Africa’s Friendly Fire and Collateral Damages
It is the second largest continent on the planet. A continent that is treated in the so-called developed world as a single land, yes even a single village, housing humankind’s poorest of the poor. Dictionaries detail this magical trisyllable continent’s size, population, greatest lakes, longest rivers and highest mountains. In such reference books, the people are categorised under “Arab” (e.g. Sudan’s al-Bashir) and “Negroid” (e.g. Kenyan me) even in the 21st century. But Africa is even today home to every branch of humankind. What is never listed in the references is the staggering wealth of the continent. A wealth that miraculously only causes poverty and “tribal wars” by proxy, corruption that has nothing to do with anybody else but Africans, diseases, some of which could be cured with little more than clean drinking water, mind boggling capital that always flies out of the continent – if it ever set foot there in the first place. Africa, the rich world maintains, is not a “normal” continent.
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I agree with the rich world. But in a different context. Africa is the first home of modern humankind, it has the gene pool whose contents are more varied than elsewhere on the planet (my DNA sequencing as a Nilotic Kenyan of Luo descent will confirm that comparison of human genomes would probably show me to be more closely “related” to a Dane – not the canis familiaris variety! – than to another Kenyan), it is the continent where men hardly able to spell their own names declare themselves President For Life and get away with it, it is where a vice president of a nation straddling both developed and developing worlds rapes an HIV woman victim and, for lack of a more moronic excuse, states that he took a shower following his deadly deed – and the VP still gets elected as Thabo Mbeki’s successor.
No, Africa is a pretty “abnormal” continent. Winston Churchill once said, "The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance my deride it, but in the end, there it is." What Churchill may not have known is the fact that time would pick up a murderous commercial momentum while voices like mine unwillingly remain pariahs in the publishing world.
In my recent book, Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A Critical Observation of Neighbouring Continents, I do my best to delineate Africa’s “abnormality” whose roots are both internal and external. If all humankind are a chip off the same block – and we are – then a few things have gone terribly wrong in Africa. But are they irreparably wrong? Not if Africans shed what I term their elements inhuman as well as their collective psychic damage. And not if the West also sheds their own elements inhuman, unbridled greed and collective hegemonic delusions, for here is a clear case where the perpetrator blames his victim.
In trying to define the source of inequality in present-day human fortunes, arguing that they cannot be assigned to human ethnic groups or their physical characteristics, the American scholar and winner of the Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize, Jared Diamond, disputes “the hypothesis that intellectual differences underlie technological differences,” and says that “tests of cognitive ability (like IQ tests) tend to measure cultural learning and not pure innate intelligence, whatever that is. Because of those undoubted effects of childhood environment and learned knowledge on IQ test results, the psychologist’s efforts to date have not succeeded in convincingly establishing the postulated genetic deficiency in IQs of nonwhite peoples.”
Nearly all Africans, openly or secretly, collectively believe that they are naturally brainless. In some of my reading tours in Europe, I meet Africans who argue along the lines of technology never having been Africa’s strongest point. When I mention that modern technology is there now for anybody to acquire, not invent, they turn to the fact that their continent is too poor. When I delineate the wealth of Africa that could be put to good use for technology and any other sciences, they point out (correctly) to corrupt leaders who are “too smart” to let the majority of the citizens receive education. Mention of Christianity sprouting in the Horn of Africa before it got anywhere near Western Europe, only reaps me the equivalence of a So what, we’re still “only” Africans. And poor.
The height of fatalism and resignation. The collective psychic damage.
But how did Africans assimilate these negative qualities and made them inborn? As I argue in Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare – DEAN for short – underpinning these notions are the systematic endeavours of many centuries from within and without the continent.
Ever since the 16th century, it is Africans who have assisted and made it possible for the West to accumulate its incredible wealth. And this under the cruellest and most dehumanising conditions. It was Africans who shed their blood and lost their lives, it is still the Africans paying with their lives to keep up this wealth accumulation that has completely run amok. What’s wrong with the African citizenry? Why are Africans letting themselves be dehumanised once again and this time “willingly”? This cannot be “the normal African trait” even by the benchmarks of the most benign of Gods. All members of humankind are born with innate pride, dignity, self-worth, self-esteem, protection for the self and those of one’s family when there is a common enemy. And the will to fight to the death to maintain these virtues, however poor one is. So why this abject submission by the majority of Africans? After all, they are the only massively colonised continent, yet the only “natives” who managed to drive Euroancestrals out and retain their continent for themselves. Now, many parts of Africa are as good as absolute despotisms with the civil law merely an elaborate jurisprudence system inherited from colonialism. The ordinary citizen has no legal defence worth the description, no redress against oppression by the government and officialdom in general.
