(Wherein the Writer stole from their own pseudonym and gave to their other pseudonym.)
Before We Begin…
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are chanting the same thing with someone or a group of people, but the reasoning behind your chant is totally different from theirs? For example…last week’s article… ‘We The People, By The Power Vested In Us By The Constitution, Say “No!”’… may be, just maybe, your reason for saying ‘no’ to the emoluments proposition of the Committee for the nation’s First and Second Ladies was same as the writer’s: “We, the taxpayers, have little moneys to spare.” But someone’s reasoning could easily have been along political lines, “NPP has to go!” You might just have been chanting. It could also have been along economic lines (one’s own pocket being the basis of this economy). Hence, “NPP has to go” you may also have been chanting. At the end of the day, we, the people, having different reasons, may find ourselves saying the same thing. This applies to every human situation we find ourselves in—be they sociological, political, socioeconomic, etc.
This dynamic is, I believe, what won Donald Trump the seat in 2016. Because amidst the ‘Build the wall!’ chanters were not only the overtly, stupidly racist folks, but also low-earning income individuals who had truly found themselves without jobs for so many years, owing to the cheap and ready labour immigrants provided. Such people truly believed that by having the wall up, they could have the jobs in—but this is beside the point.
I find this dynamic emerge consistently when hammering on issues that have a Black and White dynamic; issues that pertain to Black advancements, African development as weighed on the global scale—Black perception as weighed on the global plane. One can easily find themselves, almost always saying the same thing as others, but with totally different reasoning behind them. I could write a piece titled ‘Higher Learning, Low Expectations’ decrying the inattention our nation (and continent) has given the university/industry approach at industrialisation (ergo development) and cite the West as flourishing examples of the propitiousness of this pairing. But in citing the West, I do not do so with the centuries-old perception—the one that places the White folk over the Black man and woman. Yet, with this bias entrenched in the world’s psyche, one may easily, in chanting this absurdity, “White is better than Black!” find in me a kinsfolk—thinking we are saying and thinking the same thing. When in fact, we are not! This article is my caveat—now and always.
I know I am supposed to have written a sequel to ‘We The People, By The Power Vested In Us By The Constitution, Say “No!”’ but as you may have deciphered, the writer jumps around a lot. Heaven knows I have articles titled ‘Culture Makes a People’, ‘A Monster’s Attempt at Monsters’, ‘In The Land of Leprechauns’, ‘‘Me’ Gets a Bad Rap’, ‘Sheep in Wolf Clothing’ to name a few, all waiting patiently to get their turn. So that sequel to ‘We The People…” err maybe I will just have to chalk the matter up to—and I am quoting one title to Prof. Kumado’s article here— ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’…
This Is Where The Article Originally Begins: The Basis of All to Come
I have always found my articles quite problematic. Whenever I cite Europe, USA, et al. as examples of this and that development imperative—I have always found these ‘citations’ problematic. Especially so, when done without a caveat. Because you and I are not actually acquainted; and these words of mine—if ever you have been acquainted therewith—are the only glimpses I offer into who I am. And you, on the receiving end, you choosing to read them, you become to me, an acquaintance—I get to know you too. I daresay that we are on the same page—quite literally, in fact.
It is important, then, that I let you know this caveat I always carry whenever I name-drop the West, seemingly using them as templates—I daresay—‘aspirations’ and yardsticks’. You should know that I do not actually view them as ‘aspirations’ and ‘yardsticks’. I ought to explain this statement of mine…
…by using fake prophets
There are fake prophets worldwide who share a common end—reason for which they take on the task of defrauding God and man—money. So then, preaching to their congregants, they may use this rich man or that woman as testimonies of God’s power; cheer them on, not caring the sources of these riches; and in fact knowing the sources be evil. All that matters to the fake prophet is that the money is there; that the money is gifted them. They make examples of said rich congregants, urging them on in their filth, saying those are the blessings of God Himself. Each time I cite the West against Africa, I feel like this fake prophet.
This development journey, it is not the same for Africa. This journey towards development—that humans spread worldwide are embarking and have embarked on—it does not have the same consequences and implications for the African continent and her descendants. Our perception of self, our way of life, our totality, have suffered major blows in the past. These blows are felt to this day. And if care is not taken, if these blows are not strategised against, they may (will) traumatise our future. So then, the African development journey, education, perception of self, et al. ought to be strategically couched to focus on the present, safeguard the future, all the while undoing the damages of the past. The African journey towards development is a peculiar one.
