Dr Claudette Carr: Where have all the African intellectuals gone?

 
 

We came across a great post written by Dr Claudette Carr on the lack thereof of African intellectuals. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the young and brilliant Nigerian writer emphasized, Africans must tell their own stories or suffer the perils of the “Single Story.” But Dr Carr takes the conversation one step further by asking who are those telling African’s stories on the intelectual side. Dr Carr is the founding Director of the Jethro Institute for Good Governance (JIGG), wth over seventeen years experience lecturing in International and Community Development, Youth & Community Work, Social Work, and Social Policy, at Brunel, Birbeck, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland) and the University of Westminster. Here is here brilliant article on the subject, initially published on  http://afritorial.com/

Celebrity Factor

So, I have also been thinking about what impact celebrity factor might have on the dearth of African intellectuals?

The white celebrity savior industrial complex is not about justice. It is about bolstering the egos of celebrities, often used as vessels for the industrial white aid complex engaged in service of elite capture of African self-determination. Central to this process of elite capture is the infantilisation of Africans on all levels: its government, its leaders (absolutely corrupt and beyond redemption); its children ( orphans bereft of the capacity for ‘care of the self’); its women ( unfit to mother the children, they so wantonly bring into this living hell); and its youth (a lost generation, devoid of vision, and bedeviled by the post-traumatic disorder – redolent in fragile/post-conflict fragile zones). This is the movie set the ‘white’ savior descends upon to re-enact their small acts of ‘compassion’.

The celebrity [do-gooder], embraces their mission on the continent with such self-righteous philanthropic zeal – rather like an obscurantist religious sect known as the bleeding Pharisees. In this guise, celebrity piety covers its eyes in the presence of African success stories, so as not to even look at those who succeed against all odds (much less acknowledge their existence) and ends up banging into walls. Their resulting blood and bruises become “red badges of courage” which they proudly display as proof of their piety. Is it any wonder why we have the mysterious cultic phenomenon of the ubiquitous kabbalistic celebrity red wrist bracelet, championed by Kabbala’s high priestess Madonna? Hmm …

Against this background, enter the Manchild project - KONY 2012. Here you have a bunch of high-tech multi-media, celebrity- philanthropist wannabes. They strike gold with their viral video – GET KONY, a resplendent, but equally pesky little African romp.

I ask myself: “Why do these young upstarts behave like they have just dropped a whole bunch of ecstasy tabs, and insist on treating the African Continent, as if it were one massive bacchanalian revel?”

Surely, it is time for a paradigm shift – enter the black celebrity vessel. Woe! and if I had a hammer!

If you raise a generation of youth on a narcissistic diet of dumb idols, such as Jay-Z, Beyonce,Lady Gaga, P Diddy, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and such like: reality tv junk - Pop Idols, American Idols, X-Factor, Sunday Best, Big Brother, and I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here ; send them to church on Sunday to engage in the same lust for fame and attention, peddled by present day ‘Pulpit Pimps‘, is it any wonder, we reproduce a vacuous army of KONY 2012 clones?

 

If these celebrities (as has been widely reported), callously continued to party like it was 2099 earlier this year at the pre-Grammy function, whilst Whitney Houston’s dead body lay in a room above them, do we really think P Diddy, Rihanna et al give a hoot about the plight of “30,000″ dead Ugandan children?” As the proverbial saying goes, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Let’s face it, Kony 2012 should have been titled, “When Will I [Jason Russell] be Famous” – you have until December 31, 2012, to bring me said blood sacrifice! Madness begets more madness.

When will I be Famous…

If I were to come up with a modern day nemesis for KONY 2012, it would have to be: our unfettered lust for consumerism, at its zenith, during the Global North’s insatiable property boom, which led us into the global economic crisis we currently find ourselves in. Except, this time, it’s African souls that are being merchandised, and the boom continues – speculating over how we might “end poverty in Africa”…

Thomas Sowell in his book Housing Boom and Bust writes:

Few things blind human beings to the actual consequences of what they are doing like a heady feeling of self-righteousness during a crusade to smite the wicked and rescue the downtrodden.

But I digress.

Recently I came up with the novel idea of Development Factor  and rather like the KONY 2012 narrative is simple. Those International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), wishing to tout their projects and proposals to “help the poor” in Africa, in an extremely competitive market, would have to present their ideas to a panel made up of ‘authentic’ African Development Factor Judges. One or two celebrities might be thrown into the mix for good measure. Imagine the educational benefits of visualising the various stages of the the creative process, in setting up an NGO project and making this transparent to a now almost development savvy global audience? After all the bottom line is, every one wants recognition, everyone is looking for their fifteen minutes of fame, why not turn it into something more constructive, that democratises development, and truly engages the public and local/indigenous communities in more meaningful ways?

KONY 2012 has blown open a much-needed debate, which has been dominated by economists and politicians and development professionals for half a century Quite rightly, Invisible Children did not want to alienate it’s targeted audience with the technical vernacular of development experts, and the semantics of economic growth. However,  paradoxically, the simplicity of the KONY 2012 narrative, revealed a void in knowledge about human behaviour – that is rooted in beliefs about what constitutes progress and development.

A New Breed of African Intellectuals

The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. ”
― James Baldwin

When all is said and done, one truth remains eternal here: we need a new breed of ‘Africanist’ scholars, who will pursue the task of their scholarly quest, with a pragmatic zeal that is second to none – as organic intellectuals, not ivory tower dim wits. Lest we forget a PhD doesn’t make you smart, or intellectual – there is no end of educated fools!

If you are vain and think the title will go nicely with your Dolce & Gabana tote, and your “in” circle of FB friends – go audition for X-Factor or F-Idols, and may you be forever confined to a wilderness, where you never receive manna from heaven – a shadow of an original thought of creativity – that might give you a clue how to get out. If your goal however, is to demystify – open eyes and ears to the mess this world is in, then may your path be filled with wonder, joy and the discernment, that knowledge puffs up, but LOVE builds up.

It never ceases to amaze me, how the powers that be continue to be the number one cheer leaders, in support of African buffoonery and intellectual inertia. One only need scratch the surface to discover the donors and sponsors, adept in this “Simon Cowell” type selection [read, schmoozing] or ‘we’re on the road to nowhere’ leaders. Of course, some Africans have internalised this longitudinal psychosis, enough to keep this diabolical pantomime of mediocrity on the road for themselves. And like all good pantomimes, let’s not mention colonialism /neo-colonialism, as the popular refrain goes [repeat after me]:

“Where is it?”
“It’s over, there”
“Where?”
“Behind you”….

I end as I begun: Where have all the African intellectuals gone?

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