when he tells the world that the African intellectual has a blurred sense of analysing the African dilemma and paradox?

There comes the intellectual: 'you illiterate, keep quiet. Have you been to Oxbridge? What do you know about development? Do you know about colonialism? Have you read Walter Rodney’s ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’? Have you read Nkrumah’s ‘Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism’? Can you conceptualise how colonialism undermined our development? What do you know about poverty? Don't you know poverty is relative? Who told you Ghana is underdeveloped? Don't you know we are more morally sophisticated than the West? Have you travelled beyond Ghana? Don’t you know we are developed morally than countries that have both decriminalised and legalised homosexuality? Please keep quiet; keep quiet!'

I once felt like slapping a new PhD holder, of course an intellectual, who decided to challenge me that Ghana is not underdeveloped, because development in his postmodernist thought, which is parochial and, as usual unsophisticated, is relative! Considering the fact that I have travelled to very poor communities in Central and Northern Region (proper) and Upper East Regions of Ghana, I felt I should slap the nonsense out of the bookish head of this recent PhD holder, who sighs after he has taken whisky and Red wine!

The intellectual can hardly combine the 'gown and town' logic of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and so he writes his books in the gothic language of the Queen, and yet deludes himself that politicians are the reasons for the challenges of the poor.

Who will speak for the 'illiterate'? Why won't religion be the best of option for the 'illiterate'? If the intellectual sighs after consuming his opium, red wine and sometimes wee, which was actually the toast of intellectuals in France, what will the poor sigh on, if not Christ, who made the poor His friends?

I look forward to that day, when the 'illiterate' will turn the wheels against the intellectuals. Of course, Ayi Kwei Armah was right, when he said that: all too soon, those who once called themselves veranda boys are now living in mansions (paraphrasing)! I long to see that day when the 'illiterate' will teach wisdom to the intellectual whose mimesis lifestyle is the direct antithesis of the 'illiterate'!

Columnist: Charles Prempeh

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