Author and Hip-Hop Promoter Analyzes the Failure of Local Thought Leaders
Alexander Nderitu, author of ‘Kiss, Commander, Promise’
‘Oh boy, we about to make a lot of people annoyed!’ – Sacario in If I Could Go (song)
I discovered Progressive Rap (aka Alternative Hip-Hop) when I was in my preteens and it has remained my favourite genre of music. Later, in my teens, I decided I wanted to be a career writer. My first novel came out when I was 22. I thus entered the literary scene. In the literary world, I was quickly introduced to a curious animal: the intellectual. At first, it was great to interact with great minds and be staggered by their ability analyze society and generate ideas. But as I grew older and interacted with more of these self-styled ‘public intellectuals’, I realized that only a few of them were the real deal. The majority were faking the funk. It’s gotten so bad over the years that I can count the intellectuals I respect in my country on the fingers of one hand. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed the decline in intellectual discourse. We’ve all seen ‘academic giants’ try to sound clever on Social Media beefs and get pulverized. Their fallacious arguments are pissed on like urinal cakes by average folks. Using big words doesn’t make one a brainiac. In a recent televised discussion involving one of Kenya’s apex lawyers and a ‘distinguished professor' who has taught in the USA, the general reaction of the audience was to think less of both ‘debaters’. The professor was especially disappointing. At least two people on Social Media commented that they possess Masters Degrees but have changed their minds about going for PhDs! Other comments included ‘the only thing he brought from the US was an accent’ and ‘we should stop worshipping idiots just because they studied abroad’. (There were some positive comments but most were negative. As a writer, if 8 out of 10 people told me that a story I wrote was whack, then I’d accept it was whack!)
I remember sitting at a function at one of the foreign ‘cultural institutes’ in Nairobbery one time and there was this university don complaining that the media should make a habit of inviting academics to TV debates, not just addressing talking heads on the street. The media has tried that, but it rarely ups the ante (or the ratings). Usually, the audience is left feeling like Shania Twain ie. ‘That don’t impress me much!’ The media want a show, not a showoff. One of my favourite intellectuals published a book on Kenya’s first 50 years of independence (The type of thing one expects from real intellectuals). During the launch, a journalist from the Daily Nation newspaper, which had previously published many of her articles, revealed that the media house is regularly inundated by dons submitting articles for publication. Their ‘problem’, he stated, was that ‘they write for each other’ (instead of the general public). They’re hell-bent on impressing and competing with their peers. One-upmanship.
This issue of pseudo intellectuals started to bug me some years time ago. I tried reading the newspaper articles of a US-based Kenyan professor (let’s call him Professor A) who was supposed to be a legal paragon. I was underwhelmed. Despite being thousands of kilometers away, one could sense the unshakable tribalism in him. We were heading into an election and he was obviously angling for his tribal kingpin. (On international matters, he was quite objective.) Aware of his reputation, he recently wrote that he’s not tribally biased because there was a time he didn’t vote for aforementioned kingpin (But the kingpin didn’t run that time, he seconded another.) The plot thickens. A gov’t official who hails from the same tribe as Professor A (let’s call him Dr. B) was similarly causing waves of controversy. Dr. B holds a doctorate but he’s so depressing, The Star newspaper once carried a cartoon of him going to work but leaving his brain at home! On social media, he has been accused of ‘ignorance' and ‘arrogance’ so many times, you might think they are his last names. One young activist has gone to the extent of searching for Dr. B’s PhD thesis ’cause he doesn’t believe the dude could actually have reached doctorate level. Personally, I don’t doubt that he has a PhD. According to VinayNagia.com, ‘A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest degree that is conferred after a course of study, by universities. PhDs or Doctorates are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic disciplines. PhD scholars are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation. They defend their work in front of expert/s in their field.’ However, a lot of these ‘academic disciplines’ are highly specialized, which means that the PhD student doesn’t need to know a lot of things in general in order to pass. Thus, if somebody has a doctorate in, say, Soil Science, he/she could still be a dumbass in every other field of knowledge, or life in general.
From Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell:
‘If knowledge is defined expansively, including mundane knowledge whose presence or absence is consequential and often crucial, then individuals with PhDs are as grossly ignorant of most consequential things as other individuals are, since no one can be truly knowledgeable, at a level required for consequential decision-making for a whole society, except within a narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns.’
‘Recently, the ruler of Dubai, Al Maktoum, appointed a 27-year-old person to be Minister for Artificial Intelligence...In Kenya, we're still quarrelling over BBI...Other countries are appointing ministers for Artificial Intelligence!... Because that is where the world is going...We're thinking about 2022 when others are thinking about 2117. How they (the Emiratis) can live on Mars by 2117. A hundred years from now. That's what they are working on. With us, we're not even thinking of 2050. Our vision only goes up to 2022. That's why I am telling you that Africa is not poor - Africans are poor. Because we can't think ahead of the next General Elections!’
In the above excerpt, Al Maktoum’s vision of a human civilization on Mars is an example of ‘a higher level of thinking’. Example two: Techprenuer Julius Mwale. This relatively young dude (about 45 at the time of writing) is best known as ‘the brains behind the over Kshs 200 billion Mwale Medical and Technology City in Butere, Kakamega county.’ He flew to the US in 2001 and was homeless for a while. He later studied electrical engineering at Columbia University. In 2003, he pioneered a wave-based biometric system in New York. In 2004, the US parliament passed two-factor authentication legislation for digital security. Biometrics swung into vogue and Mwale made a fortune. (In October 2021, Business Daily reported that Mwale placed a bid of Kshs 27.6 billion for the leasing of debt-ridden Mumias Sugar Company.) And he continues to innovate. His multi-million-shilling ultra-modern city in Kenya, for example, uses a free cryptocurrency digital payment system without transaction fees. I would rather have a sit-down with Julius Mwale than just about any local professor. I admire people who use their brains to solve the problems of the world.
From Culture in Decline: Episode 6 – ‘Tale of Two Worlds’ (documentary series):
‘It may be true that behind every cynic, there is a failed idealist. But in a world where no good deed goes unpunished, it is easy to see how the most sensitive of the human condition can’t help but suffer a kind of trauma of the spirit where the childlike goodwill, curiosity and rational development is stomped, suppressed and destroyed by stubborn traditionalism forged by the supposed virtue of arrogant elitism…And my hope is that those of you who can identify with this plight will begin to understand the seriousness of this societal struggle and work to help redeem this epidemic of intellectual belligerence…’
WTF IS AN INTELLECTUAL ANYWAY?
‘Coz we love to talk on nasty chickens / Most intellectuals will only half-listen’
– Nas, Hip-Hop is Dead (song)
‘I’m only empowering caps and gowns
We had (slave) masters, and then I got my Masters (degree)
I turned that back around
Look at me – I’m the captain now!’
- Emerson Kennedy vs B. Dot, battle rap
Pseudo-intellectuals be like…
In an online article for
MIT, titled ‘The
Role of the Public Intellectual’, Alan Lightman, gives us a couple definitions of an intellectual:
‘Over 150 years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson considered the meaning and function of the intellectual in his great essay "The American Scholar"…Emerson's intellectual, while enriched by the past, should not be bound by books. His most important activity is action. Inaction is cowardice. Emerson's intellectual preserves great ideas of the past, communicates them, and creates new ideas. He is the "world's eye." And he communicates his ideas to the world, not just to fellow intellectuals. And finally, Emerson's intellectual does all of these things not out of obligation to his society, but out of obligation to himself…
A more political tone to the concept of the public intellectual was suggested a few years ago by Edward Said of Columbia University, in a series of lectures called “Representations of the Intellectual” (1993 Reith Lecture).
