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The politics of adjectives

By Paul T. Shipale
“A revolution is only as good as its analysis” This quote from an unknown source means that one should not just know his/her enemies but also what he/she stands for. Similarly, a country should not just know its enemies but should also device strategies to defend itself.

Before I elaborate on this point, allow me to join the nation in wishing H.E. President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the Right Honourable Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Happy 76th and 68th Birthday Anniversaries respectively. As we approach the Heroes Day, such an occasion is worthy of a retrospective assessment, an analysis of present circumstances and, above all, a call for perspective reflection.

In this regard, Chinweizu Chinweizu contends that it is his considered view that two vital questions should have been asked and answered by Africans at independence, namely; how do we set the rest of the world free from colonialism? Thankfully, this was asked and answered. And how do we ensure that we shall never again be conquered and colonized by anybody? This alas, went unasked and unanswered till this day, if one judges from the recent events in Africa.

Rather than take up the second task, we were diverted into other things. In our desire to establish a new social order-apparently without bothering about how it would protect itself from enemies, Chinweizu says, nobody saw it fit to ask the paramount and pertinent question of collective security that should have informed whatever new social order we set out to build.

As a result, several very costly errors have flowed from this lack of proper attention to our collective security. In our amnesia and haste, Chinweizu continues, we have treated our enemies as our best friends and mentors in development and now as our “development partners” which has left us vulnerable and unprepared for any enemy attack. Chinweizu says again, we have also allowed their institutions to guide us into maldevelopment and chronic poverty and we failed to heed the fundamental strategic principle; “know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated” (Sun Tzu).

Had we sought to know our enemies, Chinweizu concludes, we would have not paid the heavy price from the economic war waged on us that got us into debt trap and perpetual impoverishment.

Had we made collective security our concern, it would have forced us to correctly answer the question;

unity for whom and against whom? That would have obliged us to examine the history of our relations with others and make provisions for a multilateral pact of mutual defence;

a doctrine of non intervention that considers that any attack against one of us, would be considered as an act of aggression against the concert of our States. But this concept of security must also be broadened beyond military security to include economic, food and health, as well as social and cultural security. In this regard, I applaud the wisdom and foresightedness of our visionary Founding President and Father of the Nation, His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma who always reminded us about food security.

Chinweizu elaborates further that it was Cheikh Anta Diop, in his Two Cradles Theory, who listed ‘pacifist morality’ as one of the traits of Africans and more importantly, it was Steve Biko who observed that we are not a suspicious race. Indeed, in the early 1970s, the young Steve Biko, developed the much needed therapy for our integrationist mania and our fear of being dubbed segregationist, racist, separatist, exclusivist and what have you. Biko argued that the concept of integration is full of unquestioned assumptions. It is a concept long defined by others and which we never examined. Biko, then drives his point home, thus;

as long as we are suffering from inferiority complex, a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision, we will be useless as co-architects of a normal society...hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of our consciousness such that we can learn to assert ourselves and stake our rightful claim (Biko, p21), (Biko [1987]. I Write What I like, p.90).

Biko’s consciousness therapy helped to produce a new breed of freedom fighters, a type of selfconfident, unconfused and uncrippled by fears implanted by false liberal doctrines that makes us apologetic and docile. When one looks at our National events, like Heroes or Independence’s day, do we see these liberals or are they looked up somewhere in their comfort zones enjoying some sport? But as soon as you call for tenders, auctions and what have you, they are the first to rush to the scene.

What kind of one-sided integrationist conciliatory attitude is that? Surely, once you raise this issue, you are told this fallacious theory of ‘reverse racism’ by the fifth columnists and megaphones in our midst masquerading as Pan- Africanists allergic to hindsight and its benefits, while questioning our right to organize ourselves and unite.

To suggest that there is no need for us to seek unity and organize ourselves is but to lay the trap for destruction of our people by the game of deception and a weapon of the enemy to defeat the hopes of an unfortunate people (philosophy and Opinions II:16). Little wonder we experienced the issue of farm workers dumped on the sides of the roads bordering on unfair labour practice and racial discrimination, the issue of poor residents scavenging in nearby dumpsites for rotten food, and allowing the fifth columnists and megaphones to label our country as caviar revolution, as one paid opinion writer said in one of the daily newspapers recently.

