On Powerlessness and Apathy

By Femi Akomolafe. 1995.

Do you care enough to be apathetic?
- from a graffiti

Along with these alterations in the structure of American political economy there has developed a vast, sheep-like docility in the population. Grazing on the grasses of affluence, the white American population is one of the most docile on earth. This is ideal psychological preparation for war, for docile people makes excellent soldiers.
- Jules Henry, in his essay, 'Social and Psychological Preparation for War,'
adapted from the book, The Dialectics of Liberation (Penguin Books)

Fellow Africans,

Are we to believe that Euro-Americans are powerless to do anything about what their governments are doing to Africa\Africans, or are they just not interested? Is it a case of not having the power, or is it a case of not caring enough about 'those Africans?'

I live in Europe and I observe things. I could see how Europeans could galvanize themselves when the need arises. I have seen the protest and marches for African gorillas, African elephants, African rain-forests. There are a lot of activists working full- time to save whales. One instance should suffice why I remain skeptical about the claims of powerlessness. Sometime this year, a Dutch guy was caught smuggling drug into Singapore. He was sentenced to death. The entire communication systems of Singapore was jammed with irate faxes and phones from concerned Europeans. Africans and Asians have been killed in Singapore without a murmur, the death of a single European drew immense protest.

Power is not only manifested in physical forms, as the apologists would want us to believe, there are also power symbolism. In Holland, at least, one could still write graffiti on walls; one could still carry placards and march on the streets; one could still write angry polemics to news-papers (whether they print it, is another thing); one could still write to a member of parliament or a political party; one could still form an association\committee (or STICHTING in Dutch); one could still go on hunger strike; one could still go and chain him\herself to the parliament building. One could do any of these things without serious injury. If ordinary dogs are treated the ways Africans are treated in western societies, many people will be doing many of these things.

I have never asked Euro-Americans to help solve our problems, I do not believe that they ever will. We have to find the solutions to our peculiar problems - other people are doing it. All I have asked is that Euro-Americans spare us all the lectures they are giving, we have had enough of it. They should wait with their unsolicited advice until we ask for it.

It is African\Africans who have problem, and I believe that it is only ourseleves who could solve these problems. I have never asked that we seek external help - I have said so many times that I don't believe that we have a problem we cannot solve.' All I urge is that Africans stop mimicking their historic oppressors. We should start thinking new thoughts; start dreaming new dreams. We should take pride in the values with which we were brought up and teach them to our children. Africans cannot expected to be taken seriously as long as keep rejecting ourselves, and continue to immitate other people.

When in several postings I asked Euro-Americans to stop giving lectures to Africa, and also to desist from imposing their wretched and decadent values on our people, a lot of them cried foul: "We are good, decent, god-fearing folks who want nothing in life but to help other people," they mouthed.

Euro-American leaders\scholars are still vigorously pursuing their plan to turn our continent into another Europe. Their political system has been promoted to the level of praxis, and it is being ruthlessly pursued. Every means necessary (Malcolm X) is being expended on turning Africa into western-styled democracies. Their scholars are busy telling us that their is the most sophisticated political system ever developed by humankind.

They defined it for us as 'the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.' These set of abstractions, we are told to believe are the answer to our problems. How people of unequal economic power will come to have equal political power, we were not told. How countries that spend fortunes subsidizing their farms\ industries could turn around and preach 'Free Market,' beats me.

While their political 'scientists' are touting the glory of the political system, their economic gurus are energetically imparting to us their inhumane economic system. An economic system where dogs are eating dogs, and human beings are eating shit (pardon my scatological wording) is being extolled as the glory of mankind.

While we are expected to believe all the lies the Euro-American (scholars\leaders) are telling us and regard all their pronouncements as gospel truth, the ordinary folks are telling us a different story. In reaction to my post, 'Black Like Me,' a Dutch guy, Marc Remijn, wrote an impassioned reply. In essence, Marc said that folks like him are just as powerless as we are. I have since spoken to him on the phone, and made my views on what he wrote known to him.

This is part of the trouble. What are we, as Africans, supposed to believe. That the systems that Euro-Americans are frantically imposing on Africa is a sophisticated system; that western-styled democracy is the best political system the world has ever seen; that capitalism is the triumph of human ingenuity, or that the scholars\leaders of Euro-America are liars, and that the systems they operate are wretched?

Are we to believe that western democracies are not democratic societies, and that the governments do not represent the will of the majority, contrary to what we are told? and that citizens are powerless to do anything about it or, are we to believe that the citizens do not care enough about what is going on in their society, or that the majority approve of what their governments are doing? Are we also to believe what we are told that illiteracy has been wiped out in Euro-America and also to believe that citizens of these 'advanced' and 'sophisticated' societies are un\ill-informed?

When I write about the wretchedness of these abstractions with which Euro-Americans are bombarding us, a lot of guys\gals made gallant efforts to defend their institutions. Now some guys are coming to tell me that things are really the way I described them. Euro-Americans are FREE to believe whatever they want to believe, they are FREE to pursue whatever political or economic systems they want, but they should grant us the same FREEDOM. Stop the imposition, stop all the lectures; enough of the arrogance!

massive greetings,

Femi Akomolafe