CAMEROON: AN ANATOMY OF DISGRACE, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

“Revolution is always verbose.”

Leon Trotsky

The Stockholm Syndrome – where the victim is led to sympathize with his captor, is a reality that appears to be more common than imagined. A syndrome, clinically, is a pathos where presumably the gavel of a political analyst should be irrelevant. But the current tensions in Cameroon unveil not just a social and political unrest, but also a psychological and psychiatric malaise at a national scale, where the appropriate diagnostic operator becomes a clinical practitioner vested to restore the once peaceful society into normality and sanity whose soul has been destroyed through lack of knowledge, love for suffering, passion for disorder, tolerance of mediocrity, and confusion.

In September 2016, the English-speaking part of Cameroon which constitutes about 20% of the total population expressed dissatisfaction with the way the central administration [Yaoundé] had been conducting changes in the region, from educational system, execution of the law to investment in infrastructure. This was expressed through protests and strike – like what should be expected in a young democracy where the listening faculty of leaders is either nonexistent or incapacitated.

Historically, the origin of this discontentment is as old as the days of independence in1960, when the British colonial territory was made a trustee territory of the United Nations. In 1961, during a plebiscite on 11th February 1961 on whether to join Nigeria or Cameroon, the English Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon, as a federal State, with its prime Minister John Njuh Foncha, in opposition to Nigerian which they deemed were demeaning, aggressive and violent. Northern Cameroon become part of Nigeria on 1st June, 1961 while southern Cameroon joined French Cameroon on October 1st of the same year.

 In 1991, the constitution was modified into a unified State. It stripped the English part from any control of its resources, government, and administration. It is believed that highly centralized governments in Africa are patterned on the French model to obey religiously  their European metropole – France. In line with this, the discovery of the Bakassi peninsula oil rich zone in early 80s – which caused years of tension between Cameroon and Nigeria, had been another reason why the Cameroon government, admittedly guided by France, pushed to a unitary State in order to keep firm control of the oil rich region: as they have always done with African resources in colonies where they have any influence.

 Culturally, the English-speaking region practices the common-law contrary to the region which practices French civil law. In a centralized administration marked by flagrant discrimination and nepotism, judges are appointed from the French zone who have little or no knowledge of the common law.  Their execution of the law contradicts the legal practice of the region and consequently puts lawyers in disarray. Educationally, Southern Cameroon cherishes its English heritage: its authors and academic approaches are contrary to the French Cameroon whose francocentric model had been fast declining over the years. And economically, the region suffers from complete neglect given it has no industrial infrastructure, one public university, Buea in 1992, recently Bamenda in 2012, and limited access to opportunities which are all concentrated in the capital, Yaoundé.

Besides the fact that Cameroon is a perfect example of a mismanaged country ranking 146/176, on a score of 26/100 according to Transparency International. It is fueled by tribalism, dictatorship, and systemic unequal distribution of resources in general. The level of such injustice varies from one region to another and of course, interpreted from different perspectives, is all caused by one problem – incompetent governance. In the case of Southern Cameroon, which is already marginalized and poorly constructed as all other parts of the nation, it equally suffers from cultural, legal, and educational castration from the Cameroon government. That is why the strike, generally misunderstood by Cameroonians of the East who are equally poor and discriminated against, has failed to gain any sympathy from those of that region.

 A strike must not be rational in nature but its control should be. The more rational a strike is, the less passionate the strike; not because it is devoid of passion but because rationality is predisposed to compromise and thus outweighs the passionate demand for absolute parity.

Starting with the lawyers who couldn’t take it anymore, October 2016, the teachers whose discontent had accelerated over the decades followed and combined with that of the public. The boycott of schools and administrative as well as business activities was operationalized as part of a common strategy. The solidarity of the citizens of this region met with lawyers and teachers in defense of common sense and commonwealth. They were challenged with unbridled violence or repression from the government. Indeed, the state’s main tool of dialogue so characteristic of a declining dictatorship and a threatened civil service workforce was the use of state police power.

Government controls all aspects of the media. Television. Radio. Newspapers. Censorship prohibits any media that criticizes the government. People are not allowed to protest and any that do are terrorized by secret police. People that oppose the government are arrested and sent to labor camps or killed.

RESPONSE OF THE POLITICAL PHYLUM

The first reaction of the government was to send military personnel whose training should be put to question with regards to the way they treated their fellow citizens. In about 7 months, 6 people have been killed and not less than 800 detained without even reasonable suspicion being cited to justify their detention. And to add insult to injury, none of them were granted due process of law.

A few days into the strike, the military and BIR ‘Battalion d’Intervention Rapide or Rapid Intervention Squad’ were sent to the region. The first military known for its brutality and the latter known for its cruelty though both had one thing in common, ruthlessness. Their actions were characterized by complete suspension of constitutional rights. The BIR is known to have a more robust training. It stands as a paramilitary team and operates under direct control from of the presidency. In fact, it was created in 2001 as a special Unit to protect the president after a failed coup d’Etat on 7th April 1984.

Using the military as a first response mechanism only confirms what the revered political scientist, Mathias Eric Owana had described. He described the state as a military regime disguised in civilian clothing. Intimidation, negligence and cruelty against its own citizens are its primary characteristics. The rational and decision making element of the state and the police and gendarmeries have assumed indistinguishable roles. And over time what always happens is that the decision-making element of the state becomes a decaying institutional relic and the scares which crisscross the body of our nation. Now the rule of law officiates its own requiem. 

Political structures are known to dialectically oscillate between opposing class struggle. More precisely, Cameroon’s rulers constitute a phylum, i.e., a category above class whose are privileged, corrupt, cruel, deaf, blind, and un-empathetic and who stand firm on all institutional bodies to even better cripple the nation.

The phylum, constituted by its pontiff, Paul Biya and his stooges like Issa Tchiroma, communications minister, and Jacques Fame Ndongo, education minister, participate in creating the upper political class and the lower class. They are an inaccessible and unavailable in their opaque halls; an ironic contradiction to the nation that they are presumed to serve but only flush the air with meaningless pantomime.

Joseph Wirba, a parliamentarian from southern Cameroon, has expressed his concern to Jacques Fame Ndongo on the sibject.  His best response was: “What are you guys going to do?”  Issa Tchiroma, a former opposition leader turned apologist for the president after recapturing the post of communication minister said: “There is no place for federation or independence.” While Paul Atanga Nji, minister for special duties at the presidency had declared: “There is no systemic discrimination against Anglophones”.

Even though the president had been silent, governing through silence as he has always done in the past three decades, he had offered a pathetic 2 million dollars to private and confessional schools in the regions. Little hugs never work after many years of domestic violence. He shut down the internet on January-April 2017; he imprisoned lawyers like  Barista Fon, Dr. Nkongho Felix Falla Agbor (esq) and Dr. Fontem Neba, while many others fled for their lives. Then he failed a whole generation of youth when he mandated students to sit for the GCE test knowing that they had not attended classes during that school year.  All constitute the actions of a trap setter not a leader and benefactor of the people. And with his newly discovered vocabulary of terrorism, he has not failed to charge his own citizens of such crime while neglecting Boko Haram in the North.

A NATIONAL MALAISE: POLITICS OF DISGACE

In a country where poverty is at a 48% level (Human Development Index, 2011). Where a pregnant woman dies laboring in front of a hospital with no assistance. Where a reckless train collapses and kills 55 citizens, 300 injured in 2016 and no one is held accountable. Furthermore, where the president rules ad vitam and at present for 35 years. Where journalists are harassed and killed.  One would expect that if a given group goes on strike in order to request a better management of public affairs, that would sound like the most laudable act of courage to be praised. No, not in Cameroon.

In fact, Cameroonian citizens who accomodate French colonial policies are shocked, surprised and wonder “why do others complain?” As if they were about to say: “Look, this is a beautiful country, fair, loving, just with good leaders who care for your good. Why on earth would you revolt against them?”

Historically, this type of ignorance is not new. When the people of France revolted against king Louise XVI for unbearable living conditions, the queen, Marie Antionette, also known as Madame Deficit, was shocked why the people had to complain to her for bread: “They should eat cake” she answered. A response that led to her beheading in Oct. 16th, 1793. The only difference with France is that the French all knew that they were oppressed and daily mistreated. That is of course except for their queen perhaps for good reasons because she lived in great conditions. But the Cameroonian public suffers in general, yet they claim the same ignorance as that of the aforementioned queen.

With the current surprise of most Cameroonians, it is sad that one must explain why the living conditions are not favorable, why the opportunities are limited and why it is important to preserve the diversity of a country which takes pride in saying it is the miniature of Africa. It is a surprise that ministers as well as citizens all ask the same question: “why are the Anglophones complaining? But we all suffer, right?” Or the misconstrued idea that the main issue is that of language, or again pointing at the prime minister as an Anglophone to be a sign that English speaking citizens are treated well.  Another way of claiming as with the election of Barak Obama that his election proves racism has ended.

