Blackness (Part 3): Black people need to read more

Three things make slavery in the Americas horrendous and different: (1) It was instutionalized (2) It was extremely inhumane, slaves were treated as animals (3) It was continentwide and organised. When the ship docked and the slaves were brought out in tattered clothes – men, women and children, the first thing a slave master normally does is to crash the slaves’ spirit by killing one right in front of them. That way he effectively puts a stop to their desire to reason. Reason is salvation because it tells the slave to attack his master in order earn his freedom. But as a result of crashing their spirit, for the next 400 years the slaves had to stop reasoning in order to preserve their own lives. They simply obeyed instructions. When the master needed more hands on the farm he simply put one man together with a dozen women in a shack and forced them to copulate.

Today, some try to justify slavery by arguing that it existed in Africa long before the slave trade. That may be correct but indigenous African slavery was completely different: (1) Slaves were not worked to death (2) Slaves were released upon expiration of their term of service (3) A brave slave who fought in defence of his master’s tribe could rise to become a king and (4) African slavery was not institutionalized or codified. It was  a tribal affair. No slave was wilfully released or granted any rights in the west until the late 19th century. They were kept to work on the farm and were forbidden to read. A slave risks being killed for reading a book. Many people also quite unnecessarily differentiate between slavery and colonialism. Both are fueled by same motives: hegemony and exploitation. The only difference is the venue. Slavery took place away from Africa. Colonialism took place in Africa.

After the slave trade and slavery the black race lost its dignity. Today, all over the world, Africans or people of African descent are not accorded any genuine respect. It’s partly due to slavery and also due to the behaviour of some black people. In the days of slavery, they did provide clothes, shoes, a farm house, a language, a name, a religion, a culture, a god, a civilization (actually humanization according to them) and even today they continue to provide all of these including skin lightening creams etc. so in case one wanted to actually look white, one could do that. Did Africans not have a history, a culture, a language, a religion and a beautiful black skin before they arived in the new world? The black race must understand who they are, where they are from and where they are going. To do this they need to read more and with all due respect, turn the ‘reason switch’ back on.

Further reading: The works of  Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Dubois etc.

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Blackness (Part 2): The Plot To Kill Mandela in Prison

In his book, “Long Walk to Freedom” Nelson Mandela narrated how a young man approached him in prison and introduced himself as a member of the ANC (African National Congress). The young man said he was sent by the ANC leadership to help him escape from prison. The plan was to bribe a few prison warders, manoeuvre to the main gate and escape through whatever means was available. Mandela said the idea was strange to him. He was probably in his 10th year in prison and had not received any message from the ANC leadership because they were being hunted down. Though he wanted to be free, he didnt trust the young ‘aid.’ He said he consulted some of the ANC members who were imprisoned together with him and they decided not to follow the young man’s plan because they didnt know him as a member.

It turned out later that the man in question was actually an agent who worked for the white minority SA secret service. The actual plan was that while they were trying to escape the guards will open fire on Mandela killing him instantly and then it will be published in the media that Mandela died while trying to escape from prision (Attempted escape is a violation of the law so they would have had a moral justification there for killing him). At the time many Black organisations in SA appealed to European nations to help end apartheid and racism but none intervened.

After 27 years in prison Mandela was still alive, reason finally prevailed and he was released and then suddenly all the white leaders started loving him. Very strange indeed, that someone whose name was on CIA classified documents as a communist and a terrorist, whom Margaret Thatcher described as a terrorist, was now welcome to tour the west, visit leaders and socialise. The truth is that they all felt guilty. They didn’t expect him to be alive. Does the reader honestly think that a white person can be a political prisoner in an African nation for that long without consequences? There, again the world cried forgiveness because Mandela was black. The lung infection that eventually killed him started in prison because he said the rooms were damp and had no windows. We must learn lessons as black people.

What’s the moral of this story? The moral of the story is threefold: (1) It’s a white man’s world, dictated by the dollar and the pound. (2) Equality does not exist in nature, but ofcourse everyone can dream of it. (3) One must not jump at quick “solutions.” One must consult people one trusts when making important decisions. If the reader must know, before Mandela was sworn in as president, all of South Africa’s advanced military weapons at the time were moved to another country in Europe because they thought he might retaliate against the whites. They didn’t believe he had truly forgiven them. Evil men are never at peace with themselves. And whoever digs a pit shall fall in it. 

In conclusion, the story I presented here was in the book:”Long Walk To Freedom” written by Nelson Mandela, 1st Edition, so I’m not making anything up. Neither do I have any space in my heart for hatred. I’m a peaceful person. I don’t blame whites. I just want the world to recognise the Black race’s capacity for forgiveness. 

Blackness

The capitalist will offer any gift to his labourers except the gift of freedom from the bridle. It was not the intention of the slave buying nation to grant citizenship to the slaves after bringing them to the new world. The intention was to put them to work until they died. 

Citizenship and equal rights was granted (in principle) as a last resort. The founders contradicted themselves through the preamble of the constitution by claiming that “All men are created equal” and this made them feel guilty. Abolition of slavery was a test of the human conscience. The truth is they don’t want you there. Any wonder that they shoot and kill black people for no real reason. 

