A few weeks ago we published a most thought provoking article by Dr Field Ruwe titled You Lazy African Intellectual Scum. You can read it on this link. Now here is a Critique by Dr Lamin HAN Mbye. Lamin is a Gambian native, and a Neuroscientist who obtained his PhD from University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He then conducted post doctoral training at Harvard Medical School, and completed training at Baylor College of Medicine, where he currently holds the junior faculty position of Instructor. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review the attached article. I had taken the initiative to circulate the piece among fellow Africans and for your edification, most of my personal critique I hereby tender is in consent with their views. Let me begin by first, acknowledging that despite the intriguing exchange in the discourse that ensued between Mr. Ruwe and the guy named ‘Walter’, the referenced article is by far the most provoking piece of African sentiment I have ever read. In my humble opinion, to characterize African intellectuals as being “lazy” is nothing but sheer ad-hominem, guided by parochialism.
This is because, from the origin of modern homo sapiens in over 200, 000 years ago to the present, Africans (in general) are well-known to be among, if not the most hardworking of all races! This is not only apparent to Africans themselves, but to other races as well, especially in modern era of post-Colonialism when Africans emigrate en-mass to the West and other parts of the world, in quest for higher education and independent profession. In such societies, Africans have often risen to the pinnacle of their class and profession, despite the usual odds of being introduced to a new culture, a new lifestyle, and sometimes inhospitable environments structured with bigotry, stigma, and unfairness.
More often than not, Africans in the Diaspora climb up to the summit of best institutions in foreign lands, while leaving native sons and daughters of Western societies behind, due to their inability to compete with Africans. This has become the usual tendency here in the United
Sates (U.S.), and I am sure is the case in other parts of the world too. In such societies where intellectualism is revered and innovation encouraged, Africans contribute immensely to scientific discoveries and other aspects of societal progress.
Indeed, we have African intellectuals who serve as Professors in some of the World’s best academic institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Columbia, just to name a few. Moreover, African intellectuals have been pioneers in medical research, technological inventions, political reforms, and entrepreneurship in these same Western societies where talent is rewarded and professionalism permitted to pursue its independent course, without harassment or intimidation. Such indications of dexterity and competence are simply inconsistent with lethargy and is therefore, sufficient to negate the “torpidity” accusation made by Walter. Of course, it is no-brainer that Africa is at the bottom of the totem pole not because its intellectuals are anemic to discoveries, but because its political leadership is spineless and alien to the rule-of-law, dissent, or innovation!
To me, Walter was justly on track in most parts of his rampage (the abject poverty, the pandemic diseases, the lack of invention, the apathetic attitude, and the braggadocio with degrees), until he leveled his blame on intellectual laziness. In actuality, most, if not all the above-listed problems are to be blamed on feckless African leadership. Simply put, Africa is basically in scarcity of political leaders! What we have in abundance is a cohort of impostors who lack the basic comprehension that leadership is not to be imitated – that it goes with acquiring the attributes, which are instilled by a detailed disciplinary mental development that must be continuously relied upon to shape relevant policies for meaningful societal progress. A leader retains a genuine sense of integrity; anyone with leadership quality usually imbibes a well-defined character of altruism; and above all, leadership coexists with vision, and vision is not so much of where we stand, but the direction we are heading! Most African heads-of-government lack these features. More importantly, most African heads-of-state fail to appreciate the dictum that artificial intelligence is no match to ‘natural’ stupidity. It is because of these inadequacies that I generally reserve the term ‘leader’, and use the parlance ‘heads-of-state’ instead, when referring to African heads of-government.
Therefore, as much important it is that African heads-of-state have access to this article, it is equally imperative that Western governments who provide them with resources to prolong their tyranny, also realize that a pandemic political autocracy is Africa’s most inimical deterrence for progress! And if they, meaning the West have any iota of genuineness in changing the status-quo, they will need totransform the existing anachronistic system of governance first. It simply necessitates a demand for credible term-limits and consistent transition of governments, as pre-requisites for any potential loans or effective partnership. Reinforce this with draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions for any blatant tyranny or human right abuses, and I guarantee you that the dunderheads will take a heed! Bottom line, institutionalize an auspicious political climate in Africa that eulogizes, instead of vilifies; rewards, instead of reprimands; and encourages, instead of dissuades intellectuals and the whole world will have a rude awakening of the level of creativity African highbrows possess.
