Nyakim Gatwech, Sudanese model © 2016 Nyakim Gatwech

2- Introduction

Towards a Black Consciousness

"The civilization of the twentieth century cannot be universal except by being a dynamic synthesis of all the cultural values of all civilizations. It will be monstrous unless it is seasoned with the salt of Négri-tude, for it will be without the savor of humanity."

Léopold Sédar Senghor.

 

Indeed, Négritude is seasoning humanity. 

Detached from established ideologies from left, centre or right, we find some aspects of Liberalism* stimulating, in particular those related to Freedom, Empiricism and individual responsibility. Countries that promoted highest individual liberty in political perspectives have progressed into more developed social and economical status. When exposed to contemporary conventions, traditional beliefs (not all) are obsolete and become obstacles for progress; transmitted from generation to generation without any logical or moral sustentation, dogmas and lack of reasoning have produce racism, this is, prejudice, discrimination, and violent antagonism against someone of a different race.

In Western societies some principles have to be revisited for updating. In the East (Russia and Asia) the same happenes but some of those principles should be withdraw. Depending if in Europe, Africa or America, these cultural values should be prioritised differently. In general, these principles are issues related with minorities, race, equality and freedom, but also to the position of individuals within society and state. Freedom became a concept emptied of meaning by a misused ideological practice, particularly from many socialist thinkers, who permanently complain and expect the state to solve problems, particularly in Catholic countries, repositories of the Counter-Reformation that limited the freedom of individuals and expanded the authority of the Church; this perception of a state of abstract nature was eventually trespassed to contemporary governments. Latin America still lacks Free Thinking, probably even more than Africa; debates of all kind usually pivot on dogmas and permanent false premises and oppositions, far from empirical approaches. Beyond a few well established democracies, in Africa the main obstacle for progress is dogmatism. In western civilization, Freedom can only exist with individual responsibility and under common Law. Any other interpretation could tend to some form of Anarchism,** and we know the tragic consequences. In Asia, with limited idea of individual freedom, the situation is more critical. They created a strong and prosperous collective mind, but with no understanding of Humanism and Renaissance legacies, including its most visible heritage: Civil Rights. Unfortunately, a number of Asian cultures lack free thinking and racism is unbearable, particularly in China and against Black people. Japan, a civilization we all admire, which has produced amazing craftsmanship and unique sense of beauty in relation with Nature, has the lowest percentage of immigration worldwide. Asian cultures seem to be close to foreign societies; Japan is also an island. In the mid 1960's, the now cult-TV series The Prisoner, masterpiece created and starred by English of Irish descent Patrick MacGooghan, pointed the issue of freedom and the state in a bright way: for years, in our subconscious, we thought we were either guards (authority) or prisoners (people). In recent times, thanks to our community and other strong cultures like Irish, Jews or South Korean, we know there is a third group of people: Freemen.

Only through intensive children education we might reach one day a better and more democratic system. On a global escale, the role of the United Nations represents a great step, it became a giant institution, perennial... but it moves slowly. That is why, as important as the UN, regional and smaller local organizations must be promoted. At the moment, if world democracy does not function well, it is not only the system itself that has to be permanently optimised and updated, but uneducated and brute societies which spend most of the available free time gossiping and watching football; in the West, however, freedom is reasonably guaranteed. In China and Russia, including all former Communists countries it is not, but we cannot state any definite judgment: democracy belongs to all who embrace it, but it was created in the West, which is also a complex rainbow made of a common moral but very diverse ethics. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, had created and developed an interesting status quo that managed to educate and provide the basic needs of a whole society, even to develop sophisticated science and technology, but Russians adopted by Marxism and Communism in 1917 removing a cast system ruled by the Tsar and a tough aristocracy, that mantained people in poverty. In the 19th century, individual freedom was not known in Russia. The East and Asia are different to our West and indeed we must respect their decisions and lifestyle; however, when human rights are affected, we must alert. No system is perfect, but the West has provided a good platform to end arbitrary and authoritarian tendencies and expand the creative powers of individuals. It is true that since 1945 the US and allies have been trying to pour democracy and capitalism at the cost of unnecessary wars and tragic wars, but it is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if Communism or Fascism had won in Argentina, Ghana, South Korea or Italy, to mention a few. In the West, freedom of speech, though in different degrees, is part of our western culture, as it is to travel freely or leave our countries. And none of those basic principles existed in the former Communist countries. The result, after a few decades of government oppression, was the suffocation of its peoples. Finally, it is important to remember that the West is not the US only, but also Europe, Latin America, Black Africa and a few Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, the latter forced to become economically part of the west after surrender in WWII. This is half of the world, nearly hundred countries which represent three quarters of the global economy.

"Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time."

Sir Winston Churchill.

