Sunday, September 27, 2020

Africans should discard their “laager mentality”

Owing to institutionalised self-esteem crisis, mentally confused Africans get trapped in their “laager mentality” as and when they’re asked to see themselves in the mirror, and eliminate their disabling limitations. Instead of engaging in dramatic self-correction, they desperately destroy the mirror and irresponsibly commit self-deceit. Former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings has earnestly urged them to abolish this endemic habit by recognising and squarely confronting their internal confusions.

By the “laager mentality” I mean some Africans’ irresistible tendency to always profusely argue for and vehemently defend self-imposed troubles, claiming they’re displaying indomitable gallantry and patriotism. This persistent syndrome is typically exhibited by Brink Ramoleele (Sunday Standard 16-22 December 2007). The emotional escalation evident in his disturbingly casual and wishy-washy response was sparked off by my “do Africans like sex?”(Midweek Sun October 17, 2007). Surprisingly, he atrociously distorted my critique. He even likened my comments to those of Dr. James Watson, a hugely controversial geneticist who has unequivocally pronounced the whites as naturally more intelligent than the Blacks. Patently, Watson’s artificial and self-serving theoretical formulations on intelligence are firmly premised on false genetic explanations, and are perturbingly contentious.

Disappointingly, Ramoleele, the educationist, rushed headlong into lecturing me about multiple intelligences, a basic subject I teach to psychology students. But my comments had nothing to do with intelligence and creativity. The difference in performance between the Blacks and Whites is fundamentally cultural and not genetic. But the Blacks’ culture can’t help them to catch up with the Whites. Even if they endeavour to succumb to the predatory western culture, they would still fumble, falter and fail as they’re not thoroughly conversant with the white man’s cultural system. Regrettably, the Black man’s plight is complicated by the fact that he’s not only black; the complex and dynamic processes of white colonialism and capitalist globalisation have disadvantageously confined him to the most disorganising identity crisis, which causes him to foolishly mimic the Whites.

Fantz Fanon urges the Blacks to establish clear and coherent self-identity. My favourite young African patriot, Gilbert Sesinyi, understands the psychological and political significance of this point as he notes, “nothing is more important than the rebuilding of the Black man’s self-image”. But Kofi Hadjor and Ngugi wa Thion’go contend that if rebuilding the African identity merely means elevating traditional African thought and imagination without embarking on the radical-transformative decolonisation of the Africans’ distorted mind, no real empowerment would materialise. But I still stress that the Blacks’ ongoing cultural emasculation doesn’t mean they’re intellectually inferior. There’s still an unliberated giant within us! Rawlings has eloquently confirmed this: “There’s no difference between the white man and the black man, none whatsoever! It’s just that the white man takes himself a little more seriously.”

On account of reading and analytical incompetence, Ramoleele also raised other annoyingly fallacious assumptions. He ignorantly labelled me a Black Basher and prophet of doom. I candidly acknowledge beneficial criticism from people with foresight, wisdom and genuine commitment to Africa. And I enthusiastically challenge my compatriots to integrate and apply criticism in a manner that motivates the Blacks to acquire integrity, respect, dignity and honour. As a public intellectual, I’m profoundly interested in Africans’ destiny. And I categorically reject narrow infantile academism. I can’t afford to be the voice of gloom and doom. Ineluctably, my ontological vocation requires that I consistently maintain an overwhelming positive mental outlook.

Ramoleele’s disrespectfully flippant proposal that I should research about the “African malaise” is provokingly irrelevant. Serious people don’t do research for fun. They only research about phenomena they don’t understand. The “African malaise” has been over-researched. Unfortunately, the absence of moral-ethical reorientation means that even if the Africans fully know their predicament, lack of constancy of purpose and moral indiscipline hinder them from engaging in a positive revolution. Hence, most of the research done in Africa has not bridged the gap between theory and action.

On the issue of sexual behaviour, Ramoleele should acknowledge that the intractable structures of traditional and capitalist patriarchy in Africa perpetrate promiscuity and other forms of heartbreaking sexual immorality. If he were a committed patriot, he would’ve been outraged by the meteoric rise of sexual terrorism against women and girls in the SADC region. He has falsely claimed that there is no plausible theory to support my problematisation of the blacks’ sexual habits. No authentic educationist can display this magnitude of theoretical bankruptcy. Genetically speaking, the Blacks and Whites don’t differ when it comes to libido (sexual energy). But from a psychoanalytic vantage point, Africa’s harsh underdevelopment means the blacks lack enough opportunities to convert their sexual energy into productive undertakings. Hence, I still confidently maintain that in this precarious HIV-AIDS era, African governments should ambitiously correct glaring socio-economic inequities. They should expand resources, opportunities and services to ensure that people in the margins are brought into the economic mainstream. We shouldn’t just complacently depend on the ARVs and sterile exhortations like the ABC theory.

The “culturised” preoccupation with sexual needs among the Africans can also be explained in terms of Abraham Maslow’s psychology of motives. Because the corrupted African elite has remorselessly deprived the masses of the right to unleash their self-actualising potential, multitudes of Africans are mentally trapped at the level of basic needs, including sex. In Botswana we’ve been praised for our amazingly high consumption of condoms. And yet, HIV infections are still tragically high. The implication is that we don’t use condoms consistently. Or due to sexual illiteracy, we don’t use them correctly. Owing to the ubiquitous sense of disappointment, frustration and fatalism enveloping our continent, many Africans use sex to regain a false sense personal power. Unless Africa produces responsible, patriotic and morally upright leadership corps, with huge ambitions for the neglected peasantry, the unemployed and the rest of the “discarded people”, the appalling status quo would stubbornly persist.
Indisputably, massive poverty has catastrophically eroded the Africans’ self-esteem. Self-esteem is about how people evaluate their worth. It’s a vital ingredient of the self-concept.

Self-esteem deficiency results in those who feel worthless helplessly resorting to obsequiousness. Thus, even though the Blacks have been endowed with the same potentialities, talents and capabilities possessed by the conquering races, the incapacitating epidemic of self-doubt has painfully relegated the Africans to perpetual inferiority, selfÔÇôrejection and mutual sabotage. In actuality, their permanent desire to defend even their most conspicuous limitations is hugely a consequence of this debilitating poverty of self-esteem. They unabashedly sink their heads in the sand as a psychological coping mechanism meant to make them feel better without eradicating fundamental sources of their excruciating quandary.

Ramoleele’s overtly atavistic assertions would irk many proud Africans. At a crucial time when Africa is widely expected to measure up, he tacitly roots for a retrograde step by pessimistically endorsing the white man as insurmountable: “it’s high time the Blacks stop apologising for not inventing the car, the aeroplane or producing nuclear bombs”. Throughout his intellectually lazy, stale and myopic analysis, he couldn’t even reveal any strengths the Blacks should retain. Nor did he identify any weaknesses the Blacks should surmount. Rawlings says Africa won’t move forward if the Africans lack self-liberating self-awareness, and don’t know how to protect their strengths and contain their weaknesses.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.