We had manifested such ingenuity in medieval history and can surely display it again – from Alexandria of Ancient Egypt (over 2000 years of
civilization), to Kumbi Saleh of Ghana Empire, and Timbuktu of Mali Empire, Africans had been more innovative than any other contemporary society the world had ever seen, including the Roman Empire. Walter is right, Mankind are all created equal! As a Neuroscientist, with background training in Neuromolecular Genetics, I appreciate his reference of the Human Genome Project (HGP) – and by the way, I am not an African braggart, as Walter had accused. However, as a believer in God too, the egalitarianism of all races became apparent to me well before the dawn of HGP or Darwin’s theory of Speciation. Such revelation is again, not to boast of my religious instincts, but instead to share my
concurrence that science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind – Albert Einstein. Indeed, all four of God’s Holy books (Zabur, Torah, Injil, and Quran) have hitherto, established that God categorizes Man into races, sects, and ‘tribes’ for no other reason, except to better relate to one-another and to appreciate His Majesty.
So, to get back to Walter’s provoking but valid inquiry as to why Blacks feel inferior to Whites, I honestly do not know the specific answer to that. I can however, state with certainty that a multi-faceted factors do play a role, including African illiteracy which coexists with ignorance about the White race, stigmatization of the Black race, and advanced Western civilization often plastered on the media. It is incontrovertible that most Africans still regard the Whiteman as a ‘supernatural’ being. This concept is masterminded by an inspiring White ingenuity in scientific discoveries, infrastructural development, and well-structured civilization in the West, as oppose to the penury, pandemic outbreaks,
and civil ‘cannibalism’ usually associated with Africa.
With regards to stigma, slavery is by far, the most detrimental human instigation ever happened to Mankind! Some call it Africa’s Holocaust and I calls it the African ‘Armageddon’. By the way, I am aware of Walter’s admonishment not to use slavery as an excuse. However, it is equally noteworthy that no sincere discussion ever ensues when only one party in the discourse sets up rules on what issues to raise or leave out. Not only was slavery barbarous, it also left behind a permanent imprint of Black stigma in the psyche of both the Black race in particular, and other races in general – one that may forever remain inextinguishable. From the Triangular Trade that yielded the Transatlantic Slave Trade (institutionalized by the Portuguese and entrenched by the Brits) to the present, Blacks in general have been regarded and treated by society as ‘sub-humans’ who are not only imperceptive to innovation, but to civilization as well. Instead of remedying this stigma, society continues to romanticize and to some extent, dramatize Black inferiority.
Of course, ‘Blackness’ gets often associated with nothing but evil, horror, or grimness in present society. For instance, during a papal conclave, the Roman Catholic Church still effuses ‘black’ smoke when the room is most perplexed and every member of the College of Cardinals is dejected because a Pope is yet to be chosen. On the other hand, a ‘white’ smoke gets diffused only when a Papal finally gets selected and there is overwhelming joy in the room; that it is a norm to all races including Blacks, to utter phrases like “the kettle calling the pot black”, “being
the black sheep of the family”, and “being blackout” when one’s brain becomes numb and is unable to reason-out; that the gunman who wants to conduct a massacre has to wear a black gear, in order to carry out his havoc; that a death in a family is best manifested with black gowns; that Blacks of both gender often peel off their superficial dark skins, in order to expose the less-pigmented under-dermis that looks more whitish; and when prisoners get executed, Gambians change their Facebook profile pictures to black; as if God is White and Shaitaan (Evil) is Black!
