Friday, April 15, 2011

Making Africa Safe for the West

Kulundi Serumaga has written a thought provoking article entitled "West Makes Ivory Coast Safe for Cocoa"

He writes in part:
 At the heart of this (the fallout in the Ivory Coast) lies that great unmentionable of African politics: Should Africans embrace the artificialities in which they live for the sake of preserving the foreign-owned economies that underpin them, or should they find a way of reasserting their actual identities?
Theoretically his argument is underpinned by an acceptance of the artificiality of the African nation-state.  This artificiality makes the African nation-state a contradiction at best and an incoherent mess at worst.

In effect, the adventures of colonialism and the production of nationalism have ceded (in the vein of Mary Shelley) unworkable (for Africans) Frankensteins that are doomed to exist in contradictory and permanent crisis.

For the colonial master this Frankenstein is not an oversight or a mistake.  It is purposeful.  The post-colonial Frankenstein nation-state is a vehicle for continued resource mining.

So France steps in to 'stabilize' the Ivory Coast and one despot is replaced by another.  The same process (game) has been played over and over again (even in South Africa).

In these terms, as Serumaga points out, the pressing issue (existential question) is whether Africans should continue to fight to keep the Frankenstein relevant/alive.

Most nationalist politics/politicos (produced inside of European colonialism as they were) are occupied with keeping the Frankenstein alive.

Austerity measures, privatization, even democratization, are all derived remedies meant to keep the Frankenstein alive.

But it does not work because the Frankenstein is not real (not viable).  It is a fiction propped up by political myths that serve the masters who put it together on the makeshift table of colonialism.

Nothing inside the post-colonial state is untouched.  Fanon called it right in the late 1950s.  Even the politics of consciousness that describe resistance is in effect "parasitic" like sociologist Orlando Patterson might say.

In other words, it does not exist outside of a parasitic relationship (host and parasite).

And so the organic context of what is African and what the African response should be is lost.  Disfigured.

How to reconstruct that return is the next vexing question.

Fanon claimed the peasants to be the reservoir for a politics or organic resistance and return.  Marx called the proletariat the vanguard in Hegelian terms (dialectical materialism).

But who in African politics is above the manipulated Frankenstein that is the post-colonial nation-state with all its derived affectations (mimicries)?

Can we find an authentic African underneath the power politics of the post(s) eras?  I remain confounded and looking to move to outer space - preferably to heaven on a liter motorcycle with Rani Mukerjee riding pillion into eternity ;0)

There are no easy answers and these kind of questions will frustrate the 'real world' types who like just to negotiate imbalances and get the most out of the least we have inherited.

But these are enduring and pressing questions that brought DuBois and Nkrumah to the 1945 Manchester Conference to ask what a post-World War II Africa would/should look like.

Despite the failure(s) of Panaficanism and the contrived nonsense of Mbeki's 'renaissance' the questions stand.

And they stand because ... well because we are still not free.



Kweli said...

Ok, that Rani Mukerjee bit is hilarious.
On a serious note, you've touched on something I've been ranting about for years now: the partial citizenship of the African in relation to the nation state. Partial citizenship because the oligarchs running the state care more about foreign business interest within their borders.

Which brings me to Kenya in the year 2006: the government is trying to run a patriotism campaign. The goal? To get Kenyans saying "najivunia kuwa Mkenya" (I am proud to be Kenyan). Almost immediately the hottest selling T-shirts in Nairobi become those with slogans such as:
nasikitika kuwa Mkenya (I regret being a Kenyan);
navumilia kuwa Mkenya (I persevere being Kenyan);
naumia kuwa Mkenya (I suffer as a Kenyan) etc.

And on to some bad (and unrelated) news: the American embassy in Kenya is reportedly funding Kenyan youth in a bid to get more youth-leadership in positions of power. Of course, they are also funding the cronies in power to keep things the same. But this funding reminds me of something strange at American colleges: students are taught how to think critically. Now, call me cynical, but I have my doubts about being "taught" how to think critically. Who is setting the goals of critical thought here?

Ridwan said...

Hi Kweli:

Great to hear from you brother.

Excellent comment. Thanks kindly.

I like the visual you paint. Oligarchs minding the shop (the state) for the massa (Western interests).

We sound cynical but then we live here ... know the score.

It is a big scam this post-colonial nationalism.

When I was teaching at your university I pressed the bit about critical thinking and as you know the gatekeepers found me undesirable (my critical did not suit their values).

You are right on that score too.

I trust you are well my brother.

Thanks for looking in.

Peace and struggle,