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Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

The Failure of Leadership in Africa’s Development

Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

The Failure of Leadership in Africa’s Development

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Ike Okonta

LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • London Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com 6 Tinworth Street, London SE11 5AL Copyright © 2020 by The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available ISBN 9781793613257 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 9781793613264 (electronic) TM

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Dedicated to

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved.

My daughters Ciera, Ciana, and Kyra; my wife Sandra; and all those who will carry on the battle for the economic and technological development of Africa. Also, to the loving memory of Madam Theresa, our beloved mother, and “Bob,” our unforgettable brother, who sadly passed away before their dream of a free and economically developed Africa could become a reality.

Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Contents

Acknowledgments 1 2 3 4 5

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6 7

ix

Africa’s Underdevelopment: Nagging Questions A Crippled and Comatose Giant The Cause of Africa’s Underdevelopment: Conflicting Theories Africa’s Historical Indifference to Technological Progress Monarchs of “The Encounter” and Their Feeble Responses to Europe’s Technological Superiority A Blueprint for Africa’s Development The Poverty of Contemporary African Political Thought

1 19 31 59 87 133 155

Bibliography

205

Index

211

About the Author

221

vii Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Acknowledgments

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I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to all those who have directly or indirectly helped to make the writing of this book possible. To my princesses Ciera, Ciana, Kyra, and my wife Sandra who endured my long absences from home as I worked on the manuscript for this book; to professors Okori Uneke and Edward Opoku-Dapaah whose editorial and substantive commentaries on the first draft of the manuscript helped to shape the direction of the work; and to my students in Africana philosophy with whom I have, over the years, had numerous discussions on the subject of Africa’s underdevelopment, I remain sincerely indebted.

ix Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Copyright © 2020. Lexington Books. All rights reserved. Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Chapter One

Africa’s Underdevelopment

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Nagging Questions

Africa is an immense continent. In length, from north to south, it is approximately 5,000 miles. 1 In width, from west to east, it is approximately 4,600 miles. It is the second-largest inhabited continent on the globe and covers an area of approximately 11,677,240 square miles, which is 20 percent of the earth’s land mass. It is surpassed in size only by Asia, which covers an area of approximately 17,139,000 square miles or 29 percent of the earth’s total land surface. In fact, Africa is so large that it is sometimes pointed out that the land masses of the continental United States (approximately 3,000 miles), and the subcontinents of India and China (approximately 1,269,346 square miles and 3,747,879 square miles, respectively), could imaginably fit comfortably into the coastline of Africa. Immensity in size, however, is not the only natural endowment of Africa. The continent is also extremely rich— resource rich. In terms of natural resources, it is in fact one of the richest continents, for buried under its vast and diverse land forms are extensive reserves of some of the earth’s most precious minerals and metals, like gold, diamond, iron, tin, cobalt, phosphates, chrome, manganese, uranium, and radium, to name just a few. Even after centuries of expropriation by Europe and Asia, the continent remains a veritable reservoir of some of these coveted resources. Considering Africa’s immense natural wealth, the continent appeared to have been predestined from the beginning of history to be an economic giant that would play a leading role in the world economy. In fact, very early in Africa’s history, the continent appeared to have played that role comfortably. When ancient Egypt led even Europe and Asia in the development of agriculture and metallurgy, for instance, the light of civilization and progress shone 1

