Lying as a culturally expedient phenomenon
In Marimba Ani's book Yurugu, she introduces a very interesting and valuable concept for understanding Western/European behavior. The concept was called rhetorical ethics, and it means a system of morality that exist in word only, not in action or deeds. This is a quality or feature rather unique to Western societies. She explains that this concepts fits “the logic of the European asili, assisting the culture in the achievement and maintenance of power.” Although Western anthropologists have created a supposedly universal distinction in all human societies between that society's "ideal culture" and its "actual behavior," Ani argues this is a false model that often masks the Europeans uniquely aberrant behavior.
She offers the following:
An idealized belief, long cherished in America, is that all doctors are selfless, friendly people who chose medicine as their profession because they felt themselves "called" to serve humanity, and who have little interest in either the money or the prestige of their position. Of course, many physicians do not measure up to this ideal. Nevertheless, the continued success of television programs that portray the average American M.D. as a paragon of virtue indicates how deeply rooted in our collective psyche the ideal of the noble physician is.
But Ani tells us that this idealized version is purposefully created to mislead Americans. To say something is “ideal” suggested that it is a behavior deeply rooted in the people's psyche. A "rhetorical ethic," however, is not a "deep-lying assumption but a superficial verbal expression that is not intended for assimilation by the members of the culture that produced it. Ani explains that the European ideal is a projection more than a reality, and it is meant to deceive and exploit the people that believe in the projection. She continues,
“In this case it is the way that the doctor wants to appear to his patients, or ''objects,'' because this appearance works to his advantage. On the other hand, an image that projects him as a potential exploiter can lead to the possibility of malpractice suits and to the institutionalization of socialized medicine-neither of which is lucrative for him.”
In most cultures, especially Afrikan, the ''ideal'' is something that is emulated; something that has meaning for those who share it. The European has confounded meaning and commitment with mere verbal expression. Therefore in Western or European morality, it is the verbal expression that constitutes his morality and generally no action support those words. And in this context, it is not what it is that is important, but what something appears to be. Thus, image is everything. To be concerned with one's image as opposed to one's essence is the Western or European way. This also explains why apologies are so important in the Western moral construct--because they address the rhetoric. No matter how heinous the act, it seems to be totally absolved by an apology. This incongruity between words and deeds produces hypocrisy, an endemic feature of European culture, something that is sanctioned and rewarded by the culture.
Now all this is a little deeper than I wanted to get into in this blog but it touches on Ani's concept of rhetorical ethics, which is a concept one needs in order to make sense out of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and the glaring contradictions and inconsistencies of the “Founding Fathers” regarding Afrikan enslavement. All the elements of the rhetorical ethic are present. The attempt to make a behavior that is essentially unique, universal; the ideal culture versus the actual behavior; the hypocrisy and contradiction are all present. Let's look at a few examples.
We are told that Afrikans already practiced slavery, and that all humans from time immemorial have practice it, thus, the European system is just part of this phenomenon. But the Afrikan system of forced labor for captives, debtors, and persons who committed crimes, was nothing like the chattel slavery system set up by the Europeans. The Arab intrusion into Afrikan societies exacerbated our system and there are examples of great horrors committed by us against us, but our indigenous system of “enslavement” if we can even use that word resembled neither the Arab or European systems. We had a very different notion of the human being and the purpose for living. Then we are told of all the signers of the Constitution and how many of them were personally against slavery—but they were slaveholders until their deaths. For example, Virginian George Mason, a slaveholder said: That slaves "bring the judgment of Heaven on a country," but this judgement, him being a good Christian and all did not allow him to free his slaves. He could argue for the inclusion of the Bill of Rights into the Constitution to safeguard individual rights but could not free Afrikan people. The rhetoric in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence about liberty, freedom, being created equal, and so on, did not apply to Afrikans, slave or free. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, stating that all men are created equal did not free his slaves. He he stated he was an opponent of the slave trade and disliked the effects of slavery on society, believing slavery was harmful to both slave and master, he opposed the practice of slave masters freeing their own slaves, and in the Virginia Assembly in 1769, he prevented a manumission law from being enacted. When the Haitian Revolution occurred rather than celebrate the fact that others fought against oppression and tyranny, his sentiment lied with the slavery holding interests. George Washington, considered the “father of this Country,” shows this same hypocrisy. Although he personally opposed the institution of slavery (after the revolutionary War), as President he authorized emergency financial and military relief to French slave owners during the Haitian Revolution, he signed a law that reaffirmed the previous ban on slavery in the Northwest Territory, but the territory only offered citizenship to "free white persons" of "good moral character,"and Washington signed the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law, the first to provide for the right of slaveholders to recapture slaves even in free states that had abolished slavery. We see this same behavior with all the Founding Fathers, even Ben Franklin and John Jay owned slaves. I have already discussed Lincoln's rhetoric ethics, in my blog on his birthday.
