Decoding Euro-Cultural Imperialism
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
February 07, 2002
The modern world is a product and reflection of European imperialism or what deceased, international, Afrocentric scholar and historian, Dr. John Henrik Clarke calls "the manifestation of the evil genius of Europe."
Dr. Clarke contends that "Europeans not only colonized the world," but
more viciously, "they colonized information about the world" and Afrikan peoples.
This analysis looks at the relationship between European imperialism and the cultural genocide of Afrikan peoples. Culture is defined as the totality of a people's values, ethical, moral and aesthetic by which people conceptualize or see themselves and their place in history and the universe.
These values form the basis of a society's consciousness and worldview, the entire spectrum of a society's make-up, its identity, way of life.
Cultural imperialism is defined as the outright invasion of another culture (Afrikan) by foreigners (Europeans) in order to rearrange, decimate, denigrate, and destroy it and then control the victims (colonized) for the purpose of permanent subjugation.
European imperialism has attempted to turn Afrika into societies without heads or humanity. And in order to maintain, strengthen and perpetuate this system of global domination, Europeans had to create a rationale and a series of myths so as to justify their new position and what they intended to extract from Afrikan peoples.
The Euro-cultural genocide of Afrikan peoples was and still is, a concerted, organized and well-orchestrated plan of action.
The Euro-genocidal myths are:
(1) The myth of a people waiting in darkness for another people to bring them the light. In most countries where the Europeans invaded or influenced they put out the light of local civilizations and culture and destroyed civilizations, civilizations that were old before Europeans were born.
(2) The myth of a people without a legitimate god. Europeans made no serious attempt to understand the religious cultures of non-European people wherever they went in the world. If their god concept was not in agreement with the Europeans, then the Europeans assumed that they had no god worthy of worship.
(3) The myth of the primitive and the aborigine. Here we have a misinterpretation of two words that originally meant 'first' or the original. European interpretation was derogatory and downgrading, and it still is. In many ways, the Europeans were saying to non-European people that they did not have the right to choose a god or a culture different from that of the Europeans.
(4) The myth of the invader and conqueror as civilizer. Generally speaking, no people ever spread any civilization anywhere or at anytime in human history through invasion and conquest. The invader and the conqueror spreads his way of life at the expense of his victims. They generally destroy civilization in the name of civilization.
The most disastrous of all European colonisations was the colonisation
of the image of God. Europeans denied the conquered people the right to see God through their own imagination or to address God in a word that came from their own language. Every effort was made to wipe from their memory how they ruled a state and how they related to their spirituality before the coming of the Europeans.
Most of the people of the world were forced to forget that over half of human history was over before anyone knew that a European was in the world. Non-Europeans, especially in ancient Egyptian Nile Valley civilizations, had laid the basis for the spirituality that would later be converted into the major religions of the world. They had also developed the thought pattern that would later be developed into the philosophical thought of the world. All of this had happened outside of Europe before Europeans had names, durable shoes or houses with windows.
Mere global survival, therefore, forced Europeans to devise a reverse psychological warfare strategy to show that indeed they were superior and Afrikans inferior. It must be understood that a paramount modus
operandi of cultural imperialism was to link Eurocentrism 'with innate qualities of excellence in intelligence, beauty and the right to rule other races.'
Its reverse effect on the Afrikan was to degrade his color and the physical subordination that had been imposed by force came to be associated with the Afrikan's innate qualities. This goal was achieved through miseducation/edjumacation of the Afrikan and the falsification of his history.
As Kwame Ture once warned: "If you don't know who you are, you would not know what your interests are." A people without a sense of history are ill-equipped to visualize and plan a future because of an unclear and distorted/miseducated picture of their past.
A people without the knowledge of 'having done' will have grave difficulty acknowledging the motivation of 'can do.' Or as the slain Pan-African nationalist Malcolm X put it in a speech delivered 10 November 1963, in Detroit:
The Black man has no self-confidence; he has no confidence in his own race because the white man (European) destroyed you and my past; he destroyed our knowledge of our culture and by having destroyed it, now we don't know of any achievement, any accomplishment and as long as you can be convinced that you never did anything, you can never do anything.
By denigrating and devaluating Afrikan culture and civilizations, Europeans attempted to rape/strip Afrikan peoples of their oneness, their Africanity, their humanity. However, Europeans have not been totally successful in doing so because of the potency, continuity, and adaptability of the Afrikan personality. Hence the vital necessity is for Afrikan people to use the weapons of education and history to extricate themselves from this psychological dependency complex/syndrome as a necessary precondition forliberation.
Let us be reminded that Mark Twain once said that when a country enslaves a people, the first necessity is to make the world feel that the people enslaved are subhuman. The next effort is to make his fellow countrymen believe that the enslaved man is inferior; and then, worst of all, to make the colonized believe himself inferior.
Once trapping Afrikan peoples in a state of a historical confusion and disarming us of our culture, Europeans then set up the machinery to lock us up in that state of lost humanity.