According to Said, an intellectual's mission in life is to advance human freedom and knowledge. This mission often means standing outside of society and its institutions and actively disturbing the status quo. At the same time, Said's intellectual is a part of society and should address his concerns to as wide a public as possible. Thus Said's intellectual is constantly balancing the private and the public. His or her private, personal commitment to an ideal provides necessary force. Yet, the ideal must have relevance for society.’
Shall I go deeper? Can the subaltern speak? OK, then. Let’s proceed…
TRUE GRIT - ANY REAL BRAINIACS IN THE HOUSE?
Prof. Maathai was the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate and the first female professor ever in her home country of Kenya. However, it was in the field of conservation that she truly excelled. In 1977, she started the Green Belt Movement, a grass-roots movement aimed at countering the deforestation that was threatening the means of subsistence of the agricultural population. She authored books, such as The Challenge for Africa, and also engaged in political and gender activism. She showed how environmental issues were intertwined with security issues. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, for ‘her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.’
Prof. Ali Mazrui was a Kenyan-born academic, professor and political writer. The famously hosted/produced the television documentary The Africans: A Triple Heritage. He wrote or co-wrote more than 20 books. He published hundreds of articles in academic as well as mainstream media. He served on the boards of over 20 scholastic journals. He was consulted by international media, gov’ts, and research institutions for political strategies and ‘alternative thoughts.’ In 2005, Prof. Mazrui was ranked among the world’s top 100 intellectuals by readers of Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy Magazine (USA). (As we shall see, many local pseudo intellectuals are more likely to make a Bottom 100 intellectuals list than a Top 100 one!) The No.1 slot in the 2005 Prospect/FP 100 Intellectuals Poll was taken by Prof. Noam Chomsky. Also known as ‘the Elvis of Academia’, Prof. Chomsky is a famous MIT professor, linguist, and author. He has published over 100 books on various subjects. He is one of the few global thinkers that exhibit true grit. He’s not afraid study or write about any subject or speak truth to power. Being an American Jew, for example, has not prevented him from addressing from controversial acts of Israel or America (especially foreign wars). While some like to think of him as a cozy grandfather-like geek, Chomsky is one of the bravest and most radical thinkers of all time. In his youth, he was arrested for street protests. He’s nobody’s coward, in life or academia.
The work of the three personages mentioned above are examples of the standards we expect our intellectuals to aim for. Pure, unadulterated, funk.
I once worked for a European-based IT company where the boss openly bragged that he never completed college but had ‘hired PhDs’ to work for him. In this treatise, you will see how many African brainiacs have gone the same way. They have been reduced to factotums by moneyed politicians and captains of industry. In Kenya, for example, it’s not uncommon to see academics/scholars working as lap dogs or attack dogs for politicians who were ‘D’ and ‘C’ students. Some of those politicos have even been accused of ‘buying degrees’ from mercenary colleges in order to meet the minimum qualifications for certain elective positions. Robert Kiyosaki wasn’t tripping when he wrote a book titled Why ‘A’ Students Work for ‘C’ Students.
Finding true freethinkers in East Africa is hard these days. During a function at a Christian university one day, a lecturer intimated to me that the academic world has a false sense of freedom: ‘You’re allowed to think outside the box, as long as that box is inside a larger box.’ I’ve noticed that African educators are afraid to touch certain issues, like religion or politics. One very loud Ugandan intellectual and political analyst is very vocal about Kenyan governance issues (so much so that I initially thought he was Kenyan) but he apparently doesn’t have the guts to criticize strongman Yoweri Museveni’s regime back home. Or at least not loudly.
Who’s the East African equivalent of Dr. Neil De Grasse Tyson, Dr. Richard Dawkins, Professor Stephen Pinker, Stephen Fry, Dr. Jordan Peterson, Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, Dr. Angela Davis, et al? Are we living in Intellectual Lilliput? Is the man who is tall happy?
GREAT MINDS: British biologist Richard Dawkins (left) and American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, at Howard University, USA (2010).
Goran Hyden on ‘The Failure of Africa’s First Intellectuals’ (article), published in Transition journal:
‘Intellectuals should first of all be able to wield the power of the spoken or written word…The advantage of such a definition is that any man regardless of occupation or position in society can be considered an intellectual, provided he has these capacities. Hence a man like (Guinean president Sékou) Toure becomes an intellectual despite the fact that he has no higher education of the type referred to by (Prof. Edward) Shils. Similarly, it means that every university graduate does not become an intellectual. The intellectual might be a political leader, an administrator, a trade unionist, an author, or a student. He might be a demagogue, or a theorist, commanding his influence “behind a screen”. He might be in power or in the opposition.’
ACADEMIA - THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM?
To describe the situation you're in...
My clique consists of eighteen scholars
And that don't include Dr. Cornell West -
He is a shill at best'
- Payday Monsanto, Tyrannus Maximus (song)
‘I don’t want scientists. I don’t want academicians. I don’t want people who do “the right things”. I want people who do inspiring things.’ - Bill Bernbach, advertising legend
Uganda’s Makerere University has a galaxy of distinguished alumni that includes Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Ugandan president Milton Obote, Kenyan novelist/intellectual Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, Ugandan Presidential candidates Bobi Wine and Kizza Besigye, Kenyan politician Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, famed comedian Anne Kansiime, musician Mowzey Radio, media personality Gaetano Kagwa, Kenyan playwright/academician Micere Mugo, iconic poet David Rubadiri, educator Prof. Austin Bukenya and many other notable personalities. One time, in one of Kenya's ubiquitous nyama choma joints, an ageing Makererean bragged to us that he did not consider an east African to be 'properly educated unless they went to Makerere.'
However, Makerere has received so much negative press since the 1990s that some are wondering whether EA’s oldest university lost its glory. We have seen Makerereans in the popular press for strikes, controversial dons, political issues, and even sex scandals. What the public would like to see more of are inspirational alumni, mind-blowing ideas and groundbreaking research. (Those things/people might exist; we just don’t hear much about them.) One issue seems to be ‘over-recruitment’. In a 2005 article titled “Hard times for 'Harvard of Africa' ” the UK Guardian reported:
'But conditions today at Makerere University, once known as the Harvard of Africa, are an embarrassment. Classes are crowded, dorms have only intermittent running water, scholarship funds are depleted and there are long waits for online computers...One reason is that just as the number of qualified applicants began to soar in the 1990s, the privatisation movement gained momentum and governments across the continent cut school funding. Even elite universities such as Makerere came under pressure to admit more paying students, even though they could not afford to expand their facilities.'
A 2017 article in the Economist also covered the ‘overpopulation problem but did not lose sight of the positive aspects:
‘MAKERERE UNIVERSITY’S position, on a hilltop commanding a panoramic view of Kampala, is fitting for a place some call the “Harvard of Africa”. By many measures, it is the continent’s best college outside South Africa. But it was closed for two months from November by Uganda’s autocratic president, Yoweri Museveni, after a strike by lecturers over unpaid bonuses sparked student protests...The university went through a rough period between 1971 and 1979...But those dark days are past. Makerere’s researchers are now some of Africa’s most prolific, creating everything from low-cost sanitary pads to an electric car. Nonetheless the institution’s problems—too many students and too little money—are all too common across the continent.’
Indeed, it’s not all doom and gloom at the hallowed hilltop. According to the 2021 World University rankings by Times Higher Education, Makerere University is Africa’s fifth-best university and the best in East Africa.