Words are seen as divine forces in Afrika; they possess power. Afrikans relate the concept of authority to the power of words, which explains why those who master speech become community leaders (authority figures). Respect for the word implies respect for authority and truth. Speech is the gift of culture that separates humanity from the animal world, therefore words are especially values. To lie is to forsake the word. Moreover on a deeper level, the Afrikan reasons that without words, culture would be nonexistent, and without culture humanity would not exist. Consequently rhetorical ethics does not exist in traditional Afrikan society. But in the West, the rhetorical ethics is alive and well—it is part of the European or Western man's system of morality. Or lack thereof. So, don't believe the hype.
Ekimi/Maat is the foundation of Afrikan Thought
Afrikan Cosmology is not philosophy. In our effort to compete with the West, or to address our supposed inferiority and lack of contribution to civilization, we have fallen prey to Western ideological and intellectual dogmatism. Since they laud the merits of philosophy, we have proclaimed that Afrika possessed it. But according to Paulin Hountondji, philosophy is a method and process of critical analysis. He argues that Afrikans do not have philosophy but ethnophilosophy, since Afrikan thought generally conveyed “a world-view that was intangible, eternal, and a closed system originating from the depth of time and admitting of no discourse.”1 It lacked the originality and independence of thought found in Greek philosophy. “True philosophy is a debate, a pluralistic discourse, in which different interlocutors question one another within a generation, or from one generation to another.” Afrikan thought (ethnophilosophy) Hountondji considers a sort of tribal thought characterized by a lack of universal application and authoritarianism.
Hountondji is both correct and incorrect in his assessment. He is incorrect to assume that any system of philosophy can be universal as each is derived from a unique and specific cultural experience. Anyanwu reminds us that no philosophy should make a claim to universality. He explains, “If we accept that every culture interprets its experiences with different assumptions, theories, and concepts, we must admit the plurality of cultural philosophical systems. Following the same line of argument, we must also accept that no cultural philosophical system can claim to be applicable to all cultures.” Hountondji is also incorrect in his view that Afrikan thought (cosmology) is a “closed system,” because it does incorporated new knowledge, but into its already existing foundation, one, which is, based on microcosmicism and anthropocentrism, the mainstay concepts of Afrikan cosmology. Hountondji is correct about the cosmological systems as “originating from the depth of time and admitting of no discourse” if by “depth of time” he means that a society throughout its longevity compiled and categorized knowledge and by “admitting no discourse” he means an individual’s untested, egocentric or idealistic opinion was considered unworthy of incorporation or debate. Unlike philosophy, Afrikan thought is not based on the ideas of any one individual, such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha but transcended the individual and simple human intellection, and is based on the collective experience of the people passed down generationally through various cultural institutions protected by society’s elders.
Cosmology is a system that assumes there is one underlying pattern that is comprehensible, hierarchical, cyclical, and perpetual. As these qualities are unchanging, they establish the ordered patterns of the diverse cycles of mineral “life,” plant life, animal life, human life, and planetary cycles. The knowledge ascertained from the various life elements or forces is integrated into a unitary worldview that is synthesized into myths, proverbs, customs, artifacts, architecture, and art forms. Only information confirmed by observations and insights derived from the cycles and life patterns were considered knowledge and integrated into cosmology.
Philosophy cannot lead us to our restoration. Look at the history of the West. His philosophical worldview has led the world astray, so to continue to follow him is pure folly. Using history as a measure, we must conclude that Western man will not change, for to do so would require him to address the ills of the world, most of which he has caused — and at the expense of other races and Nature itself. In fact this modern period may be providing Northern man with his best overall existence, therefore why should he seek to change anything? Furthermore, his narcissism/cultural chauvinism based on his sciences and notions of progress and evolution may never allow him to submit to the laws of Nature (sharing). His theories and sciences are based on struggles against Nature — a social Darwinism — hence to submit to it would signal defeat, or worst, that his civilization was superfluous and predicated on a defective worldview that he plans to maintain irrespective of any Age or consequence.