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2

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very brightly from Africa, and the continent relied to a large extent on her immense natural resources to play that role. Then, ancient Egypt was known as the breadbasket of the world. It led the world in agriculture, especially in the production of grain. It also led the world in writing, metallurgy, engineering, military technology, and religion. Unfortunately, somewhere in the long stretch of Africa’s history, the continent gave up this leading role. Instead of maintaining its prior status as the economic and military superpower of the ancient world, the continent became its foremost weakling. Conquered, colonized, subjugated, and humiliated for centuries by a relentless succession of invaders and conquerors from Asia and Europe, the continent became poor, wretched, downtrodden, backward, and unprogressive. For the past three millennia, roughly since the 5th century B.C., Africa has lagged far behind all other areas of the world in almost every significant arena of human life—economics, politics, religion, science, technology— and, because of this lag, a long succession of conquerors and colonizers have historically taken advantage of her weakness. Yet, during the intervening years, the continent has failed to awaken from its economic, technological, and military slumber. Even today, after centuries of witnessing the stunning developments in Western Europe and East Asia, the continent continues to exist merely on the periphery of the world and is internationally recognized as the poorest and most underdeveloped region of the globe. With thirty-two of the world’s fifty poorest and least-developed countries existing in Africa, the continent is literally the world’s ghetto, the bastion of poverty and deprivation. Constituted largely by countries with a GNP of less than $400 and who consistently rank at the top of the United Nations’ list of least livable countries, today’s African nations seem to exist as no more than an enclave of need, disease, hunger, malnourishment, and lack of progress. What went wrong with Africa? How did a continent on which nature has bestowed so much of its beneficence come to rank among the poorest and most backward regions of the earth? How did a continent with more than enough resources to transform it a hundredfold into a giant economic power and a tropical paradise become so economically impoverished and militarily enfeebled that nearly every conqueror that ever set foot on it was able to conquer and enslave its people? How did African societies become so weak and defenseless that every foreign invader was able to carve out an African colony for himself or his country, and expropriate the wealth of the conquered African peoples? How did Africa become the last continent? These nagging questions have been asked innumerable times by a variety of scholars, both African and non-African, and the number of books that purport to answer them are a testament to the widespread scholarly interest on the questions surrounding Africa’s chronic underdevelopment. Such books include Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Basil Davidson’s The Black Man’s Burden, Peter Schwab’s Africa: A Continent

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Africa’s Underdevelopment

3

Self-Destructs, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs & Steel, Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa, Robert Calderisi’s The Trouble with Africa, and Ayittey’s Africa in Chaos. However, these books are merely the most recent attempts to grapple with the problem. Long before these attempts, a variety of thinkers spun and disseminated theories about the cause or causes of Africa’s underdevelopment. During the Enlightenment period in Europe, for instance, race was commonly invoked as the cause of Africa’s lag. Eighteenth-century racialist theorists acknowledged that Africa was the birthplace of humanity and that African people were the first to inhabit the earth. However, they also claimed that as humans evolved, there emerged newer, more intelligent, more vibrant racial strains that were far more intelligent than the ancient and more primitive Negroid stock. These new races, which were indigenous to Europe and Asia, the racialists claimed, were, by their superior intelligence, able to build more technologically advanced civilizations that were far beyond the intellectual capacities of African people. Confronted with the then widely available evidence that the purportedly superior Caucasian race borrowed inventions and discoveries from prior civilizations, like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China, the racialists argued that the white race, by virtue of its inherent superior intelligence, improved those primitive technologies beyond the capacities of their original non-European inventors. Thus, according to the Enlightenment racialists, African peoples, belonging to an older, more primitive, and unimproved racial stock, were simply left behind in the race toward higher civilization. According to the racialist theorists of the Enlightenment period, humanity exists as a racial hierarchy. The Caucasian race, they claimed, sat at the apex of this hierarchy. The yellow race belonged to the intermediate ranks, and the black race vegetated blissfully at the distant bottom—a very distant bottom. David Hume, for instance, claimed that Africa existed with “no ingenious manufactures, arts, or sciences” among African peoples, and he attributed this backwardness to the intellectual inferiority of African peoples. Subscribing to the racialist theory of his Enlightenment days that there are four or five different species of men, Hume contended that all the other species were inferior to the Europeans. “There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white,” he snobbishly claimed, “nor even any individual eminent in action and speculation” 2 other than white. What could account for this fact? Hume’s answer was that this “uniform and constant difference among the races in so many countries and ages” could not have happened “if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men.” 3 Other eminent racialists of the period, like Kant, de Gobineau, and even the celebrated Thomas Jefferson, shared Hume’s view that the source of Africa’s backwardness was the racial inferiority of African people. Expanding that racialist point of view, de Gobineau even added the further idea that African people were governed primarily by their passions and emotions,