No doubt, the Stockholm syndrome seems to take effect here more inherently than one would imagine. After being accustomed to disgrace, dictatorship, perpetual rule, corruption, and nepotism, it has almost become normalized. The call for change or improvement becomes the real threat while those who have destroyed the country gain sympathy, love, compassion and protection from the people they’ve crushed over the years.

Progress within a social context with such a pervasive mindset is not only difficult but also highly unlikely. Maybe Cameroonians have not suffered enough to know that it is time to rise and challenge the status quo against all odds.

SKIN BLEACHING: LIVING RITES FOR DEAD GODS, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

skin-bleaching 1

Cosmetic allegiance is an issue of sovereign rights. The way a people decide to adorn themselves constitute a territory where foreign office holds no legitimacy.

However, when the application of cosmetics involves the elimination of an individual’s phenotypical characteristics like that of his color, then it ceases to be an aesthetic practice.  Instead, it becomes racial denial and a hysterical allegiance to mythical archetypes.

This is precisely what the practice of skin bleaching is. Common sense demands serous scrutiny of this problem which has become global. Why don’t modifications of one’s hair, height, or weight and even cosmetic surgery align with this same practice?

Skin bleaching – elicits three facts. First, the negation of self that is, secondly, coupled with the veneration of the imitated other. And thirdly, the ‘imitated other’ which is posed as most exquisite.  Even more, the cosmeticized person becomes a canvas on which is constructed the image of the subjugator who invalidates the basic premise of human equality. The latter – cosmetic surgery – is rooted in a desire to uplift corporal features in order to meet certain standards without necessarily subjugating those who may be lacking in them.

In The Clash of civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington’s analysis is keen except for a solid thesis which nails down how race and color have played an important role in shaping, most of the time, these clashes of civilizations. W.E.B. Dubois corroborates this point when he stated in The soul of black folks, p.9.: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, – the relation of the darker to the light races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”

Although skin bleaching is self-denial do to its negation of essential body features, these practices beg the question whether or not the practice has existential value for the one cosmeticized. While existence is primarily a matter of the mind according to modern thinkers: “I think, therefore I am”, contemporary philosophical thought holds that understanding how perception works is the key to understanding just how one assigns value to existence.

What is meant here is that the inter-subjective reality or dialectical nature of man is what constitute his primary mode of existence. Merleu-Ponty calls it the primacy of perception.  In his Phenomenology of Perception, p.169., he writes: “The body is our general medium for having a world.” This claim pregnant with questions both philosophical and practical especially in a world where how you look determines who you are. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that the clash of civilizations (cultures, religions, etc) is more so a clash of perceptions which embody not only the antagonism between different spheres of existence called cultures but also peoples and their colors. By perceiving the world, we get an image of ourselves by which we define and value [our] existence.

Having established the conceptual basis which defines existence – at least phenomenologically under the banner of perception (for in all interactions, interpretation, and quest for meaning or sense of self, it is always indispensable) I will outline how one of these aspects of perception has been instrumental in the practice of skin bleaching. Skin bleaching by black people is a practice designed primarily to modify their own perception and ‘imitate other’s’ perception since it determines the valuation of their existence.

The Social distance scale of Emory Bogardus – 1930, brings to light the idea of the agreeableness of being white and the liability of being its opposite or black. For black on the scale is non-desirable. It is a phenomenon rooted in diverse myriad conceptions that have lasted over centuries and survives to the present day.

On the line between white and black which incarnates in the world a divide between rich and poor, good and bad, intelligent and dull, opportunity and despair, happiness and sadness, light and darkness or again norm and abnormal, skin bleaching appears as a palliative option and recourse that would admittedly bridge the gap at best or at least reduce it. In any case, for the practitioner something should be done to their black skin since the divide which caused them grueling anxiety is based on it.

Whether the bleaching is done or not, the perception of a black person’s skin color shapes his or her identity. It shapes his or her existence which in most cases is in suspended animation due to its devaluation.

The argument for skin bleaching follows seven main lines of thought which do not pretend to be exhaustive but is meant to showcase the general character of the practice and how it affects a whole organ. As such, these shall be articulated around the following: mythos, thymos, ploutos, ethos, eros, pathos and logos. Can we proceed?

Mythos: Veneration of Illusion and the Creation of Rites for Dead Gods

In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2011, a woman applies skin lightening cream to her legs as she sits on a curb in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions. (AP Photo/Caterina Werner)

In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2011, a woman applies skin lightening cream to her legs as she sits on a curb in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions. (AP Photo/Caterina Werner)

A myth is simply a lie; it is told skillfully over and over to make people believe and behave in a given way. Plato had such an idea when he said in The Republic: “How then do we devise one of those needful falsehoods, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the City.” And among the lies he told, was his conception on intelligence which emanated from the divine and associated with self-discipline the color white while the opposite of these are associated with black. Once the lie is believed, lives would be changed.

“Emeka is a very beautiful girl like no other from the Eastern part of Nigeria. Dark in complexion and sober in composure. After secondary school at the age of 18, she went to the State University of Anambra. Everyone knows her for her outstanding beauty, soothed dark skin and corpulence of proportion. She was not of the richest families but had never been lacking in complements or suitors from the most modest handyman to the haughty politicians and tycoon business owners of the City.

While waiting to make a decision on marriage, she had decided to first focus on her education in accordance with the exigency of modern times and the wish of her parents. After a few years in the University, one could notice that she is becoming lighter and lighter while her soothing darkness is steadily disappearing. At 25, after her Master’s degree in Mass Communication, she had become a light girl, and had a position in a local broadcasting company reporting on issues related to sports and women’s affairs. For onlookers who never knew her, she looks like a natural light skin girl. Light in complexion she is now engaged to a medical doctor and hoping to get married soon. She is happy, her family too, and the millions of girls in Nigeria dream to be like her. They envy not only her academic accomplishments and devotedness but also her love life, family life as well as her beauty, more precisely her color. Case closed, it’s time to settle and take care of children.

This is a typical pattern for most young girls in Nigeria. A country wherein about 77% of skin bleaching products are used by Nigerians according to the World Health Organization. The remaining 23% are those who cannot use the skin bleaching products because they live in remote areas where cosmetic products are not easily accessible.

In fact, there is a myth now becoming a religion which holds that being whitish is better and has been absorbed in the minds of young Africans who dream of nothing else but being like white ladies. For, how could a young lady Emeka, who has never questioned her beauty still believe that she needed to tone out her blackness to look better? This illustrates not only the power of media, especially Nollywood which usually gives star roles to beautiful light skin girls while reserving the ‘mean’ or abrasive roles for girls and women of dark features, but it is also the influence of myths which have played an important role of propagandizing a false conception of beauty and aesthetics.

Thymos: The Foundation of Aesthetical Quest

Skin bleaching is a symptom which reveals a psychological problem of low self-esteem, low self-importance, and low self-worth or desire for recognition. The combination of all these concepts fit into a more general term antithymos meaning ‘low spiritedness’. The definition characterizes all of these and is more explicit in setting out that inner desire of humans to be seen as good, important and of value. Francis Fukuyama in his book: The End of History, p. xix., acknowledges that the desire for recognition is the motor of history. The word self-esteem does no justice to this deep sentiment in humans to be recognized by their peers and the broader population. For women, and now in the post-modern West what is viewed as the feminization of man, it is manifested by exhibiting corporal features in the most striking and ‘acceptable’ way that would attract the most attention.

Skin bleaching is an apology though expressed in a naïve way. It is generally admitted that beauty brings self-confidence and greater self-esteem. What happens when beauty is associated with whiteness? Those who are white, or have a light complexion turn out to have a light self-esteem compared to their black counterparts. Researchers Verna Keith and Maxine Thompson through their article The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy in Gender and Society, pointed out clearly that among African American descendants of slaves there is a strong correlation between self-esteem and skin-tone which indicates an internalization of colorism. This correlation, they admitted, is even more exhibited among low income women. In Africa, skin-tone boost the self-esteem of women who believe they are more beautiful being light skinned.  But such practice is more common among those with affordable incomes than those in the villages and outskirts. So, in the future there may be class overtones in Nigeria which are skin color based as well.

These researchers went as far as demonstrating that it has an impact on educational achievement, prison sentencing, and even the likelihood of being elected into congress.

But self-esteem and self-confidence are not the embodiment of what defines thymos, i.e., the desire for recognition. Perhaps, it should be said that that is the fast-track towards ‘ideals’ of recognition. And like other fast-track options, their sustainability is easily put to trial and easily challenged.

It may be a no-brainer to remind anyone that skin bleaching is not appropriate but perpetrators will willingly admit that it helps them to achieve what they want. Skin bleaching therefore becomes a mode of survival in a complex world of limited opportunities and possibilities.       

