On Africa’s Left Lower Jaw Part l
“The process of decolonization is in two parts: The need to resurrect one’s own history and its contributions to the history of the world; and secondly, to re-write colonial history to show how it has led to poverty rather than progress (Paul Banahene Adjei quotes the Aboriginal intellectual James M. Blaut’s in his essay “Mazrui and His Critics,” p. 88).”
Have you seen a three-dimensional picture of the world map before? By the way, does it really matter if you have or have not seen it before? Anyway, is it “map” or “Maps” we are referring to? What has your seeing it got to do with anything? What exactly did the political scientist Ali Mazrui mean when he told his BBC Reith Lectures’ audience in 1979 that, Europe, for reasons of racial, cultural, and political motivations, rather than cartographic or geographic actualities, situated the European continent above Africa to mark its superiority? Well, these loaded questions may not directly impinge on our philosophical hypothecations! Yet, to say the least, they have metaphoric signification for our immediate discussion, in what Mazrui has controversially called the “African Condition.” Again, a large portion of the philosophical umbrella and flowing analytic skirt of Mazrui’s diagnostic label generally extends to the haunched conditionalities of human existence.
In that regard, what precisely characterizes Mazrui’s symptomatology of the “African Condition,” so-called? Akin L. Mabogunje, a reviewer of Mazrui’s book “The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis,” writes: “According to him, the African predicament in the closing quarter of the 20th century is the product of six paradoxes. First, the paradox of habitation which makes Africa the earliest habitat of man but also the last continent to become truly habitable; second, the paradox of humiliation whereby although Africans are not the most brutalized of peoples, they are almost certainly the most humiliated in human history; third, the paradox of acculturation whereby African societies are becoming the most Westernized even though they are culturally the farthest away from the West; fourth, the paradox of fragmentation whereby though by no means the smallest of continents, Africa is almost definitely the most fragmented politically…”
Mabogunje’s continues: “fifth, the paradox of retardation which makes one of nature’s best endowed continents technically the most retarded and least developed; and sixth, the paradox of location whereby the most centrally located of all continents physically is the most peripheral politically (See Mabogunje’s ’Mazrui” in “Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 50, No. 4 (1980), pp. 424-425, published by Cambridge University Press). Clearly, these diagnostic elements are eloquently attired in their philosophical khakis, but, like all generalizations, they merely constitute a threadbare, if cosmetic, oversimplification of deeper social and political issues. In simple terms, Mazrui usefully sees Africa in a shameful state of psychiatric despair. That said, his tenuous generalizations should define the starting point, supposedly, among other questions, where national discourse on matters of enormous consequentiality to Africa have to begin.
Although Mazrui may have made these critical observations some thirty-plus years ago, we simply cannot vault over them in the misguided belief that they have no material relevance to the political economy of African development economics. Certainly, one important fact underlying Mazrui’s epidemiological philosophizing regards the historical, cultural, and locational reference of Africa’s developmental mobility, or otherwise, in the political theatre of human socialization, of human psychology. These questions have also engrossed others including Afrocentrists. However, Mazrui, unlike Afrocentrists, approached Africa from the political complexion of Africanism, not necessarily from the landscape of Afrocentric rootedness. In any case, notwithstanding the theoretical differential between the two schools of thought, there is no denying the fact that, at this crucial moment in the life of Africa, of Ghana, progressive vocal chromatography is needfully required on each rung of the sociopolitical ladder of discourse on African development economics. This is important!
What is more, for one, Paul Banahene Adjei, like Afrocentrists, generally, acknowledges the moral imperative of an alternative perspectival approach to appraising Africa, this, beyond the paradigmatic straitjacket of Eurocentrism. Thus he writes: “By telling Africa’s history as it is, Mazrui is resisting what Michel Foucault referred to in his writings as the ‘amputation’ of the past and troubling the dominant discourse, which attempts to place Africa’s crisis at its doorstep while ignoring the colonizer’s complicity.” In effect, what Adjei seems to be suggesting is that individuals should be courageously objective in challenging the status quo, that is, prevailing cultural myths, that, among other things, tends to prop up carefully-constructed self-serving consensus of intellectual and political elites?to oil the wheels of rulership of the masses. This, whether it’s a philosophical question of globalism or of localism. Still, oftentimes, the less privileged in society are themselves complicit, either consciously or unconsciously, in their own psychosocial self-immolation, when, ironically, they permit hybrids of political snake lizards to lure them into buying promissory snake oil in exchange for their hard-earned political rights.