In any case, controversies blow
around virtually all institutions of higher learning in EA. As Prof. Olive Mugenda’s term as Vice
chancellor of Kenyatta University for was about to end, her then almost 10-year
tenure came under sharp scrutiny. Most didn’t mind that the beautification of
her campus grounds as well as the creation of on-site businesses were part of
her achievements. However, some members of the public and academia argued that
flowers, hospitals and shopping malls were not academic achievements and they
would have expected breakthroughs in research and development instead.
(Although one could argue that the commercial ventures help generate revenue
which then enhances the academic activity.) Some of the harshest criticism came
well-known female media personality who allegedly wrote, in part:
The majority of the public disagreed with this woman-on-woman critique, some calling the media personality a ‘hater’ who was disconnected from reality. One of her former colleagues in radio broadcasting asked her to apply for the VC’s soon-to-be-vacant position if she feels she can do a better job. On her part, the departing VC said that ‘her record spoke for itself’. It’s always good to be fair in one’s criticism, to examine all the factors/metrics. For example, KU has vast grounds and the student population has risen by tens over thousands over the past few decades. The VC’s expansion of infrastructure (buildings, ICT facilities etc) was visionary, and she did one heck of a fundraising job to accomplish what she did. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating: According to a 2021 ranking of Kenyan universities by https://www.4icu.org/ke/, Kenyatta University is current No. 2, behind only the University of Nairobi. So it clearly wasn’t ‘ruined’ by anyone, although there's always room for improvement.
I have also noticed that EA universities rarely award honorary degrees, even to academic overachievers from the region. For instance, Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o has at least 12 honorary degrees, including one from Yale University, but none from Kenyan universities. Wangari Maathai, who taught (and chaired a department) at a Nairobi university, was honoured abroad (with multiple conservation-related awards) but had little fanfare at home, until she became a Nobel laureate.
Prof. Ngũgi wa Thiong’o receiving his 12th honorary degree
(Yale University, 22 May 2017)
Slightly over a decade ago, an NGO identified a need to effectively deal with the problem of jiggers. In less than ten years, the organization had researched, published, and devised medical solutions to deal with the jigger menace. They had also raised funds and facilitated medical camps where jigger sufferers were treated for free. They travelled to rural villages and schools, educating/training the populace on how to handle the parasites. They further lobbied to gov’t to get involved in their campaign. The Ministry of Health and some other state organs agreed to support the cause. A National Jigger Awareness Day was even declared. The NGO’s founders received numerous accolades at home and abroad. The CEO received an honorary doctorate from an American university. A Kenyan university don immediately complained about awarding the title of ‘doctor’ to some NGO guy. The CEO responded by asking, ‘What has he (the critic) done with his PhD?’ And that’s the main question of this lengthy article: ‘What’s the purpose of your degrees if they add no value to the world?’ Why should we be impressed? If the fundamental requirement of a PhD is ‘to make an original contribution to knowledge’, then why should those achieving that outside academia not be eligible for honorary doctorates?
Also, remember that you are the end-product of your PhD studies, not your thesis/project. If a PhD holder is placed in an important position (like that of a Cabinet Secretary), we expect him or her to handle things more intelligently than your average Joe. We’re almost always disappointed. It has become clear that most academics are not well-rounded people, as Sir Ken Robinson observed in his famous (and I do mean famous) TED Talk titled ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ For example, if somebody has a PhD in Zoology or Information Technology, that doesn’t mean that they’re good at policy formulation, crisis management, budgeting, handling staff members, dealing with the media etc. That’s why some Dr. or Professor So-or-So will be given a gov’t docket to handle and make a royal mess of it! Communication, social, and managerial skills are vital for all. Not just ‘book knowledge’. Depressingly, all some local academics do is brag about the institutions they attended (especially foreign ones like Stanford, Syracuse, Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Bayreuth etc). To borrow a famous catchphrase from the rap world, ‘Nobody wants to hear that sh*t, Shariff!’
I would argue that the key problem (in the lack/decline of thought leadership) has less to do with institutions and more to do with their graduates. Statements like ‘I went to Alliance’, ‘I don’t remember seeing you at Makerere’ and ‘I go to UoN, the best university in Kenya’ just won’t cut it! We’re looking at you, not your institution/affiliation. It has been said – in this Internet Age – that some of the best thinkers can be found on YouTube but they ‘don’t have the backup of a major institution’. Meanwhile, we have been treated to all kinds of antics by our top brains.
One Ugandan PhD holder created a whirlwind of controversy all manner of questionable things on Social Media. And she can go H.A.M., as if she gets her vibes from Cartel. She routinely refers to men as ‘penises’ and women as ‘vaginas’. It’s a good thing she’s a woman ‘cause if a male university lecturer went around referring to women as mere ‘vaginas’, it would spark international outrage. Demonstrations by placard-waving ‘feminists’ and ‘civil society’ would bring the university to a standstill until the penis – my bad, the man – was fired.
Meanwhile, there’s one Kenyan gov’t official who holds a PhD that should probably be described as a “Player Hating Degree” or ”Permanent Head Damage”. He infamously tangles with local celebrities for obscure reasons. Rarely drops a jewel because he’s too busy bragging about helicopter/plane flights and other mundane stuff best left to ‘socialites’ and entertainers. He also had the gall to compare himself to the iconic human rights crusader Martin Luther King Jr., mainly because he also has a thick moustache! There was an online petition, signed by thousands, for him to be fired. (Seriously, how annoying do you have to be for thousands of struggling people to take the time to sign a petition against you as a person?)
There are so many of these types of controversial brainiacs. What gives?
Here’s another example of how the local intelligentsia has failed:
annual Kusi Festival of Ideas was conceived and sponsored by Nation Media Group,
while celebrating their 60th anniversary. According to one official, the idea
was to map out the next 60 years, as they reflected on the institution’s
history thus far. Why wasn’t the
Festival of Ideas conceived, sponsored and hosted by a university, or
(better still) a consortium of universities? You’d expect the majority of
speakers and panelists to be from academia, not business or politics or media. An excerpt from the Kusi Ideas Festival Report 2020:
‘Nation Media Group (NMG) launched the Kusi Ideas Festival in 2019 as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, and to begin building a “Pan African ideas transaction market” to capitalise on the opportunities and innovations available to Africa to help her win in the 21st Century. The Festival brings together some of the most free-spirited and bold people calling out Africa’s challenges, and those turning them into opportunities. For many years to come, these will be the people shaping the continent. The Festival allows connections to this valuable cast of players, and gives institutions and businesses a great opportunity to hitch their wagons to the coming African Century.’
I still can’t believe that the above statement came from a media house as opposed to a university or one of the many high-falutin well-funded civil society groups/NGOs operating in Sub-Saharan Africa. Or the African Union itself. Thought leaders, where art thou?
‘Research and creative thinking can change the world. This means that academics have enormous power. But, as academics Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr have warned, the overwhelming majority are not shaping today’s public debates. Instead, their work is largely sitting in academic journals that are read almost exclusively by their peers. Biswas and Kirchherr estimate that an average journal article is read completely by no more than ten people.’