Ploutos: “Just Being White You’ll Win”

 Vera-Sidika skin bleaching 2

Recently, an ad in Thailand dated January 08, 2016 claimed that “Just being white you’ll win.” Although the outcry of viewers obliged the barons to make a weak apology by stating that they never intended to hurt anyone, the message was already passed and the marketing scheme was achieved: put brazen attention on the subject while selling its products. In fact, it is a general protocol of those with biased views to say the most outrageous things, then apologize a few days later, then continue to say the same thing, then apologize again. Before they get tired, another person takes up the same vicious circle with similar outrageous comments, then apologizes and so on. The pattern, which is clear enough, leaves no room to doubt that there is no willingness to apologize as a way of changing an act or as a sign of contrition. In modern times, making an apology, especially in racial colloquial mischief, is a matter of social and marketing etiquette than it is a heartfelt willingness to change.

Few people are skilled enough to read the unconscious mind of others, but when skin bleaching becomes so pervasive in Africa one can only guess that it is related to the survival of some of those who practice it. Users might not necessarily know – explicitly, when they become addicted to it. If you ask them if they want to be white, a timid shrug follows because they know they are rooted to diverse practices from food to language very different from the person s/he wants to imitate. But don’t make the assumption that looking black[ish] is good. So, if the unconscious mind can’t be seen, its symptoms can. These symptoms appear in words and actions which manifest the nausea that being white[ish] increases your chances of succeeding in society.

Despite the outrage from the commercial which said “just being white you’ll win,” it appears that it extracts its axioms from the general hysteria of the public whose amnesia on the nature of man becomes more vivid than ever. But how do you win being white?

Ploutos is the Greek word for wealth which has been used here in opposition to money which is chrimata. Ploutos refers to the various vertical acquisitions which distinguishes a person from being poor irrespective of monetary equivalence: education, business, appointment, jobs, social capital etc. The skin lightening/bleaching industry is expected to reach about 10 billion by 2015, according to Skin Inc. June 23, 2009. While it is a source of wealth for the industries and their retailers, it is equally a means by which users believe they may increase their chances of vertical mobility in society: landing a good job, sports, or associating with those of the higher orbit.

By using various schools of thought, myths and laws (Plato’s Metaphor of two lovers, the myths of the metals, a sliding scale of justice by Aristotle, and even the USA Constitution) which classified humans from their whitest to their darkest using various approaches, Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed proves in A Particular Line of reasoning, 2015, that economic consequences follow such a thought pattern.

But there is more into skin bleaching than simply the desire to improve one’s wealth and feel better. There is also the question of love, sex, and marriage. 

Eros: Sex, Love, Marriage and Color

Eros, the embodiment of emotional energy, sometimes related to sex, is a force that controls humans lives in ways unimaginable from the minute aspects of clothing to the greatest like the wish to be a billionaire or a CEO of a fortune 500 hundred company.

As mentioned earlier, most African women with lighter skin have a higher self-esteem than women with darker skin. But it must be said that such self-esteem comes not necessarily from the conviction of self-proclaimed beauty but from the belief that she would possibly get a better lover or spouse along the way. Being light-skinned becomes a strategic front design to attract a spouse of one’s choice – usually the one with a higher purchasing power. It is no surprise that in Nigeria, some Igbo charge higher bride price for light women and lesser for the darker ones. This instrumentalization of beauty to the detriment of common sense only increases the problem.

Perhaps the problem lies with black men for their preference for light-skinned women as Ntambwe (2002) writes: “The majority of black men prefer light-skinned women as partners, girlfriends or wives. Several authors have stated that these light-skinned women are perceived as attractive, intelligent, moral, sexually more desirable, even chaste; whereas dark-skinned are regarded as mean, evil, stupid, even not as trust-worthy.” But whether men should be held responsible for this misplaced perception is a matter ethical/moral writ which shall be considered in the next section on ethos.

 From women’s perspective, issues of love and marriage are comparably of value only to that of life and death. Because they’re of utmost importance to them they’ll do all it takes to reach their state of self-accomplishment – fulfill existence. Since they stand on the passive side waiting for their desired spouse to make a move it follows that their best recourse for attracting attention and be competitive depends on possessing those striking features which would prompt men to action.

All means are good so long as they reach their goal and skin bleaching is one of them. In this light, it is no doubt that lecturing African women on how to maintain natural beauty is usually a vain exercise for the most part. Their whole existence is tuned primarily to being beautiful, to be seen as such, always complimented as such, and when she notices that such compliments or suitors are reducing or remain constant she will then increase the dose of her concoctions. Facebook, Instagram, Nollywood, Hollywood and the entire media all participate in this social drama. The advent of social media has given the opportunity for African women to display the triumph of their cosmetic metamorphosis by successes easily measured by the amount of likes she receives as well as comments. Is this appropriate? This appears to be the right question here because “if it works, don’t fix it” as the popular saying goes. 

Ethos: Ethical Concerns

 Besides feeling the need to feel important, recognized or to be beautiful – as it is claimed, is it of ethical stance to erode the melanin of one’s skin using corrosive substances for the end of looking light? While beauty is believed to be in the eyes of the beholder, ethics on the contrary lies in the minds of the one who withstands the test of rationality and reasonability.

The ethical consideration shall be comprised of four arguments: who is responsible for the acts, is it admissible morally to tone one’s skin, should it be regulated socially/institutionally, and should we question if we have failed/betrayed dark-skinned women by choosing light ones or by deciding to bleach and be apart from them? On the last note, the ethical question enlarges more to a legal and community problem which enters into the heart of social justice and the defense of common welfare in an era of individualism and capitalism whose remnants, as can be seen, appear visibly in skin bleaching.

Milly Mira is a Cameroonian US based blogger who believes that African men created skin bleaching. Here is her argument on 1st of December 2015: “Many African men are hypocrites because they are the first to mock girls and women with lighten skins but are the first to pick a fair skinned girl as their idea skin tone.” She continued her argument: “I have had discussions with many single male friends who are purportedly ‘ready to settle’ and need a hook up. When I ask what attributes they find attractive or are looking for in a girl the first thing ‘one that looks like you.’ What percentage of Africans (Cameroonians) are naturally light-skinned? … if there is demand we will supply okay.” This is not just an economic anecdote but also an attempt to remain credible.

Since morality is based on responsibility, on personal acts, how an individual reacts to personal, social, and structural pressures impounding on his conscience and freewill, then it will be admitted that those imputed are primarily the users.

Furthermore, is it moral to bleach one’s skin? Skin bleaching comes with peculiar traits. In principle, morality takes root in the conscience [nature], grows through the mind [nurture] develops through society [law] and ends in the will [love], (K. Emilton, p.122.). This synopsis on morality puts us in a fragmented diagnosis where blame becomes difficult to establish. While the conscience may timidly admit that it is wrong to willingly change one’s skin color, the mind – which is built through society – has developed arguments to accept and accommodate it as normal in a society which has not yet define it as a punishable act. But does this end in love? Considering the fact that the basis of bleaching was hate (in a soft sense), it would only be a surprise to imagine that it leads to love – characterized by respect of self and others. In fact, denying one’s own blackness makes us guilty of disrespect in the face of blackness in the other.

Concerning its regulation, in May 2015, the Ivory Coast is known to have imposed a ban on skin-bleaching products which have caused great damage to the minds of its young people. Most African countries remain indifferent and the individual is left to his fate. But the banning of these corrosive products doesn’t stop the Ivorian media from choosing light-skinned women as program hostess or giving them lead roles in movies, or choosing them as wives/girlfriends thereby perpetuating the same malaise that the legislation intended to curb. Gambia and South Africa have equally issued bans but there is no evidence that the public has stopped using them.

Finally, the role of the law comes in as a recognition that there is a communal responsibility of helping each member of a community to live to their fullest potentials, to be themselves and above all to be respected for who they are – humans. But this communal responsibility, a type of social ethos, falls only on a few who believe that they must protect each other. In fact, in modern society, it is difficult to be indifferent. One can’t have an uncontrollable desire for light-skinned women while being fair to dark-skin women in the same way. And if and only if society assumes the stance that skin bleaching goes beyond an individual’s decision then change would be far from possible. “if the arm is sick, the whole body gets affected.”

Pathos: Pathology of Skin Bleaching

Black Woman's Pain Lead Pic

To understand the pathological state in which most blacks live there is no better description than the lucid work of psychiatrist Franz Fanon’s book: Black Skin White Mask: The experiences of a black man in a white world. He admits in his premise that the juxtaposition of the white and black races has created a massive psycho-existential complex. Using various examples from real life experiences including his own, he affirms that only a psychoanalytical interpretation of the black problem can lay bare the anomalies of affect that are responsible for the structure of the complex.