When a white leader oppresses or imprisons a black man without moral justification or without due process of law, the black man is simply asked to forgive but if a black leader oppresses or imprisons a white man, they rally all the European people in the world and demand compensation for the oppressed whites. They consider their lives worth thrice a black person’s life.

Meanwhile the neo-colonialists continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that Ian Smith’s racist government stole lands, killed many native Africans and imprisoned Robert Mugabe for 11 years during which his son died. Maybe we are a foolish people, but the world must acknowledge the black race’s capacity to forgive – as Soyinka has said earlier.

Must an inspiring truth have a historical or factual basis?

 

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Though I don’t consider myself an apologist, I have always defended intelligent design and creationism because I believe the universe has a substructure established by a higher being – an originator and that such a being has no religion. Religion is man’s way of trying to reach who or what we call God but the will of God remains unknown. The strongest and most reliable philosophies are those planted within the emotions, they hijack the passions even before those passions reach the faculty of reason. This is probably why religion is introduced to children at an early stage and I think it is still helpful to society as long as undistorted moral lessons continue to be taught. Any direct attack on religion will backfire.

I also consider the bible a work of literature comprising biographical works, poetry, letters or essays, mythology, folklore, nonfiction and of course fiction etc. It’s not a research work, so I think to question its factual basis is neither here no there. We read such highly fictional works as ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Hobbit’, ‘Hunger Games’and even ‘Animal Farm’ etc with keen interest and often allow aspects of the story to influence us because we discern some truths in them without requiring any proof. Why then do we dismiss such moving stories as Joseph (Which teaches the reality of sibling rivalry, betrayal and forgiveness), The Prodigal Son (Which teaches valuable lessons in life and fathering), and the story of David (Which teaches practical lessons in leadership)?

All religions teach the inspiring truth, not the (whole) philosophical truth. According to Hegel, truth in philosophy means concept and external reality correspond. It’s not always so with religion. True religion fortifies the soul and the spirit (the inner world) so that it can take on the affairs of the external world. It’s method is that of helping the individual neutralize pain by creating channels through which the individual can have hope – call it selective thinking or perceiving. Pain is severe where there is no hope of resolution. Personally, I’m more interested in the lessons or the substance in any story than its factual basis though that’s also relevant to the understanding of the story.

Note: Many years after Joseph forgave his brothers and welcomed them to Egypt, they still believed he hasn’t truly forgiven them and was only waiting for their father to die for him to carry out his revenge. So they sent a messenger to Joseph as soon as Jacob, their father, died reminding him of the promise of forgiveness he made before their father. They might have been so nervous that they soon followed up themselves, knelt before Joseph and said “we are your servants”and he wept when he saw them (Genesis 50:15). Does one really need all the material/historical facts in order to accept the emotional truth of this story?

 

On Perception And Subjective Reality

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams

These statements are indeed true, but only up to a point. One is invited to observe his or her surroundings and inform us what he or she perceives and whether what is perceived is entirely specific to one. I had an interesting discussion with a friend sometime ago which led to the question of perception and its flaws. My opinion is that there is objective perception – something we all see or feel or think about, something that often pre-dominates external experience and is self evident. I will like to take the time to answer the question what is meant by “perception.”

Merriem-Webster dictionary defines perception as “…the way you think about or understand someone or something : the ability to understand or notice something easily or the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses.” For the purposes of this discussion we will concentrate on the first part of the definition i.e. the way you think about or understand someone or something. This can also mean that the way you see the whole of something may be completely different from the way you see the sum of its parts.

We may all agree that, often times when people perceive they contribute some information to what is being observed and when they have to communicate their observation, this information often but not always becomes visible or perceptible. The accuracy of our perception is therefore directly proportional to one’s ability to detach one’s opinions or a priori from actuality. For instance, the difference between the educated and the ignorant person lies primarily in their perception which gives rise to the significant difference in their cognition or intelligence. I shall narrate an anecdotal story to illustrate my point:

Many people believe in ghosts. In fact, I have at one point being afraid of ghosts but now I have no intellectual space or energy for such thoughts. We still do not know whether ghosts exist or not. Although the idea of ghosts can be dismissed as an illusion or mere perception, it can be “real” depending on the number of people in a community who believed in it. When a significant number of people believe in something it becomes real to them. What one believes one acts upon it, and our actions inevitably affect one another in a community. In certain primitive societies there are elaborate rituals to drive away ghosts. So a ghost is real there, just as aliens and vampires are real in most parts of Europe. End of anecdote.

Now let us look at the effect of subjective reality on the individual. The first European to enter the African hinterland was a merchant. In the case of the upper Guinnea or West Africa, it was a Portuguese named Diogo de Azambuja, who presented himself to the chiefs and people as a friend and a trader. At that time, trading in humans had not begun. Diogo de Azambuja and his cohorts spoke nicely but had guns hidden in their cloaks. Once they had learnt of a flaw in the perception of the people, it was time to launch an attack. They presented gifts of strong drinks, gunpowder and muskets in return for gold and war captives. So the first slaves sold in Africa were war captives not nobles, belonging to tribes different and distant from those selling them. The sale of war captives was common everywhere including ancient Rome and Greece.