So what are EA’s intellectuals doing instead of supplying the ideas the region desperately needs? Well, I don’t know but they sure spend a lot of time arguing amongst themselves! It’s interesting that the acronym for Pull Him/Her Down syndrome is PHD! Example: In a WhatsApp group that includes many academics, a British-educated activist once posted a premise on how ‘pockets of excellence’ can be found within dysfunctional systems (such as failed states). Her point/conclusion being that the said pockets are not an indication of a functional system because it is quite possible for certain elements to ‘benefit from the dysfunction, rather than be harmed by it.’ I thought it was a sound argument. For example, there are many Kenyan and millionaires and billionaires who made their money via corruption. Thus, even though they appear to be ‘thriving’, they are by no means an indication of a healthy economy – they are beneficiaries of a sick society. What did other brainiacs think of the argument? One responded thus:
‘This is empty verbosity. It describes the nothingness of nothing. It's high sounding blubbering which falls short of the philosophical threshold to be considered a treatise. Whatever she might deem as a system must have components and those should be concisely described. What is killing the world now is not the dysfunctioning of political systems but state capture by capital - Neoliberalism…’
'Kenyan intellectuals have never been kind to foreigners of more superlative endowments and achievements. In the early 1960s, Ezekiel (Es’kia) Mphahlele came here and established Chemchemi Cultural Centre. A leading Kenyan daily editor and a leading Kenyan editor for a foreign publishing house managed to frustrate him and send him packing…
John Ruganda, upon his return from Canada, with a PhD on how Francis Imbuga tells the truth laughingly, was thrown out of Kenya through the machinations, largely, of one Chris Wanjala. The ground for the action was that he had no work permit to stage a play in Kenya. What was wrong with going to get him a work-permit so that he could train and employ Kenyan actors and actresses? So that he could help develop theatre in Kenya?
Sometime in 1973 or 1974, Okot p’Bitek and I used to be feted by the Goethe Institute, Paa ya Paa Art Gallery, the USIS, British Council, etc. One day after we had read our poems and were drinking the whisky or Tusker with which Franz Nagel entertained us and our followers after work, four of our young Kenyan followers turned nationalistically nasty. They demanded to know why we were so popular in the cultural circuit of Nairobi. Why should we Ugandans monopolise these houses? Why were they (Kenyans) being shunned? Why don’t we go back to our country? Okot started driving to Kisumu that very night in his Jaguar. In reverse!'
Have you also noticed that many EA dons seek greener pastures abroad? The recent Tanzanian Nobel Literature Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, for example, was largely unknown in his home country because he has lived in the UK for the past 50 years. Incidentally, if you want to learn Kiswahili – the closest thing to an East African lingua franca – then one of the best places to do that is in…London, England. Brain drain tings.
One Kenyan retiring university Chancellor cited the beautification of her campus grounds as well as the creation of on-site businesses as part of her achievements. But most members of the public argued that flowers, hospitals and shopping malls were not academic achievements and they would have expected breakthroughs in research and development instead. (Although one could argue that the commercial ventures help generate revenue which then enhances the academic activity.)
We’re still waiting to be inspired by the self-styled ‘academic giants’. ‘Cause if this is the best our "intellectuals" can do, then we’re not impressed.
INTERLUDE (STOP THE BEAT)
‘It (writing novels) is not an intellectual exercise. I don’t think of myself as an intellectual. I consider myself a craftsman.’ – John Irving, bestselling novelist
‘Now, I’m accused of spiking the punch / And I’ll be the scapegoat for faking a funk’
– P.M. Dawn, Plastic (song)
You’ll never hear me call myself a ‘brainiac’ or ‘intellectual’ or anything like that. Non-authors tend to think people who write books are pretty brainy, but that’s not necessary true. You just need to know a lot about your subject and posses some writing skills (What is commonly referred to as having ‘the storytelling gift’). There are pre-teens who have published storybooks. It’s not necessarily an intellectual exercise. Until recently, I didn’t even like the word ‘intellectual’. Truth be told, I used to view it a fancy word for ‘nerd/geek’. I say all this to ward off Ad Hominem attacks, another intellectual crime that self-styled ‘academic giants’ often commit. When someone proposes an idea or argument that you strongly disagree with, you’re supposed to poke holes in the proposed thing, not launch a personal attack on the mover of the idea/motion/argument. That’s not how a debate works.
One does not have to be a chef to criticize the cooking. Likewise, any member of the public is free to challenge any ideas, even those put forth by people far more academically advanced than oneself. Dismissing critics because they’re not scholars or don’t have the same academic background as you is just avoiding debate; dodging potentially embarrassing discourse.
‘I am not an archaeologist. I am not an anthropologist. I am not any kind of "ist", including a scientist. I am a writer. And I don't claim to be anything else than that. I am a person who writes books; who gets engaged in mysteries, who explores those mysteries, who investigates them and who writes about them.’
Bestselling non-fiction author, Graham Hancock
And yet, I am willing to bet that I have been invited to speak in more universities and conferences - locally and internationally - than the average East African professor. Why would institutions of higher learning want to ‘pick my brains’ (and those of other scribes)? Let me give you an example. I wrote a book titled Kiss, Commander, Promise. It contains ten fictional short stories inspired by actual events. The topics it covers include the Rwandan Genocide, Human Genetic Cloning, HIV/AIDS treatment, nuclear politics, and urban crime in Kenya. A ton of research went into those tales. Why wouldn’t educators in disciplines related to those themes (say, Genetics) not want the author to discuss those ideas with his/her students; or to present a paper at similarly-themed conference? By contrast, if you’re, say, a university don that wrote a brilliant paper on HIV vaccines or the viability of human clones and only shared it with a few people then why would researchers and the wider public invite you to discuss it? You’re invisible. There’s no interface between you and the rest of the world. Sc-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) was a one-man think-tank for NASA in his later life. He is said to be ‘the father of the geo-stationary satellite’. American novelist Tom Clancy (author of The Hunt for Red October) had no military or intelligence background at all. (He was an insurance salesman before best-sellerdom claimed him.) But his thrillers were so expertly packed with research information that he was often invited to lecture to military audiences and was a consultant on US military affairs!
POLITICS – AN INTELLECTUAL GRAVEYARD?
‘If you’re emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary considerations, your education is useless. Your exposure is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind.’ - Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Nigerian politician, writer and intellectual
‘While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.’ – Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso)
If the point I am trying to put across is still not clear, then please allow me to solicit help from a more senior scribe than I – veteran Nigerian author and advocate Chuma Nwokolo, in an article titled ‘The Hooker Intellectual’:
'The great crime of the public intellectual is the pimping of intellect, the prostitution of a gift of rationality to the service of paymasters. Yet, at one level, this is what the rest of the world does daily without condemnation. The farmer sells gari to every willing buyer, does not question their morality. The barber shaves every chin that presents itself, without assessing its owner’s criminality. Why should the intellectual secretly hired to spin the sins of his employer as virtue be vilified when he is merely selling his talents, doing what the rest of the world does daily?
The answer is that they do so under false pretences. The farmer who offers yellow gari does not dress it up as an avocado. Neither does the barber offer his blade in service as a brain surgeon. What the intellectual prostitute does however is to pimp white elephants as essential infrastructure for profit, to present worthless partisan opinions purchased in a beer parlour – or ivory tower – transaction as a rigorously-thought out opinion presented in service of nation...
Every day, thousands of thinkers, reporters, writers, scholars, mentors, take to the media to sell their ethnic interests as national, to argue the virtues of some politician over the other. In suing for sympathy for their candidates, the most honest argument they can truly make is often “My thief is better than yours,” but no: for self interest, common thieves are dressed up as statesmen and presented as messiahs to deluded nations that see blood plainly and drink it as milk. A clear case of those who are willing to be lost falling into the hands of those willing to sell them out; which is why the pimping of intellect is the public intellectual’s great crime.’