Viewing Northern man from a traditional Afrikan perspective and historiographical experience, he is intolerant, dangerous, disrespectful to himself, his mother, his ancestors, shows little or no regard for his children; one whose lack of character development disqualifies him from exercising any kind of responsible authority. Consequently, Afrikan people (of any precessional Age) have no alternative but to arrest leadership from him. This means Afrikan people, who have suffered tremendously at his hands, must renew and champion an Afrikan- engineered harmonizing worldview inclusive of the Maatian values of truth, justice, righteousness, and reciprocity. Not Shariah law, Judaic law, Roman law, or any oppressor-concocted law. We must return to the science of the soul, formulating cosmologies based on imagination, intuition, reason, and empirical information, and validation through not only mechanical technologies but also through the astral body (the double). The self order must again be the basis of the world order and we must see the world order in the self. The deities, ancestors, divination, and sacrifice must be reincorporated into life’s experiences. Be aware, more so, that by Afrikan tradition we don’t mean wanton, mysterious, phantasmic flights into fantasy, witchcraft, superstition, spells, nihilism, debauchery, buggery, wickedness and spiritual mischief.
Only living according to our own worldview and culture can we live bountiful, meaningful, and honorific lives. Our days of glory have down spiraled since the 15th century. We must all the more consciously plan our future, establishing benchmarks that would concretely measure our ascension. Our agenda must accomplish several goals, paramount among them our survival as a racial group, the control of our collective destiny, and the imaging of ourselves as competitive on the world stage, bringing something new into a world in need of something new. What testament to our heroism and historic greatness! Our present world situation looks quite paradoxical. We have withstood enslavement and colonialism only to now in “freedom” reach a point where our demise is conceivable. This challenge dictates that we act now! Marcus Garvey’s visionary eloquence does provide us a poignant rallying invocation. He fittingly declared, “Our success, educationally, industrially and politically is based upon the protection of a nation founded by ourselves. And the nation can be nowhere else but in Africa.” In our case, a United States of Afrika will be born through Pan-Afrikanism and will be successful if based on the Afrikan worldview. We place ourselves at the center of this world. “Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will.”
Part 2 of 2: Islamic Slavery in Afrika
Dan Fodio wanted to reduce taxes, rid the land of corruption, and raise the status of women. My question is, "Has Islam brought lower taxes, less corruption, and an elevated status to Nigeria or Afrika in general?" No, it has not. When I was in Abuja, Nigeria, I was shocked to see that it was the Hausa women that were the main prostitutes. Moreover, I was equally shocked to hear that the area of the country where homosexual acts were the most prevalent (reported) was in the north, Hausa-Fulani territory. But these comments are digressions and not based on real data but on observations and hearsay during my short stay there.
Dan Fodio also wanted to establish laws that facilitated trade and commerce. This he was successful at, as he enhanced the economy of the Sokoto Caliphate by instituting large-scale slavery via jihad. We often speak of jihad in a vacuum. We separate it from its logical outcome--the enslavement of the non-believer. In adopting Islam, Afrikan Muslims accepted the dichtomous/dualistic thinking that governed it. Hence, human beings were reduced to two types: those that by religious decree become enslavers (Muslims) and those by virtue of not believing in Islam (kufr) become the enslaved (traditionalists). Islamic expansion produced jihadic slavery and the Sokoto Caliphate became one of the largest slave societies in Afrikan history. In regards to dan Fodio elevating the status of women, the majority of the enslaved within the Caliphate were women, who were sexually exploited through concubinage.
