In Anthony Bourdain’s Lagos related program, there was a discussion with a local TV anchor – someone who also anchors the Presidential debates there. She made a stunning comment that hit me hard. She said – and I am paraphrasing – Blacks in Africa and the African-Americans in the US will never be taken seriously until there is a successful Black nation on this planet.
I think she is correct. But only partially. Success is not of a country. It is of a culture – of an idea of a nation. Chinese, for example, have an idea of themselves as the Chinese people and they have an ethos which is culturally different and clear. Ditto with the Japanese or with the French. Even the Americans have an American Dream which is attended to by the belief in the supremacy of “America as the Greatest Nation”.
What is the ethos of Africa that provides its people a sense of pride?
The lands and nations of Africa were ravaged by the colonial powers – as were those in Asia. Their people enslaved – as was the case in Asia. Their culture contaminated and shamed.. and finally destroyed. As was attempted in Asia with China and India, albeit unsuccessfully.
Colonial rule and the aggression to conquer, loot, and convert while trashing the indigenous culture has worked everywhere from Persia, Arabia and Latin American to Europe to North America and the Australia-NZ region. The indigenous people are either non-existent or they have taken up the ways of their conquerers while trashing their own past.
The only two societies which have somehow held onto their past cultures are India and China. Although in China, their past was somewhat erased by the Communist cultural revolution. In the entire world, India remains the only culture which still remains true to its past in terms of a continuous link in a significant way (although it has been under continuous onslaught!)
There is a lesson for Africa in China and India. Religion as a belief is the invention and contamination of the Middle-East and the West. What constituted “religion” of the natives (in their eyes) was not just beliefs. It was the entire way of life of the people which had evolved due to the interaction of the people with their surroundings. It entailed how they kept in sync with the land, the mountains, the weather, the seasons and what was necessary to live in that place.
The concept of “god” or the creator was an offshoot of that evolution and relationship.
When the Westeners or the Arabs came and conquered the natives – whether in Persia or in Africa or the Americas – and ‘converted” the people from a way of life to a religion – they destroyed a lot more than a “belief in an inferior god”. They destroyed an entire history. A living civilization was destroyed. In the name of replacing it with a “better god and better civility”. The entire living civilization and its history were shamed and pronounced inferior.
Once this incultration was complete in those people – the civilization and the society collapsed. Now, even when they were not enslaved and got freedom, they were civilizationally destroyed. They were not of the land anymore.
Just like the Africans and the rest of the Blacks.
Now, no amount of research and wisom will make them believe that what their ancestors had going in terms of civilization in Africa was worth something. Even if you show them the power of being in sync with the land, water, and air around, they will not leave a foreign “god” that was forced upon them, and whom they now swear by! Little realizing that they have been trying to adopt the stories and legends of another civilization that may have worked for that place, but was useless for their ancestry and experience. You cannot take the ways of living in Alps and plant them in tropic lands of Africa and hope to succeed. Life doesn’t work like that.
Belief in a god is just a mental framework – a belief after all – in a story at best! What was usurped, however, was far more than that. It was a whole way of living. How do you succeed in a society that hates its own way of life, while eulogizing another’s? Not any “another” – but one’s own slave master!
Unfortunately, the Abrahamic mindset reduced the whole culture to simply one thing – belief. In a god that was defined and owned by them. And, everyone had to align themselves to that narrative. Whatever was distilled by a civilization over centuries and many millennia – specifically, in the case of Africa – was reduced to ashes in a matter of decades!
Blacks in the US frustrate over how the men are not there in the family or how the kids feel no link to the family or values. That there is nothing that has kept the “flock” together. Despite the success of some amazing human beings, the larger Black population remains rudderless. Similar is the case with the population in Africa – where based on religion, countless genocides have happened. Even when the poverty and hunger come to a point where there is nothing left to sustain.
How can the wisdom which was borne in a set of people who saw the human existence take birth and survive and bloom all these millennia become so rudderless? How can the genes which go to the very basis of human existence be so doubtful and hateful of their own history – and indeed collective wisdom of their ancesters?
Indeed, how can the genes which saw the birth of human kind and see it thrive and blossom, be so subservient to just a set of beliefs? The answer for success of the Africans and the Blacks lies in their own selves. They need to connect with their civilizational ethos which connected with the land, the air, the mountains and the planet. When someone implanted another “god” in their midst, they usurped their entire ethos and ways. No success can come without connecting to that core.
No country or society of blacks will ever be successful until their societies connect to their historical wisdom. Till they meet their ancestral wisdom with the respect it deserves and resurrect all of it! For, in that lost and hidden wisdom lies their anchor. What the Africans and Blacks have been looking for is NOT in some narrative of god or goodness ingrained in them by those who enslaved them, but in their own inner selves. When they embrace their own existence as the keepers of human kind, they will be forced to dive inside their souls and find the shinning wisdom. That will truly be a time when the entire human kind finds itself!