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unlike European people, whom he claimed were by nature driven by their intelligence. But what about the yellow peoples of East Asia? According to de Gobineau, the yellow peoples possessed partly the intelligence of the Europeans and partly the passionate nature of African peoples. For him, the East Asians shared in the inventiveness of Europeans to a high degree, but not to its full extent. This partial intelligence, according to him, placed the yellow race above the black race, which, according to de Gobineau, had very little intelligence. Like de Gobineau, many of the racialist theorists of the Enlightenment period believed and defended the view that the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment was the innate intellectual inferiority of African people. Traditional racialist theory has been under attack since the early nineteenth century when it was employed as a scientific justification for social anti-miscegenation laws, eugenic programs, and various proposals for social Darwinism in parts of Europe and North America. It particularly came under criticism after Nazi ideologues, like Alfred Rosenberg and Alfred Baeumler, relying on its earlier formulations by racist theorists like Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, invoked it in their efforts to demonstrate Nordic Aryan superiority and to justify the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jews and other purportedly inferior races. In response to what they saw as a false doctrine, a variety of liberal scholars sought to discredit both the idea of race itself and the idea that “race” is the determiner of the destiny and achievements of peoples and nations. Today, among liberal geneticists, the prevailing consensus is that race is not even a biological or genetic reality but a social construct. However, despite its widespread rejection by liberal thinkers, the belief that Africa is underdeveloped because of the inferior intelligence of African people is still widely held. Today, it is not uncommon for conservative scholars to claim that the level of development or achievement of the various “races” is the result of their purportedly disparate racial differences. Well-known popularizers of this racialist viewpoint, like J. Philippe Rushton, Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein, Michael Levin, and a host of others, have in their various ways defended such views or tried to demonstrate its accuracy. These scholars have also variously invoked race either as the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment or as the source of the widely recognized achievement gap between African people and the rest of humanity. However, it is not only European scholars who subscribe to the racialist doctrine. There are contemporary African scholars who have propounded the view that the development of Europe and the underdevelopment of Africa were the result of racial differences between Europeans and Africans. Leopold Senghor, for instance, in explaining the source of the disparate developments between Europe and Africa, invoked the idea of a racial soul. According to him, every race has a distinct racial soul that determines the course of its development. European people have, he claimed, a natural aptitude for

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analytical, mathematical, and scientific thought, while the natural aptitude of African people is for artistic creativity. Thus, for Senghor, the disparate developments of Europe and Africa arose because of the racial differences between Europeans and Africans. Although Senghor rejected the notion that a highly artistic African civilization was inferior to a highly scientific and technologically advanced Western civilization, he nevertheless accounted for the differences between the former and latter by resorting to the classical racialist theory about differences in the intellectual endowments of Europeans and Africans. Thus, the view that race is the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is still well and alive. One frequently encounters it in the general population. The fact that liberal scholars still expend much effort in the attempt to counter or discredit it shows that it still enjoys considerable following. However, rarely does one encounter any substantive argument that pinpoints the flaws in this racialist explanation. Rather, what one frequently encounters in the antiracist literature are dismissive assertions of the political incorrectness of the racialist explanation or a juxtaposition of an alternative explanation. In his work The Third Chimpanzee, for instance, Diamond quickly dismisses the racist explanation without much argument and proceeds to juxtapose his own alternative theory. “Nineteenth-century Europeans had a simple, racist answer” to the question about why the rate of development was faster in Eurasia than in the Americas and Africa south of the Sahara, he writes, and “they concluded that they (the Europeans) acquired their cultural head start through being inherently more intelligent. They thus claimed that they had a manifest destiny to conquer, displace, or kill ‘inferior’ peoples.” Continuing with his dismissal of this racist belief, Diamond writes: The trouble with this answer is that it is not just loathsome and arrogant, but also wrong. It’s obvious that people differ enormously in the knowledge they acquire, depending on their circumstances as they grow up. But no convincing evidence of genetic differences in mental ability among peoples has been found despite much effort [and] until we can come up with a convincing alternative explanation, the suspicion that racist theories might be true will linger. 4