One idea that radical intellectuals like to revisit (especially when their paymasters/tin gods lose elections) is secession. Threatening to secede has become a political gambit. It’s easy for someone to call multi-ethnic nations like Kenya and Uganda forced marriages and advocate for their splintering into several smaller countries (citing successful tiny nations as benchmarks) but is it wise? Remember what happened when Biafra tried to secede from Nigeria? Remember the horror, the destruction, the hunger, the millions of lives lost and the final surrender? Is that what you want for East African states and if not, why spread such dangerous ideas?
South Sudan’s divorce from the northern part of what was then Africa’s largest country took over 20 years (the longest-recorded civil war in history) and cost over 1 million lives (ie. a megadeath). Was the ‘self-determination’ worth it? Is SS a prosperous, admirable, and peaceful nation today? Are the citizens living in The Promised Land/Canaan/Utopia? Shortly after the birth of the new nation, civil strife erupted when the president and his deputy fell apart. Once again, lives were shattered, investors discouraged, and dreams dashed. A peace mission by other countries has been trying to midwife a peace deal between warring factions. The guns are yet to truly fall silent.
What about Somalia, our ungrateful neighbour to the northwest? Is it now more prosperous now that it has splintered into three different states (two of which are not internally recognized?) Or will the political-military-diplomatic wrangles stifle national progress for the foreseeable future?
Should EA republics fall or fail due to secession attempts that were enthusiastically fanned by thought leaders, then the said leaders will be partially responsible for the human and socio-economic toll. Don’t write books, articles and papers analyzing the ‘failed state(s)’ as if there was nothing you could have done, no positive contribution you could have made. Even if it is baptized as ‘self determination’ and packaged as a romantic idea dipped in manufactured ‘patriotism’, secession is often a dick-measuring contest between power-hungry warlords fired up by the notion of ruling their own countries. Why not spread ideas of unity instead? Why not advocate for Pan-Africanism - or even a United States of Africa – like Emperor Haile Selassie, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Brotherly Leader Muammar Gaddafi did? Why is division more important than unity, and war more urgent than peace?
As for ‘the publics’, nobody is coming to save you: grow up. Seeing your sweaty faces beaming during every election rally and then crying foul when the two-faced candidates gain power and betray you is getting old. Personally, I have never been disappointed by a politician. I expect nothing good from them, and they always deliver! No politico is gonna give you Utopia, Black man/woman. Despite their campaign pledges/promises, they have no superpowers to achieve miracles. Some are downright crooks and never even intended to help you in the first place. We call this ‘Tumbo (Stomach) Politics’ or ‘Tumbo-cracy’ in Kenya – when the main motivation for one to plunge into politics is so that he can gorge on public resources and other personal perks that come with high office. There are no saints in politics, only sinners. Vote soberly.
Addressing the shocking #COVIDmillionaires scandal, one Kenyan Senator commented that the Bible says that such acts will attract generational curses. Really? Then why aren’t Germany, Great Britain, USA and other nations known for genocides and multiple war efforts over the centuries suffering from ‘generational curses’? Why do nations that are even more religious than Kenya (eg. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, India etc) still have local justice systems instead of relying on divine providence? If you spotted an old lady being mugged on the street, would you rush to help her or would you let her suffer whatever indignity might befall her because you believe that the crook will be tried by God on Judgment Day? Lady, we live on Earth and, here, there’s what is called The Law of the Land. That’s what we live by. Whatever the gods decide to do or not to do is not within our domain. All that is required for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. If I was that Senator’s appointing authority, I would have dropped her like a mix tape! Incidentally, I’ve seen her speaking on TV a couple of times but I’ve never heard her drop jewels (say something wise/knowledgeable). In my humble opinion, she’s just a chick with plum job.
And talking of people with plum jobs, a Ugandan minister was once quoted in the papers as being an apologist for trans-Atlantic slavery. She reportedly said that the 500-year slave trade (in which millions of Africans were kidnapped, brutalized, dehumanized, and murdered) was justified because - according to the Bible - the Jews were once held captive in Egypt. For real. Some Negros never got over their Post-Slavery Syndrome (a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome). Even their minds were colonized. To quote political icon Patrice Lumumba (DRC), ‘The liberation of the minds of the African people will be a tougher battle than the eradication of settler regimes.’
'Science is but a perversion of itself unless it has, as its ultimate goal, the advancement of humanity.’ - Nikola Tesla, 1919
Dig this. Individual nations like France, UK, USA, Russia, China, India and Pakistan have nuclear arsenals (while others like Germany are protected with nuclear weapons under the NATO banner), but the entire African continent, has no nuclear defence/deterrence capabilities. Furthermore, many African nations have signed nuclear non-testing/proliferation treaties without demanding that the nuclear powers do the same. What’s sauce for the goose is good for the gander. One can’t say that certain countries may develop nuclear weaponry but not others. That’s nuclear apartheid. Restrictions around nuclear posture are so harsh that developing nations are unable to harness nuclear energy even for peaceful purposes such as vehicle propulsion and electricity generation. According to the New York Times and other analytical sources, part of the reason why Frederick De Clerk’s administration voluntarily dismantled South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme was so that it wouldn’t fall into Black hands! (De Clerk denied this but that is hardly surprising) The Rainbow Nation was then about to make an inevitable transfer of power from the White apartheid regime to Black rule. Think about that for a minute. Notice that to this day, no Black-led gov’ts control nuclear arms. SA went from racial apartheid to nuclear and economic apartheid. Not much has changed for the nation’s majority Blacks. The biggest land owners, corporate titans, and high networth individuals are still either White or Asian. Correct me if I’m right. Some parts are literally segregated ie. Whites-only neighbourhoods/gated communities. We’ve been bamboozled. You don’t need Billy Crystal to analyze that.
‘See Imma tell you like Wu told me / Cash rules everything around me.’
– Wyclef Jean, Sweetest Girl (rap song)
‘Rich’ European nations like the UK and France have impressive gold reserves but nogold mines. Meanwhile, nations like Tanzania, Mali, and South Africa have gold mines but no gold reserves. The equation doesn’t balance. Somebody’s getting the shaft here, no pun intended! What we expect from our economists is actionable advice like this:
I am appalled by the lack of discourse and information (articles, books, YouTube videos, public lectures etc) on such pertinent economic issues as the African Continental Free Trade Area, foreign 'aid', and Sino-African relations. So here are some quotable quotes to give our economists (clearly much-needed) food for thought:
‘From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries toward that same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the third world. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the under-developed peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialized in the Negro slave trade, and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor under-developed peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: “It’s a just reparation which will be paid to us.” ’ – Frantz Fanon (West Indies)
‘Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.’ – From Neo-Colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965)
‘Unless we meet this obvious and very powerful threat with a unified African front, based upon a common economic and defence policy, the strategy of the imperialist will be to pick us off and destroy us one by one.’ (Africa Must Unite, page xvii).
‘Africa needs back its economy, its politics, its culture, its languages and all its patriotic writers.’ - Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Kenyan author and intellectual‘Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people — who may not labour at all — will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over.’ – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania)
‘Debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa. It is a re-conquest that turns each one of us into a financial slave.’ – Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), speaking at the OAU Summit in 1987
‘For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.’ – Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth
‘The problem is that many times people suspend their common sense because they get drowned in business models and Harvard business school teachings.’ – Mo Ibrahim (Sudan)
‘Africa, after all, is the richest continent on the face of the earth. Properly organized, should be the most powerful continent on the face of the earth.’ – Kwame Toure on ‘Making the Unconscious Aware of Their Unconscious Behaviour’ (lecture)
OUR LEARNED FRIENDS
‘A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.’ – Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather
‘Educated well within your paradigm / But you have no idea you’re a slave to Maritime (Law)’ – Payday Monsanto, Psycho (song)
Have you ever watched lawyers arguing it out on TV or even Social Media? Man, those legal eagles can look at the same constitution/law and come up with wildly different interpretations, depending on their paymasters. They often leave viewers as confused as a baby in topless bar! But that’s not even my point..