This is why the concepts of mass mobilization, critical consciousness, popular education, social justice, democratic education, (black) liberation theology, political consciousness, political activism, adult education, victorious consciousness, social anarchism, liberation psychology, and social ecology, ideas erected on a firm foundation of Afrocentricity and Nkrumahism, are so important in redressing economic and social inequity. Admittedly, African agency is paramount to the operationalizable success of these manifold processes. Meanwhile, Adjei continues: “Therefore, one should view this series as an academic revolt by African scholars who seek to challenge the sense of comfort and complacency in the dominant discourse, which validates the Eurocentric historical account of Africa as the only one worth telling. If Western scholars are not happy with the presentation of both sides, it is because their historical and contemporary roles in Africa have not been positive (Ibid: 88-89). The series in question, parenthetically, refers to Mazrui’s controversial TV series “Triple Heritage,” which he claimed, quite correctly, was inspired by Nkrumah’s sociological analysis of the evolutionary stratification of African societies from a troika of cultural influences?traditional Africa, Christian Europe, and Islamic Arabia.
On the other hand, Wole Soyinka and Molefi Kete Asante, among others, have vigorously critiqued “Triple Heritage,” with Mazrui’s critics pointing out its Islamic biases and questioning Mazrui’s interpretation of history, particularly classical African civilizations and the brutality of Arab Trans-Saharan Slave Trade. Hence, we shall not present our own critique of the series here. Interestingly, there are a few useful lessons we may have to squeeze from the methodical sponge of Adjei’s measured observations, that of overthrowing expendably systematized cultural, intellectual, and mythological motifs, apparently of no immediate transformative value to African development economics. This is a serious question with immense social implications for political morality. That aside, it is also usefully apposite to take cognizance of the fact that Adjei suggestively deploys the intellectual accoutrements of African scholars against Eurocentric universalism in the parboiled culture war. But he missed one essential variable in the conditional equation for social transformation. What specific role did he carve out for the non-scholarly masses in transforming the African world? In other words, Adjei probably has committed the same unpardonable mistake which JB Danquah regrettably committed, that of ignoring the masses who could have vaulted him into a position of political power.
In fact, the masses did not see JB Danquah as their “Doyen of Gold Coast Politics.” Why? Because he dismissively kept his distance from the masses as one conveniently kept a leprotic limb at a comfortable distance. Nevertheless, the masses soon realized that those colonial doppelgangers who had opportunely crowned JB Danquah as their “Doyen of Gold Coast Politics” were the same shadowy puppeteers behind JB Danquah’s destructive, greedy, opportunistic, and undemocratic tendencies. Further, by politically keeping the masses at arm’s length, JB Danquah was incurring the rejective wrath of the masses. Accordingly, the masses isolated him in the comfort of his elitist carapace and, he, in turn, responded by collaborating with the American CIA to overthrow the people’s popular sovereignty. Indeed, JB Danquah was never a Pan-Africanist as he claimed. Reasons? Because he hated and opposed individuals who presented with “drapetomania” and “dysaethesia Aethiopica”! Likewise, KA Busia was intellectually and politically Danquah-esque in this close ideological connection. Community, it turns out, exercises the power of life and death over rigid individualism.
Importantly, there is no denying the fact that the social and political integration of the consciences of the masses is morally superior to individual consciences. It is also revealing to acknowledge a broom’s claim to superior physical strength over a twig’s. Great, gracious, intelligent, and prescient leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Frantz Fanon, Bob Marley, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, and Nelson Mandela knew and practiced this moral philosophy of mass mobilization. Why then did “the Doyen of Gold Coast Politics” miss this simple wisdom? Yet again, the imperial descendants of the same colonial puppeteers give serious intellectual weight to Kwame Nkrumah and his progressive ideas in their elite universities, while, ironically, elbowing JB Danquah, KA Busia, and others, to the periphery of near-intellectual irrelevance. The secret is that the moral conscience of the masses has managed to keep Kwame Nkrumah and his legacy alive, for individuals are noted for their historical amnesia while the masses are known for their eidetic memory. Put another way, the summative consciences of the masses, unlike individual consciences, are immortal. Understandably, individual consciences only enjoy the restrictive mortality of seeming longevity.
