The roots of African self-hate

The roots of African self-hate

When the post-colonial discussions began in earnest, works of literature such as Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness were denigrated as being improper, as works that misrepresented the authentic ethos of what the African individual is like as a human being. It could have been a wrong perception, but the basic argument is that Conrad travelled extensively into the depths of Africa and it is therefore wrong for him to be considered a spectator. This writer had followed the basic rules of writing to the tee; starting first with observing, internalising, and then penning that which he had seen.
There was nothing wrong with his account, what is wrong is the fact that the postcolonial critic has the tendency to look for scapegoats when it comes to defining the problems of the continent and other previously colonised regions. Now that independence has been got and the old scapegoat has been stripped of power, the questions remain: who is to blame now for the problems of the African continent? In fact, how can the present-day atrocities, malpractices, tribal divisions, racism, xenophobia, criminality and outright heinous acts of hate be defined now that the old scapegoat is no more? Will the African wake up and question him or herself on reasons why they have become the creature they are now panning out to be?
It is a problem if one is always right, it is a malady of gargantuan proportions when the individual is self-righteous, and it is dangerous when the masses are led by megalomaniac dictators that hold the false notion that they are demi-gods that should be worshipped. Coming back to the individual, does one ever sincerely bother to ask why Africans hate each other so much?
This question comes after careful consideration and observation of the facts on the table done through piecing together the events that are occurring on a daily basis on the continent. It is a fact that Africans never really departed from the cultural divisions the colonist marked in the four centuries colonial rule reigned supreme on the continent: people still look at each other on the basis of clan, tribe, ethnic group, and religious affiliation.
This is what the divide and rule method of the colonist sought to achieve, and it seems the African imbibed it full pint and without question. The escalating levels of violence and skulduggery one sees displayed on the various media platforms and in real life are proof enough that this continent is indeed the heart of darkness as Conrad posited in the novel those many years ago.
From the genocides across the vast span of history, to the endless civil wars, it has always been clear that there was something wrong with us as Africans. Instead of addressing the real problems in terms of our relationships with each other on an individual level, the tendency has however always been to gather in caucuses and conferences to feign patronage with each other.
It does not make sense to gather in conference to discuss societal problems without first finding out what the problem is with the African as an individual. The discussions largely focus on the umbrella problems of hunger, unemployment, welfare, and other perspectives without first trying to address the problem of the individual. This is despite the fact that the acts of cruelty to other human beings are committed or are influenced by the individual from the onset.
This means that the symptoms and not the sources are ever put under scrutiny to the point where real solutions can be found and we thus end up running in circles when it comes to dealing with social problems that balloon out of control to the point where they become national problems. The individual should be the first point of call when the source to the prevailing societal and national problems need to be clarified and understood to get to solutions that will aid the continent to progress. We speak of rising levels of unemployment that cause poverty that leads to crime (which is often the apex level in this pattern of events) but never question the individuals that commit the deeds. It is only the circumstances that led them to committing the crimes that are put forth as the scapegoat in more cases than one.
Whether it be in an industrial action or housebreak, the cause to the crimes committed in terms of the looting and the burning is often blamed on something else other than the human beings that did the crimes. I find this perspective rather hypocritical in its defence of outright criminal characters on the basis of the prevailing circumstances. The question that is logical is: why do other individuals in the same circumstances not commit similar crimes? It was a crime that colonialism used the divide and rule method to colonise an entire continent (excepting Abyssinia/Ethiopia). It is however a crime against the self that the continent is still struggling in the clutches of a divisive mentality propelled by extreme self-interest and stark narcissism.
It is wrong to blame history for the poverty when we know for a fact that we stand by and watch as crimes against humanity in the form of nepotism and corruption are allowed to erode the very fabric and ethos of the African continent and it numerous communities living in abject poverty. The accusers are often from the elite sectors of society who never actually get to taste the bitter fruits of poverty and will never get to know what unemployment means because they are ‘connected’.
The lead mentality on an individual level in this instance rests on the idea that one is ‘entitled’ to the benefits that they enjoy. Entitlement came with colonialism where the colonial authorities would appoint leaders on the basis of compliance. Those who complied were given positions of authority and they reaped the benefits in terms of reward the colonial government dished out.
This class of elites should have ended at the point of independence, but however, the newly-established political class that took the reins of power from the colonial regimes assumed the same attitude the compliant African of the colonial times had. The political elite to this day acts as if they are more entitled to the benefits reaped from economic and other activities. These benefits are split within the group and affiliates, leaving the rest of the majority fighting over scraps.
