Self-Flagellation or Why (some) Africans Hate African Nationalists, M. Frindéthié (first published in November 2012)

For centuries, Western Europe and its offspring, America, have organized the various scientific, political, economic, bureaucratic and ethical-religious disciplines that govern the lives of their peoples around a central order of discourse, a fundamental ideology that subsumes the primacy of individual interests over collective welfare: capitalism. Overvalued as the essential organizing principle in Western societies, capitalism successfully established the tyranny of the few that birthed it over the majority that endured it, mythologizing the rise to power of these few as epic and grandiloquent and mystifying their callous authority, their voracious appetite for profit accumulation and their take-no-prisoner moral code as measures of accomplishment. The greedier the progenitors of capitalism got, the more capitalism itself became a state of grace to be arrived at, and the more its principles were propagated in all ideological institutions—family, school and church being the preponderant ones—as honorable principles.

As the seventeenth-century slave traders grew prosperous in Europe and America from their dishonorable commerce, their sullied views and morals progressively became the standards to uphold, and it did not take long for their distorted sense of ethics to become the object of desire for most Europeans. The first capitalists of Western European and American societies established a center lodging a prominent minority, a center to which the marginalized majority could hope to belong someday only by surrendering its principles to the values of capitalism. For many on the periphery of capitalism, the way to reach out to the center of Euro-American capitalism was to voluntarily marginalize themselves geographically. Thus, in the aftermath of the Berlin 1885 Conference, many of them joined the crews of commercial ships toward the colonies; many enrolled in the foreign legions that would crush indigenous resistances in the colonies; many joined the colonial administrations that were to organize the power structure of the metropole in the colonies; and many others just packed their few belongings and left for the colonies, betting everything on good fortune. All, however, were resolute to strike gold and return in a few years to the center as nouveaux riches.

In the colonies, this heteroclite body of Euro-American adventurers, outfitted with the distorted moral principles of the rapacious center, rehearsed the center. The center’s attitudes became their attitudes, its values their values, and its suppositions their suppositions; but worst of all, the other, the colonized, became the object on which these mystified fortune-hunters would test their efficiency. The colonies became the site of evident racism, a racism whose preponderant organizing principle was profit accumulation. In the European scramble for unbridled wealth accumulation, racism was merely a means to the end. Racism allowed elimination of the dark other in the capitalist quest for profit; but above all, in that quest, racism allowed and rationalized commoditization of the other. A racist ideology developed in Europe and in America by a center eager to confuse the marginalized European and American masses on the real source of its economic and political power was transferred in the colony by the bamboozled adventurers and applied with expert efficiency. In the metropole, it was convenient for the center that the masses should believe that political and economic powers were attainable by any constituent of “God’s chosen race,” provided this constituent would abide by the center’s order of discourse as a natural ideology come down from the divine authority. A crooked clergy fattened by rapacious capitalists rationalized the supposed link between the gospel and the capitalist discourse of uncontrolled wealth accumulation. While the milky skin of the European was a virtual authorization to paradise, the colonized’s dark complexion was the divine declaration of his eternal damnation; but above all, it was the sign of the colonized’s divine assignation: He was to slave for the white. The black colonized became the other’s other, the other of the Euro-American capitalistic center’s other.

The various independence struggles in the colonies had profound meaning for the colonized as well as for the colonizer. Colonization, be it direct as the one instituted by the French or indirect as the English model, intended to deprive the native both materially and mentally. The primary aim of colonization was to siphon resources from the colonies toward the metropole; however, for this dispossession to take place without any hitch, the native had to be placed in a frame of mind to accept the ideology of domination. In the colonies, the colonial school—usually run by the colonial clergy—the colonial administration, and the colonial armies either persuasively or repressively produced and maintained the subaltern conditions of the native and even went so far as to teach the native to reproduce these conditions in the absence of supervision. In this context, the independence movement, sought to restore the native to himself by demythologizing the white and by demystifying his power. These movements were considered subversive by the colonizers, who resisted them and went to great length to undermine them with the help of some native informants trained in the art of self-mortification. Africa’s biggest challenge today is to grow in spite of the sabotaging acts of the nostalgic former colonizers assisted by their swarm of self-destructive native informants.

This challenge is significant, as it amounts to displacing the frame of reference that informs the judgments of the African elites. Colonization was not just about draining off wealth from Africa; it was also about physically beating the African in the fields and on the worksites, and mentally beating his brain to pulp in the colonial schools and churches in order to outfit him for the maintenance and perpetuation of the ideology of Western dominance. This enterprise of alienation worked so successfully that the first leaders of the newly independent African countries—many of whom are still in power today—govern their nations in the interest of the former colonizers. Whenever the Western frame of reference has been challenged by a few farsighted nationalists, whenever these nationalists have rallied enough support to imperil the Western influence on their countries, they have been simply eliminated by native hit men on the payroll of the rapacious Western interests, when their programs have not been sabotaged and their countries literally sacked and set on fire to confirm the propagated notion by a racist and self-centered West of the inability of blacks to govern themselves.

Despite the danger of obliteration, a few audacious African intellectuals have not hesitated to challenge the presumed natural center of globalization with its implied hegemonic agenda. Their task is daunting, as they face opposition both from within as well as from without. From within, they are targeted by the petite bourgeoisie that has prospered through destructive collaboration with the West. From without, they face opposition with a greedy West resolute to maintain its exploitation of Africa. In the daunting task that faces them every single day, the African nationalists deserve our admiration and utmost support

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