Unfortunately, that racist explanation has not only lingered, but appears to be gradually making a resurgence as more and more contemporary critics of Africa voice their suspicion that the cause of the continent’s seemingly intractable underdevelopment might be the intellectual inability of the African people themselves. Thus, it seems quite legitimate, given the long history and seemingly undying persistence of the racialist view, to revisit the question of its plausibility. In a world in which all the developed and developing nations are either of European or Asian origin, and not a single African nation is developed or developing despite more than five decades of indepen-

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dence from colonial rule, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude that race may be the problem or, at least, a part of the problem. That has indeed been the conclusion of those who remain unconvinced by the now well-established view that race is not a biological reality or are simply not aware of it. For liberal thinkers who accept that race is a social construct and that black, white, and yellow peoples are not subspecies of humanity, race could not have been the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. If the purported racial differences between “the races” is not a reality, they argue, then how could it be a cause? So, what argument can be made to demonstrate to the intransigent racialist that race could not have been, and cannot be, the cause of the underdevelopment of Africa or that of any other part of the world? In other words, if one were to grant hypothetically that race is a biological reality, could it still be shown that it could not account for the underdevelopment of Africa? The answer is that abundant historical evidence exists to show that the racialist explanation is unsustainable. That evidence lies in the fact that some nations have historically been more economically and technologically advanced than other nations that are populated by members of the same “race.” The United States, for instance, is more advanced today than Greece, yet both nations are largely peopled by Europeans and European-descended peoples. Similarly, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are more advanced than Spain, and Japan, China, and South Korea are richer and more developed than North Korea, which is populated by members of the same race. Geographical theorists reject the idea that race is the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. According to Diamond, one of the most celebrated proponents of the geographical theory, Africa’s underdevelopment had nothing to do with the differences between European and African peoples, as was traditionally assumed by the racialist theorists. Rather, its origin lies in the accidents of geography and biogeography, especially in the continents’ different axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. 5 In fact, Diamond argues, if Europe and Africa had exchanged their human populations about twelve thousand years ago, it would have been the black race that conquered the white race and now dominates the globe, instead of the converse. 6 Other exponents of the geographical thesis agree with Diamond that the ultimate cause of the underdevelopment of Africa and the other underdeveloped parts of the world is geography. In the case of Africa, they claim, it is the unique ecological and topographical features that placed considerable obstacles on the continent’s path to economic and technological progress. For some, those obstacles include the tropical heat, the desert, the absence of good harbors, and the unusual height of Africa’s continental plate above sea level. These geographical features, they argue, imposed on the African continent an isolation that prevented the exchange of ideas between African people and people