Some scholars have argued that the Caliphate had a mixed economy, with a significant number of slaves (largely owned by the aristocracy and wealthy merchants) who worked on plantations, and a considerable segment of free-born people who worked on individual/family farms. However, a number of scholars argue that the Caliphate was a slave society. Philip Curtin has demonstrated that after the establishment of the Caliphate the quantities of the enslaved increased. Between 1750 and 1900, it has been estimated that from one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of enslaved people. In the 19th century, the population of the Sokoto Caliphate was half-enslaved and Adu Boahen's research also demonstrates that the Caliphate was an important source of slaves entering the Arab Trans-Saharan trade. When British rule was first imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate and the surrounding areas in northern Nigeria at the turn of the 20th century, approximately 2 million to 2.5 million people there were enslaved. Slavery in northern Nigeria was finally outlawed in 1936.
The Sokoto State employed a slave system not based on traditional patterns of domestic servitude but adopted its system fully-formed from the Islamic tradition. Slavery in the Islamic world was a highly developed institution sanctioned by the Qu'ran, the Hadith, and Shari'a. The Sokoto State used the enslaved as administrators, plantation workers, concubines, soldiers, and in various other capacities within the Caliphate, at the same time, it provided enslaved Afrikans for the Arabs Trans-Saharan slave trade and to a lesser extent traders involved in the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Paul Lovejoy has contended that favorable exchange rates for cowries in areas nearer the coast may have provided an impetus for merchants to export slaves south.
The reader might ask, "But weren't traditional Afrikan societies, meaning non-Muslim, also involved in enslaving other Afrikan societies?" Yes, but traditionalists did not have doctrines or holy documents that sanctioned, justified, and systematized slavery. The relationship of war captives in Afrikan traditional societies was transformed through two large scale processes: the Arab slave trade, and the European slave trade. In traditional society, domestic servitude was a result of debt, crime, or war. These individuals were not traded until the Arabs introduced the practice and it became a small but growing part of Afrikan economies. Walter Rodney identified that there was also no slavery or significant domestic servitude in early European accounts of the Upper Guinea coast. I. A. Akinjogbin contends that European accounts reveal that the slave trade was not a major activity along the coast controlled by the Yoruba and Aja before Europeans arrived.
With the beginning of the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade, demand for slavery in West and Central Afrika increased and a number of traditional states became centered on the trade and domestic slavery increased dramatically as well. Still, it would not be until late in the 18th and early 19th centuries that traditional societies (non-Muslim) engaged in wholesale slave raiding. Initially a number of traditional societies tried to resist the slave trade but eventually economic forces prevailed forcing them into the market for their economic and cultural survival. An example would be the Mossi Kingdoms, which tried to take over key sites in the Arab Trans-Saharan trade and, when these efforts failed, they became defenders against slave raiding, only to eventually enter the trade in the 1800s now with the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade as their market.
However, in the case of the Islamic states, the idea of jihad and slavery were mutually inclusive and a system of enslavement closely followed conversion. Afrikan Islamic societies had been involved in the trade much earlier as the Sokoto Caliphate was not without precedence. The Mali and Songhai Empires though their wealth was derived primarily from the gold and salt trade, these societies became part and parcel of the Arab slave trade after their conversion. And other Afrikan Muslim states were part of this slaving network as well such as Bornu, Wadai, Dar Fur, Sennar, and Futa Jallon.
This suggests that the coming of Islam to Afrika, even before the advent of the Europeans, already had a pejorative effect on traditional Afrikan societies. To put the role of Islam and jihadic slavery in context, I offer the following facts: Arab Muslims began the slave trade; the Arab slave trade lasted for approximately 1500 years; they had two networks, the Trans-Saharan and the Trans-Indian trades; in some areas of North Afrika, Arab Islamic slavery still exists; and Islam never developed a well-organized abolition movement, as the Qur'an, the Hadith, and Shari'a have enshrined slavery. Moreover, it would be the Islamic slave trade whether conducted by Arabs or Afrikans that would exacerbate the Afrikan system. And naturally Afrikan Muslims states targeted traditional states. Sometimes Muslim states would require non-Muslim vassal states to pay their tribute with captives. Often times traditional states would find themselves attacked by Afrikan Muslims on one side, and European slave agents/Afrikan states on the other.
Although Muslims will laud the merits of Usman dan Fodio, many perceiving his jihad movement as a religious obligation, and viewing him as a mujaddid (reformer), as a force for good; but for me as a traditionalist, his legacy is bad if not plain old ugly.