We have indeed witnessed P.W. Botha using the analogy of a lizard being different from a crocodile, despite both belonging to the Taxonomic Class of reptiles, in reference to the distinction between Blacks and Whites. An account most refreshing to our memory is Ted Nugent’s recent rancor against President Obama, calling him a “sub-human mongrel”. As if not enough mayhem was already committed against the Black race by slavery, the Whiteman followed-suit with a subsequent subterfuge termed Colonialism. Colonialism was nothing other than the
White race presenting itself to be ‘superior’ to the Black race, to the extent that he (the Whiteman) has to govern him (the Blackman), a fallacy that easily sank in the African psyche, given the degrading experience of slavery that they just went through. With colonialism came all other damaging remnants to society, including political tyranny, pandemic military takeovers, civil wars and of course, massive exodus of African intellectuals, due to constant persecutions levelled against them by spineless heads-of-state,who perceive intellectuals as threats to their egoistic political demagoguery, rather than the most effective tool to national development.
The few highbrows who stay in the Continent have no better option than to remain as rubberstamps, in fear of their safety and that of their families. Due to the abovestipulated factors, it is easily conscionable that when Walter picks up a riff-raff from the streets of New York City and takes him to Africa, he would not even need to clean him up, in order for the Zambian to chant muzungu, or the Gambian to hail tubab, as long as the vagrant’s skin color is white. In a nutshell, Walter’s frustration towards African intellectuals is well-taken. However, the diatribe is more
suited for the African heads-of-government, most of whom are unqualified for that responsibility, much less be intellectuals. Secondly, Walter’s harangue would carry greater weight if it had addressed the apathetic policies of Western governments towards Africa’s established system of dictatorship. Rather than maintaining a fair policy of checks-and-balances across the Globe, America and the West seem to be more inclined on their national interests, instead of humanitarian welfare. Although I generally discount its validity, one could also argue that the West is more inclined towards maintaining the orthodox of African destitution, as prove to Black inferiority.
It is often mind-boggling to Africans that the U.S. can rescue Iraqis from the iron-fist oppression of Saddam Hussein for instance, but remains indifferent to the tyrannical nature of African heads-of-state. In summary, it is crucial to note that intellectualism never coexists with lethargy! It takes a plethora of perseverance, dedication, and personal discipline to attain academic prowess. Moreover, intellectualism is generally enlightening and therefore, cannot be wrong. Education nurtures the brain, develops the persona and as a result, transform a Mayflower feudal society into a ‘paradise’, as Walter alluded. Therefore, the least endeavor we can afford to undertake as Africans is to stop engendering PhDs! Finally, it is vital to bear in mind that despite its impressiveness, the only indubitable panacea to the advanced Western civilization the world observes today is conducive intellectualism, instead of White ‘supernaturalism’ as many Africans are lead to believe.
ANY race that becomes more receptive to intellectual prowess becomes more innovative and for that matter, more affluent, irrespective of creed or culture – hence the resurgence of the Chinese, Japanese, and Indians. In contrast, ANY society that antagonizes intellectual competence faces abject poverty, civil unrest, and destitution – hence the regression of Africa! Walter would be totally surprised if the American military was to suddenly take over the reign of government and summarily establishes a system of despotism, as absurd as that may sound. The ‘dynasty’ would be deserted, and New York City would then become present-day Gao (in Mauritania), the erstwhile flourished city of Songhai. Newton’s Third Law of Physics dictates to us that for every action, there is an equal but opposite action; Galileo taught us that one cannot build a castle in the air; and well before Newton or Galileo, Nature affirms to us that the universe operates on specific Devine principles.
Africa will not develop if it continues to denigrate its intellectuals, and it certainly will not innovate if does not invest efficiently in education.
My unvarnished remedy to the African paradoxical quagmire is usually summed-up in two simple synopses: 1) Instill the rightful leadership that safeguards the basic tenets of rule-of-law, and there will be massive repatriation of graduates from not only Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and Columbia, but Community Colleges as well. 2) Institutionalize universal education, which establishes the bedrock for innovation, demystifies ‘Whiteness’ and in the process, ‘de-stigmatize’ ‘Blackness’ and there will be ingenious discoveries in the Continent. The feasibility of such outcome is more probable in Africa than anywhere else, given the fact that it is the second-most populous and youngest continent in the world. If we could establish the first higher-learning institution, built Alexandria, and modernized Timbuktu, we surely can invent stone crushers, engineer water filters, and reserve lands for skyscrapers, instead of graveyards for our people!