This is because there is an event in our history so pronounced—one that presents us with this conundrum. It is an event so gory—seeming as though inflicted by animals upon humans. It is an event so straightforward in its evil, yet so nuanced in its implications that solutions proffered for its implications, if not skillfully strategised and well-informed, might end up not solving those problems but exacerbating them. It is an event feeling ancient (that it is cringeworthy mentioning as cause), yet directly and overtly affecting the present. The writer cringes in mentioning it—the slave trade(s).
A Price on Self
Oh! self-worth—the African has little. This is a fact I seek to, with subsequent articles, prove to be true; and with those same articles, hope to help, in my little way, proffer solutions to. We suffer, brutally, a lack of self-esteem. This has roots in the crude, inhumane trade(s)—their traumas have never been fully resolved. Africa, in her bid at independence and self-sufficiency, made a mistake of sweeping these events under the carpet. We remember the fact of them. We teach them (the fact of them) to our children in school. But the damages done us by the slave trade(s)—the damages done to our personhoods, our nationhoods, a perception of self, our self-worth—these deep-seated harms caused, we have never fully addressed and redressed.
Take this sociological example:
I am fair; I am often treated better than him, the dark man. You are fairer than me; you are often treated better than me. And the White man—oh! the White man—is often treated better than you and me (can you imagine that!) by our very own people (can you imagine that!)
This stings so much so that it is hard admitting to. I may just delete it, exclude it from this article.
But you tell me, how can a people who place much more value on such and such persons (White and everything close to it) than they place on themselves, have a fair and actual shot at real development? Is it not the human resource capital of a nation that builds said nation? How can a people who have relegated themselves to second-class citizens build a first-class nation and continent? How is this possible?
So then, if talking about Africa’s industrialisation journey, I cite Europe—as though to say, “There! Look at Europe; learn from Europe.” Or, when talking about Africa in this Information Age, I pinpoint USA, as though to say, “Look at America, great America—learn from America!” If I do so, will I not be exhibiting symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome? Will I not be urging the White Supremacist on? Will I not be same as those who point to White as the ultimate standard—those who look down on Black as inferior; White, superior? Will I not be proving right, those who view Black as always, the student; White, the teacher?
All things being equal, this ought not be the case. Because in this Global Knowledge Age, nations ought to learn from one another. In this highly Globalised Age, this very interconnected period, this closely knit era of ours—nations must learn from one another. Nations are both competitors and kinsfolk in this age of ours. That is the reality this global age presents. But for the African the scenario presented is a tad different.
Take armed robber, W. After having stolen from A, everything A owned—her property and her family, W uses this wealth to enrich herself. Does A, falling into poverty as a result, then turn to W, epitomising W as someone to aspire to—as the real standard of success and wealth? Wouldn’t A be airheaded to do so?
Beginning in the 15th and ending in the 19th century, what became known as the Atlantic Slave Trade was—and no word can adequately recapitulate that which ensued—a reign of terror. Terror meted out by man unto fellow man; with the former lowering themselves to the ranks of animals, tapping into beastliness never since seen in human history, in their bid to reduce the latter from the ranks of humans. After four centuries of hell, the African continent was left robbed—robbed of her natural and human resources, with the West bountifully richer. The world’s grandest, cruelest armed robbery had been committed. Our natural resources, they used in building their nations; our human resources they deployed, too, in building their nations. We often forget that this wasn’t the only form of robbery the continent suffered. The Arab Slave Trade commencing centuries earlier—in the 8th century, stretched far into the 21st century. This was an equally damning, gruesome, and monstrous theft.
But that wasn’t enough. A brief study into Black and White history reveals this trend: it is never enough for the latter. When one tactic is defeated, the latter go back into their toolshed, devise another tool—wolf in sheep-like clothing—and apply said tool upon the former. So then: colonialism. Another form of stealing—devised right after the war against slavery was waged and won. What this form of theft did was to leave the continent with the same narrative: natural resources—stolen; human resources—stolen.