Part 1 of 2: The founding of the Sokoto Caliphate
The principal reformer of Islam in Hausaland in Northern Nigeria, Usman dan Fodio, a Fulani, founded an Islamic empire at the beginning of the 19th century. Born in the Hausa state of Gobir, in what is now northwestern Nigeria, dan Fodio descended from the Toronkawa clan, which had emigrated from Futa-Toro in Senegal about the 15th century. While he was still young, he moved south with his family to Degel, where he studied the Qurʾan with his father. Subsequently he moved on to other scholar relatives, traveling from teacher to teacher in the traditional way and reading extensively in the Islamic sciences. He and his brother Abdullahi received a thorough education in Arabic, and Islamic law and theology, and by 1774 he began his career as an itinerant preacher and teacher. One powerful intellectual and religious influence at this time was his teacher in the southern Saharan city of Agadez, Jibrīl ibn ʿUmar, a radical figure whom dan Fodio respected and through whom he was admitted to the Qādirī and other Ṣufi orders.
About 1774–75 dan Fodio began his active life as a teacher, and for the next 12 years he combined study with peripatetic teaching and preaching in Kebbi and Gobir, followed by a further five years in Zamfara. Dan Fodio wrote more than a hundred books concerning religion, government, culture, and society. His writings addressed what he saw as the flaws and demerits of the traditional Afrikan and the nominally Afrikan Muslim leadership. He was critical of corruption at various levels of administration along with injustice regarding ordinary people's rights. He criticized the heavy taxation and obstruction to the business and trade of the Hausa states. He felt the existing Afrikan Muslim elites was greedy, and commingled paganism and Islam, in violation of Shari'a law.
During the 1790s, dan Fodio was allowed to establish a separate community at Degel, where he felt he would establish a model community. His teacher, Jibril ibn 'Umar, argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society free from oppression and vice. However, starting in 1797–98 the Sultan Nafata, realizing dan Fodio’s community represented a state within the state, reversed his liberal policies. In 1802, the ruler of Gobir Yunfa, who was a former student of dan Fodio's, turned against him and attempted to assassinate him. In 1808, Yunfa would be killed by the jihadis as they seized Gobir.
Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands of Gudu. There, he was proclaimed the Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the Faithful), and acting as both political as well as religious leader, he declared and pursued a jihad, raising an army. His jihad against Gobir was only the beginning of a political and social revolution, which spread from Hausaland throughout modern Nigeria and Cameroon, and reverberated across West Afrika. This was the jihadist movement led by the Fulani. Dan Fodio's army was largely composed of Fulani nomads, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry, and the Hausa peasantry whose economic and social oppression by their rulers made them willing allies. Launched in 1804, the jihad lasted for six years, and had several purposes: it was meant to revive and purify Islam; to eliminate syncretist beliefs and rituals; to remove all innovations contrary to the Qurʾan and Shari'a; and to reduce taxation and remove trade restrictions. This religious revolution had political outcomes--it united the Hausa states under Shari'a and by 1812 the Hausa and lesser states became part of the Islamic State known as the Caliphate of Sokoto.
Despite dan Fodio religious fanaticism or devotion, depending on perspective, his understanding of Islam was not strictly based on Arab culture. We know this because dan Fodio's teachings encouraged literacy and scholarship among men as well as women and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers. Hence the misogyny of Arab culture did not invade dan Fodio interpretation of Islam. But to assume this is only partly true. Because the dualism in Islamic thought allowed him to make a clear distinction between Muslim and non-Muslims and his teachings only applied to Muslims. All those that refuse to submit were subject to what the Qurʾan prescribed for them--enslavement. Unfortunately with jihad comes slavery--that has been the history of Islam elsewhere so why would we expect it to be otherwise in Afrika.
Even dan Fodio's elevation of the status of women applied to Muslim women only--under the Sokoto State, which was a slave state, more than half of the enslaved were females (who according to the Qurʾan can be sexual exploited). So despite dan Fodio admirable qualities, his erudition, his piety, his faith, as a Muslim he accepted the Qurʾan, Hadith, and Shari'a, all of which would result in dire consequently for the Afrikans that refused to submit to Islam. As a practitioner of traditional Afrikan spirituality, I have a problem when assessing the role of Usman dan Fodio in West Afrikan history. Dan Fodio was the father of the jihadist movement that attacked traditional societies, established a slave society, exploited women, all based on dissociated worldview of Arabs. To Muslims he is often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. Some followers consider dan Fodio to have been a mujaddid, a divinely inspired "reformer of Islam". But as a historian, a Pan Afrikanist, an Afrocentric teacher, and a follower of traditional Afrikan spirituality, my view of him is at odds with theirs. How can it be otherwise?