Two pathological patterns shall be examined from his analysis. The first narrates the way the woman of color behaves with the white man which he finds incomprehensible. Referring particularly to the Antilles woman of color, he explains that her main dream is to meet a white man with whom she’ll get married. Despite having suitors who are educated, responsible and ready to love them wholeheartedly, she still despises them just because they are black, low class while waiting for the day the white man will knock on her door.

Chris Rock, the American comedian and actor made reference to this when he joked about black women saying: there’s never a perfect match; you’re a black woman, he’s a black man. Contrary to common sense which holds that man is a motion towards the world and towards his like (Franz Fanon), with the black woman, being with his like sounds like a taboo. The opposite of this holds true. The black man dreams of being with a white woman who most of the time repudiates him. Drawing from his personal experience, he concludes that the black person’s mind has been completely destroyed and needs liberation through psychoanalysis.

While psychoanalysis intends to explore the unconscious to uncover unrecognized symptoms which produce unhappiness in most people, its application to color hysteria is not only legitimate and audacious but also daring.

However, this analytical undertaking enlightens more in its theoretical coherence than in its practical realization. In fact, it is a question of operation a social-therapy, or applying psychoanalysis to a group of people in a way that challenges even history and the processes that align with it. Like events in spatiotemporal dynamics, it must be believed that with the strength of the mind or reason (logos) change can be initiated and balance restored.    

Logos: The Redefining of Self or Saving Man from Self through Reason

Back to the basis and basics of existence, the recourse to the resource of the mind remains indispensable in understanding how man should proceed in his complex life. Phenomenology provides an admirable point of view according to Merleau-Ponty: “Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. The spoken gesture, and its meaning, a world.”

Rightfully, phenomenology triumphs because it is the only exercise that restores originality and authenticity. All other sciences, hard to soft, have been excellent in one way or another to open the sore in the stigmata of color, leaving man open to himself. Even if a socio-therapy should succeed, a phenomenological approach to this discipline shall be indispensable in making sense. This is the indisputable base from which to start after which other arguments may be built unto this foundation.

 Skin bleaching, though it refers to a single act of modifying one’s color, reveals a cry for a whole existence; one that has lost its center of gravity, and until this center is reached the periphery continues to revolve endlessly is wandering confusion.

The fall of communist socialism had made most people to undermine the ideas of Karl Marx while academic institutions are known to perpetuate to young learners, mainly the poor, ideas that never got accomplished. In fact, one of the key principles of Marx is his recognition of the fact the material processes – through the labor of man, contribute considerably in defining the mental structure of his existence. Man, estranged through capital becomes alienated from himself and from his own humanity. Without reigniting a fight against capital[ism], the black man, after all his discourse and awareness, shall be obliged to answer the ultimate question of his existence and means of survival through his work, creativity and the development of those instruments that have participated in his non-existence.

The ‘narrative has changed’ but only when that narrative takes charge of a social structural ‘narration’ whose final end is productive infrastructures that define and guide ongoing social narration will reason overcome the pathos of skin bleaching. 

 

 

 

 

TRIBALISM AND RACISM: TWO FACES OF THE SAME EVIL, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

cutting-tribalism

Social Identity is a conceptual framework designed to create meaning, distinction and with the goal of strengthening the sense of belonging while promoting – mutual – growth. In this case, a tribe, a race or a nation gives a generic identity to an individual in which he defines himself.

Identity, it follows, is founded ironically on a simple principle: the identical. That is, he looks like me, thinks like me, has the same origin as me, understands me, can assist me [unconditionally?], he won’t hurt me, he looks familiar and would likely know why I act/think this way or that way without judging etc. What an individual sees in his race/tribe, he sees – most of the time, the opposite in others’. As such, identity becomes a comfort zone, crafted by society [structural] and individuals [psychological] to maintain those agreeable feelings of safety and belonging.

The socio-genesis of race and tribe is built on the same basis of primary emotions which connect a person to other members of the family. Between the structural and the psychological, there is a biological link which connects the two thereby making such bonds not only strong but sometimes – if not most of the times – irrational.

Three concepts come into play when the issue of tribe and race are concerned: culture (structural), (personal) psychological, and (blood) biological.

Culture imposes a set of values upon individuals in a given community. These values include but are not limited to the following: food, drinks, dance, language, dressing, etc. Being born into particular culture or race is not a choice. How an individual integrates those values that are set on him comes from his personal decision. However, because there is a belief that members who share a given identity are connected as a family – blood, the choices made usually turn in favor of sentiments rather than objective reasoning.

The concept of tribe is related to two others which share the same characteristics: clan and ethnic group. The first refers to a subgroup within a given tribe, generally smaller with closer connections while the second refers to an agglomeration of tribes that share common characteristics (language, food, dances etc.) and origin. Any case against tribalism applies to ethnic groupings as well as clans. The understanding of racism and tribalism appears to be at the heart of most of the major crisis that humanity has ever known. According to Niall Ferguson, renowned Harvard history professor, argued in Wars of the World, that the WWI and II were motivated by the expansion of empires and ethnic proclivity. It happened that such ethnic expansion coincided with race boundaries. Another heinous evil known to humanity is slavery which was linked to race.

Unraveling the problems related to tribalism and racism constitute a general approach in understanding what lies at the core of discrimination between groups of people which evidently is the cause of so many injustices and violence.

Social Identity: An Attribute or An Essence?

An attribute means to ascribe from its Latin derivative “ad tribuere” to ascribe. Because ascribe refers to certain characteristics that are assigned to an individual either by himself, society, or law are for the most part external, it constitute a transient phase with regard to its contingent nature and peripheral phase with regard to its superficiality.

Essence, on the contrary, is an intrinsic property that defines something/someone and without which it ceases to be what it is. An essence is also a substance or necessity and without this at thing or someone loses its identity.

James Watson is a Nobel Prize winner in biology for his contribution in the development of DNA and is one among thousands of intellectuals who believe that there is some essence in the issue of race when he stated that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” It is a common belief that there is an intrinsic value unequally distributed among races which is the primary cause of poverty and riches, greatness or misery in a given people. But a close elucidation unveils a more intricate reality than public opinion would possibly admit.

If intelligence is an essence designating a value in the genes of individuals whose corollary characteristic is skin color, then it must be concluded that there is no human genus but many human genera. And because these genera differ in their intelligence, concepts of democracy, human rights, and justice they cannot be held to be universal. That leads ultimately to this premise: Universal Declarations of human rights become null. It cannot be expected for humans to practice universal values fundamental to humans when their essence and capacity of grasping these values do not match.

Admittedly, in an enjoyable assertion, it is said that the Kikuyus of Kenya are good business people while the Luo are book people [intelligent, lawyers, doctors etc.]. In Nigeria, the Igbo are associated with business and money, the Yoruba with education while the Hausas are seen as lousy, love power. In Cameroon, the Bamileke are stereotyped with money, northerners with low skilled jobs, Sawa as beautiful but lazy. Almost every tribe has a stereotype in Africa and they play an important role in shaping interactions and defining the patterns of cohabitation of peace or conflict. But it is not uncommon to find out that these are often based on isolated cases, poorly generalized, massively marketed at a discounted rate of coherence and truth since they ignore social trajectories that each group grow through in defining its self-preservation agenda.

For example, the Bamileke are associated with business and money but the richest man in Cameroon is an Anglophone from the north west province, Muslim, Aladji Danpollo [Cf. Jeune Afrique]; the Northerners in Nigeria are linked with power but most of the investments are done in the south [Lagos, Abudja] thereby benefiting most people of the south. The Igbos in Nigeria are mainly associated with business but the most acclaimed African writer who brought Africa to light was Chinua Achebe who is an Igbo. Even when it is believed in Nigeria that Fulani/Hausa are born to rule, the same tribe which constitute about 10% of the Cameroonian population doesn’t have those beliefs.

In fact, tribal stereotypes appear to be at the heart of most of the conflicts that are faced in African nations, breaks the bridge of trust while installing a hardware of misunderstanding and suspicion. But very little is done about it. Generally, it is believed that that is what those people are.

Racism comes with its own stereotypes and most people believe that some races are naturally made to have certain potentials: either intelligent or foolish, hard working or lazy, organized or disorganized, etc.

If the complex relations of tribalism and instinct cannot be conquered, then that of racism still has a long way to go. Such beliefs lead, naturally to the classification of races/tribes into a hierarchy.

Hierarchy? Structural Identity And Symbolic Violence

Each time a tribe/race is considered superior to another, symbolic violence is being normalized. Specific groups are known for attributing to themselves all the good qualities, while conferring to others all the negative ones thereby strengthening their position of feeling superior.

Tribal hierarchy, less discussed and admitted, is an ensuing argument of those who hold social identities as an essence. There is a common expression in Nigeria used by the Funali which corroborates this position: Fulani are “born to rule”, described by  Anyichiet Ochukwu in the Daily Trust as the born to rule syndrome in the Nigerian governing class, which according to him, is at the core of the governance problem in Nigeria. Of the thirteen presidents that have ruled Nigeria, it is no surprise that nine of them are from the greater North including the central belt. Taking into account the fact that Muhammadu Buhari has been president twice, this should actually sum up to ten against three for the southerners. It should be pointed that Nigeria officially become a democratic nation in 1999 under the fourth republic and since many northerners – perhaps due to less interest in education, entered the military, they consolidated their position under the long military dictatorship by taking turns in power. So, born to rule appears to be a forged concept acquired through might rather than right. It was a contingent reality, and does not designate a tribal substance inherent in the Fulani people or the northerners.

In Cameroon, the Douala and Sawa people usually feel superior to other tribes. This explains why most of them never liked to work in the plantations created by the whites in the early 1900s. For this reason, Bamilekes, from the South West migrated to this littoral region to work in these plantations where through careful savings and investments many of them finally became wealthy thereby developing their own superiority complex.

In Rwanda, the Belgians had propagated a myth of tribal/ethnic superiority of the Tutsis because they had a lighter skin color, are tall, had greater social order and were more like Europeans compared to the Hutsi counterparts. Although there had existed a social order which classified the Tutsis as superior because they were of divine origin and the natural elite who brought civilization to Rwanda, the Germans who first colonized the territory never emphasized on it nor enforced it.

From the 1950s, the racial identities – which is actually ethnic, were institutionalized. This led to the progressive subjugation of the Hutsi whose revolt culminated in the 1994 genocide that resulted in close to a million Tutsis deaths thereby reducing the percentage of the group from 24% to 14%: an epic attempt of ethnic cleansing built on the edifice of crafted illusion. The ramification of this war includes the Burundian genocide [1972-1993] and the first [1996-1997] and second [1998-2003] Congo Wars.

What makes a tribe/ethnic group superior? In most cases, it is through the acquisition of things of power like arms, wealth, intelligence, organized systems, and success in all its forms. But also skin color as in the case of Rwanda. Because a lighter skin is believed to be superior, myths are created to conform to such realities in order to consolidate these comfort zones.

These arguments on hierarchy among tribes illustrate that contingent realities always influence the way a group of people see themselves and the way they expect others to see them. Do these differences really matter in the lives of people?

When millions of people are killed with impunity under the pretext of tribe/ethnic group, it becomes evident that even more would lose jobs, suffer corruption, and other unfair treatment because they do not belong to the same tribe/ethnic group as the other person. This explains why intertribal marriages have always been seen with suspicion by most African tribes.

Racial hierarchy remains a credo that has lasted for centuries and holds a privileged place in the subconscious minds of many people. In an – almost – exhaustive account of race/racism and hierarchy, Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed points out in A particular Line of reasoning: How Plato and Aristotle fashioned our concept of race, that it is a “2,400 year old downward spiral in relation to the quality of human reasoning…” Racial hierarchy, based on skin color placed the white race at the top, blacks at the bottom and all the others in the midway.

The consequences of such classifications are far-reaching that even the organization of modern societies find it too complex and nearly impossible to do away with it.

Old Primitive Emotions In A New Rationality: Modern States

It is an old psychological joke that all children believe that their dad is the most handsome, hardworking and greatest man alive. Even when bullied by the a mighty soldier, he rushes to his dad who, most of the time, is as helpless as other people but thanks to his old age has learnt to beg for his survival through tolerance and dialogue – values which would restores the child’s confidence in him.

Family attachments are based on such sentiments and by blood even when the values claimed to be practiced therein may not really be there. This connection outreaches to extended members of the family which finally becomes a clan, a tribe, or an ethnic group. These closed societies hold to their illusion of self and social identity and are almost autonomous in most cases with regards to legislation, territory, and administration. This is the old order which can also be called the primitive order.

The emergence of modern states brought in another reality that would shake tribal logic to its core – citizenry. Being a citizen of a country means you must accept all others not as members of other tribes, clans or ethnic groups but simply because they are citizens. It is a new rationality because tribe must never come before the nation. National identity through respect of the law must outshine traditional attachment.

In practice, this new rationality often carries with it relics of its old self thereby threatening the wellbeing of the State and that of all its citizens. In Cameroon, there are about 250 tribes, in Nigeria about 300 and over 100 tribes in Angola. As a result, most African states are constituted of multiple tribes and government workers are called to relate to everyone as equal without prejudice to origin or tribe. Regrettably, the old enemy reappears in a new form in these institutions. Public administration is used by those to power to further defend the interests of a particular tribe.

In the West, most nations were formed along tribal lines, or almost so. Coupled with a long history of nation building, they’ve learned to live with others’ differences but the biological aspect of race has never disappeared. That is what led to the racial and ethnic tension of the early 1900s which later became the world wars.

There is nothing as self-evident as the equality of man and there is nothing as frustrating as his desire to distinguish/classify himself as a special being within the same species. The Declaration of Independence, 4th of July 1776, made it clear: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” After 168 years, the same formulation appeared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Both texts pioneered by the United States of America, whose constitution upholds racial superiority, perhaps never considered blacks as humans since they were officially segregated till 1963. In fact, they never stopped slavery, segregation, and modern day discrimination.

Racity/Tribality Against Racism/Tribalism: When Nominal Coherence Meets the Frontiers of Practical Unpredictability

In principle, it is only normal for people who share common threads to live together. It is good for a Muslim to be happy to be around other Muslims and for Indians to love Indian restaurants; Bulu people to love cassava and peanut butter; Hausa to love those who look like them and Hispanics to love Hispanic music. It is normal also for whites to love their own people and normal for blacks to love blacks. This is raciality/trability.

While it is normal to like the things from your tribe and the people from your race, it becomes extremely difficult to draw the line where one must stop from conferring undeserved privileges to those who look like us while refusing from others who truly deserve our attention. Here, good judgement and law are jeopardized while emotions are being instrumentalized.

But living within one’s comfort zone and establishing the limits where it becomes a crime seems complex in daily life. When discrimination is committed against a member of another community, it is easy to justify it because they are no emotional attachments involved. On the contrary, there are always laws and public support in favor of the actions of some against others. Such exploitation of circumstances occur especially when a dominant tribe control power (Bulu in Cameroon) or when a given race assumes the rule of autochthony (Whites in the United States of America).

During civil unrests in Cameroon, the military is usually deployed from the Northern Province, who are usually the Hausas and Fulani. And because they have no emotional connection with people from the south, their oppression of any civil unrest is usually cruel and effective. The same strategy is used in the deployment of troops around the country. From an individual perspective, a Nigerian soldier had confessed how she killed rebels in South Sudan without any sympathy but her heart melts when she hears the victim mourn in a language familiar to her.

Does such reactions make sense when we compare the way in which Whites kill Blacks in the USA? Actually, there is usually no compassion because it is the pain is in others.

What the West finds inadmissible about World War I and II is the fact the white man administered to those who looked like them acts which were reserved for others. It only makes sense that the UNO, NATO and related bodies were created after that with the primary reason to prevent war from occurring among these nations. And what about nations in Africa, South America, Middle East and Asia? “They should take care of themselves…”

The Veneration of Illusion Versus Disgust of Reality: Redefining Identity

Social identity, racial or tribal, when put on the crucible of pure reason – objectivity, shreds all frontiers and pulls downs permanently without appeal all curtains behind which all humans hide. The final verdict is that humans are one. But why is this self-evident reality accepted with disgust and often rejected in daily life? The reason is simple: humans venerate illusion, because in it, they find their comfort zone. When such comforts zones don’t suffice others are immediately created: rites, gods, myths, etc. Fear is the god-father of illusions while incertitude is the mother delusion.

The Banso people from the grass field North West region of Cameroon love their tribe, their culture and tradition particularly their food and dance. Fufu and vegetables constitute their staple. But they often forget that Fufu is made of corn which was brought by the whites and replaced the local cereal. The same goes for Kabah, a gown worn by most women in Cameroon including the Banso which they believe is part of their culture. However, these dress styles came in as a reaction of astonished whites who, in front of naked ladies, decided to give them pieces of cloths to wrap around their breasts and down the thighs. It becomes clear that behind every culture is just an illusion which people venerate, a contingent aspect which happened at a given time and possibly will disappear.

Race is just a color, but regrettably happens to play one of the most important roles in peoples’ lives at times more than intelligence and hard work would.

On the one hand people claim everyone is the same, but on other hand each individual wants to remain in his/her own comfort zone.

Breaking barriers: Between Tension and Peace.

Social identity, as mentioned earlier, is an “artificial fortress”, comfort zone, crafted by a people as a means to promote their self-preservation, deter others from their influence – which they assume is mostly negative while integrating – reluctantly the positive ones. As such, these identity barriers become almost rigid over decades thereby becoming very difficult to break or cross. When a people integrate into another society there is usually the fear that they’ll lose their identity. It is due to the belief that social identity constitutes an essence which must not be diluted with another. However, these barriers get broken sometimes and there are ways to do so. During times of peace, the most prominent way is through marriage, trade or through politics (imposing laws on integration on racial and tribal diversity). In times of tension, barriers are broken through war [domination] or through consensus [mutual respect].

Marriage is one of the main ways in which barriers are broken between tribes and races. It is no doubt that it was forbidden from blacks to get married to white women before 1969. Even till today, it is still considered a taboo. Most Indians don’t marry out of their tribe. In Africa, most tribes prefer to marry within the same tribe or closer ones, although recent mobility of people and means of survival have put these convictions in check.

Trade between people or communities is another means through which a people increase their respectability and interact with others easily. With the increase in purchasing power of the Chinese, many whites find it great to marry a Chinese girl. And unless the purchasing power, defined by trade, of the black community increases considerably, their interaction with other established communities will be seen as a liability.

Many governments interfere to enforce integration of tribes and races. In Cameroon, there is a particular percentage from each major ethnic group to enter into public administration [regional integration quota, presidential decree n° 75/496 of a3th July 1975, decree n° 82/407 of 7th September 1982 and decree n°2000/696/PM of 13 septembre 2000].

In the USA, Executive Order 13583, 18th of August 2011, was signed and aimed at establishing a coordinated government-wide diversity and inclusion in the federal goverment. These regulations might meet challenges in their application but nevertheless illustrate the desire to cross barriers that seem so difficult to break.

Failure to break these barriers could lead to either a stalemate or conflict. That is, two communities which refuse to interact, or which are at war with each other. The multiple conflicts around Africa always have a tribal link and mentioned above.

Identity-Effect Versus Effects of Identity

Identity-effect is a reductionist analysis where every aspect of a person’s life is interpreted either only or mainly in relation to the identity s/he incarnates. It is a position characteristic of those who have reduced their rational faculties to be as narrow as such identity permits.

When Kenyans win in long distance running – like they usually do, arguments are quickly fabricated to show how race and genes are related to their success. No one attributes hard work and perseverance. Admittedly, if whites had won such titles, it could have been said that it is because they are disciplined and hard working. Jon Entine went as far as stating that “runners of west Africa are the fastest humans on earth.” He also referred to Bengt Saltin, the director of the Copenhagen Muscle Institute who said: “an athlete’s environment accounts for no more than 20-25% of athletic ability. The rest comes down to the roll of the genetic dice – with each population group having distinct advantages. In other words, running success is ‘in the genes.’

Here are the facts, athletic achievements, like success of all kind, is a bio-cultural phenomenon.”[cf. The DNA Olympics – Jamaicans win sprinting ‘genetic lottery’ – and why we should all care]. It is the same pattern of arguments that claimed that blacks have low IQ, that they don’t have sufficient intellectual capabilities as others. Conversely, this assertion in 2012 only shows that all the success of the white person is due to some inherent value, an essence which defines his existence. Therefore, only justifiable.

It follows that the identity-effect is not only reductionist but also a symbolic crime because it lays down the conceptual framework upon which injustice and discrimination would be built.

These arguments hold true for tribes as well. When a Luo in Kenya is excellent in medicine or law, he believes it is because they are made to be intelligent, to be scholars contrary to their tribal counterparts, the kikuyus who are business people. Such claims are truer when it comes to the white race who are believed to be intelligent, smart and orderly. When a white person discovers something new, it is seen as a normal achievement but if a person of color does the same it becomes strange. Niel deGrasse Tyson, the renowned New York astrophysicist had explained several times how he was discouraged by his teachers from doing the sciences but to focus on sports like all other black kids. Today, he is known as a great astrophysicist accredited in demoting Plato from the list of nine stars.

The identity-effect creates an enemy in society which then becomes the list of stereotypes lived as the effects of identity. In other words, the effects of identity are resultant acts from assumptions constantly made on people because they look in a particular way or because they are from a given tribe. Consequently, identity-effect and effects of identity are two sides of the same evil.

Humanity, plurality and respectability: At what cost?

With about 3000 tribes in Africa and about four races in the world, it is more evident than ever that plurality is not only the destiny of man but his nature. About 20 million Africans underwent slave trade due to skin color and tribal division, WW I and II lost the lives of about 100 million people. The Jewish genocide and Jewish pogroms cost the lives of at least 10 million Jews before they were finally accepted and respected – to some extent. Given all the division in the world, mostly related to tribe/ethnic group and race, how many more people must be sacrificed in order for humanity to come to the understanding that there is need to be one, and to live in peace, respectfully loving one another?

The contemporary world is vertical and there is more into play than race and tribe notably economy, diplomacy, environment etc. Luckily, humans live in an age where through intelligence and creativity, appropriate measures can be taken to solve the world’s most difficult enigma – division. Regrettably, division appears to be the factor the fuels the pride, happiness and riches of some people.

With all the good laws that have been made, man is left to himself and to his community to design patterns of sustainability that will ensure his survival and respectability in the modern context. The globalization of problems, the mutualization of competences, necessary interdependence of societies and the ultimate democratization of technology shall expose man to himself and to the world on the altar of a new fraternity called civility whose stronghold is the state. And this is not a project of a society, it is a project of humanity; it is its history and destiny.

Has man ever been friendly to fellow man?

When he claims his freedom, the other becomes a subject.

When he canonizes himself as just, the other is demonized as a suspect.

When he assumes he is cultured, the other is marketed as barbarian.

When he decides to believe, the other is stigmatized as a pagan.

When he proclaims himself as civilized, the other is diagnosed as primitive.

When he defines truth, the other is advertised as an imposture, heretic.

When he chooses the vocabulary, the other is decreed as ignorant.

When he defines value, the other is asked to accept existential bankruptcy.

When he defines law, the other is damned as a lawless law breaker.

When he defines beauty, the other’s is mocked as a caricature of aesthetic jargon.

When he defines culture, the other’s is slammed as a useless fabric of no value.

When he defines the exclusive we, the other is marked as the exclusive they.

Has man ever been friendly to fellow man?

[Ultimate wisdom Code I, p. 232]

 

THE BRIDGE OF MISERY: BETWEEN THE PRESIDENCY AND THE CATHEDRAL IN CAMEROON, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

Cameroon-Presidential-palace2

Two important edifices exist in Cameroon which define, to a great extent, the whole sociological architecture of the country – the cathedral and the presidency. The first is found at the center and like the force of gravity pulls all other things around it as a God and keeper of the nation. While the second, found about three miles away, constitutes the concentration of all the political forces that supposedly hold the nation together. But there are not two centers of gravity. In reality, despite the fact that the two operate in theory as separate entities, they constitute a continuum of harmonized inter-dependency linked together by a slippery tangent called control – or in its popular usage, power.

Head of the Black Church

The cathedral, epicenter of the Catholic Church in Cameroon under the Archbishop on Yaounde, sets the tone for religious policy with regards to its relation to the State as well as the population. The presidency, on the other hand, is the heart of politics, residence of the president where he dictates the political climate. By understanding how both structures function, it is possible to know how the country operates. When Yaounde is breathing, Cameroon is alive remains a popular expression demonstrating the paramount role of the nation’s capital.

However, despite the fact that these are important institutions, it should be mentioned that the most important part is what lies between the presidency and the cathedral – the people. Their fate remains suspended and trapped in a system where rules have been displaced from the traditional settings in favor of dubious practices.   So, by illustrating the constitutive nature of power in these structures 1.) It shall be possible to elaborate on how they enhance the exclusion of the people and 2.) It shall be possible to elaborate on how they thereby produce a strange outcome of exchange of competences to the detriment of the public.

  1. Mutually exclusive poles in a mutually constitutive power anatomy

In the preamble of the Constitution of Cameroon 2008, it is specified that “the State shall be circular. The neutrality of the State in respect to all religions shall be guaranteed.” This proviso has become a characteristic of most modern States since their origin of 16th Century divorce from medieval monolithic religious societies, kingdoms and monarchies. With the exception of a few States which are defined essentially by religion [Vatican, Saudi Arabia and to some extent Israel], most modern States, in order to fulfil this post medieval ideal usually define themselves as secular, even when in practice things may not be as simple.

Islam and Christianity are the main monotheistic religions of Cameroon. Nominally, approximately 70% of Cameroonians are Christians, of which about 38% are Catholics, while about 20% are Muslims. Because the Catholic Church is the main centralized religious body in Cameroon, semantically and technically, it is the main body that appears to have some direct and continuous ties with government authorities, at all levels. It should be added that the president, Paul Barthelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, who has been in power for 33 years, is also a catholic. He had been in the Catholic seminary before being dismissed in the early years, of his studies. His father, Etienne Mvondo Assam, was a catechist by profession for the same institution.

Given that the president is a Catholic, it is easy for him to maintain close ties with the main centralized religious organ in Cameroon which would serve him both politically and religiously

But why talk about the religion of the president? Eric Mathias Owona describes the presidential regime as pontifical and in some cases as a principality. In a presidential republic and pontificate State, where the president rules ad vitam, his personal choices resonates a vertical influence over his government as well as a collegial complicity with leaders of the religion of his choice.

The collegial complicity with leaders of religion enables him to exert institutional control over the people through indirect religious hypnosis thereby consolidating the authoritarian democracy. Or, should this be called an authoritarian dictatorship? In principle, the success of assembling, in a deconstructive way, judicial-legislative resources to conform to executive wishes may give the understanding that it is an authoritarian democracy. In practice, however, by taking into consideration that the president governs by decree and exerts tremendous control over all governmental institutions, the regime is more of an authoritarian dictatorship perhaps of a modern style.

As a result, we end up with just the belief that State and religion are separate as stipulated by the constitution. But in practice, they constitute a simple continuum of influence over the population where triggers can be generated either at political or religious levels to produce the same effect.

Divide and rule is a common strategy of control but in an authoritarian system unifying power structures can  be just as effective. But the worst part is when these structures don’t benefit the population they are constitutionally bound to serve.

The-people-of-the-Cameroon-show-respect-to-Pope-Benedict-boston.com_

  1. Dynamics of concerted exclusion of a frustrated populace

Three miles separate from the cathedral is the presidency in the metropolitan city of Yaounde. The cathedral where the archbishop presides his religious ceremonies is technically open but semantically closed. That is, it has just a few physical barriers to deter wanderers but everyone is welcome to enter and pray. One door of the cathedral is usually open, and in most hours of the morning and evening most of the doors are open for other religious services and those who wish to pray to their God: “let the children come to me, for unto these belong the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 19:14).

With a poverty level of almost 40% (2007), most of those who come to Church are around the poverty line. The Church welcomes them with phrases like “blessed are the poor…” and “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). In practice, those who go to Church always hope to please God while thinking that their temporal situation will be made better here on earth. And rightfully so, they pray, offer tithes, and pay dues – which in the archdiocese of Yaoundé was recently increased in order to meet charges that were not properly defined.

Regrettably, a considerable amount of monetary contributions that are made to the Church do not serve the purpose for which it has given. In July 2013, amidst the greatest corruption scandal in recent Cameroon Church history, the Archbishop was forced by the Vatican to resign in the hope of restoring the hope of the people in its failing hierarchy.

In such a complex situation where Christians do not feel that the Church is advancing their welfare, most turn to the State for comfort. It should be mentioned that most of those who come to church have already been discouraged by the strong presidential regime and weak government.  Again, with another disappointment from the Church, they turn to the State and one of the closest structures is the presidency of the Republic.

However, access to the presidency is virtually impossible. Despite its closeness, it is heavily guarded by the GP (Guard Presidentielle) including a big fence. In this case, it is technically closed but semantically open. That is, in theory, the public is made to believe that the authorities of the nation are there for the public, to listen to them and to address their difficulties. But this is far from reality. The president is almost absent from all national life, with only sporadic appearances on national Television to read a speech to a public he doesn’t know. There is a real disconnection between the people and its authorities.

As a result, the little distance which separates the presidency and the Cathedral appears, evidently, to be the nature of what separates the Cameroonian populace from the power structures which need to promote their welfare. Consequently, like rebounds of a non-reward psychological mechanism, the people turn back unto themselves, frustrated, without trust in themselves, nor in the church or in the government. This is evident by the life of duplicity in which most people become attuned: going to church without any intention to be a better person or living in a nation without a desire to serve it honestly. Corruption, as an endemic crisis in Cameroon can be deduced from the mechanism of suspended misery: neither in “God” [Church] nor in the government do they find solace [position 136 on 174 countries, with a score of 27 on 100]. This gets even deeper – citizens grow to lose trust in one another thereby threatening social cohesion and growth. All these are visible in the lane separating the cathedral from the presidency. Despite the fact that both poles concentrate wealth and comfort, this lane is full of jobless people who wander along the streets; others standing on the road side with their tools while hoping to get hired by someone to do a temporary job or those illegally subcontracting government services to citizens who duly deserve them. It is also a lane of insecurity, vulnerability and despair – just the symbol of the country as a whole.

The perpetual rule of the centralized government of Cameroon which is the cause of this social disequilibrium has created another system which has not been sufficiently explored. It is the fact that political power governs with religious authority while religious power rules with political power. It is a strange power structure not before seen in many countries and where the citizens end up – as always – in suspended misery.

  • Sociopolitical exchange of roles: the intercourse between religious and political power

At the heart of social despair is an economic problem rooted in misappropriation of roles both in the religious milieu as well as in the political sector. The classical roles generally attributed to the State do not necessarily hold true for the State of Cameroon nor  for the Church. Below is a table which summarizes how the State governs with religious principles while the Church has been ruling using political strategy.

Religion [epicenter –  cathedral] Politics [epicenter – the presidency]
1. Theology of the present [joy and happiness are hear] 1. Politics of the future [perpetual wait for change in the future]
2. Power is politically charged, elected 2. Power is religious and mystical: “Power comes from above”
3. Faults, errors are sanctioned 3. Corruptions, crimes are pardoned
4. The divine becomes man incarnate 4. Man becomes the divine [perpetual rule]
5. Power decentralized [independent management of dioceses] 5. Power centralized [authoritarian dictatorship]
6. Uses reason, rationality 6. Applies more and more faith, belief and blind truth
7. Motion of disagreement [encourage the good ones to stay and the bad ones to go] 7. Motion of support [support the perpetual ruler to rule even longer]
8. People play the role of citizens, and practice boycott 8. People play the role of ‘faithful’ and in most cases forbidden to strike
9. People learn to claim their rights 9. Political practice is ruled by rites
10. God more and more absent 10. God more and more present
11. Money more and more present 11. Money more and more absent
12. Policy analysts and strategists consulted 12. Prophets, kings and mystiques involved
13. Defined mandates well respected 13. Perpetual mandate
14. Governs by dogma (just belief) 14. Governs by decree (just listen and apply)
15. Leaders forced to resign 15. Leaders made to stay in power ad vitam [gerontocracy]

 

As illustrated in the above, the population has been made to accept inadmissible political practices where the executive leader is vested with an unlimited mandate for the presidency. Like a pontiff, he rules unilaterally over all other institutions which he has crafted to conform to his personal standards. This happens in a context where the archbishop resigned due to accusations of mismanagement of funds or the case of Pope Benedict XVI who resigned from an office which is supposedly made to be held for life. It is not uncommon to find corrupt leaders who get promoted and get rewarded with better appointments in the Biya regime.

Can this scenario explain the social and economic inertia of the country? Certainly, to a great extent. When political mobility is uncertain and religious credibility overthrown, it follows that the economic fluidity experienced by the public under the State of law would be jeopardized and at worst remain in misery.

Unlocking the infinite potentials of a nation cannot be done in a locked governmental system. A system that knows no variability. Neither can it grow in a religious context that has learned to survive with ruse, using political strategies while relegating religious protocols strictly to altar services. If change is the essence of society, then the government is criminal while the Church is complicit in its practice as they exploit a population that is ignorant of its own misery.

RACISM: 4TH GENERATION DIAGNOSIS AND PERSPECTIVE, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

 

Man Without a Tribe

In its simplest form, racism is discrimination based on the color of one’s skin. ‘The Fourth Generation Diagnosis’ [4G] will present the issue of racism by defining it as a historic process.

The process itself is put in place when a particular discriminatory paradigm is structured to govern the black race.

The structure aims to govern at any given time while it also elaborates a perspective which derives from its basic assumptions.

Generally, contact between different groups of people is usually characterized by polarization and its resultant tension. That tension is more likely to be greater when the distinguishing difference is race. The 4G diagnosis shall examine the case of racism particularly black people.

Over time, discrimination against black people has gone through four phases. The first phase was prior to 1884 before the present territorial boundaries were formed during the Berlin conference generally called the scramble for Africa.

During that period multipolar tensions existed between big and large tribes and ethnic groups. There also existed multipolar relations between a few empires, namely the Mali, Ashanti, Sokoto, Bamoun, Oyo, Kaabu, etc.

The ideological assumption of the colonial structure was expressed in a simple proposition: ‘Black men are primitive, uncivilized and in some cases not human enough’ [he did not have a soul, others claimed]. As a result of that assumption and its corresponding propaganda, Africans were treated, more or less, like other animals. There one purpose was narrowly defined as being of use to his conqueror.

Outside Africa, the story was the same. Blacks were made to be slaves till 1833 when it ended in England and in the United States when it was officially made illegal in 1865.

Under the two structures, the logic is the same. A was subhuman to be at the service of the superior human(s). Both structures were operative despite the fact that one group of Africans were in a foreign land and the other group of Africans were in their own land.

The second phase of discrimination was from 1884 until the 1960s when the new colonies of Africa got their independence. The second phase was also operative in the Americas from 1865 till the 1963 when segregation ended.

The discrimination paradigm was the same for the black race irrespective of the tribal region. It was admitted that Africans were human but with limited intellectual capacities. For example, in America, blacks were defined as 3/5 of a person while in Africa Africans were given just the limited potential that would enable them to better serve their colonial masters.

Thus it was concluded that there was no need to teach black people the sciences because either they could not understand science or conversely blacks would cease to be a servant if he had the same skills as his master.

 It is important to note that once the slaves were set free in the United States [1865], the whites still needed labor and resources. The plan was simple, instead of bringing more labor force into the America, they said: “let’s colonize them in the various southern states and make them work for us”. Such a internal colony would come to be called ‘sharecropping’.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Berlin conference was held. It divided Africa into pieces of flesh on which the western nations would feed. It is during this period that we could see many plantations being created all over Africa. In Cameroon, the first plantation was established by the Germans in 1907; that is, two decades after the Berlin conference.

In reality, the slave model industry that existed in the Americas had been transferred to Africa. In other words, there was no need to transport people into the new American continent anymore. Taking the war into the opponent’s land, into the heart of Africa, was the strategy. It was a more efficient method and preempted civil unrest in European nations.  

While blacks were segregated in the Americas, Africans were strategically segregated from white colonists and other tribes, but in their own land.

After the new territories got their independence in the 1960s, another system of neocolonialism was established. The new leaders were poorly educated on European strategy. They ignorantly signed military alliances with the west [Senegal], joint monetary policies [Cote d’Ivoire and Franc CFA as did all the French colonies], obliged the new government to consent with the colonizers for the appointment of new leaders [Cameroon], to hold the colonizers as privileged partners of trade in arms, public contracts and education etc [Cameroon, Guinea Conakry, and most of the French colonies], although they would be the worst partners when it came to concessions and progress.

This was the third phase of discrimination based on a strategy put in place to exploit Africa. This phase is marked by a skillful indebtedness, limiting economic possibilities and an unfair trade system called ‘free trade.’

Also, while segregation in the USA officially ended in 1963 the same pattern applied to African nations and remains the same infrastructure that was and is applied to blacks in the USA and other parts of the world, e.g., live in high debt, limited economic prospects, unfair deals disguised under the slogan of land of the free.

What is most important about these stages is that despite the fact that they underwent the same types of marginalization over different territories, the methods of struggle were similar.

Mountain of Africa

In some cases, they worked together. For example, W.E.B Dubois had championed the cause of African independence and worked with the newly elected leaders towards the construction of a free and better Africa   and for its children. It should be stated that during the Pan-African Congress in 1921 [Belgium], W.E.B. Dubois was present and he had always worked for the Pan African vision.

In 1927, a similar conference was held in New York where he was also present. He even represented Africa in the U.N.O. in 1946 through the N.A.A.C.P. after a dialogue with Walter White.

In the fourth generation diagnosis, Africa is on a different stage: no longer considered subhuman [1st stage], or just unfit to mingle with others [2nd stage] or should be openly discriminated against or cheated [3rd stage]; it is a stage where he is considered to be like all other human races but must prove himself, else he remains what he was considered to be.

This stage is the post neocolonialism in Africa, post social cruelty and institutional cruelty in the West, at least openly. More clearly, in the 4th generation, any African can create his own business and make it as big as he wishes [Dangote:23 billion net worth in 2014]. He is free to build his own school and teach what he wants, create industries and change his life as well as that of his fellow citizens.

In the West, the blacks are also on the verge of doing the same things; to establish themselves to some extent, the way they want and to attain the success and freedom they desired.

But the methods deployed by the west to subjugate have only changed forms. Therefore, in this 4G stage there are important questions that need to be asked. How much has the white man changed to make race relations better?

In the case of Africa, he is determined to get mainly natural resources after the trade of humans has become less viable.  It follows that, he has not changed his purpose that much. Also, how much have we Africans changed in order to oppose him more effectively?

This is the most important part. As it shows, we Africans have not changed that much! In fact, are we more united than before? Have we learned his secret on how to produce great weapons including the ultimate weapon – nuclear? Have we mastered his craft in creating things, changing materials into bright nice objects? Have we established the rule of law so that all feel protected? Have we stopped killing one another? Have we reduced our recreational habits in order to replace them with inventive and creative ones? To all these questions, the answer does not soundly strike the positive note.

It is rightful therefore to ask which is easier: to continue asking the other actor to change even when he shows unwillingness, or to change ourselves following a pattern that will automatically oblige the other to bow and comply?

Common sense opts for the second while at the same time it remains legitimate to call both parties to dialogue, to requests for reforms, and to apply political pressure to adjust for a more proportionate distribution of the wealth. It is also most necessary and urgent to invest in the right options: in ourselves and in each other.

The 4G Diagnosis addresses not our fathers who inherited the independence legacy, not for those who fought against segregation in the West under its brave leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X. The 4G is a discourse to us; it is the heritage of all the former three. We know the opponent; we know that we cannot oblige him to do all we want. But we know what it takes to change ourselves for the better; and we know the weakness of the other.

Mount-Kilimanjaro

We have discovered our potentials and we know what is keeping us down. We have come to understand that we can’t continue to blame others forever on what happens to us.

We have seen friends like us from Asia, south America and even the West, at times, less intelligent, but who nevertheless have great industries, have organized businesses, have stable families and have stood up to defend their own all the time. It is no one’s responsibility to defend us or to make us prosperous but ourselves.

In the 4G discourse we hold that, as W.E.B. Dubois championed the cause of Africans and their progress, it should be the responsibility of Africans to champion the prosperity of blacks outside the continent especially those who underwent slavery. But how can this be accomplished?  The answer is a simple one.

The answer is for us to build a great Africa. A peaceful, loving, united Africa wherein others can identify themselves with it without second thoughts and without shame.

The reason for this proposition is a key aspect in the 4G diagnosis which should be stated clearly: so long as Africa is poor, divided, exploited and at war with itself, others of African descent shall continue to be seen with the same disdain. We hold the responsibility to make a change. We shall solve the problem of racism by solving the problem of Africa, to a greater extent.

During the Japanese invasion of China [1937], the brutality was beyond measure. Chinese were slaughtered like sheep and maltreated like sub humans. It was a time when the Japanese had developed the idea of co-prosperity sphere which established their racial superiority. But today, when there is a slightest disagreement between china and Japan, the Japanese are the first to propose peace talks while the Chinese are quick to displaying war planes as a show of force. There has never been respect for other nations/people except when they rise to the status of power: military, political, industrial and economic. 

Our forefathers have fought the most difficult battles: against slavery, against segregation and against popular normative discrimination. What fight do we have today? Just to love one another more, protect each other, educate each other, and built our economic and political power.

Also, the 4G analysis presents the black question as a singular problem. It is not by solving one’s individual problem that the black question shall be solved. It is not an American problem, a UK problem, or a Ghanaian problem. While blacks are not allowed in certain areas in the US, in Kenya today, Africans are denied access in a Chinese restaurant inside Kenya during certain periods of the day. Not even Barack Obama as a president of the USA is safe from racism because he connects to that same group that suffers the same prejudices.

It is not the individual saving himself that the group shall be saved; it is the group saving itself that every individual shall be saved. But in order to do so, each person has to be the best he or she can make of themselves, for we cannot invest in corruption, idleness, and greed then expect the group to be at its best in relation to us.

It is a singular problem also because the blacks abroad cannot be fully liberated when Africa has not liberated itself, and for Africa to completely liberate itself, it must envisage unity of all its descents and elaborate strategies for their protection and prosperity.

The 4G is you and I. It is a generation that wants to create its own heroes like the Luther King Jr, Malcom X, Nkwame Nkruma, Mandela etc. It is a generation that is more open, that wants to assume responsibilities and make a change. It is a generation which holds that its potentials and positive possibilities cross in their time.  

That greater progress shall be achieved and that the history of the black race has not been completely written because a brighter part of it is still to come. This brighter part lies on him to create. And by doing so, he shall gain the respect that had been denied to his ancestors. It is a generation which believes that the relation between peoples/races is influenced significantly not by how they look but by what they have achieved. It is a power and materialistic dynamic where those with the instruments of power gain respect naturally: arms, money, and law.

It is our responsibility to leave to the 5th generation a legacy of which that they can be proud. One which will make them all believe that the story of the black man will not always be the same. That it will not be a story of occupying the last position in social hierarchies everywhere in the world.

It is a stage at which he and she shall rejoice at being at the top; for men and women do not generally feel morally compelled to respect others; but they are compelled to respect what others have achieved.