Reply to Baldeosingh's June 8 column

June 17, 2000
By Corey Gilkes

This is one of the few times I have to take issue with Mr. Kevin Baldeosingh's column. His June 8 column, far from being an opinion based on sound information, was a source of much amusement. Indeed, I think he should be included as a fifth king of comedy.

Now, there is merit to his argument that most Native Africans do not see themselves as Africans; most Indians living on the sub-continent of India did not see themselves as Indians either. But the view that "there are still......five anatomically defined human groups in Africa: Blacks, Whites, Pygmies, Khoisan, and Indonesian", man, that was hilarious and did not even make any kind of sense. The so-called "pygmy" has a name: Twa; and to say "Blacks, Pygmies, Khoisan" as if they were vastly different peoples is one of the oldest misconceptions put forward by Eurocentric "scholarship". His examinaton of the differences in phenotype, indeed, the whole paragraph was a joke. Kevin, breds, when yuh have time, read Cheikh Anta Diop's "Civilisation or Barbarism: an Authentic Anthropology"; you will notice that even the languages are not as diverse as you may think because while there are variations in dialects, a language such as Wolof in Senegal, West Africa can be linked to ancient Egyptian languages.

His belief that "no normal person becomes self-confident because of what their ancestors achieved 3000 years ago in a different land" flies in the face of Europeans and Euro/Americans who still look to ancient Greece as a model and a psychological boost in order to awaken their creative genius in the arts, sciences, etc. This is in spite of the fact that Rome and Greece were Mediterranean societies that got their impetus from Africa and Western Asia and were not European creations. Moreover, he is blissfully unaware that no less a person than Albert Einstein remarked that what happened 10,000 years ago and what happened 10 minutes ago occupies the same time space in consciousness. I also seem to recall that over 30 years ago when NASA was struggling with the problem of how to move the various stages for their massive rockets, they tapped in to the engineering skills of the ancient Egyptians who, in turn had inherited the engineering skills of the Sudan. But that's another story.

Which brings me to his flippant dismissal of ancient Africa's contributions to the sciences. Here his arguments show the same dumb ignorance normally monopolised by religious people, politicians and the like. His thinking reflected the ethnocentrism found in any otherwise brilliant scholars who are prisoners to that racial reflex that bedevils most of us at one time or another.

As he attempted to belittle Prof. Van Sertima [he couldn't even spell the name right so we know he did not read a single book by the man much less take note of the sources quoted], his "Freudian slips" became even more obvious.

"The language of science is not poetry but mathematics". In Europe, yes, mainly because Western society tried to seperate the secular from the spiritual whereas in traditional African thought, since there was no such separation, things secular and scientific were expressed poetically and philosophically because the tangible complemented the invisible. Baldeosingh also failed to address certain embarrassing questions that have plagued Eurocentric academia for quite some time. The Dogon of Mali, who were the ones who spoke about the universe expanding ["running away"], made a number of astronomical revalations that modern science is only now able to confirm. So, if Baldeosingh is to dismiss their observations and those of the Egyptians, Kenyans, Sudanese etc:

How did the Dogon, two thousand years ago accurately plot the course and trajectory of the invisible star Sirius B up until the year 1990?

How did they see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter? How did the astronomical observatories in Kenya align perfectly with star constellations such as Triangulum, the Pleides, Bellatrix, Orion?

How did the Egyptians gain such vast understanding of cosmic movements that they could devise several calendars which was adopted in 4245 BCE, one of which we still use.

How were they able to plot longitudinal coordinates when Europe did not catch up until around 1750.

But of course, he aleady has an answer for all this -- mysticism! His column reminds me of the contemptuous attempts by Western scholars world to explain away the Dogon when the French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlien, who lived with the Dogon, brought back their findings to Europe. It led peole like Kenneth Brecher, Robert Temple, Carl Sagan and Erich Von Daniken to come up with everything from space beings to scientifically literate travelling Europeans. At least Kenneth Brecher was honest; he said flatly that Africans had no business knowing any of this!

Baldeosingh ignored the findings of the Russians who conducted research in Egypt during the regime of Nasser and found perfectly ground spherical lenses which proved that the Nile Valley cultures knew about telescopes.

Even scholars like Einstein and Newton conceded that they had appropriated knowledge from the Nile Valley civilisations but hey, who am I to argue with Kevin?

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