Prof Prah says, “In recent months and years, some important voices have tried to question or castigate the notion of multiculturalism. In Germany, the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel has on occasion (16.10.2010) announced that the idea of multiculturalism in Germany “has utterly failed” and metaphorically is as good as dead.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a security conference in Munich (5.2.2011), in similar vein abandoned the doctrine of “state multiculturalism.” Not to be outdone, French President Nicolas Sarkozy also announced that “multiculturalism had failed” (11.2.2011). Of course, this is all in specific reference to their own societies;

they were basically referring to the fact that after decades of immigration from different parts of the world, some immigrant communities have not adopted enough of the local predominant European language and culture to indicate a conscientious wish to blend-in and demonstrate acceptance of the host culture. Doubtlessly, immigrants should do enough to blend and integrate into host cultures because the success of multiculturalism depends on the extent to which they have culturally interfaced and interpenetrated their host or majority communities; blurring cultural and communal boundaries, avoiding caste-like separation, and respecting in policy and practice the rights of all to cultures of their choice in conditions of equality of opportunity and infrastructural support”. After, twenty one years of Independence and the policy of reconciliation; did the sons and daughters of immigrants from the Netherlands, Germany and England blend and integrate? Do we see them availing farms for the government to buy or attending National events? It is not possible to be African while one rejects African culture and rejects the self-designation of being African. It is not possible to be African, whilst one looks down on Africans, maintains caste-like relations with Africans and refuses to mix with Africans. As another English aphorism declares, you cannot have your cake and eat it, concluded Prof Prah.

I couldn’t agree more with the editorial of the Southern Times of Sunday, 14 August 2011, when the editor said, had the footage of burning buildings, pillaging and so many uniforms on the street in London, have been occurring in some God forsaken Third World country, then an urgent UN security Council meeting would have been called and NATO jets hastily scrambled to go and “protect civilians”, not so with London, which has duped many across the world that the civil unrest is the work of a few “criminal elements” and therein lays the rub: the power of “naming”. Label protestors as “prodemocracy activists” and you can support “their cause” with the legitimizing cover of a UN Security Council resolution. Label another group of protestors as “criminal elements” and you can send the police to lock them up. One wonders, what makes these “criminal elements” in London any different from the “pro-democracy activists” in parts of Libya, asked the editor. It was indeed, the scholar Mahmood Mamdani in his 2007 paper titled “The politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil war, Insurgency”, who gave a good account of how Africa loses it when it comes to the politics of adjectives.

Mamdani was incensed by the characterization of developments in Darfur as “genocide” while at the same time the murder of more than half-a-million people in Iraq since the 2003 invasion is described as an attempt to impose order in that Middle Eastern country. In this regard, President Pohamba also questioned the logic and raison d’être of the ICC indicting only African leaders and not western leaders who bombed Iraq and are now doing the same in Libya.

We are also adept at looking at decoys and distractions instead of concentrating on building our own power so as to remove the standing temptation we present to others to attack us and thereby disturb our peace. If something does not help us defeat the common enemy of hunger, poverty and diseases, in other words, neo-colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, entrenched racism and all other isms, than it is an irrelevant decoy and a non-issue to our cause for genuine emancipation. So first thing first and our first and paramount task, says Chinweizu, is to build that power to secure the autonomy we need to implement whatever we decide we like. Accordingly, we must prioritize the building of our power, our unity and security and postpone any discussion of secondary issues till we have created the power to implement whatever we decide about them. Indeed, let us know what we stand for and how to defend it rather than been dragged into secondary issues such as the so-called “in-fighting” that is in the fertile imagination of those hoping to create unnecessary cracks and tensions.

Consider the example of el Commandanté Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Reading a third edition of the book “Castro Profiles in Power” by Sebastian Balfour, it says Castro survived nine US Presidents and his career touched on so many issues of global significance: US hegemony, Soviet-American relations, Third World nationalism, revolution and social justice, Third World debt, war and peace in Africa, Central and South America, yet by any standard of probability, the Cuban Revolution should have failed but it didn’t. This resistance would never have been possible without the dignity and ethics of the Cuban policies and people. Alongside ethics, there was built a culture and conscience that made possible the resistance of more than five decades and this is all thanks to the fact that the Cuban Revolution was able to identify the enemy and devised strategies to neutralise its enemy and secure the Revolution. Let us do likewise and truly honour the sacrifices of our heroes and heroines by not only knowing our enemies but also how to defend our gains.

Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to write them.


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