By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
The last time I heard the phrase ” Great African civilizations” was in early high school ….and that was many decades ago … until again last night. Between those heydays and now , Africa and Great have never appeared in same sentence . Last night I listened as dr henry Louise Gates, the Harvard historian, in his new series …” great African civilizations ” limping his way across various African landscapes, stick in hand, combing through time and space in what is a 5 yr build up on ” 200,000 years” of African history. Yes I fought back tears as the vividness of man’s brutality against man hit me hard, raconteured in words and pictures with consummate scholarliness, but even worse as it became clear that only the more brutal of the human species invariably outlives any encounter, wins battles, subjugates others , lives on to tell the story and tells it to his own fancy.
But beyond the lachrymosities, I also came off the documentary solidly convinced that the story of civilizations, without one exception was little more than the story of weaponries. The only poverty that brought all other poverties to Africa and Africans, reducing the people … kings and subjects alike …. to their knees was the continent’s fateful lack of weapons when it most needed one. And the corollary? ….every other peoples that have surged ahead in the historiographic evolution of societies have been only those who have spent either what they have or don’t have to maintain strong killer phalanges at every twist and turn of their nationhoods grooming home grown barbarities into gruesome lethality for offense and defence.
Civilizations have come and gone, the operative determinant between existence and extinction no more than superiority of weapons. And though European subjugation of Africa was often captioned in the neat aphorisms of ” God Gold and Glory”, none of the Gs would have been possible had unimaginably lethal weapons not been brought into the fateful encounter reconfiguring the dialogue and diatribes to the dominant and cruel advantage of the hyperguns. I saw with chilling unpleasantness the horrific and gory brutalities by king leopold of Belgium as he focused, with what could only have been psychotic zeal, on the riches of the Congo and allied regions . Further south, in and around the African cape, brutalities with increasing mindlessness, driven by inordinate and diabolical ambitions of Europeans decimated entire communities, splitting up families and villages, murdering many in cold blood and consigning others into human commodities.
That saga was to continue repeating itself with uncanny frequencies over centuries, literally emptying out Africa ….soul and DNA And yet all that was missing from the African end of the macabre encounter was comparable force of arms. Was that lack an intellectual error or an emotional one ? Was the African misled into not securing his resources because he was too intellectually unequipped to fashion the necessary ordinances even if he had had inklings about the necessity for their role ? Or misled by his assumption of the other side’s high moral code, high enough the African did not foresee the mortal bellicosities beneath the layers? When I read about today’s escalating arm race and how nations like Iran and North Korea amongst others are easily willing to trade their two eyeballs or go hungry even just to be able to secure themselves through arms grades as likely to be lethal as anybody else’s, I am unable to fault the ambition having seen that building a nation or civilization without the prior attention to how to secure the gains from the efforts is to be penny wise and pound foolish .
Had African pioneers invested their energy and what intellect they had first on protective enough weapons as sine qua nons before all other things their fancy, the history of Africa and the world would have taken totally different turn; good or bad. I am sad enough that Africa was razed to the ground, literarily … but even more demolishingly, metaphorically ( the latter’ s effect still very piquantly obvious ) almost just as sad that even today’s Africa remains just as vulnerably under-armed to protect her abundant resources as was yesterday’ s africa. With increasing ascendancy of nativist impulses in the west marched with populist demagogues craving to restore old imperialist or quasi-imperialist glories and exploits , time may come, just may, economic hardships at home madman on the seat when a resource strapped strongman may begin to dream again of reinvading Africa and expropriating her riches.
Are we any better prepared now than we once were ? Africa and the Caribbean ( the two largest black blocks in the world ) remain essentially consumer hot spots with hardly any intellectual preparedness against forced enslavements should such were to again eventuate; We might both be better trained slaves than ancestors, but never prime movers. Most other nations have doggedly refused to be parted with a constant preparedness to grow their self defence even if their people have to be willing to accept a certain level of existential deprivation and even if current global hegemonies constantly look for ways to sabotage those self aimed efforts .
If you do not want your child to become another man’s slave, ….now or in the future , do not count on the morality of the other man, rather groom your own barbarity or bestiality and invest in weapons lethal enough to deter, more so if you happen to be blessed with natural resources the grade that passes for the envy of the world. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the African experience of foreign subjugation and horrendous, almost irrecoverable exploitation, it is sadly this.
Do not be the elephant who grew too valuable for his own good, … foolishly parading his valuable assets to the world without first planting next to those very assets , an early warning system and a guided missile: … the result ? with all the ivory-ness at his beck, he and his tusks live only at the pleasure of ambitious neighbors .
What a precarity!!!