Reason Wafawarova on Monday
THE Western culture of domination has a tendency to angelise its own founding fathers while demonising all those that have tried to attain independent nationalism in pursuit of control of their own resources, and in the process their own destiny. In fact, Western civilisation frowns upon other civilisations, and continues to impose its influence and values on all others.
The history of the Southern Hemisphere in general and that of Africa in particular is often projected as being irrelevant in the contexts of civilisation and the world economic order.
This is not by accident but by well-crafted design. Sadly, we Africans continue to be complicit in perpetuating this myth that portrays us as an inferior species.
There is a profitable purpose and cause served by the design of making African history look unprofitable and irrelevant, especially to the African youth. What the imperial order of domination considers as objectivity and moderate thinking is in many cases a very political way of serving specific imperial interests.
So we have courses in our colleges that are presented “non-politically”, “objectively” or “neutrally” when in reality they are serving a political purpose of sidelining the history of the victims of the imperial world order.
The history of Great Britain taught in British schools is a shameful distortion of the injustice of colonisation, and it creates in British citizens that pass through this education system an idea that Britain went out to India, to the Americas and to Africa to introduce civilisation to people who were hopelessly primitive and destined for permanent barbarism.
It is very important to understand that it is in the nature of racist imperialism to hide its political agenda under an omnifarious compendium of flowery truistic rhetoric. In our re-engagement efforts with the West we have to be wiser in navigating our way into how we are going to relate with our erstwhile colonisers.
They know we are at our vulnerable worst, and they want us give in unconditionally, unabatedly and unthinkingly.
Sometimes the so-called facts and information are presented as if they have no political connections or implications. While we appreciate the need for us to reform our land reform programme and our indigenisation and economic empowerment policies, we must never forget the primary reason why the West has always dismissed those policies as unsound and a violation of property rights.
It will simply not do for the West to come in the open and declare: “we want to control your resources and use you as a source of cheap labour in the process”. So they will blame independent nationalism on pretexts of the undermining of democracy and human rights. They sometimes demonise revolutionary leaders as brutal dictators; and they can glorify reactionary puppets as stalwarts in the fight for democracy. We know this too well.
The late Dr Amos N. Wilson, an American author and activist, explained in the book “The Falsification of African Consciousness”; how something political creates knowledge and information that can be of great value.
As a psychologist he often used the concept of the “Skinner rat” to show how that concept is represented as “non-political” in the psychology of learning and education: how the rat is put in a box and can only eat if it performs a particular behaviour.
Those in the teaching profession like this writer would be aware of Skinner’s rat experiment. If the caged rat pushes a lever – it is only as a result of pushing that lever that the rat is allowed to eat.
The experiment, by its own design, determines when the rat is going to eat, when it is going to drink; it determines the living conditions under which this rat must survive. It is all controlled, and the rat becomes conditioned and it changes as a result of the fact that the experimenter has control of vital things in its life.
In education we often present this paradigm in a very sterile way, in terms of learning and reinforcement of new information.
Wilson argued that a black student could learn Skinnerian psychology better than a white student in the American context, and as a result of having learnt it the black student is made to be dumb by the whole process.
Wilson argues that this is because Skinnerian psychology is presented as “race neutral” and “non-political”.
This way it is presented as the only one way of looking at it, and yet Wilson argues that the Skinner rat must be alternatively looked at politically. The rat is conditioned, and in this context it reflects the conditions under which it is forced to survive as a result of a set of power relations.
In this context it becomes imperative that the Skinnerian experiment be analysed in terms of power relations. That way one can see that the rat is socially created; its entire personality is a social creation.
Whatever the rat learns is the result of a power difference between the rat and the experimenter. The experimenter has power over the rat and uses that power to transform and create something new in the rat.
Clearly, this rat ceases to be like all other unconditioned rats. The experimenter uses his power to create in the rat a personality after his own conditions, and he does this because he has control over the rat’s circumstances.
We can learn a lot about ourselves as people if we try to identify with the rat. When we receive those massive donations and other financial incentives from the West on condition that we behave in a certain political way, say certain political statements on behalf of those who provide the funds, respect particular alien values in the name of globalisation of human rights, pursue regime change political goals for the benefit of those who provide us with funds – when we do all these things; we must know that we are now very different from an ordinary unconditioned African. We become a socially created species.
We are in this celebrated era of a “reforming” ZANU-PF in the post- Mugabe era, and we would be foolish if we fail to interrogate the path of our reformation critically. We reform to progress, not to subjugate ourselves to another people.
This writer will ask a few questions: Who has control of our funds or who wants to? Who has control of our policies or who wishes to? Who has control of our ideology and who desires so?
Who has control of our idea of democracy? Who controls our views on what constitutes human rights? Who controls our rating as a democratically compliant nation?