Then centuries later, many Europeans joined in the trade. Some African traders (mainly chiefs) with the aid of the foreign merchants could no longer wait to receive captives so they took to raiding weaker communities. An orphan, a rogue, any poor defenseless thing was captured and brought to the European forts and castles to be sold. This is the whole tragedy of the African existence which emanated from our inaccurate perception of the world around us.

This painful history is still relevant because it influences the way the African or people of African descent are perceived. The master thinks for the slave. Any slave with higher perception or thinking capabilities was a threat and was quickly eliminated. Nevertheless, flaw in perception exists everywhere not only in indigenous Africa. In fact all terrible mistakes or decisions, emanate from subjective reasoning or reality. This is my experience of life. Some say there are no mistakes, only choices and I think this is true only in regard to one’s personal life. But it doesn’t mean the mistakes or subjective tendencies of others does not affect us.

Is Religion “Emotional Positivism?”

 

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Rastafarianism is a religion that emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s. Their membership has grown into millions all around the world. Its popularity was made possible by legendary reggae musician Bob Marley and many others. Marley often praised their king, Ras Tafari, in his songs and advocated the daily smoking of marijuana and the growth of dread locks. Rastafarians believe in most of the teachings of the Bible; they also believe in reincarnation. Although Christianity is now the predominant religion in Sub Saharan Africa, the red, yellow and green in many African national flags is derived from the Ethiopian flag.

One of the major criticisms I have always heard as regards Rastafarianism is that they worship a dead Ethiopian king. They call him “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie,”  “The king of kings,” and “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” And many people despise them for that. Rastafarians still consider the African continent their true home and the “promised land.” But why descend harshly on them? Aren’t all the prophets of other religions dead yet still being worshiped? Is Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Confucius not dead yet are still being worshiped? Why criticize Rastafarians for worshiping a dead Ethiopian king? I think the difference here is that the said king – prophet of the Rastafarians – was a black African coming from Ethiopia.

The Rastas, as they are called, believe the Ethiopian king to be the direct descendant of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba in the Bible, thus Emperor Haile Selassie being the last prophet after Jesus. His Leadership qualities are also praised worldwide. But what does Rastafarianism teach us about faith? Why the Ethiopian King? These are the key questions we need to ask. To subject religion to logical analysis is a waste of time. The source of all religions is emotions.

Religion is the direct opposite of logical positivism. It is positivism embedded in the emotions and I will tell you why. When Mussolini of Italy invaded Ethiopia (Then Abyssinia) for the second time in May 1936, the Ethiopian king, Ras Tafari, initially went into exile but returned five years later and with the aid of British forces successfully repelled the Italians. This was a major “undoing” for all sufferers of the slave trade. Many Africans, especially in the Caribbeans, were very joyous and they believed that the king could not possibly be human. Therefore in my understanding, to have a positive view of every experience – to focus on the victories not the failures – to allow positive energies but not the negative, all in re-channeling of the emotions to a good use, that is what constitutes a personal religion. Organised religion still remains a hoax.

To live with the knowledge that one was taken from his homeland as a slave and sold to work on a plantation is a really painful thought. It even creates spiritual problems. But if now it was said that the Ethiopian king had been able to crash the Italians, an imperialist nation, then the Emperor must indeed be an incarnate of God. This, I believe, is the brief psychological journey that led to this new religion. It is an inspirational story attempting to “undo” a grave harm and it is no different from stories of exile and triumph in the Bible. Ethiopia remains the only nation in Africa that has not been tainted by colonialism.

As regards marijuana as a sacred herb, it is always said that everything God created is good. If the herb was not good would God have caused it to germinate? According to Rastafarian doctrines, many governments have criminalized marijuana because it makes people rebellious to authority. All governments aim at controlling the masses and marijuana, as a herb of enlightenment, obstructs that. Hence it is illegal to smoke marijuana in most countries.

Babylon (a metaphor for the civilized world of evil, exploitation and domination) will eventually fall to pieces and all Africans scattered abroad, as a result of the slave trade, will return to Africa and be ruled by a single union government. This is a Rastafarian prophecy. Let’s see if it will be fulfilled. But for now, please let’s leave the Rastafarians alone. All religions have their faults.

 

In 1963, The Ethiopian King delivered the following speech to the UN: (an extract which inspired Bob Marley’s hit song “War” in 1976)

 

“……On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson:

that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned;

that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation;

that until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes;

that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race;

that until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed;

until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will;

until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven;

until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.

The United Nations has done much, both directly and indirectly to speed the disappearance of discrimination and oppression from the earth. Without the opportunity to focus world opinion on Africa and Asia which this Organization provides, the goal, for many, might still lie ahead, and the struggle would have taken far longer. For this, we are truly grateful.”