Africans are not all lazy at all, but they have had role models in the last four or five decades who, combined with the ever increasing fatalism, have taught them that hard work does not pay. If you set up shop this morning, you should be a millionaire by this evening.
At least hard work does not pay in their own countries, unless one has connections. Connections is actually an ingrained human trait in all societies since time immemorial. Even deities have connections to link them with their worshippers. But in African states the connection is too blatant, crass and disproportionate. There are other factors contributing to the psychological injuries that now seem to be the heart and soul of Africans, the very essence upon which they judge themselves and accept others to judge them, and it is dovetailed to the way their interaction with the outside world has affected their mental well-being. It is a vicious circle. Below is a passage from DEAN:
On the one hand most Africans tend to accuse the Western media of intentionally perpetuating the bad image of the continent. This is not without some truth. The London-based Royal African Society supports this argument. The argument is that after all the West are the corruptors, the plunderers of Africa’s precious natural resources from timber and oil to gold and diamonds, from bauxite to coltran etcetera, and the manufacturers and sellers of the weapons Africans are using to kill each other. All the capital flight from the corrupt leaders and the elite land in Western banks to promote not Africa’s but Western economies. The West is to blame for the under-nourishment, poverty, epidemics, the AIDS pandemic and a variety of evils.
Raymond Baker in an oral testimony to the AAPPG (All Africa Party Parliamentary Group) as far back as January 2001 said, “We have been putting some $25 billion a year of foreign aid into Africa in the most recent years. Compare that with my estimate of the amount of money that goes illegally out of Africa and ultimately into Western coffers, $100-200 billion. In other words, for every $1 of foreign aid that we are generously handing out across the top of the table, we are taking back some $4-$8 in dirty money under the table.”
On the other hand Africans should well ask themselves who is responsible for the child soldiers, expulsion, displaced persons, the dreadful living standards and short lifespan of their people. They should question their own apathy in the running of their political life. Why is the world moving rapidly ahead while Africa is retreating towards archaic forms of living? Africans are the only human beings whose longevity continues to drop while all other human beings are living longer and healthier than ever before, thanks to better nourishment, advanced technology and medical science.
Despite all that has been said or preached, I see the core of problems in Africa as the African people themselves. Most of them are not even aware that they are their own problems. Africans are the psychologically lost branch of humankind. Not without good reason. No other group has been as physically and psychologically brutalised, and this brutalisation lasted all of 500 years. Worse still, the end is not even on the horizon. The practice of keeping a fellow human being as a slave has been implemented throughout human history and goes on even now, also between homogeneous groups of people.
But for Africa and the Africans, after the trans-Atlantic slave trade came the colonisation. This was an experience that was more traumatising than the slave trade. Here was a strange people who appeared out of nowhere to take the land of the African ancestors and there was no stopping them; a handful of them could kill ten thousand warriors in a matter of hours. The now corrupted social Darwinism was not survival of the physically fittest but survival of the militarily mightiest. It took a long time for Africans to recover from the paralysing daze and think up new forms of war strategies and tactics against the victors’ military might. Then, just as independence dawned on African nations, the people of Africa were latched into the toughest chains ever: dictators appointed by the ex-colonialists especially those dictators who lacked any meritocracy, imperialist and kleptocratic rulers who did not shy away from using violence of the most inhuman forms to achieve their goals. All these processes were inconsistent, abrupt, capricious, arbitrary, unpredictable and so intense that the “injuries” Africans sustained are severe and will be irreversible without concerted efforts being made to “heal” the “injuries.”
Finally, globalisation is now forcing not just Africa but the entire planet to its knees, creating new ruthless forms of ethnic and gender discrimination.