Anthropology and the games it plays
Hamitic is a linguistic classification. Allegedly, the Hamitic language provided the foundation for several ancient languages: Old Egyptian, Coptic, and Lybic. An example of contemporary Hamitic speakers, are the Berbers, who speak Kabyle and Tuareg. However, several Afrikan linguists, particularly, Diop and Obenga, have proven that Old Egyptian and Coptic belong to the Afrikan family of languages. Moreover, to classify a race based on language seems dishonest. At one point, when groups existed in isolation, this was possible. However, once an environment becomes culturally diverse, and there is cultural interchange over long durations, this becomes less likely. The area of the world where so-called Hamitic originated, Western Asia, was the melting pot of the ancient world. This was a “zone of confluence” according to Diop. In this area of the world, it was possible to have any skin color and speak any language. Many non-Greeks adopted Greek during the Hellenistic era, just as the enslavement of Afrikan people by Europeans has forced them to adopt the language of our enslavers. Can we identify the millions of people of Afrikan ancestry that speak English as members of the “English race”?
Here’s a story that is never told to children in American classrooms: it is the story of where the Southern people came from, who never landed on Plymouth Rock, who never celebrated “Thanksgiving” with the Indians, and who never came here to “celebrate diversity” or because they believed in some absurd utopian notion like “racial equality” or because of “freedom” or some other nonsense of that nature.
It’s the true story of how “the master race,” America’s aristocracy, came from England to Barbados to the wash up on the beach in the American Southeast to lay the foundation of Dixie in Charleston:
The founding fathers of the Deep South arrived by sea, their ships dropping anchor off what is now Charleston in 1670 and 1671. Unlike their counterparts in Tidewater, Yankeedom, New Netherland, and New France, they had not come directly from Europe. Rather, they were the sons and grandsons of the founders of an older English colony: Barbados, the richest and most horrifying society in the English-speaking world.
The society they founded in Charleston did not seek to replicate rural English manor life or to create a religious utopia in the American wilderness. Instead, it was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity. Enormously profitable to those who controlled it, this unadulterated slave society would spread rapidly across the lowlands of what is now South Carolina, overwhelming the utopian colony of Georgia and spawning the dominant culture of Mississippi, lowland Alabama, the Louisiana delta country, Eastern Texas and Arkansas, western Tennessee, north Florida, and the southeastern portion of North Carolina. From the outset Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.
In the late seventeenth century, Barbados was the oldest, richest, and most densely populated colony of British North America. Wealth and power were concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy of acquisitive, ostentatious plantation owners. These great planters had earned a reputation throughout the British Empire for immorality, arrogance, and excessive displays of wealth. Founder John Dickinson later dismissed them as “cruel people … a few lords vested with despotic power over myriad vassals supported in pomp by their slavery.” Another visitor declared, “For sumptuous homes, clothes, and liberal entertainment, they cannot be exceeded by the Mother Kingdom itself.” Said a third, “The gentry here doth live far better than do ours in England.” They bought knighthoods and English estates for themselves, sent their children to English boarding schools, and filled their homes with the latest and most expensive furnishings, fashions, and luxury goods. …
This was the culture that spawned Charleston and, by extension, the Deep South. Unlike the other European colonies of the North American mainland, South Carolina was a slave society from the outset. Established by a group of Barbadian planters, “Carolina in ye West Indies” was, by its very founding charter, a preserve of the West Indian slave lords. Written by John Locke, the charter provided that a planter would be given 150 acres for every servant or slave he brought to the colony; soon a handful of Barbadians owned much of the land in lowland South Carolina, creating an oligarchy worthy of the slaves states of ancient Greece. The leading planters brought in enormous numbers of slaves, so many that they almost immediately formed a quarter of the colony’s population. The slaves were put to work cultivating rice and indigo for export to England, a trade that made the large planters richer than anyone in the colonial empire save their counterparts in the West Indies. By the eve of the American Revolution, per capita wealth in the Charleston area would reach a dizzying 2,338 pounds, more than quadruple that of Tidewater and almost six times higher than that of either New York or Philadelphia. The vast majority of this wealth was concentrated in the hands of South Carolina’s ruling families, who controlled most of the land, trade, and slaves. The wealthy were extraordinarily numerous, comprising a quarter of the white population at the end of the colonial period. “We are a country of gentry,” one resident proclaimed in 1773; “We have no such thing as a Common People among us.” Of course, this statement ignored the lower three quarters of the white population and the enslaved black majority, who by that time comprised 80 percent of the lowland population. …
