We Were Neither Fish nor Fowl: "Our Pattern of Education Has Been Aligned Hitherto to the Demands of British Examination Councils. above All, It Was Formulated and Administered by an Alien Administration Desirous of Extending Its Dominant Ideas and Thought Processes to Us. We Were Denied the Knowledge of Our African Past and Informed That We Had No Present. What Future Could There Be for Us?" Discuss

Article excerpt

Extracting information from dead black males who wrote is a task unsuitable for the unprepared. Passing on knowledge gained from them becomes a dangerous minefield. But gold lies in their philosophic heels. It's real easy to grasp wisdom when you're looking over somebody's shoulders. Here are a few good men whose shoulders I've leaned upon recently--only for mental and spiritual support, mind you. Question to my international audience: Only one is alive--which one is it?


English ways of living

"Our pattern of education has been aligned hitherto to the demands of British examination councils. Above all, it was formulated and administered by an alien administration desirous of extending its dominant ideas and thought processes to us. We were trained to be inferior copies of Englishmen, caricatures to be laughed at with our pretensions to British bourgeois gentility, our grammatical faultiness and distorted standards betraying us at every turn. We were neither fish nor fowl.

"We were denied the knowledge of our African past and informed that we had no present. What future could there be for us? We were taught to regard our culture and traditions as barbarous and primitive. Our textbooks were English textbooks, telling us about English history, English geography, English ways of living, English customs, English ideas, English weather. Many of these manuals had not been altered since 1895."

Kwame Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite, 1963, p49 [Panaf Books, London]

The dialectics of fiction and ignorance

"The best part of Southern's analysis, here and elsewhere in his brief history of Western views of Islam, is his demonstration that it is finally Western ignorance which becomes more refined and complex, not some body of positive Western knowledge which increases in size and accuracy. For fictions have their own logic and their own dialectic of growth or decline ... since Mohammed was viewed as the disseminator of a false revelation, he became as well the epitome of lechery, debauchery, sodomy, and a whole battery of assorted treacheries, all of which derived 'logically' from his doctrinal impostures."

Edward W. Said, Orientalism, 1978, p.62 [Penguin Books, London]

Cowards and scum

"Consequently, when I recognise, as entirely authentic, that man is a being whose existence precedes his essence, and that he is a free being who cannot, in any circumstances, but will his freedom, at the same time I realise that I cannot will the freedom of others.

"Thus, in the name of that will to freedom which is implied in freedom itself, I can form judgments upon those who seek to hide from themselves the wholly voluntary nature of their existence and its complete freedom.

"Those who hide from this total freedom, in a guise of solemnity or with deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards. Others, who try to show that their existence is necessary, when it is merely an accident of the appearance of the human race on earth--I shall call scum. But neither cowards nor scum can be identified except upon the plane of strict authenticity."*

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism & Humanism, 1948, p52 [Methuen Publishing, London]

* Stella's Note: Something tells me that it's Jean-Paul's something or other anniversary this year--80th? 100th? 79th? Birthday? Death? How would I know--I live in England.

Social choices

"For Mill, Royce, and others, as we've seen, a plan of life serves as a way of integrating one's purposes over time, of fitting together the different things one values. The fulfilment of goals that flow from such a plan--or what we might prefer to call our ground projects and commitments--has more value than the satisfaction of a fleeting desire.

"In particular, Mill says that it matters because, in effect, the life plan is an expression of my individuality, of who I am: and, in this sense, a desire that flows from a value that itself derives from a life plan is more important than a desire (such as an appetite) that I just happen to have; for it flows from my reflective choices, my commitments, not just from passing fancy. …


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