This leads to a mentality of deep-seated hate amongst the lower classes where one side finds it appropriate to fight for individual reward instead of communal reward. This division in terms of fighting for common interest has advanced to the point where external forces with illicit interests use the divide and rule system in terms of rewards to gain their profits.
The compliant side often declare their hunger as the lead cause to their selling out when it comes to addressing issues of common interest. This automatically leads to a polarised society where one side engage in a bitter struggle with the sell-outs to the common cause that would lead to universal prosperity if it were to be pursued in united effort. The African that sells out declares their hunger in the present without ever bothering to engage the foresight needed to ensure that all will benefit at the end of the struggle.
Being hungry for a day whilst waiting for long term benefit is a sacrifice worth taking, but the ‘hungry’ African ignores this fact and sells their soul for a dime, choosing to forget that the children will in the future be slaves to the marauding ally the parents sold their souls to. The hate bred in this encounter lasts for generations, with one side boasting full pockets given as reward from the loot, and the other bitter that their slavery has been prolonged on the basis of temporary reward.
One has watched the mass industrial action in Lesotho where the apparel industry workers fought for their right to a living wage. Their effort was rewarded with some relief in the form of increased wages and they attained their victory because for a while, they stuck together.
Others in the same industry and the teaching profession are still waiting for the day when their salary increase shall come, and sadly, there seems to be no point of relief in sight. The argument is that the sectors concerned should be grateful for the ‘little that they get,’ and this is said by individuals who live on a level three tiers above lavish who have no care whatsoever for the welfare of others because they never experienced the harsh and squalid conditions those with a little salary live through on a daily basis.
It is uncouth to earn a million and expect another to live on less than a dollar for the same length of time. The new culture where people are threatened with dismissal further worsens the scourge that divide and rule was to the ideals of African societal living before the colonials arrived. Those willing to take the place of individuals fired from their jobs for protesting a low salary or benefits are in blank terms backstabbers whose humanity should be questioned. It is self-hate to hold the notion that one’s rewards should not be questioned, it all boils down to standing in their shoes and asking yourself whether you would take the same stance if you were put in a similar set of circumstances as that which they are experiencing.
They are burning and looting foreign-owned shops and businesses in neighbouring South Africa, and the Minister of Police in that republic sees no xenophobia but criminality in the rampant acts of hate. I choose not to argue with him but to question the government policy that has for the past 25 years bred a sense of entitlement in the previously disadvantaged majority in the state. South Africans seem to hold the notion that the rewards from the economic activities should be delivered to their doorstep without them ever lifting a finger.
The poor migrant shop-owners and émigrés willing to eke a living are falsely accused of stealing jobs and economic positions (even women sometimes) and they are on this false basis attacked. What the South African looter seems to have abruptly forgotten is that the same African and other foreign brother gave them refuge when the dogs of apartheid were hounding them day in and night out.
The stealing of jobs and positions is just a lame excuse for a character that was bred and nurtured by living in the city and stealing for a living instead of toiling and sweating to put bread on one’s table. As a figure in Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country the South African looter is acting true to character; a hijacker of other people’s dreams to gain benefit for self.
It is hateful to wish poverty for another when you do nothing about assuaging the anguish of your prevailing predicament. It is true that the levels of unemployment are high, but it does not warrant looting someone’s store for a few cans of food that will last less than a month. With the shop gone, it means that the economy will come to a halt as the foreigners that are actually drivers of the ailing economy leave for more peaceful environments. The lifeline that actually feeds the welfare check will be cut as the acts of hate are allowed to run free-rein.
It would be nonsensical to expect governments to ensure that everyone is peaceful and employed. It is up to us as individuals to look for ways to employ our hands and genuinely try and understand the sad state of affairs and how living in a foreign land as an asylum seeker is for the ‘foreigner.’ What we need to inculcate is the vision of a borderless Africa where everyone lived in relative peace and harmony and no African ever worries that they would be attacked on the basis of being foreign.
The figure that knows themselves, understands themselves, respects themselves, and loves themselves knows that there are valuable lessons that can gleaned off the mouths and minds of those that have travelled long distances to get to the land where we are. It is self-hate to feel that one is better than the next individual because doing so alienates one from the help they could get tomorrow.
It is self-hate to deem the struggles of others as fickle because they might just make sense the day after tomorrow when the tables are turned. It is self-hate to believe that one has the right to hurt the feelings and the bodies of others without realising that one may be in the same situation and condition themselves some day.
What is panning out on the continent is just deep-seated self-hate that was taught by the colonist which should be excised by serious introspection on the part of the individual African. The more of us there are questioning ourselves and our intentions as individuals, the more likely we are to reach the desired point of wealth we need to get the continent out of the mire of hate it is in.

Ts’episo Mothibi

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