Historically, the European man has been our worst enemy. He enslaved us. Raped our women. Castrated our men. Stole and exploited our land. Lynched and brutalized us. And taught us that Afrikans were the lowest people on the face of this planet. Furthermore, he burned our books then told the world that we could not read or write. He destroyed our nations then told the world that we never built any civilizations. He stole our inventions then told the world that we lacked imagination. Whenever and wherever he has encountered us, he has left a trail of violence, hatred and despair.
What makes matters even worse is whites (Europeans) have been the enemy of not just Afrikans, but of all people of color. Haki Madhubuti, in his book titled From Plan to Planet (1973) put it this way:
Where on this earth have Europeans ventured and not left corruption, disease, racism, classism and death in their wake? Does there exist a race of people who've been colonized by Europeans who have found happiness with the European presence? Has any nation whether Afrikan, Asian, Indian, etc., not suffered dearly at the hands of Europeans, and now, also, at the hands of European-Americans.
Scholarship genocide or Eurocentrism has spread the Big Lie that Mother Afrika had to wait in darkness for Europeans to bring the light. Eurocentrism also sought to imbue the Afrikan with a sense of self-hate so as to steal and destroy his inner consciousness. It sought to dislodge the Afrikan from his culture.
The Europeans' rationale for their unwanted existence on foreign soil falls under the guise of bringing democratic civilization and Christian enlightenment to the savages'. Wherever the western white
man docked his ships, he was greeted with warmth, friendship and unusual humanity as if this European were civilized and cultured,' but without exception, this same civilized and cultured' being turned on his host with the highest form of trickery and evil, to the extent of completely subjugating the indigenous people as if the hosts were the barbarians.
The Europeans' subtle treachery and self-appointed righteousness have not left room on this planet for other lifestyles or ways of life' that are not consistent with the western concept of how man should live. (p. 123)
The Afrikan was taught and is still being taught, to be ashamed of his Afrikanness and Afrikan physical features. Afrikan-Trinis reflect this cultural truism.
As Bro. Malcolm X observes again:
You know that we have been a people who hated our Afrikan characteristics. We hated our heads, we hated the shape of our nose, we wanted one of those long dog-like noses, you know; we hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Afrika that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, why, we had to end up hating ourselves. And we hated ourselves.
Cultural imperialism has conditioned Afrikan peoples to accept the European concept or model of beauty, way of life, governance, economic development, love, etc., as the norm or standard to aim for and to follow. These determinants have now resulted in the Euro-Americanisation of every aspect of life in TnT, including and not limited to, religion. TnT's culture has become something outside of TnT. It is an outward-looking culture.
Our color became to us a chain - we felt that it was holding us back;
Our color became to us like a prison which we felt was keeping us confined, not letting us go this way or that way. We felt that all of these restrictions were based solely upon our color, and the psychological reaction to that would be that as long as we felt imprisoned or chained or trapped by Black skin, Black features and Black blood, that skin and those features and that blood holding us back automatically had to become hateful to us. And it became hateful to us.
In reality, what the political powers that be in TnT have done is to secretly substitute the Trini Red, White and Black for the Euro-American Red, White and Blue. They have sold out TnT to Euro-Americal cultural imperialism.
This is a classic case of Euro-American subliminal control of TnT. We now have Euro-American 'mass in yuh mass' in TnT. And that's why the Euro-American subsidiary Pizza Hut sponsors the Trini steelband 'Fount
Clair' and Trinis see absolutely NOTHING wrong with this Euro-American imperialist cultural picture.
The political powers that be have made TnT a victim of Euro-American cultural supremacy. Now, Trinis are wining Euro-American style and even embracing their New York born imperial Archbishop.
However, despite the onslaught of European cultural imperialism, Afrikan peoples must not give up in this new millennium. A sense of belonging, a sense of identity should be part of our psychological survival strategy. This is vital. As an Afrikan people, we need values that do not distort our identity, our conception of our original, rightful place in history, in the universe of the natural and human order.
A people are truly liberated only when they control all the tools, all the instruments, all the means of their physical, economic, political, cultural and psychological survival.
Afrikan peoples need a holistic survival strategy with spirituality as its spinal cord.
This strategy seeks to answer the following questions:
1. Who am I? What values, history, traditions and cultural paradigms do I recognise, respect and continue to practice in my daily life?
2. How did I come to be who I am? To what extent do I recognise, appreciate and understand those social, cultural forces and factors that have helped to shape and mould me into the person that I am today?
3. Am I really who I think I am? To what extent do I understand, internalise, employ and reflect the cultural authenticity of my people?
4. Am I all I ought to be? To what extent do I possess and conscientiously apply the traditionally enduring ethical standards and moral codes which define and dictate my ever evolving self towards full membership within the human family and my ultimate cosmic purpose.
Only Afrikan peoples can emancipate themselves from cultural imperialism. We must emancipate ourselves as descendants of our ancestors who built the pyramids in ancient Kemet in the B.C. era and NOT as descendants of our forefathers who picked cotton, sugarcane, or coffee on the plantations of the American South and the Caribbean in the A.D. era.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").
Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, U.S.A.
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