When someone controls what goes into your mind, they can do of you what they want. It is Steve Biko who once said that, “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” In line with this understanding, Patrick Mbeko, author of “Canada in the wars in Central Africa,” shares with his readers the following views on the meaning of a certain vocabulary. The original note was in French and appeared initially on the writer’s facebook pages. I translated it for the benefit of English speakers.
“If I die tomorrow, it is because a White man will have armed a Black man.”
I discuss with one of my lecturers. We were talking of international news. Worse, I address a question related to the “American regime”. My teacher replies: “How come you call it U.S. regime? You mean the U.S. administration? “I say,” Yes, I mean the American regime. “” I’m not following you,” he says and adds: “Are you referring to the U.S. government, I mean, the Obama administration?” I insist, “yes, that regime.” And he retorted, “but look Patrick, you cannot call that a regime.”
I mention this anecdote to draw particular attention to the importance of words. Because words and expressions we use often have a direct relationship with our state of mind. Thus, it is, for example, normal for Westerners – and some Africans under total influence of the dominant discourse ─ to label as “regimes” certain governments enemies of the West. [That’s how you get] Iranian regime, Syria, China, Russia, Venezuela, etc…
But when we refer to Westerners, we talk about government, or administration, but never “regime.” Presently the buzzword is “terrorist.” Terrorists have particular characteristics: they are Muslims; well when the would-be called terrorist happens to be Western, they are labelled right extremists. That sounds better. The term “terrorist” extends its label to any movement fighting against Western imperialism. For individuals like me who denounce imperialism, for example, they call us “radicals”, or “extremists…”
Why? Because the truth must be, above all [and only], White [or Western]. To the point that we are called all [imaginable] names, though our only sins are of revealing facts that go against the discourse imposed by the [Western] dominant elite. Many Africans know that US and Europe are governed by cynical personalities responsible for the death of millions of people (mostly African), but never an African dares use the word “terrorist” to refer to Bush, Blair, Obama, etc…[Can we assume that when Desmond Tutu refused recently to share a podium with Tony Blair, but instead called for him to be handed to The Hague International Criminal Court for his role in Iraq, he had been one of those daring Africans?]; the dominant vocabulary of the colonizer has defined the limits of acceptable discourse. The Negro has understood and internalized that religiously.
Can we assume that when Desmond Tutu refused recently to share a podium with Tony Blair, but instead called for him to be handed to The Hague International Criminal Court for his role in Iraq, he had been one of those daring Africans?
In contrast, Lumumba, for some of these Africans was mad; Gaddafi, a devil and a terrorist; Bokassa, an albinos’ eater; Hutu as a people, genocidaires, while we never said of all Germans to be Nazis. Latin American leaders such as Chavez, Morales and Correa are “populist” while Obama, even at the peak of his fame in 2008, was never described as such. For Africans, dictators, corrupt leaders and genocidaires only exist in Africa and never in the West. Such devils can only be Black. Haven’t we seen Africans dwell on the supposedly “evil” character of Gaddafi while NATO massacred Libyan women and children? And when addressing a sensitive topic that does not fit with the “masters” discourse, these alienated Africans resort, like their “masters,” to the concept of “Conspiracy Theory.”
For Africans, dictators, corrupt leaders and genocidaires only exist in Africa and never in the West. Such devils can only be black.
They are proud to tell their children that Diego Cao discovered the estuary of the Congo River ─ as if this part of the country did not exist before the arrival of that individual, that Christopher Columbus discovered America ─ as if native Indians did not exist before the arrival of barbarians Europeans. For this category of Africans, the truth can never come from a black person, or simply an African.
Even after the planned cover-up by the West, of the plight of the Congolese people, this since 1996, there are still some Congolese who are offended when you criticize Western imperialist system! As so aptly highlighted by Cheick Anta Diop, “you close your eyes; you ignore [deliberately] the obvious. They count on your complex of inferiority, your alienation, your trained mental readiness, reflexes subordination, and many other such factors. ‘
That is why I am for some, an “extremist,” “anti-Western” and for others, a person who sees evil everywhere! In the subconscious of some Negroes, nobody questions the dominant discourse. I must be silent so as not to pass for an extremist. We live in a world where values have been reversed. So, to be idealistic makes you look crazy. Who we were as a people has been completely deconstructed by Western cultural hegemony whose multiple influences most of us experience day and night. Yesterday anti-values have become today’s norms.
When one denounces excesses of almighty ultra-liberalism, some Africans retract behind the argument that “States have no friends, only interests.” Yes, this is true in a sense, but this assertion in itself is questionable insofar as it justifies the barbaric acts of the same people who deported and enslaved Africans to work in American plantations and later colonized Africa through cunning and violence.
In reality, the argument justifies the unjustifiable. We must ask ourselves some value judgments. Should interests push us to condone genocide and plunder of other nations by the power of money? If yes, then let us keep quiet and stop complaining when these same powers of money steal our wealth and kill our women and children. Father Jean-Pierre Mbelu rightly stressed that “the weight of ignorance and Western cultural hegemony have absolutely conquered several hearts and many minds” among Africans “to the point of enslaving them with all the consequences, including inability to question facts of everyday life.’
Should interests push us to condone genocide and plunder of other nations by the power of money?
The damage is much deeper than people think. It is in us and lives in [and of] us. The African is desperate to relieve his corrupted conscience, unconsciously, by resorting to the “masters” discourse.” “If I die tomorrow, once said Lumumba, it is because a White man will have armed a Black man [to kill me].” Yes, he armed him, not only by providing the murder weapon, but also slyly attacking his mind.