African nations keeps signing unfair treaties, the same way our ancestral chiefs gave colonialists 999-year land leases without a clear understanding of what they were signing. We’re making the same mistakes. For example, why should we be bound by the ICC, while some other countries (that are more likely to commit grand atrocities) are not? Or sign multi-year deals based on our natural resources (oil, gold etc) where we get a measly 3% - 5% per cent royalty from foreign companies? Who structures and who negotiates such crummy deals? Where are our legal brains? (One doesn’t have to be the Attorney General, ie. the Chief Gov’t Advisor, to comment on legal public matters of public interest.)
So what are we getting instead of sound legal advice from our ‘learned friends’? Let me give you an example. I watched - in shock and horror - as one of Kenya’s most sough-after lawyers defended the position of a presidential hopeful who had proposed the forgiving of past corruption cases. Speaking on national TV, the vocal multi-millionaire hotshot suggested that, instead of following up on proceeds of past ill-gotten wealth, the country should ‘move on’. I couldn’t believe it! This is what happens when the nation’s top brains are corrupted by power or money, or both. I’ve got some questions for that lawyer: Why does he handle client briefs instead of advising the justice-seekers to forget ‘in order to move on’ with their lives? If somebody raped a relative of his some years ago and the culprit was caught today, would he advice his relative to ‘forgive and forget’ the rapist? What if one of his fancy cars was stolen last year and the cops finally recovered it and apprehended the thief. Would he tell the po-po that the villain can keep the car? So why is it that he’s willing to support a move to forgive looters of public resources? Is it because he’s working for (or wants to be hired by) the beneficiaries of past economic crimes? In the last two decades or so, at least two mega-scandals are estimated to have cost the taxpayer Kshs 100 billion, each. One of the scandals involved just a handful of conspirators who used a shell company registered abroad to do business via a large parastatal, and stashed their loot in offshore accounts. The other was an infamous web of political and economic players through which well-connected individuals (some now deceased) went from average net worth to ‘wealth beyond measure’. A local newspaper estimated that Kshs 100 billion is enough to finance ‘four Thika Superhighways’. Imagine what Kshs 200 billion would have done in a country where we still have poor road infrastructure, dilapidated railways, open-air classrooms, mud houses, laughable medical care, runaway unemployment, and so many other solvable economic problems. And some educated peeps have the gall to publicly say that we should forgive past corruption and move on. In more sober societies, especially in Europe and Asia, the architects of such grand corruption/graft schemes would have been jailed long ago. (In China, they would probably have been executed.) But as author D. H. Lawrence once observed, ‘Money is our madness, over vast collective madness.’
THINK TANKS – BRAIN TRUSTS OR CAPITALISTIC TOOLS FOR GLOBAL CONTROL?
‘Just Google the book, “Between Two Ages” / And you’ll meet a man, Zbigniew Brzezinski / Take some time to flip through the pages / And if you understand, your next move won’t be pretty/…Megalomaniacal men control societal trends / Along with a viable blend / Of “useful idiots” and insidious minions ’ – Payday Monsanto, The Obama Fraud (song)
Many African think tanks, conferences, publications, researches, pilot projects etc are funded from abroad. Why? Are the results of such projects copyrighted/patented in Africa or elsewhere?
African experts invited abroad (US and Europe) to share their expertise on matters such as herbal healing solutions become overjoyed, not realizing that their indigenous knowledge, handed down from generation to generation, is being stolen – for the price of an air ticket and basic per diem. In one recent incident, a USA-based researcher contacted a Kenyan natural medicine expert via email with an offer to interview him for an article to be published by the former’s scientific journal. The American said something strange in her communication: ‘If you’d like to remain anonymous, that can be arranged.’ Why would a contributor to a prestigious conservation/science/research journal want to be anonymous? It’s educational material, not something radical. The mischief was that the ‘nice American lady’ was trying to acquire and publish some information without crediting (or paying) the real expert/researcher!
From an article titled 'Intellectuals Have Failed Africa', written by Bitange Ndemo (Business Daily, April 22 2021):
'African intellectuals (academics, experts and professionals) are always quick to dismiss centuries of local (traditional) knowledge as primitive. And they have never made any attempts to advance the traditional knowledge to fit into the modern society. Yet in every society in Africa, traditional knowledge is still being applied. In short, the intellects have failed the continent. As the Covid-19 pandemic ravages every sector, African intellectuals’ disdain for their own knowledge has come into sharp focus. Experiences shared by many Covid patients from different parts of the continent indicate that some of them have applied traditional methods used in treating diseases like influenza such as regular steaming with natural oils like eucalyptus, which seems to have had significant positive results on them.’
The late US poet/activist Amiri Baraka, a much-sought speaker by universities and other academic/research institutes in his day, was vehemently anti-capitalist. He often preached against ‘the banks’ and ‘corporations’. He changed his own political leanings to Socialism and finally Communism (in his final years) and encouraged students to read widely, including the works of ‘Lenin, Marx and Mao’. Baraka believed that it was difficult to effect change in the world because the banks, insurance companies, and other big corporations had the money to bribe or finance the organs necessary to maintain the status quo. Even intellectuals could be compromised, in his opinion. Speaking to students at the University of Virginia, he said (verbatim):
‘They run this country, the corporations. They run it. How can you be in a Depression, and someone is getting a 60-million-dollar bonus? Where is that coming from?...What is happening in the United States (is that) they have enough money to buy people. They have enough money so that even the most brilliant of you can be bought...So it (changing the world for the better) is a difficult task and it’s getting more difficult because you (university students) have more qualifications to be among the oppressors.’
The year the 13th damn Amendment was ratified
And I ceased to be an alien to your “inalienable rights”
And “we the people” stopped meaning “we the people who are White” ’
- From ‘Frederick Douglass vs Thomas Jefferson’, Epic Rap Battles of History
'We don't think any more. We need to think. Where do the clouds go when they drift away? Think. Why do nudists always play volleyball? If it was Nikita Khrushchev that was assassinated (instead of JFK), would Aristotle Onassis have married Mrs. Khrushchev?' - Norm Crosby, US comedian
The Maji Maji Rebellion (German: Maji Maji-Aufstand) saw one of the most shameful chapters in African military history. In 1905, a charlatan witchdoctor called Kinjikitile Kwale convinced Tanzanian frredom fighters that he had some magic ‘medicine’ that could protect them from German bullets (The region was then known as German East Africa). The ‘war medicine’ was actually just water (Swahili: maji) mixed with some castor oil and millet seeds. Needless to say, Kinjikitile’s followers (who thought they were now bullet-proof) went down like bowling pins at the business end of German guns. I think about historical events like those a lot. I am not convinced that Africans have left the ‘haunted wilderness of superstition.’ We’re too easily bamboozled by charlatans. The slavery-themed Quentin Tarantino hit movie, Django Unchained, leaned into the premise there’ssomething about the craniums of Africans that makes them more susceptible toslavery/submission than other races. I do not subscribe this premise but its hard to disprove when some of us are still following self-styled witchdoctors and other charlatans!