Not Theft Alone
By heaven! Don’t we wish that what ensued was just pillaging—because that, that can easily be remedied. It is the implications the theft created, that is where our real problem, now, lie. The implication of a docile (by docile I mean stupid) race. This implication, of all the ills left us by these inhuman trades, remains the most cancerous. Of all these ills of human resources and natural resource loss, the most damning of it all remains—the implication. It is this implication that our kinsfolks in USA are still fighting today. ‘Black Lives Matter’—itself an inherently nonsensical chant (because of course, Black lives do matter), yet factually, a necessary declaration—finds its root in the implication left by the slave trade. Apartheid of South Africa, an institutionally created tool of racism and oppression suffered by Africans in our very own home, also has its root in this implication. Africa’s descendants dispersed worldwide, in the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, everywhere—the racism faced by them, all have roots in this implication created by the slave trade(s).
When the Black human was shipped; packed like sardines, sold as goods, dispersed about like seeds—not a care given to relations, bloodlines—spread about like orphans, each Black person made orphan; jettisoned from boats into seas like worthless cargo; made to work like oxen; made servants—each Black person made servants like never seen before in recent history—when all these evils were caused the Black person, what resulted was a creation of an impression—an impression that the Black man, woman, child was, in fact, cargo, ox, slave.
And that impression and implication, we all battle to this day. The avoidance of this fact, that we are still fighting this implication—coming in various forms: racism; colourism (whereupon we discriminate against our very own selves); Stockholm syndrome (where we, holding those lies told by the past thieves as truth: that we are slaves and they, masters, cling to these false prophets for answers). These same implications show themselves in our inferiority complex (where we believe that the whiter the better. Thus, in our individual national journeys, we do not actually see ourselves building prosperous and self-sufficient nations—with our own Black hands). We cannot choose to avoid these facts—these implications—because they feature prominently, in all aspects of our Black lives.
Take this scenario:
In Ghana, when reference is being made to, or awe being directed at modernity, at industrial and technological advancements, one is very likely to find people (both literates and illiterates) invoking the name of “Kwesi broni…”—that, a reference to the “White man.” So, in the mind of this African, ‘otherworldly’ intelligence, achievements, innovation is immediately and unequivocally attributed to the White man. Tell me, what is the expression like in your country?
If this isn’t mental slavery, I do not know what is. This and many more of such mental, psychological damages, taint the African journey towards development. There is a dire need for constant and consistent mental reconstruction—re-socialisation, re-education—on the continent. In education, in arts (of all its varying forms), literature, politics, etc. this re-socialisation must feature prominently and consistently. Our bid at national and continental development—economic and socioeconomic—can never be fully successful if done without this re-socialisation of the African mind and perception of self. In employing worldwide development imperatives, in saying things that are universally said, doing things that are universally done, the African must be aware of the fact that there lingers with her, always a caveat. The Caucasian British, can choose to self-deprecate, using the Caucasian American against herself, the African must be careful doing same.
Take this example:
A Ghanaian gentleman based in UK, who intends to return home to start a company, made note of a certain characteristic he had observed in his fellow Africans. Listening to this gentleman, I realised that he did not intend his statement a constructive criticism, one which needed collective remedying. But rather, as a point against his own kind—“we against them”. By ‘we’, he and the White man; by ‘them’ you and I, Black folks.
It was the saddest thing, yet, I had witnessed in a fellow human being.
A Caveat within the Caveat
This is not to encourage Africa in… (If ‘complacency’ be the over-reliance on the good to stunt growth, what is the word for an over-dependence on the bad to, also, stunt growth?) Complacency? Fatalism? Let’s go with fatalism. This is not to say to our great continent that, “You are right. History has dealt you a bad card, hence fold.”
This is not to challenge the continent to wage war against time. We are helpless against time; we cannot undo the past. What we have power over is the present. We have the power to choose to let the past not dictate the present, hence disrupt our future. We cannot undo slavery of centuries past, neither can we alter colonialism of the centuries following. We can, however for one, wage war against neocolonialism, mental slavery, racism, et al. of the present. We can choose to re-educate, re-socialise ourselves against the low self-esteem of today. We can choose to consciously instill in our populace such respect for and belief in self (in our manpower and brainpower).
So then, when I cite USA, Europe, Canada, etc. when touching on certain development imperatives, know that I do so with this entire article as caveat. Know that I do so purely based on this fact: nations ought to learn from one another in this age of ours; and not from that imperialistic position of an African student, needing Western masters to learn from.
I believe we are fully acquainted now. I am the pseudonym Yao Afra Yao. Pleased to meet you.
[Published in Business & Financial Times, B&FT - 22nd July, 2021]