On the contrary, the significance of crowd psychology, morally speaking, directly leads us to cartographic questions. Let’s ask again: Why is Africa spatially hemmed in by the “crowd psychology” of the Americas, Australia, Europe, and Asia? This question is as cartographically relevant as it is philosophically imperative. How so? Pointedly, Africa sees its bifurcated image in the form of the two Americas, symbolic of cultural dislocation, whenever it views itself using the Atlantic Ocean as a metaphoric mirror. There is also the omnipresent nose of Australia right at the lower end of Africa’s alimentary canal whenever it wants to break wind. As a result, Africa is always compelled to hoard its gastric gas. Also, Africa’s southernmost feet are bound by pre- and post-Apartheid political syndactylism, giving Africa a seemingly mis-developed, knock-kneed gait of sorts. Then, there is also the crushing weight of Europe and Asia directly bearing upon Africa’s head. But the cranium of Africa, that is, North Africa, is completely taken over by Islamo-Arabism. And Islamo-Arabism directs itself away from inner Africa. As well, Europe directly tramples its imperial feet on Africa’s head at will. And its orifices via which it discharges its waste products directly face downward, in the direction of the pate of Africa’s head, which, among other uses, it employs frivolously as a dumpsite.
In addition, the cartographic height of Africa is spatially constrained farthest to the north by the Arctic and south by Antarctica, two frigid regions. Then the sweltering knife of the equator cuts through Africa’s cardiovascular region. In effect, six out of the seven continents cartographically police Africa functioning in their deterministic capacities as Africa’s exclusive chaperones with complete spatial oversight of her activities?for whatever reasons. Where are the breathing space and room of maneuverability for Africa? The question for us to answer is this: Is this cartographic arrangement providential or a result of natural or evolutionary forces? More to the point, could Africa, Ali Mazrui’s “Garden of Eden,” have been spatially coetaneous with Pangaea, Alfred Wegener’s so-called “supercontinent”? Could this cartographic stuffiness be why post-colonial Africa does not seem to have a mind of its own? Possibly! The other unresolved philosophical concern is this: If Africa were indeed the “Garden of Eden, then Adam and Eve could not have spoken Hebrew! So, in both theory and practice, they must have spoken one of the present-day indigenous African languages or one of their linguistic patresfamilias. Why then is the Ghanaian national psychology haunted by the specter of English?
Yet somewhere in the midst of this cartographic quicksand loosely hangs the ectopic identity and lynched body of Africa, of Ghana. And what has Nuruddin Farah’s “Maps” got to say about the shifting sand of Ghana’s convoluted, disoriented national identity, a salmagundi of colonialism, Islamism, neocolonialism, Christianism, inferiority complex, and Eurocentrism? What is the philosophical relationship between Farah’s “Maps” and Mazrui’s “African Condition”? And if Farah’s “Maps” made it to “Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century,” what does it say about the moral urgency which we must surely append to the political economy of transforming the “Maps” of Ghana and the “Maps” of Africa? What has changing our “Maps” got to do with the theory of Afrocentricity, Nkrumah’s radical call for reassessing Africa’s postcolonial situation as well as reinterpreting the African past in the normative context of their sociopolitical relevance to African modernity, and James M. Blaut’s philosophical approach to reexamining colonial and post-colonial societies? Everything. If that is so, why do Ghanaians make English, not native African languages, a cultural symbol of intelligence, wisdom, intellectual maturity, and genteelness?