In the sociological sense, Africans have emerged through all this with a collective inferiority complex affecting their entire spectrum of thousands of cultures. This is known as the cultural cringe. They (the kleptocratic dictators, political leaders and the elite) feel inferior to nearly all other cultures and peoples and are afflicted with a pathological desire to overcompensate by spectacularly achieving or by adopting extremely antisocial behaviour. It assists nobody to deny the fact that Africans tend to have negative feelings of self-esteem and self-worth that fluctuates between over-evaluation (or idealisation) and devaluation, both of themselves and of others. Particularly African politicians and persons in responsible positions seem unable to realistically accept that, like any other human beings, they have self-limitations. These Africans see insults and slights where even radar could not detect them. They cannot deal with criticism, failures, disillusionment, setbacks and disappointments, but base their sense of self-esteem and self-worth substantially on outside events like subordination, absolutism, Swiss bank accounts, Armani suits, villas in Malibu or Florida, vast domains in England and castles all over Europe.
Three good examples of African elites who suffered from “acquired narcissism” were Dr. Felix Houphoüet-Boigny, General Field Marshal el Haj Idi Amin and Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa The First. Their likes — and quite a few hundred million non-elite Africans as well — are like children in the formative years trying to shield themselves from what psychologists term “the inevitable hurt and fears involved in the phase of personal development.” This phase is normally evident in children aged 6 months to 6 years. By the time these subject “toddlers” above arrive at “adolescence” and “adulthood,” they are drowned in infatuation and obsession with themselves to the exclusion of others. They display a chronic pursuit of personal gratification and attention, infantile verbal abuse and insulting of each other in the media and during parliamentary debates, bragging, social dominance and personal ambition, lack of empathy, insensitivity to other fellow Africans whom they devalue or annihilate senselessly, circumventing hindrances or any sense of responsibility in their daily livelihood and thoughts. Rather than progressing to maturity, they regress to the infantile-narcissistic phase. They feel omnipotent, underestimate challenges facing them and believe themselves to be almighty, misjudge their powers and the powers of their opposition. When the opposition — whether innocent citizens voicing their grievances, organizations and the civil society fighting for a humanitarian cause or political rivals gaining popularity — they simply “get rid of” such opposition. CIA could not do better, cloaked in hegemonic delusions, if but more clandestinely. The ability of such Africans to appreciate the feelings and needs of others as well as to empathise with them rapidly deteriorates. They turn arrogant and haughty, paranoid and sadistic. The dissonance breeds the desire to keep on living in the world of fantasy, grandiosity and entitlement.
Above all else they are in a perpetual feverish search for unconditional admiration which they do not deserve in the first place. Their preoccupation is their fantasy world and daydreams. And, at last, in this mode, they exploit others or pathologically envy them and become quite literally explosive. Whatever they say or do is said and done from a position of omnipotence. Hence the urge to try to Europeanise themselves and to amass castles, villas and Western bank accounts with sums of money that would feed, educate and provide adequate medical services for the entire African continent. The real world keeps on frustrating them and the frustration is acute to the point of being unbearable. Theirs is a world in which everything is either all virtue or all evil.
The African psyche is their worst ailment. But how did they catch the contagion?
More than four hundred years of slavery brought the Africans to culture a mentality of self-negation. It taught them, even in the Bible once their majority were converted to Christianity, that the colour of their skin destined them to slavery and slavery was the prerequisite for their skin colour. They saw their monarchs, their nobility, rulers, leaders, religious and military dignitaries overwhelmed by a military superiority they were powerless against. A military superiority that ordered these monarchs, aristocrats, military nobility, and religious dignitaries to be publicly chained, whipped and dragged to the bowels of ships — by mere menials or other African slaves. These pillars of their society could now protect neither their people nor themselves. And they were taken away, never to be seen again.