How come I can get more memorable lessons from conscious rappers than from local intellectuals these days? What’s next – youths will be drawing life lessons from pop stars as opposed to parents and teachers? What exactly do you guys do anyway? Most self-styled “intellectuals” talk a lot but they don’t say much. That’s why they can’t push arguments/ideas. They stay in the same place like spinning rims.
Lies such as Christopher Columbus discovering America are still being perpetuated and y’all doing nothing to counter that b.s. Never mind that there were humans living in North, Central, and South America centuries before the arrival of Europeans and there is evidence of several voyages from the West Coast of Africa to the Americas long before the Spanish-sponsored genocide-inclined Italian-born Columbus reached the West Indies. Early ‘crossers’ include the legendary sailor Kush Kush Bin Said and famous Viking Leif Erickson – Google them. In fact, it was due to previous Trans-Atlantic crossings that the genocidal Columbus knew that it could be done. Here’s one of the most revered African-American intellectuals, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, calling b.s. on a TV series on the legendary Zulu King, ‘Shaka the Zulu’:
Now that’s an intellectual at work. Telling it like it is. Not being a sycophant, conformist, or radical. Just stating the facts so that in future, people will stop taking us for a ride on the jive train, nahmean?
UK/Caribbean rapper, writer and activist Akala:
‘We have to make our (African) history and culture sexy and normal and okay, and not appear radical. I mean, what the hell does that mean? The idea that it’s radical for a people to know. Or they’re “Afro-centric” because they know something about African history! It’s completely absurd!...Look how far from England Greece is. Still, your English universities have no problem teaching people the plays on Socrates or their (Greek) intellectual ancestors, right? But Anglo-Saxon people are not descended from Greeks, but still they feel that within that European conversation, those are their intellectual ancestors. Why is it absurd then for people of African heritage to look back at the texts of The (Egyptian) Book of the Dead or Nubia or old Kingdoms of the Nile or the Mandingo Empire for our intellectual inspiration?’
ARTS & CULTURE
Making the messed up deals under the tables
You think that you’re smart but, fool, I’m the smartest
You can’t make no money if you can’t keep an artist.’
- Warren G, What’s Love Got to Do With It? (rap song)
‘As for your vids, maybe “podiatrist” is a good way to put it
I always see defeat (the feet) when I look at your foot-age.’
– QZ, battler rapper
Most Africans think that a war is fought using guns and bombs, by trained soldiers in uniforms and amoured vehicles. They think the hostilities begin when the first rifle is fired or the first missile is launched, and ends when the guns fall silent. My friends, you’re stuck in the Matrix. Wars are fought on physical, psychological, and even spiritual frontiers! And they’re now fought 24/7. Culture, language, religion, history, academia and even ‘entertainment’ are all used to defeat and conquer physical and non-physical territories. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but somebody’s gotta do it and the task appears to have fallen upon me.
US psychologist and historian, Dr. Umar Johnson:
‘Propaganda is essential to any military campaign. Black people tend not to understand propaganda. And the reason why we tend not to understand propaganda is because the propaganda channels, the mediums (sic), the conduits – the radio, the television, the newspaper – we tend to treat as just forms of entertainment. We don’t see ’em as forms of military strategy. When there is a movie depicting Black people in negative image, when there’s caricatures in the newspaper making jokes about Black people, we tend to see it as just, er, political entertainment… Whoever has the most access to the brain rules the brain. It’s all about volume, not quality. The more you tell people that a certain group of people are no good, the more you show images, the more you show sounds, songs, poems, dance, projecting negative images about a person; sooner or later, the subconscious begins to get conditioned. Automatically. Because you can’t turn off the subconscious to what it sees and what it hears. Sound and image, you cannot stop it – unless to stay away from it. So sound and images are critical to any propaganda campaign because they help lessen the defences of anyone who may be against what you’re trying to do…Propaganda is the first stage of military warfare.’
Famous cultural (including literary) events, projects and were/are sponsored by foreign organizations, some with questionable motives. The brain has no firewall. Propaganda is as effective as Kalashnikovs.
People who don’t think critically will fall for anything. There is no greater indictment of our education systems than the senseless behavior of large numbers of educated people. For example, a newspaper once reported that a conman tricked a bank manager in Central Kenya, by convincing the latter than he could double her money magically. The bank manager withdrew some funds and after some abracadabra nonsense was left holding a bag of fake notes while the culprit made a clean getaway. A whole bank manager fell for the oldest trick in the con-book! This wouldn’t surprise anybody in Nairobbery – sorry, Nairobi. More recently a lady with a “Dr” prefix to her name became a national laughing stock after being conned out of Kshs 800,000 by an inmate who contacted her phone/Faecebook (allegedly from prison!), claiming he worked at State House and could hook her up with a plum job there! Incidents like these happen every single minute of the day. Educated people are shanghai’d in very basic ways by conmen, swindlers, fraudsters, fake pastors, witch-doctors and other villains. It’s as if we’re trained to never think rationally; just go with your emotions or obey ‘authority’. The results can be tragic, as they were in the still-unresolved Ugandan religious cult mass suicide that took an estimated 700 lives in the year 2000. In a more recent example religious silliness, promoters of a self-styled Kenyan ‘prophet’ promised that those who would attend a forthcoming ‘miracle crusade’ would ‘see two suns in the sky.’ And some sheeple travelled to witness the miracle. Educated fools. Everyone who has graduated high school knows that if a twin star suddenly appeared next to our sun, we wouldn’t have to be in any particular venue to witness it. Its presence would affect every plant and animal on our home planet. In any case, the heat and radiation from the combined suns would immediately obliterate most of the solar system and disrupt the orbits and trajectories of ‘heavenly bodies’ for millions of miles around. None of that happened. And anyone who claims it did should be immediately checked into a mental hospital. (Incidentally, five critically ill people once died in one of the controversial ‘prophet’s so-called miracle crusades.) To repeat, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’. Carl Sagan.
‘If I sound mad, it’s coz I am
You’ve been indoctrinate. Claim you’re “religious”
Don’t even know the difference between God and Satan
But I’m waitin’ – for you to get up, off that slave ship
Ni**a, you basic – the Etch & Sketch is in your brain
I’m here to shake you up to erase it.’
- B. Dot tha God, battle rapper
‘If you’re so “nice”, why nobody ever demand you, my n***a?
How the f**k are we supposed to feel you, when we can barely understand you?’
- Cocky vs Deadman, battle rap
When you’re truth seeker, you come across many conspiracy theorists. And the difficulty is in separating the genuine researchers from the crazy ones. One I am yet to figure out is a certain Kenyan-born Social Media diva who – from her accent - appears to have lived abroad for quite some time. Very congenial and intelligent. Holds a PhD in 'Social Sciences'. She covers a wide range of topics – from politics to spirituality – and shares plenty of videos and memes. An intellectual, yes. But also a mass of contradictions. She tries to be decidedly ‘African’ but displays signs of Western brainwashing. Like she will condemn slavery/colonialism but still claim to be a believer in a religion that was imposed by colonialists. To fix the contradiction, she says in one of her many videos that her faith is due to personal reasons, not indoctrination. For example, she claims to have personally witnessed a human resurrection. I call bullsh*t. There have been numerous claims of resurrections but there’s zero evidence. And, as Christopher Hitchens famously observed, ‘What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.’ Forget humans: If somebody could raise even insects back from the dead, (s)he’d be on the cover of TIME, Newsweek, Science, and National Geographic magazine simultaneously. Sky News, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Deustche Welle, VOA, France 24, RT and every other global news station would be blowing up his/her phone and flooding their e-mail accounts with requests for interviews. The reason that ain’t happening is because the so-called ‘resurrections’ are demonstrable hoaxes. Arguments From Miracles don’t hold water. And – get this right – the plural of ‘hoax’ is not ‘evidence’. We’re not interested in the number of claims, we’re interested in proof (ie. ‘an overwhelming preponderance of evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.’). If you don’t have that, then don’t waste other peoples’ time.