Who tells us when to engage and when to disengage with our political rivals at home? Who is suggesting that we create a political system that will accommodate the losing opposition leadership in our Parliament, and why?
Who informs our leadership on how to speak acceptably, how to relate, who to befriend, and indeed what to stand for?
Is this not all by reward and punishment? You do this and you get more funds released to your cause, you don’t do this then the funds will dry up, you pursue this popular policy and we cannot fund you anymore, you oppose gay rights and we will reconsider our position in supporting your cause.
So what we have here is the same basic situation and the same basic principles for conditioning rats being transferred to life and reality itself.
So we have this situation where Zimbabweans are clamouring for Western aid and Foreign Direct Investment as a solution to the economic woes of the last two decades. But this is aid that comes under conditions created by a power relationship that allows the aid giver to have control of how we behave, what we do, when we do it and how we do it. It is a reality we cannot pretend we are not aware of.
So we want to live under aid that comes with the conditioning of our circumstances that in reality is a subjugation of our very selves. Can this situation ever be changeable?
Not until we change the power relations with the aid giver or the celebrated donor. Benevolence in international politics is not philanthropy. It is a tool of imperial subjugation.
So, Zimbabweans here we are. If we are to prevent ourselves from being created by another people, and are to engage in the act of self-creation, then we must change the power relations.
So we need to take the political approach to Skinner’s rat experiment. That way the African can learn something of value for the continent of Africa. That is the only way we can have a basis for self-understanding and knowledge, a plan for the future and a means by which Africa can change her situation.
As it is we have a situation where our intellectuals and academics are a mere bunch of educated people who keep wondering why Africa cannot get out of the underdevelopment conditions we have had for so long.
Were we not recently glued to our television setsand screens to see how our President would fare at the CNN? We wanted him to impress in compliance to expectations we are all aware of – themselves shaped by power relations between the West and ourselves.
In Zimbabwe, we have a proud for nothing bunch of educated people, who the more degrees they have in business administration the more they part with the idea of ever starting a business, or who scramble into colleges and universities to learn about finance, only to come out with a determination never ever to own or operate a bank, but to join the corporate ladder of existing banks.
It is apparent that our degrees are designed to make us employees and not to control our own economic situations and circumstances. We need to politically, economically and militarily change our circumstances as Africans; otherwise we will remain educated servants.
Wilson argues, “it is the intention of Europeans that Blacks never escape their condition of servitude” and in this context a higher education for an African simply means an academically elevated servant – nothing more and nothing less, heads of states and politicians included.
We can only escape the condition of servitude when we ensure that our people, particularly our youths, are not made ahistorical. People who do not know their history are gullible, easily manipulated and they easily adapt to the capitalist machinery and they often willingly subjugate to imperial authority.
History is the basis for self-criticism, for self-understanding, and, most importantly, the basis for the understanding of the motives and the psychology of others we meet in international relations.
Because we do not have a history taught to us properly as Africans what we do in international relations is often just going along with the vibe of others.
We trudge along towards what we believe to be democracy, with some even getting so carried away as to believe that democracy is yet to happen in Zimbabwe, a country so heroically liberated by one of the most popular revolutions ever to happen on the African continent. We prefer to forget this heroic history.
Well, merely proclaiming democracy will not in and of itself secure our future as a nation. We are going to have to understand the psychology of the people who run the world order today, and for sure the current world order has practically next to nothing to do with the concept of democracy.
Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would not be top allies with the United States today if the world was truly running on the principle of democracy.
This writer is often reminded to “forget the past and move on”. We can only understand our oppressors by understanding their history. The only reason our erstwhile oppressor makes it a point that we treat his and our own history as irrelevant and unimportant is that we may not see through the deadly intentions of his politics today.
The erstwhile oppressor knows that history is at the centre of life. His own history no longer features that much in what we know as conventional history classes. It is now enshrined in every aspect of life.
His infrastructure speaks of a history, the statues and plaques planted in all manner of public places, the clothing he has imposed on many other cultures, the language he has imposed on many nationalities, the many people he employs across the planet and indeed just about every facet of life.
We study Mathematics and we are told it originated from Greece. So we have the Pythagorean theories, the Euclidean geometry and the Boolean algebra. We have other European names spreading in other disciplines like Marxism, Leninism, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so on.
The names of who “first discovered” these concepts are part of history, and this way images are being projected -images of white supremacy and black inferiority.
We are not just studying neutral sciences or any other discipline; European history is being inculcated right in these very studies we undertake.
So the imperial culture has ensured that we do not escape the history of our former colonisers, much as it is ensured that we trivialise our own history.
We cannot as a people escape the injurious pitfalls that come with ignoring our own history.
We need to start building our own history in every aspect of life, in our infrastructure, our appearances, our literature, our politics, our ideology and everything we do.
If there is such a thing as globalisation, then our role in it is to be respected for who we are; not to be subjugated imitators.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.