MOST OF US ARE EMANCIPATED ALREADY. UNFORTUNATELY.
No, I haven’t gone completely mad. I just thought I’d try to grab your attention and so make you understand the importance of understanding the power words have.
Today is Emancipation Day when we celebrate the end of the enslavement of African people. You will hear the usual platitudes and speeches about how great we are and how we “broke the shackles of slavery.” Now as cynical as I’m sounding, all of that is important to hear. So too are the sights of people walking around since last week dressed in African or African-inspired attire; all that is praiseworthy.
But, as I asked before in a different way, what does this Emancipation mean to you? And what is it really? Are we as free as we think? This deceptive word does not actually mean freedom, you know. It comes from a Latin term that means ‘transfer of ownership’. When I read that in a Latin dictionary, I instantly got a clearer understanding of the craftiness of Europeans and Euro-Americans.
Enslavement no longer being cost-effective, the Euros had to find ways to maintain control of resources—which they didn’t have in their own countries—and continue to extract wealth for themselves. So domination by another means had to be found; and what better way to achieve that than to make those you once subjugated physically internalise beliefs about your “natural” superiority and their “natural” inferiority?
Jump forward to 2017. Almost everything that may destroy us as a society and as the human species can be traced to European ideas of modernity that gathered speed during the Age of “Discovery” and continued in that ideological vein right up to 2017, without commercial breaks.
Much of this revolves around Eurocentric ideas of modernity that served to benefit only an elite few—same as it always did.
These Euro-centred ideas of modernity that are competitively individualistic, wasteful and authoritarian are facilitated by most of us because the communalistic, collectivist, conservationist and democratic traditions found all over the ancient tropical South, particularly Africa, remain largely unknown to most of us—often by choice.
In this time of heightened xenophobia, increased racism, sexism, ecocide and destructive militarism, African humanism has a lot to draw on to reverse all this. But here in T&T, Africa is mostly pimped out to either convey ideas of backwardness, savagery, superstition and corruption or to convey romanticised ideas of kings, and queens who are essentially black versions of patriarchal capitalists. We walk around for a few days wearing kaftans and kufis (often made in China), then it’s back to wearing suits in tropical heat.
And when someone like me passes wearing it “out of season,” out come the snickers and expressions of self-hate. Listen, if you’re wearing European attire all year and—in the case of the late Mr Manning—insist that everyone else wear it too in your place of work, then please take my humble advice: take off my f***ing clothes and don’t you dare touch them again.
Similar advice will be given if you insist on defining African spirituality and philosophy through Abrahamic religions and Western academic theories. Bob Marley said emancipate yourself from mental slavery; I say that for that to happen, you will first have to emancipate yourself from your own self.
As such, I think we should really engage in some serious self-examination. As the fan for dispersing fecal matter increases its speed, the effects of toxic ideas and dysfunctional institutions will become more and more prominent.
We saw this manifested when the legitimate outrage of the British and US working people was manipulated and hijacked by Nigel Farage, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We are seeing it right here with the collapse of our worm-eaten institutions that were never developed for a properly functioning society anyway.
So they are not going to save you.
Unless and until you transfer ownership back to you.