Not wishing to idle away their time on their sweltering plantations, the planters built themselves a city where they could enjoy the finer things in life. Charleston – “Charles Town” until the revolution – quickly became the wealthiest town on the eastern seaboard. It resembled Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, with its fine townhouses painted in pastel colors, adorned with tiled roots and piazzas and built along streets covered in crushed seashells. Unlike Williamsburg or St. Mary’s City, Charleston was a vibrant city, for the planters spent as much time there as possible, leaving the day-to-day management of their estates to hired overseers. They filled their city with distractions: theaters; punch houses; taverns; brothels; cock-fighting rings; private clubs for smoking, dining, drinking, and horse racing; and shops stocked with fashionable imports from London. Like the nouveaux riches everywhere, they were fixated on acquiring appropriate status symbols and followed the latest fashions and customs of the English gentry with a dedication that startled visitors. “Their whole lives are one continued race,” one resident wrote, “in which everyone is endeavoring to distance all behind them and to overtake and pass all before him.”
Like Tidewater’s aristocracy, many of the planters hand ancestors who had fought for the king in the English Civil War, and they embraced the trappings and symbolism of the British nobility, if not the social responsibilities that were supposed to attend them. Thrilled by the end of Puritan rule at home, they hand named Carolina and Charleston for the restored king, Charles II. The Barbadian-born aristocracy trumpted their genetic association with English knights and nobles by displaying coats of arms on their imported French porcelain. These often including the heraldic symbol for a younger son: a crescent moon tilted with the horns to the wearer’s right. This device was later incorporated into the South Carolinian flag and worn as an emblem on the uniforms of its revolutionary-era military forces, loyalist and rebel alike.
While not particularly religious, the planters embraced the Anglican Church as another symbol of belonging to the establishment. Locke’s charter for the colony had guaranteed freedom of religion – Sephardic Jews and French Huguenots emigrated to the region in great numbers – but the elite overturned these provisions in 1700, giving themselves a monopoly on church and state offices. Their Anglican religious orientation also gave the Deep South elite unfettered access to London high society and the great English universities and boarding schools, milieus generally denied to Puritans, Quakers, and other dissenters. Whether English or French in origin, the Deep South’s planters would also come to embrace the Tidewater gentry’s notion of being descended of the aristocratic Normans, lording over their colony’s crass Anglo-Saxon and Celtic underclass. …
By the middle of the eighteenth century, black people faced Barbardian-style slave laws everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Western ideas color our conscious and unconscious thoughts to such a degree that even when we think we are safe in sleep, we dream Western dreams. Western likes and dislikes, phobias and prejudices, aesthetics and values, including sexual appetites, are presented to the world as universal standards. Thus Western or European (inclusive of white America) cultural chauvinism imposes upon the entire world its political, economic, religious and social systems as the only legitimate forms worthy of investigation, study and practice.
Western dualism pits Western man against every other member of the human family: Human historical records demonstrate his level of “inhumanity to man” remains unsurpassed by “others.” Considering the devastation the European visits and has visited upon the people of this planet, if he does encounter life on other planets, we pity their denizens. Western dichotomous logic especially contraposes Western man against the race he perceives as his genetic opposite, the Afrikan. This form of “logic” compounded with the European-created concept of race dictates that if the white race is the most superior, then, “logi- cally,” their racial opposite—the black race—must be the most inferior.
Dichotomous thinking always reductionistically distorts reality. An early justification for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the creation of a “Negro myth” by which Europeans decided that a branch of human- ity (the Afrikan) was “subhuman,” and subsequently in need of enslavement for their own good (development). Distorting human history by making fiction into “fact,” the “Negro myth” was so effective that it worked on the psyche of whites and blacks alike, creating superiority complexes in dominant whites and subordinate complexes in blacks. In an attempt to undo the damage incurred by this Eurocen- tric imposition we must fundamentally reorient our thinking, reexamine and redefine words, understanding and concepts, replacing those that we find offensive and harmful wherever necessary.