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Africa’s Underdevelopment

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in other continents, especially those in the progressive centers of Asia and Western Europe. Some geographical theorists, however, do not invoke Africa’s geographical isolation as the source of continent’s lag. Rather, they claim that the environmental condition on the continent was benign and led to an easy life. From the very dawn of history, they point out, Africa was endowed with a highly benevolent climate in which there was an overabundance of land, food, and natural resources. So, according to them, the early Africans, finding themselves in a sort of tropical paradise that demanded little exertion on their part, led a sedentary and leisurely agricultural life, rather than a restless and anxiety-laden nomadic one. The result was that the early Africans had no need to develop mechanical devices with which to fight wars or lessen the burden of earthly existence. Two eminent scholars, Cheikh Anta Diop and Walter Rodney, propounded such views. Diop, in his theory of the two cradles, claimed that African people fell behind in technical advancement because they lived a sedentary life in a geographically benign southern cradle that had an overabundance of natural resources and was favorable to agriculture. The consequence of living in this cradle was that African people were spared the anxiety that a life of want and scarcity in a less hospitable environment would naturally have generated. Consequently, Diop claimed, the first African civilizations developed a system of values that conferred primacy on moral uprightness, justice, kindheartedness, and the development of a communal spirit. On the other hand, European and Asian peoples, Diop claimed, lived on the inhospitable and barren steppes of Eurasia where only a nomadic life was possible. So, in their struggle to survive the hardship of the northern cradle, European peoples developed a system of values that conferred primacy on individualism, aggression, greed, material well-being, and the ability to fight and win wars. Thus, the explanation offered by the two-cradle theory is that the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is its benign geography. Its claim is that African people lagged in the development of advanced technologies because their geographical environment made it unnecessary for them to invest time and effort in such advancement. There are geographical theorists who claim that Africa’s location on the globe, rather than its climate and natural resources, is the primary cause of its underdevelopment. According to the proponents of this theory, Africa, Europe, and Asia were developing at the same rate prior to 1495, and none of these continents was more advanced than the others. However, because Europe was closer in distance to the Americas, they claim, it was European, rather than African explorers, that discovered the New World. This discovery, they argued, was not a historically trivial one because it gave European nations access to an enormous amount of wealth in land and mineral resources. As it turned out, the historical consequence of the discovery was that the wealth amassed from the Americas helped to empower the merchant class

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in Europe to seize control of the economy and to destroy the old European feudal system. This, in turn, triggered the transition of the European economy from feudalism to industrial capitalism. It gave rise to the industrial revolution in Western Europe. However, once the industrial revolution occurred, the mechanization that resulted from it gave the industrialized European nations the advanced military technology with which to defeat the conventional and outmoded armies of Asia and Africa. The further consequence of these victories was that they made Europe’s colonial and imperial ambitions realizable and enabled the Western nations to acquire even more lands and natural resources from their Asian and African colonies. In the final analysis, it was the gold, diamond, slaves, and other resources that the Western nations expropriated from their overseas colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas that fueled Europe’s transition from a poor and backward peninsula to that of the richest and most advanced portion of the globe. The geographical explanation appears to be a more plausible account about why Africa and other poor nations are underdeveloped. No one would deny that geographical factors, like land, oceans, and the abundance or scarcity of natural resources, play a significant part in the economic development of a nation. However, the history of the economic progress and regress of many parts and nations of the world today appears also to indicate that geographical factors constitute only a minor part of the phenomena of development and underdevelopment. This is because a very significant part of humanity’s story has been the struggle of people in various parts of the world to overcome their geographical limitations. In the past, the crossing of the Sahara, the building of the Suez Canal, the navigation of the world’s oceans, were all successful human triumphs over the limitations imposed on humans by their geography or natural environment. Today, that triumph over nature continues in the frequent landings on the moon, the successful building and flying of airplanes and spaceships, the construction of the International Space Station, the bridging of the English Channel, the construction of artificial islands, and the list goes on. Considering the historical success that various peoples have had in overcoming their geographical limitations and the critical role that the human will and human effort have played in that triumph, one cannot escape the conclusion that Africa’s geography does not adequately explain Africa’s underdevelopment. Humanity’s race toward progress and civilization cannot adequately be told without assigning a central role to the undying human endeavor to defeat, or at best overcome, the environmental or geographical limitations that nature imposed on it in various parts of the world. Undoubtedly, there is a sense in which human beings are “prisoners of geography,” as Tim Marshall has aptly paraphrased it. 7 However, that is not the complete story of humanity. It is not even the central narrative of the human species. It is also true that human beings have historically constructed ships and aircraft with which to escape from their geographical prisons. They

