Occupying the Mind
“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” Steven Biko.
Why is Africa different from other colonized cultures?
Africans are not the only peoples in the world to have been colonized. But something sets Africa apart- some incomprehensible vulnerability factor. Some strange loyalty to their past or present occupying and oppressive forces. An algophilic hedonistic yearning that seems to pull Africans continuously towards their historical and new sources of pains.
Any land could be occupied; any nation could be colonized under the flimsiest of excuses. The occupying force cannot however not be contented with occupying only the land, he actively seeks to re-engineer the mind of the oppressed peoples. The objective of the occupying force is dual in this regard. He seeks the mind of his victims not only to concede him legitimacy but also to make them see themselves through his own eyes. He seeks to re-create them in his own image by imposing his language as the official language of communication, his religion, his culture. In the words of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, he “dis-members” their way of life, their perception of themselves and “re-members” them in his own image. He seeks to create an imperfect version of himself, a clone amenable to the dictates of his short and long-term objectives of plundering.
In seeking to liberate themselves, oppressed people will be compelled to conduct their struggle on two fronts: liberation of their land and liberation of their mind. The order in which these struggles are conducted will determine the characteristics of the future liberated nation. The choice of the order of the struggles and the methods chosen to conduct them become enormous historical responsibility on the avant-garde intelligentsia and the political class of the oppressed peoples. Where the choice of freeing the mind before freeing the land is made, the avant-garde intelligentsia and the political elite are obliged to carefully examine the fundamental lapses and weaknesses that in the first place made the oppressed people vulnerable to occupation and exploitation from which they are seeking to liberate themselves. This analysis should not be conducted within the framework of any foreign ideology, but within the context of cultural and ethical peculiarities of the people concerned. There should be a deliberate policy to purge the people’s mind of the occupier’s pervasive hold and re-re-member it to its near original state.
Lamentably, in the absence of vision and ideas, African leaders have held on dearly to their colonial legacy, their re-engineered minds; and indeed transformed it into a status symbol. The more profound the mental re-engineering, the more sophisticated they portray themselves flaunting their short umbilical ties with their former oppressors. This short umbilical connection otherwise known as “historical ties” of the oppressed to his oppressor, the self-abasing algophilic hedonism not only deludes the oppressed into a false sense of common identity with his oppressor, but also serves as the Grail of discrimination against other Africans of different mental re-engineering and color of umbilical cords.
Thus, African francophones see themselves as having more in common with the French than with their African anglophone “brothers”, who also see themselves as kin of English speaking Western countries with nothing in common with their francophone neighbors. The lusophones stand world apart too, their brothers being the Portuguese. The mental re-engineering process begun in the 15th century have borne fruits. The primordial connection of traditions, culture and color, the common history of injustice, subjugation and humiliation become insignificant in the re-invented African.
It is lamentable that African leaders go out of their ways as a sign of prestige to belong to organizations (language schools) of former occupied countries like the so called Commonwealth, the CPLP (community of Portuguese speaking countries), the Francophonie. In their minds, it is a shame not to belong to these bodies, and they fight hard to retain their seat when they are threatened to be expelled like school boys from these bodies. They have failed to see these bodies as a reminder of the tragedy that befell us as peoples in 1884/1885.
Whatever benefits they think they reap from making us belong to these bodies should be weighed against the indignity and the humiliations of the historical raison d’être of these bodies.