One of the biggest mistakes we as Afrikans can continue to make is to persist in following the Western philosophical/intellectual tradition. It encourages individualism, egocentrism, divisiveness, and most importantly, the reliance on a flaw methodological approach to the acquisition or attainment of knowledge, one based on their historical experience and worldview. Our tradition was predicated on cosmology; a system based on the ordered patterned of the various cycles of life forces (plant life, animal life, human life, planetary cycles, mineral properties, etc.), all integrated into a unitary worldview that synthesized our acquired knowledge with our cultural traditions, customs, artifacts, architecture, and art forms. The human being was perceived as a microcosm of existence and served as the model for cosmology. Unlike philosophy, our thinking was not based on the ideas of any one individual, such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha but transcended human intellection and was based on the collective experience of the people passed down generationally through the knowledge protected by the heads of shrines houses, associations of healers, chief diviners, elders of initiation societies, master craftsmen, the king's handlers, and societies of secrets. It was a unitary knowledge based on microcosmicism and anthropocentrism. Our system(s) never deviated from these premises. This is our truth!
Afrikan systems of knowledge were not open to philosophical debate. Knowledge was formulated using microcosmicism and anthropocentrism, ascertained and corroborated in trance or through divination, and confirmed by experience. Only knowledge put through these rigors was integrated into cosmology or considered valid. Afrikan thought never turned into a debate or pluralistic discourse; it remained a wholistic, intuitive methodology that inspired a balanced existence relying on time tested, practical experiences and knowledge derived therefrom. One reason the Dogon cosmology speaks with such certainty is its basis is incontestable. The Dogon, like other Afrikan people, use the observed laws of nature and the totality of human life and experience as foundations for their cosmological knowledge. Since the foundations of cosmology are constants, there will be little to no ideological or methodological variation within the reservoir of accumulated societal knowledge. Whereas philosophy lends itself to disagreement and debate, cosmology leaves little for such divergences, because it always remains true to plant, animal, human, environmental, and astrological cycles and patterns. As these patterns do not change based on human perception or intellection, nor does cosmology. Moreover, these patterns and cycles have remained consistent from time immemorial and form the basis of what the people of Kemet called Maat.
History has shown that Afrikan people have lived harmonious wholistic lives; whereas, history has also shown that Europeans have never lived wholistically. While all people throughout their histories have sporadically exhibited extreme behaviors, behavioral extremities are cultural norms for European societies. Europeans lack a period they can look back to, to establish as a precedent for living wholistically. Afrikan people must completely reject the Western worldview, Western culture, and the Western conception of the human being. Therefore we can not look to them for guidance—we must look to ourselves. Humans originally identified based on culture and since cultures differed, people naturally viewed themselves as different. Racial unity was nonexistent prior to the European’s creation of the concept of race. However, today humans are divided into racial groups. Europeans are perhaps the most unified race while Afrikans are among, if not the most disunited. Our apparent lack of racial unity obstructs our development as other races feed on our disunity. But we do have a genuine basis for unity. Though Afrikan cultures are differ, and our enemies love to point this out, Afrikan cultures share the same worldview assumptions and cultural intentionalities. Thus, our worldview assumptions, and our unique racial history at the hands of other races, are two of the most powerful rallying points for Afrikan racial unity. Unity, which has always been a theme within Afrikan cultures, our shared history and our racial survival, dictates that we develop Pan-Afrikanism. Pan Afrikanism must become the eternal theme of Afrikan existence; it must be instrumental in the development of global Black Power. Pan-Afrikan unity cannot simply be a territorial unity but ought to express the solidarity of Afrikan people based on our distinctive racial, cultural, linguistic and historical identity; it must offer means for Diasporan inclusiveness and participation; it must provide for the collective security and ultimate survival of Afrikan people. We must champion it with a passion that exceeds European cultural chauvinism, modern Zionism, and Asian ethnocentrism. But in order for our Pan-Afrikanism to be real, it must be Afrikan centered based on the Afrikan worldview and cosmology.