What is the nature of public reaction to the rapid Englishization or Anglicization of Ghana’s public space? “Today, the conventional wisdom among the youth is that our Ghanaian languages are too ‘local,’ their word for backward or ‘uncool,’” writes Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, adding: “When ‘educated’ young people meet, they prefer to use their own version of English even when they share a common Ghanaian language (See “Today is World Poetry Day”). Gyan-Apenteng notes elsewhere: “Most parents in the urban areas speak English at home to their children against expert advice that children benefit more in later life when their early learning is in their mother tongue.” In fact, Gyan-Apenteng goes further: “In our own country, all our cultures have wonderful forms of poetry that have been used to hand down the history, identities and aesthetics of our people to new generations.” That is, Gyan-Apenteng’s concerns point to nativist poetry framed in Ghanaian, not foreign, languages. Why are we allowing these rich, living traditions to die off? Yet he then asks rhetorically: “What sense would we have of Nigeria without Soyinka or Okigbo? Similarly, we, too, ask: “What sense would we have of Ghana without Kofi Anyidoho, Kwabena Nketia, Efua Sutherland, Ama Ata Aidoo, Kwame Dawes, and Kofi Awoonor?
Having said that, we do not want our position misconstrued, however, because the commercial dominance of the English-speaking West, globalization, and international trade demand that we do not nurse our acquired English at the expense of progressive Ghanaian cultural practices. In this context, therefore, we call for political sanity and intellectual balance in finding innovative solutions to foreign erosion of progressive Ghanaian cultural practices. Another strange paradox is that Ghanaian-born Americans go back home and their locally-brewed English-parroting Ghanaian counterparts take umbrage at their awkward rhotacistic enunciation of English words. Likewise, Ghanaian-born Americans uncomfortably undergo profuse sudation in the presence of the social splattering of locally-brewed broken English, of the non-rhotic accents of English-parroting Ghanaians. Yet, this rhetorical aping does not impress the white man whose native tongue is English, among others. Meanwhile, could it also be why Ngugi wa Thiong’o, for one, out of frustration with national clamor for English, told a European missionary that Christ actually spoke Aramaic, not English, as the said missionary and the King James Bible, among other English translations of the Bible, eloquently made it out to be.
Again, as we hinted previously, Ghanaians are so sickly obsessed with spoken English and formal English grammar to the extent that, those productive and patriotic Ghanaians who don’t advertise the luxurious trappings of spoken English in the public arena, say, are viewed with intellectual skepticism and social condescension. What is this English fever all about? In other words, is it mere metaphoric coincidence that Ghanaians speak English via their “left jaws,” while, Ghana, our beloved country, sits precariously on Africa’s left lower jaw? In simple metaphoric language, what have the Broca’s area and the Wernicke’s area, both located within the left hemisphere, got to do with English and corruption in Ghanaian society? Isn’t political kleptomania actualized mostly via English, mystically spoken via the Eurocentric “left jaws” of Ghana’s neocolonial leadership? Don’t Ghanaian politicians lie to the electorate via spoken English? Isn’t tax evasion by Western multinationals in Africa done via written English? Aren’t the louche contractual arrangements struck between the government of Ghana and its Western counterparts mostly framed in the English language?
Thus, is it any wonder that the words “left” and “sinister” and the Ghanaian “left hand” are related in a social matrix of cultural etiquette where, for instance, the “left hand” is associated with “filth”? Could we be dreaming? Could we possibly be misinterpreting the cartographic sociality of Africa and the philosophical locationality of Ghana in a two-dimensional analysis? Are we willing to use our “right jaws” as far as spoken English is concerned, by way of changing the “Maps” of Ghana and the “Maps” of Africa for the betterment of the people? What has English done for us in terms of poverty reduction? What is our English doing to prevent the recolonization of Ghana via the so-called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)? What is our English doing to ensure that investment liberalization and privatization do not erode the little economic gains we have made? How is our English helping us develop relevant technologies to address real-world problems? What is our English doing about Ghana’s failing schools? Which appropriate measures has our English put in place to ensure that there is enough developmental space for local ingenuity as our clueless post-Nkrumah Eurocentric leadership continues to sell Africa to the West with unabated odium toward Africa’s posterity?
Given what Nkrumah achieved for Ghana (and Africa) via his Afrocentric thinking, what can we comparatively say about the achievements of our post-Nkrumah Eurocentric administrations and mangers of our economies via their Anglomaniac thinking?
We shall return…