‘The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed’
It is about mental slavery. Once you make a person hate themselves and who they are, (referring to their ‘cultural history’) you don’t need to kill or put them in prison because you’ve made them their own worst enemy.
The oppression of the mind is the most powerful tool you can use to break a person.
In the late 19th Century, Europeans flooded into Africa with the sole intention of ‘bringing light into the dark continent’. Be that as it may, have been, it did not mean that Africa then was a backward landmass for we had advanced socio-political and socio-economic systems that had been in place and sustained society since time immemorial. Concerning the Europeans’ arrival and escapades in Africa.
John Henrik Clarke, an African-American historian, professor, and a pioneer in the creation of Pan-African and Africana studies, said:
“They laughed at your clothes; and made you change your clothes, they laughed at your names; and made you change your name; but more importantly they laughed at your God, and made you change your God.”
From an African point of view, Africa never was, is, or will be a laughing stock despite all the challenges and the shortcomings we face.
The continent has to reject the notion that being modern and civilized means imitating the west. It is the 21st Century and while most African nations have adopted the language, political ideology, socio-economic structures, education and everything that makes up a nation, even down to popular culture, from the west, we still have a total dependency on our own traditional political philosophies and ideas and their shifts and movements.
However, it is sad to note that this is largely evident in rural communities and in the poorer countries of the continent and not in metropolises and richer countries.
That Africa has taken to western norms and cultures, makes John Henrik Clarke’s statement about the West laughing at us ever so true today. Whatever the West normalizes eventually trickles down to Africa and is adopted as a norm. essentially, this means that, slowly, Africa continues to be slowly emptied of its essence, and becoming a relic, no different in substance from a statue or a museum.
As Africans, we should strongly desist from persuading the rest of the world to believe that anything from our continent is inferior. For instance, celebrations of Africa on the international scene mostly involve dancing, music, traditional fashion, and other cultural artifacts.
Africans hardly ever showcase African-originated economic ideas, social ideologies, or intellectual theories. It is not that these do not exist, but the world has successfully convinced everyone that everything African is substandard.
Echoes of 19th Century Colonists
It is the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we are told that its either you adapt or you die. African leaders are telling us that the way of the west is ‘modern and civilized’. They echo the 19th Century colonialists who dismissed African civilizations as backward, barbaric, and uncivilized. Sadly, this is becoming Africa’s reality.
Westerners, aided by our very own, tell us that our institutions are corrupt, that our societies are patriarchal, and that the African traditional religions are heathen. To echo John Henrik Clarke’s remarks, they are, indeed, laughing at us.
However, this is of little concern to Africa’s elites. For them, what matters is to find what the political currency is in the US or Europe, and to uncritically follow it. Whereas people in the west are de-emphasizing patriotism and nationalism, Africans need these to build sustainable nations.
Ultimately, we need to look into traditional African systems and extract coherent policies that can help form workable and uniquely African social and systems. This is the only viable path to preventing the continent from fully becoming western Africa – and the only way to end the continent’s long-term political decay.
Let Africa not be like them. As we celebrate Africa Month in May, let Mother Africa rise up to become the powerhouse that it is destined to be with all its sons and daughter. Let Africa be the one to have the last laugh for they have been laughing at us for centuries but we shall serve them no longer.