The Conspiracy Theory lady also claims to be a ‘prophetess’, which immediately makes me roll my eyes. I personally know several people who claim to be prophets but have never prophesied anything. Again, ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’
But to be fair, this particular lady does fit the bill of a public intellectual. She’s an avid researcher, a warm host (of her show), and an able articular of issues. She has posted numerous thought-provoking videos on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. There’s much food for thought in her presentations (mostly only Pan-Africanism) that can act as a prompt for truth seekers to investigate further.
A few years ago, one Kenyan gov’t official kept falling for the Streisand Effect ie. inadvertently promoting the things/people he was opposing. (Incidentally, the Ugandan gov’t is infamous for falling for the Streisand Effect while pursuing perceived critics.) He was also infamous for using God/religion as a shield from criticism (eg. bragging about going from negotiating matatu fare to jetting abroad) and then thanking ‘God’ at the end of the post so that if you accuse him of being boastful/a socialite/a braggart/joyrider-on-tax-money etc., you will look as if you’re undermining the power of ‘God’. Most Kenyans are deeply religious/superstitious and would rather not be dragged into religious beefs. He claimed to be a champion of indigenous cultures and but to love the God given to forbears by Yurugu missionaries. (And since he looks like a villain in a 1960’s Blaxploitation film, it’s clear that the mzungu God doesn’t love him back! For shizzle, my nizzle.) To give the devil his due, this particular dude does have an inspirational rags-to-riches story, some leadership qualities, and some great motivational quotes. But he’s so egotistical that he drowns out all the good stuff in a sea of braggadocio.
For those ‘public intellectuals’ who think they’re super ‘nice’/’woke’, where are their TED Talks, keynote addresses, Genius Awards, Nobel Prizes etc? Why aren’t they in demand around the world? Why aren’t foreign universities conferring honorary degrees on them? Why aren’t they being invited to give commencement speeches or public lectures or sit on discussion panels? ’Cause rational people don’t believe them. Their works are like Sharia-compliant loans: there’s 0% interest in them.
‘You do a song about a current event
Get on TV and seem hesitant to represent
And that’s what we call fraud’
- The Main Source, Fakin' the Funk (rap song)
THE BOTTOM OF THE ABYSS
‘I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are Blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.’ – Marcus Garvey (West Indies)
‘Oh, I say you been misled. You been had. You been took.’ – Malcom X (USA), ‘Bullet or the Ballot’ speech
In the end, Africa’s tragedy is that it is the most well-endowed continent in terms of minerals but clearly not the most endowed in terms of brains. That’s our sad reality. Only a small percentage of Africans are independent thinkers. Most are sheep-like followers of politicians, religious leaders, celebrities etc. And when the rest of the world realized this (eons ago), they immediately took advantage of our plight. They have been raping our continent ever since. Do you know that Black people are discriminated against in every continent (and parts of Africa)? Even the Asians look down upon us, as was evidenced during the Covid-19 pandemic (which had nothing to do with Africa in the first place). Do you know that our presidents speak to empty seats at the United Nations? No African country is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Brotherly Leader Gaddafi described the speeches non-permanent members of the Security Council make inside the UN as the equivalent of lone speakers addressing the public at London’s Hyde Park! (He also dubbed the UN Security Council the ‘terror council’). How can there be starving people in the continent with the most arable land in the world? Why should we have to borrow loans from China which has a larger population to take care of than we do? Why do we have to fly our sick to India; again a country with an even larger population than us? How is it that Israel (a country of less than 10 million) has been nuclear armed since the 1980’s but Africa (a continent of 1.3 billion) has no nuclear weapons for its defence? Too many fools live here!
Taban Lo Liyong’ (author of Another Nigger Dead and Culture is Rutan) once described East Africa as a literary desert. My question, today, is whether East Africa is an intellectual desert as well. Should our sea and air ports be branded with signage that says, ‘WELCOME TO INTELLECTUAL LILLIPUT’? I have no answers, only questions. I will therefore draw no conclusions on this subject matter for fear of falling into the “Argument From Ignorance” fallacy.
|Really, homies? Couldn't even figure out how such t-shirts work?|
BEGGING THE QUESTION
‘You was reaching, baby / You was implying that I’m slipping / Like my sneaker’s sliding / Well, let me get a grip then…’ – Loaded Lux vs Young Calicoe, battle rap
‘I studied The Bible, I studied The Qu’ran, I studied The Torah, I studied the books of servitude from the Baha’i Faith…I study all the time the works of Buddhists. I study all religious faiths, simply because I know, as a human being, since these books have affected these many people for this length of time, and I have to be reacting with them (religious people), it behooves me to know what these (religious) voices are.’ - Kwame Toure, speaking at Florida International University, Miami, in 1992
One issue I’ve noticed with most discussants (of a given topic) is that they start with the end in mind. It’s like having a preferred answer to a mathematical question in mind so now you have to invent or modify the formula in order to make your answer correct. ‘Begging the question’ (aka ‘Implying the conclusion’) is a fallacy. What happened to free thinkers? How are you gonna debate a wide spectrum of issues if you live in an echo chamber? How can you argue about, say, Human Personality Theories if you’ve only been exposed to a single one? How dare you enter a debate on Comparative Religion if you’ve only read one religious book your entire life? A good debater/discussant/panelist argues from abundance, not ignorance or personal bias (aka the ‘Argument From Personal Incredulity’.)
BACK TO BASICS – WHAT’S THE ROLE OF THE AFRICAN INTELLECTUAL?
‘A university should be a true safe space: not safe from dangerous ideas but safe for free discussion of them.’ – Dr. Richard Dawkins
‘Can’t no PhD (player haters degree) n****s hold me down / Cudda (my manager) schooled me to the game , now I know my duty / Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie’ – Ma$e, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems (w/ P. Diddy & the Notorious B.I.G.)
Once again, Caribbean/UK rapper, writer and activist Akala in a ‘Victor of RWS’ YouTube video:
‘The African intellectual’s job is to articulate – from an African perspective – world views, ideas, philosophies; for the betterment of their group of people and humanity as a whole. If something is intelligent and works for a particular group of people and helps with social management, economic management, and people relations, the whole of humanity can benefit from that. Millions of people practice Indian yoga, you know, ’cause they feel that it spiritually helps them. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s Indian and Indian people invented that, and if we respect that culture, we should acknowledge that.
The African intellectual, be he at home in Africa or in the Diaspora somewhere, his function – or her function – is to articulate to the best of their knowledge, from their cultural roots, not somebody else’s cultural roots. And this has been the problem, I think, historically. The information that is readily available to us today, about the history of Black people – African people – wasn’t available sixty, seventy, a hundred years ago as freely as it is today. So you had a lot of Black revolutionaries identify with Marxism or various other European doctrines. I think they have some useful parts but are very anti-African in their philosophy, essentially. They are very historically naïve and they don’t take into account the non-European world experience. They take European experience to be world experience. We can’t afford to make that mistake because the experience of the Caribbean or African or Native Americans, for example, is radically different…’
‘Now you see (C) how intelligent I can be (B) when I am on my “A” game.’ – Arsonal, battle rapper