To a greater or lesser degree, the idea of democracy and its rather complex primary and secondary systems are, as such, basically Romans; the system, perfectioned all over the centuries, has been fully adopted everywhere. For instance, African countries like Senegal and Ghana are today good examples of political institutionalism and economic development in peace, while conserving most of their traditions; they are like two cultural lighthouses, for the French and English speaking regions, respectively. However, our primary concern is not whether democracy, a certain degree of socialism and genuine capitalism can be meld together to solve humanity's basic needs and ecological sustainability: what we are really worried about is the impact of the virtual media and communication worlds, which are demolishing the basic principles of civilization: freedom of speech is transformed in permanent anonymous defamation and false news, pornography is (literally) in children's hands, the authority of scholars is replaced by opinions of dilettantes, unscrupulous cults and superstition is growing in "emerging" countries by phony preachers, and toxic consumerism is sold and imposed with fraudulent tactics to children and adults at all times; all transmitted at the speed of light to your 24 hours mobile phone device, computer-TV, and soon to an implant in your head. Let's hope Black African culture, which pivots on reality and not on virtuality, can help reinstating core principles of our western civilization.

Photo from Xala (film), Ousmane Sembene (Senegal) © 1971

In these series of essays we explore Black African history, geography, literature, individual and collective achievements in the context of a wider knowledge of world and art histories, including comparative social anthropology. We try to understand the context and variability of cultural vectors that sustain and project our African heritage, not only in order to find solutions to racism against Black people and Afro-desdendant, but to open paths for a better understanding of our talents, potentialities and legacy to the world.

Clearly the complexity of this task is great, but when a cause is as legitime and necessary as this, there are no holds barred. Black Africans, Black Americans and Afro-descendant living in the diaspora, are the three main living groups of a large Black African descent. They differ, indeed, they are very diverse, they assimilated in a positive way new cultures and environments... but they are often attacked by mad racist people that still reject our mere existence, for reasons we will analyse.

Those who offend, insult, denigrate and humiliate are delinquents: racism is a crime and must be denounced, judged and punished, but this must be accompanied by intense and massive pedagogical works on all, and particuarly on children.

Since the origins of Négritude around the 1930's, the social situation of Africans started to get better, but thanks to the new amazing but critical digital era, we face a difficult, challenging time. Digital communication compromises our capacity of thinking and reasoning. People are forced to mirror in a mimic reality, while being fully monitored in real time. The Internet is an extraordinary resource but to a large extent full of useless rubish and, most important, it is an apparent harmless tool that in reality opened the doors of our own subconscious debris: it not only detonated the ego in frustrated citizens, millions of anonymous individuals operate in Internet every day like painting weird or banal things with gratify in abandoned walls, but the walls of Internet are exposed to all, and cover a big part of our virtual time and reality. For a minority (scholars, researchers, educators), the Internet is an incredible tool for searching data an information. For the majority, it became an addictive, nonsense activity to waste time and learn nothing, weather forecast, sensationalist news, pornography, violent messages. When it is presented as "interactive", it becomes an anonymous global platform for ridiculous opinions, insults and defamations: millions of comments are "upload" to newspapers and blogs, every day, saturating a virtual pit that seems to have no end. In this context, the ghosts of racism started to spread again. Perhaps the Internet and digital media are just accelerating things. If that is the case, we are not optimistic, the situation has been aggravated because time is needed to reason, to analyse. And Internet does not favour the use of real time by us. Internet decides for us. Reading and thinking can lead somewhere, rather than haranguing with images and messages with a few characters.

In any case, we must not only consolidate our achievements, but to keep our road of freedom and free thinking clear, and for all Mankind. Which is also one of the goals of these essays: to add something valuable to the web, that could eventually reach interesting individuals. The main purpose is to analyse historical and socio-antropological aspects of Black Africa and Negritude related to old and contemporary history: cultures, cults, Empires, slavery (local and European factors that allowed it), pointing the believes and habits of the Black peoples. Second, to highlight the literary works of Black African and Afro-descendant writers, thinkers and filmmakers, both from Africa, Europe and the Americas. Their extraordinary work belong to the world, and as such, must be permanently studied and discussed towards a Black Consciousness.

* Liberalism is a movement whose goal is to achieve the maximum individual liberty in political, economical and social reform. Created by John Locke (1632–1704), prominent English philosopher and thinker, founder of Empiricism and political Liberalism. A pioneer of his time, his main works are Two Treatises of Government (1689), where he argues that the authority of rulers has a human origin and therefore is has limitations. In Human Understanding (1690) he states that human knowledge is a consequence of sensorial experiences. See chapter "Black and Afro-descendants". Access his complete digitalised works, here.

** Anarchism is a theoretical belief and vague anti-political movement somehow created by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1840, and soon adopted by some upper class educated people in France, Italy and Spain. He wrote "The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century". It proposes the abolition of all possible government and in any escale, and rejects (often violently) the organization of society. Along generations, it has been usual object of sympathy by some young University students in South America and Africa. Since its origins some of their members, discontent with modern society and capitalism, became fanatic and even terrorists between the 1930's and mid-1970's, particularly in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Angola.

*** Sir Winston (Leonard Spencer) (1874–1965), British statesman and prime minister (1940–45 & 1951–55). He replaced Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister in 1940 and led Britain throughout World War II. A conspicuous speaker and writer, his tenacity and audacity against Nazis was crucial to defeat them, against probabilities. Works: The Second World War (1948–53), A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (1956–58). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1953).

 

Read the next chapter, The Point of View as Meassure of Analysis, here.

                         CHAPTERS 

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