The Nkrumahist Who Transformed Ignorance Into Bliss (2)

Fri, 4 Sep 2015 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Professor Sakyi wrote a lot of unacceptable comments that shouldn’t have come from a person of his standing. I will be wasting too much time to disentangle the ridiculous things he expressed though he couched them as personal opinion. But personal opinion should have been expressed in a cocktail party not on the World Wide Web. The first of his objectionable opinion have been dealt with in my last piece and I will devote this one to what I think is one of the biggest failures of Ghanaian intellectuals. I even feel queasy about debating with a whole professor who thinks we should reinvent the wheel. Is that necessary? He will tell you that he did not write that. Of course, he didn’t, but he should have known the sort of person he was taken to the shed and have his head clubbed. I will not haggle like in the market place; I will like you to hear it from the horse’s own mouth. He wrote, ‘Equally, Einstein was a man so he was fallible. What he did achieve was based on what Kepler, Newton, Leibniz, Descartes, and others had done in the past, so it is more important to build on his achievements. I believe we need our own philosophy of life carved by us and by visionary leaders in Ghana.’

I was speechless when I finished reading this thoughtless statement. How can a whole professor write that Einstein built on the work of those illustrious people that came before, which is a classic deduction, then lose his grip to fall like a ton of bricks. I was expecting him to advance on this refined thinking, and then in the next sentence he wrote the unnecessary need for Ghanaian leaders rediscovering the law of gravitation. Is the law of gravity different from one place to the other on the surface of the earth? Professor Sakyi will have to prove that. No individual and for that matter a nation is an island unto himself; we are interdependent both on resources and ideas. It is absolute waste of precious time to grope your way in the dark for ideas which have been tried and tested in other places be it physical science, philosophy, managerial skills, economic ideas or what have you.

What Professor Sakyi is suggesting is equivalent to asking us to reinvent the motor. And since we are talking about economics I would say that it is absolute waste of human resources to embark on such needless route of nation building. There are so many examples to counteract this professorial lack of common sense, but I don’t have the time so I will offer you some few example, which none of you will have to struggle to digest. Ask yourself did the Japanese reinvent the train when they came into contact with Commander Matthew Perry who presented them with one or they copied? When Johannes Gutenberg invented his movable type print in Germany around 1450 within a generation printing presses were found in Rome, Paris, Budapest, Krakow, London, Stockholm, Antwerp, Utrecht and many more. All of these cities did not reinvent it they copied it. I can simply not understand these ridiculous pan African believers who are in control of the conscience of the continent.

During the Japanese Meiji restoration, there were enormous resistance to those who wanted to adopt the superior Western mode of doing things like Professor Sakyi is doing now. It is important to note that they failed, and their failure was a blessing to the Japanese who surpassed the Brits they copied almost a century down the line. When they literally mimeographed the ideas of the West, they galloped ahead with, for example, the train technology. Currently, they are in the forefront of the cutting edge of the railway know-how. Their bullet trains and the maglev are among the best, if not superior to any found, outside Japan.

It is wisdom to embrace new ideas, which are superior. It sounds politically incorrect to argue that some cultures are superior to others. Can anybody seriously argue against the stamping out of the practice of ‘Suttee’ in India by the British? Suttee was a funeral custom where a widow immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre or the act of burning the wife of a deceased man along with the dead body. Can this act of benevolence by the English be deemed as cultural imperialism? The Suttee was an inferior culture and the Brits were wise to have outlawed it. Strangely, during the practice of this horrendous culture the victims of this barbarity will succumb to it willingly. It is only people with ossified mentality who will shy away from new ideas which work.

Can anybody with a sharp brain fight in favour of the cultural practices of Trokosi? No sane person can mount a vigorous defence, because it is extremely primitive way of life. I raised the issue of Trokosi, because quite a few years back a whole professor, who is now deceased, strenuously tried to defend the practice in this day and age when we condemn slavery with every fibre in us.

It is incredibly unintelligent to reject an idea, which is working simply because it was originated by your enemies. The notion of manufacturing cars on the assemble line was pioneered by Henry Ford. It was an exceptionally good innovation that brought the cost of production of cars drastically down. It brought the car, until then, within the means of ordinary Americans. Within a few years of its inception, the idea was copied around the world by all the industrial economies. The Soviet Union was an ideological enemy of capitalism, however, they did not argue that, because the idea was pioneered in a capitalist haven they will reject it – they embraced it. It was in 1929 when Henry Ford agreed to assist the Russians to construct a completely Russian owned 100,000 unit per-year automotive plant.

Even the notion of one God, which entered Europe via Rome and later found a fertile ground in European consciousness, had its initiation on the banks of the Nile, and perhaps in Persia before it was copied by the Jews. The advancement of humanity is predicated on the duplication of ideas from one another. Besides, some cultural traits can stifle development. For example, slavery throttles innovation in societies that practice them. It keeps them backward compared to their realisable potential.

Finally this is what I will tell Professor Sakyi directly. He should have known that the way they are unyielding in debates I come from the same fraternity, and, therefore, share the same baptism. I do not cede an inch and I fight like wounded tiger. He should have read between the lines that I am not like one of his average professor friends who hate the sight of books. Besides, I know how to process my information and data unlike Mr Kwarteng who crams it into his head like an erudite ape, and then regurgitate it like a parrot.

Take for instance the so called Arabic numeral, which is really Indian in origin, it has been copied all over the world. When Fibonacci first acquainted himself with the numerals on the North African coast he saw its superior potential. Of course, it would have been retrogressive for Fibonacci to reinvent the advanced Arabic numerals. It was wise for the Europeans who came into contact with it through the work of Fibonacci to have abandoned the clumsy Roman numerals to adopt the superior Arabic ones, which unleashed their potentials in the persons of Leibniz and Newton. Now, a less thoughtful person like Professor Sakyi thinks that we shouldn’t copy superior philosophies, technologies, theories etc, which is providing remarkable strides for other members of the human race. It is important to remember that the Europeans who stopped the Indians from the practice of Suttee also copied spectacular and superior numerals from the very people whom they found other aspects of the culture to be uncivilised. The world is symbiotic; it is pure and simple.

Bitterness is destroying the psychic of these people. Bitterness will always destroy you. Let the past be in the past. Don’t let the resentment of colonialism or the so called imperialism cloud your vision. One plus one will always be two; it doesn’t matter whether it is coming from a scoundrel.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr



Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina