PATHS THAT LEAD NOWHERE: COMMENTARY ON AFRICANS VS. AFRICAN AMERICANS, by Kifon Emile, M.A.

What Holds it all together

Paths that lead nowhere is a book written by Heidegger in 1962 as an attempt to settle the endless argument on the origin of philosophy. At the time, many people held that philosophy originated in Greece while others believed it originated in Egypt.

Although, as a renowned modern philosopher, he could have taken sides by stating real facts in support of what he believed. However, he understood that, at some point, irrespective of established facts, people will always find arguments to oppose one view from the other. After examining the literature on Africans and African-Americans, it appears without any doubt that there is always an attempt to demonstrate how one is different from the other.

The worst part is that most of this literature tries to show how one is better and how or why the other is either unauthentic, unreliable or primitive etc. And what is true is literature is even truer in real life. Given a closer look, all these dispositions and attempts have been what can equally be called paths that lead nowhere; and rightfully so.

By paths that lead to nowhere, the argument here is not to say that both “cultures” are the same. It is irrelevant to emphasize on that. In the gamut of the myriad aspects on which one differs from the other, there is one point which seems to attract legitimate attention and merits reconsideration – consciousness.

Even when Africans and African Americans agree on a subject, it is believed that we don’t connect at the depth of our subconscious minds as one people (Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed).

However valid this point may sound, it enters into the list of paths that lead nowhere for the reasons set forth. Firstly, it shall be appropriate to ask if Africans as a whole connect with each other at some subconscious level. While each group may understand or sympathize with the practices of others, there is little evidence that the connection is there. Even Africans in the same country, the allegiance that they hold to their various tribes seems to be more important than a national identity.

As proof of this fact, the case of Africans in the United States remains very illustrative. Although being a minority group of immigrants, each group establishes close ties mostly with members of the same tribe or close tribes. In the Cameroonian community, there are French meetings as well as English ones. In the English section, it is divided into different meeting groups according to the various tribes. Despite efforts to establish a unified Anglophone or Cameroonian community that is closely netted together, the process is often a stalemate.

Also, if there is an African subconscious where everyone can connect, how can it be explained that other black Africans are killed and sent out of South Africa for no justifiable reason? Again, this is not simply a South African issue. Similar situations have happened in Angola against Congolese, in Nigeria against Ghanaians, In Cote d’Ivoire against those from Burkina Faso, in Equatorial Guinea against Cameroonians, In Kenya against Somalians, in Congo Brazzaville against Congolese from the Democratic Republic of Congo etc. What is regrettable is that this continues to happen in many parts of Africa on minor scales particularly in Northern Africa against those from the south. The question worth considering here is: how does one seek to establish a subconscious connection with African Americans when he is unable to establish that same connection with fellow Africans? And vice versa.

inter connections

 

Secondly, to understand how to connect subconscious minds of individual people, the simplest way is to be able to establish the content of what is in it. That is, it is easy to say this group doesn’t connect with the other for this abstract reason (be it subconscious). But upon investigating, the idea of subconscious connection is often used as a complex approach to describe the history, sentiments, fears and hopes of a people which have been embedded in their minds over a vast period of times. In other cases, it refers to a set of traditions or practices (values) of a people which enable them identify themselves with each member of the society without necessarily having to understand them individually.

So, in this regard, should we say that the subconscious mind is a fabric that enables us to identify ourselves to each other? Apparently. But this approach doesn’t resist firm critics because many Africans and African Americans have succeeded to establish very good relations with others who are not Africans: whites, Hispanics or Chinese. Regrettably, it should be mentioned that some Africans or African Americans easily connect with whites and others more than fellow blacks. Not only have they said it openly, but they easily develop disgust for things that are related to the party that they decide to oppose. This is nothing new to anyone…

It is this ease in the relations that some blacks develop with others (non-blacks) that it must be emphasized that the idea of connection with each other is not about the differences in our subconscious minds. It resides in something more.

To take a reverse analogy, if you are a very rich African in the USA or African American like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, John Legend, Will Smith or Wiz Khaliffa, it would be very easy to gain respectability and connect with whites, Chinese and others – even at a subconscious level. They’ll understand you and you’ll understand them.

Yes, there are differences between cultures and they are real. But there is one thing that connects one people to another – mutual interest. Even the subconscious mind, in most cases, follow the same principle. We refuse to connect with one another because the other is seen as a liability: he does not provide the jobs, he might not have the opportunities that lead to those jobs, he can’t pay my bills, and his presence, ultimately is a threat to the little opportunity that I had in getting a job. Such are the patterns of mental processes which occur not only in the minds of Africans/African Americans, but also Chinese, Hispanics and all others. By stating this fact is not to show that people are greedy. It is simply a perspective of analyzing things – from the Marxist perspective where material conditions considerably determine mental processes.

Paths that lead nowhere is an argument that aims to show that most of the times, we have been investing our intellectual resources in the wrong direction – proving how better or different one is from the other. It also aims to show that we have failed in one fundamental which is demonstrating that the whole world looks at us in the same way and judges us by the same standards. And whether we succeed or fail does not depend on some abstract subconscious idea that most people forge from their unrefined laboratories, but whether we apply the basic principles by which great people live and on which great societies are built: MPH, Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty (Lee Kuan Yew: founding father of Singapore – 1923-2015).

By meritocracy, our destiny depends on cultivating the cult of excellence in anything that we do and promoting those with the highest talent to the positions they deserve. By pragmatism, our success shall depend on investing on things that work. Everything has been invested, all we need to do is learn the best practices and apply them in a way that seem fit for the situation. Applying creativity and smartness. And by being honest, our image shall grow to be more positive, trust shall develop among each other and collaboration, partnerships shall flourish and dignity restored. Any other investment, trying to show that we African Americans are like this or we Africans are like that all lead to nowhere, and the outcome shall be nothing. They only make us more vulnerable.

Lome__Togo

 

In a recent post by Richard Branson featuring the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, Africa took the lead with Uganda at the first place and Cameroon at the fourth position. China was 11th. America and Europe did not feature in the first 15 countries while the least entrepreneurial countries featured japan, France, Sweden, Spain, Luxembourg, India, Ireland, Russia, Finland, Germany etc.

The first developed country to appear on the list was Australia at the 26th position. But there is a difference, most developing countries create business as a means of survival while in developed countries, it is a means of financial freedom. Developed nations, by choosing the best people (meritocracy) to lead them and being pragmatic, they have succeeded in making great companies and systems that would live over a long period of time. But this fact is just a reference that as black people in the world, we have the potential to achieve what others have already achieved.

So, how do you defend the interest of one another? Is is just by being the best you can be: striving for excellence, being pragmatic and honest. If any other theory is established in this document, then it is certainly a path that leads nowhere.

By acquiring these values, you’ll meet people with whom you’ll establish greater ties in order to achieve better things, and as a result, there shall be a subconscious connection between both of you. We cannot expect the best from a group by being the worst of ourselves. There is only one culture that makes sense and that is governance which incarnates itself in meritocracy, pragmatism and honesty. Or in theory form: participation, accountability, sustainability and transparency.

A deliberate attempt has been made not to mention the various ways in which one group views the other, how they are qualified and or how they oppose one another. By mentioning them, it shall be a way of perpetuating them and continuing on paths that lead nowhere.

 

Welcome to EarthColony.net: THE I.Q. ANALOGY, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Book Cover Earthcolony

Aristotle’s influence on Western Culture and particularly on American secular society is so substantial that one can say without reservation that we live in an Aristotelian society.  His theories pervade every aspect of our social institutions.  We operate educationally on the basis of his scientific assumptions.  The founders of the United States were all educated within the framework of Latin, Roman law, and the Greek Classics and thus our constitution is an articulation of his theory of democratic government along with some Roman civil law.[1]

 

In the previous chapter, we noted Aristotle’s definition of ‘Man’: ‘Man is a rational animal’. That definition abounds with implications. For, it is the rational animal that breaks away from his wholeness with nature. It is the rational animal who in so doing sets in motion an infinite series of derivative divisions within himself which in-turn fractures his vision of nature into segregated illusions of oneness.  It is the rational animal that is thrown out of oneness and who can never again grasp his common denominator with all in all.  But where does this take us?

 

It takes us to Aristotle’s fundamental assumptions which support his theory of development.  His argument that what brings matter into existence and what maintains it as an ‘actually’ existing thing in relation to a ‘potentially’ existing thing necessarily determines social arrangements between all creatures. The unavoidable conclusion is that since Aristotle defines human beings as rational animals, then rationality is that instrument by means of which social hierarchy is politicized to sketch out and measure differences of all sorts between people.[2] 

 

For Aristotle, there is a ‘natural’ division between human beings which is similar to the division between inorganic and organic matter. It is that there is a division analogous to the division between non-rational animals and rational animals. Within the rational animal category he states that there are lines which segregate humans into different classes, statuses, gender roles, and roles.

 

At each degree up and down the social hierarchy there is a ratio of greater or lesser ‘intellectual power’ in relation to greater or lesser ‘bodily power’ for the caste or class and for each individual. This social principle is consistent with Aristotle’s assumption of the ratio of potency to actuality (p:a).  It is the capacity and ability to reason and what is more, to reason with foresight. It follows, therefore, that Aristotle concludes that socially, some are fated to be despotos (dictator) and others doulos (slave). [3] 

 

For Aristotle the superiority of reason is manifested as social advantage for some persons as opposed to disadvantage for others. Aristotle supports this premise with his observations taken from the natural environment. For example, mating competition between animals is the most striking example of the natural dominance of some over other persons. The greater aggression of some makes them rulers while others are naturally subordinated to them.  So pervasive and consistent is this pattern in the natural order that Aristotle defines it as a law of nature or ‘necessity’.[4]  That thesis leads him to the next inference. As a law of nature, it must be manifested in the complex of greater and lesser social statuses possessed by human beings, too.  And, again, Aristotle finds its manifestation described as a ratio of greater or lesser intellectual power in relation to greater or lesser physical power.  He rationalizes social inequality by saying: “It is thus clear that, just as some are by nature free, so others are by nature slaves and for these latter the condition of slavery is both beneficial and just.”[5] 

 

What would crystallize from this line of reasoning and be drawn on throughout the following two thousand years of anthropology is the ‘I.Q. analogy’. Aristotle states it thus: “…all men who differ from others as much as the body differs from the soul, or an animal from a man…all such are by nature slave,…”[6] Slavery is not only natural it is just and beneficial for  slaves.

 

This rationalization would be espoused many times in the ante-bellum south of the United States to justify the enslavement of Africans.  Eventually, it would also manifest in other derivative anthropologies and finally it would serve as a conclusion of   eugenics.[7]  But Aristotle does not stop there, he goes on further to develop his argument and so we too must go on tracing over his thoughts as they meander through his lectures and writings. 

 

Not only does Aristotle make the argument that there are natural intra-group divisions marked by higher or lower intelligence, but there are inter-group divisions marked by the same types of intellectual divisions.  He calls them ‘natural characters’. His hypothesis is that geography and climate are associated with the moral characteristics of a people.  But each human group he argues is divided in two different ways, first, as ‘ethnos’ or culture, and secondly, as ‘genos’ or race.

 

He says that the nations inhabiting the cold regions are not so intelligent though they possess a strong will.  He then says that the nations of Asia are intelligent, but lack will.  These people, he says, are suitable as slaves.  He finally says that the Greek ‘genos’ (race) participates in both intelligence and ‘will’ and that this is so because it occupies a middle geographical and climatic position. 

 

He concludes that the Greeks are capable of ruling all mankind.  But he adds something which underscores his definition of genos; he says that the various Greek cultures when compared to one another manifest the same differences as do the Asiatic and Northern European peoples in comparison to the Greek genos.[8]  Such would ultimately be called the ‘master race’. 

 

The institutionalization of Aristotle’s theory in modern form combined with the two primitive human insecurities, i.e., sexuality and fear are the reasons for human aggression and the varied assortment of vices such as greed.  All of this can be summed up in one word: ‘evil’.  And there is no innocent party. For both the dictator and slave reverse roles through the course of history and are locked into a perpetual embrace as they act out the dance of mutual malevolence.    

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Aristotle, Politics

[2] The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, by Nicholas Lemann; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000

[3] Aristotle, Politics, Book 1, Chapter 1, 1252b: “The element which is able, by virtue of its intelligence, to exercise forethought is naturally a ruling and master element; the element which is able, by virtue of its bodily power, to do what the other element plans, is a ruled element, which is naturally in a state of slavery…” Adopted from: Great Books of The Western World

[4] Aristotle, Politics, book 1, chapter V, subsection 8: “There is a principle of rule and subordination in nature at large; it appears especially in the realm of animate creation.”

[5] Ibid, 1255b

[6] Ibid, Book I, chapter V, subsection 8

[7] Classification of Men According to Their Natural Gifts, by Francis Galton

[8] Ibid, Book VII, adopted from Aristotle in twenty-three volumes, XXI Politics, Translation by H. Backham, Harvard University Press, CambridgeMassachusetts, London, England, 1932