Software Problems in the African Renaissance Process

By Biko, Femi | New African, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Software Problems in the African Renaissance Process


Biko, Femi, New African


We conclude Femi Biko's essay on why the African needs a new software if the Renaissance Project is to succeed. "Africa cannot advance without the decolonisation of its cultural capital...For what it is worth, let us submit that Africa cannot in any way afford the tranquilising drug of gradualism," he writes.

In the construction of a matrix for the African Renaissance, let us agree in principle that any religion that allows for the persecution of people of different faith is fundamentally flawed no matter its source of legitimacy.

Indeed for the First Nations -- the African cultures -- religion remains the most powerful of cultural forces. It remains the dominant mode in African thought. Such it is that conceptions of religion in African cultures unanimously reject any distinction between "spirituality" and "religion" as poverty of thought. For, ultimately one attends to the inner (personal) and the other to the outer (social) dimensions of reality in an interdependent equilibrium.

At least as early as the Pharaonic state, religion has proven and still proves to be the ultimate instrument of cultural and economic integration. It is a distortion of this ideological expedience that made it possible for the Aryan Indian society to scratify humanity into religious and economic superordinate and subordinate groups based on Jati (caste) and Virna (colour).

Contrary to all rhetoric and platitudes of tolerance and such like, the Christian is not so liberal so as to worship with the Muslim or vice versa, and neither will do so with the "heathen" ancestralist. Any accommodation derives from the latter, at the cost of subordinating the ancestralist (Orisha, Vodun, Santeria, Candomble et al).

Yet, in a twist of historical irony, the chauvinism of revealed faiths claims certain legitimacy from the idea that they have a monopoly on progress and science!

With this triumphalism, the diminutive intellectual takes refuge in the question: Where is pagan technology today? Certainly Japan et al has responded to this anxiety. The technology of pagan Japan, Taiwan and Korea universally pervades our household.

In fact, the economic rise of Japan, Taiwan, etc, was impossible without the linguistic and religious systems. Confucianism in Korea and Shinto (Japanese ancestralism) in Japan, remain central to the daily life of their respective populations and are proudly revered in national life.

Like Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims or Sikhs, the Japanese do not find any contradiction between reverence for their ancestors and the demands of modern life. Africa cannot advance without the decolonisation of its cultural capital.

Metaphysics of capital

With all the enthusiasm for capital accumulation, our policy makers tend to miss this crucial point. When Adam Smith, the doyen of English capitalism who wrote The Wealth of Nations in the 19th century, referred to "the invisible hand" in the capitalist enterprise, he was referring to none other than cultural capital.

Smith's suggestion of a metaphysical dimension to the market economy is a further illustration that cultural health is the locomotive of national health. The African Renaissance cannot rely on evolution by association.

The path of evolution by association can only create a Fourth World status for African states and peoples, even in their own countries. All that would have been achieved is a globalisation of the four-racialised worlds of the Vedantic caste system.

Even at that, one needs to be mindful. As with all ideologies, the caste system maintains its tokens, its strategic exceptions to the rule, which continue to confuse general perceptions.

This brings us to the critical juncture of thought systems. The African Renaissance cannot proceed without identifying the current metamorphosis of the colonial data. In the current age, the philosophical identity of that metamorphosis is fragmentation and indeterminacy. …

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