When it was not their monarchs and dignitaries it was their daughters, wives, mothers, husbands, sons, fathers, sisters and brothers. Those who were left behind were either weak, sick, crippled or hardly out of infancy. They did not know how long they themselves would remain free, left with no spiritual, medicinal, political or military organizations worth relying on. Those who were hauled to the Americas or the Caribbean were even more helpless and lost than those left behind to blindly roam around their vast continent in an attempt to survive. Most continental Africans thus embarked on building temporary settlements and practicing a life of mere subsistence. Not only the stranger who crossed your path but also your general merchant, your neighbour or your ruler was a potential enemy and was not to be trusted. They could lure and sell you or any member of your family to slavers. Those who had cultured a settled life with central organizations before this bizarre dilemma, were forced into a nomadic life, always penetrating inland and away from the coastal areas in order to survive. They mutilated their bodies or the bodies of their children in order to look unattractive or weak to the slavers. Personalities could not thrive where mistrust had such vast grazing pasture. And the worst inter-human relationships took root and became a giant obstructing oak: the defeated African always met the victor European in an attitude of self-negation, subservience, self-effacing and inferiority. To this minute, when African leaders sit with Euroancestral leaders on conference tables or play host to international conferences where the pink face is inevitable, the African self-doubt is a screaming aura around the Africans, thick enough to feel and visible enough to see. Most Africans’ eyes and voices are instinctively lowered as if they have to take pains not to assault the “civilised” sensitive eyes and ears of the Euroancestrals (compared to when they are debating among themselves), their gaits become faltering, their composure laboured and their carriage cramped. The word civilisation rings alarming bells in their psyche, reminding them that their own civilisation had not been good enough to thrust forward, so why bother with it. They exude an all-round air of being ill-at-ease, like schoolboys fearing a reprimand before the headmaster. In the presence of Euroancestrals, the explosions of cannon balls, bombs falling and guns smoking to wipe out fellow African brave warriors wielding spears, arrows, war axes and colonial rifles, shredding these warriors to bits of flying human flesh, from some incredible distance, is branded in the African collective memory and is ever-present — as soon as the pink skin is in the vicinity. The Cultural Cringe. It is the parental as well as an entire ethnic group’s protection and survival strategies passed on from one generation to the next in more than five centuries: Extreme caution. Don’t, if you can’t stop it instantly, even sneeze wrongly before the pink people. Do as has been taught and demanded by them or otherwise face the fatal consequences. Tread only where allowed to tread or else meet the decimation of yourself and yours. Say what is expected of you or else it will be the last time you open your mouth to utter any opinions of your own. Echo the convictions of your mentor, the pink ones, or you will never have the tongue to utter any convictions at all.
In other words, the Africans are generally not at ease in the psychological sense. And it happens involuntarily because it is buried deep in their souls. The fates of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Omar Torrijos and Saddam Hussein are constant warning threats, the Royal House of Saud a constant example of how to remain safe.
The triumphant European, on the other hand, always met the defeated African with an attitude of self-assertion, self-esteem, lordliness and superiority. Euroancestrals were always the superhuman and the Africans were forever mere objects or at best subhuman. Heathen, and without their own history. Civilised Afro-Orient Christian values, helplessly squeezed in the stranglehold of the new Euroancestral fist, had no room for an alternative in other hands. In the embryonic Christendom that had to function with a militarily-crafted strait jacket, faith had to be juggled around with a flexible morality conducive to human greed. As long as might remained in militarism, it mattered not at all that no European religion ever made it to a world religion. With military might, religion could be misappropriated. Psychopaths or sociopaths tend to be unusually adept at manipulating others, and even the legal, political and spiritual systems, to their advantage. Euroancestrals never came up with a world religion, yet they absconded with Christianity and turned Christ into a native of Scandinavia.
Scientists today say that if all of the world population consumed as much as the wealthy West does, humankind would need five Planet Earths. It is a thin line between the cunning, manipulative socio- and psychopathic behaviour, and the narcissistic. To the Euroancestrals, the Age of Enlightenment was a positive Jekyll and Hyde milestone, with Hyde being the real McCoy. They classified everything from thin air over every creature they knew or could think of, placing themselves at the crown of creation and labelling their pink complexion white (Whatever happened to pink? Even when it is browned to a “beautiful and healthy looking” shade under the sun or at the solarium, the label remains “white”!). Then the downgrading over yellow, red, brown and black. Humankind has inborn negative associations with the colour black. It is reminiscent of the primordial days of dark caves harbouring serpents and scorpions, moonless nights with prowling maneaters, reminiscent of silent, inexplicable dark death. Many citizens of India, Sri Lanka and East Asia are darker-skinned than many Africans. But Asiancestralsä do not refer to themselves as skin colors. Only two human branches stick to being pigmentations.This was and is a psychological booby-trap set up centuries ago to keep on ensnaring Afroancestrals with a constant confirmation of their “inferiority.” While no one is better at setting up such psychological booby-traps than the Euroancestrals, no one is better at the servility required to adopt and haul around with them such a subtly corrosive, damaging notion than Afroancestrals. They have been religiously passing on this corrosive notion to their progenies over at least the last three and a half centuries. One embryonic branch of humankind’s divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behaviour has now permeated the entire species like a terminal virus, but a virus only the Euroancestrals can survive longest.
"All cruelty springs from weakness," said Seneca, (BC4-AD65).
He no doubt did not mean physical weakness.