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Africa’s Underdevelopment

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have even historically burned down the walls of these prisons to sail or soar to freedom. This work has two main goals. The first is to show that neither race nor geography is a sufficient explanation of the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. The second is to show that it was the unwise and visionless leadership of African political rulers, from the past to the present, that led to the continent’s backwardness. The following chapters will show that the chief cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is not simply its continental geography but a pervasive and historically traceable cultural indifference in the face of advancing human knowledge, especially in the fields of science and technology. In other words, this book will contend that despite its geographical disadvantages, the continent could still have averted its technological stagnation. Had such a stagnation been averted, the continent-wide colonial conquest, the massive enslavement of its people, and the consequent expropriation of its wealth and natural resources would also have been forestalled. For instance, as early as the eighth century B.C., North African societies were in contact with the Greeks, Romans, and Phoenicians whose agricultural and military technologies were far more advanced than those of their contemporary African societies. Yet, none of these North African societies ever acquired the Roman and Phoenician industrial and military techniques. The historical consequence of this indifference was that within a few decades the Phoenician and Roman conquerors seized many of the African coastal cities of the time, like Carthage, Numidia, and even Egypt. These conquests were due primarily to the superior military technology of the Romans and Phoenicians who then turned these North African coastal states into European colonies. We find a similar display of cultural indifference in sub-Saharan Africa at about the same period. Despite their purported geographical isolation from Europe and Asia, African societies were, as early as the fifth century B.C., in contact with North Africa, Arabia, China, and Western Europe, which possessed superior agricultural and military technologies. Yet, more than ten centuries later when the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English invaded Africa in a European scramble for African territories, they found most African societies existing without even the wheel or the plow or modern shipbuilding technology. Did geography prevent ancient African societies from adopting or producing the wheel? Wheels could have been made of wood, but they were not. African history is replete with such gross and startling indifference to advancing knowledge and technique. Historically, this continental indifference can be traced both to the African populace in general and to its political leadership. Unfortunately, most of the scholarly disquisitions on Africa attempt desperately to shift the blame for the continent’s underdevelopment from the shoulders of African people to either the African environment or European colonialism. Such attempts, however, have done nothing but wors-

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en the African condition by diverting the attention of African people from correct strategies of development. In the past, such attempts may have had therapeutic purposes and lessened the embarrassment that African people may have felt in realizing that their continent ranked, and still ranks, among the most conquered and least developed parts of the world. Today, however, given our better understanding of political economy, those explanations are no longer tenable. In fact, they now appear to be more subversive and regressive than therapeutic. This is because the goal they have achieved is to lure Africans and African-descended peoples into an even deeper developmental slumber from which they need to be awakened. Perhaps African nations derive some comfort in being informed that there was nothing that African people could have done to change the course of their history or that African people were ultimately not responsible for their current underdevelopment. However, that comfort is largely soporific. The proof of its tranquilizing effect is that even as the foremost African thinkers have continued to rebuke others for underdeveloping Africa and setting it economically and technologically backward, the continent’s underdevelopment has progressively worsened, with many of its newly independent nations on the verge of implosion. However, instead of skillfully acquiring the knowledge and technology that the continent needs to improve the living standards of its people and protect the African populace from the unceasing assault from a historically aggressive world, the foremost African thinkers remain scandalously indifferent or even hostile to modern science and technology. Some of these “profound” thinkers even advocate a sort of return to some fabricated and poorly articulated original African system of values. Others yet advocate the re-creation of a purportedly original “African personality” that would redeem the continent from oppression. In making these recommendations and pronouncements, they seem scandalously oblivious to the absurdity of championing the re-creation of a personality that was in the first place unable to shield the land and its people from the assault of Africa’s historic invaders and conquerors. The claim that either race or geography is the ultimate cause of the progress or regress of any people or nation is profoundly specious. It flies in the face of history. If human beings have historically triumphed over their geographical limitations, for instance by crossing the Sahara, circumnavigating the world, building and flying airplanes and spaceships, and landing on the moon, to list just a few of those victories, then the claim that geography is an ultimate source of underdevelopment is spurious. Geography matters, but it is insufficient by itself to account for the current condition of any people. However, the human will to power, embodied in a society’s cultural values and institutions, can. This indomitable will can account for why people of the same race and in similar geographical environments, like China and Japan or North and South Korea, have reached disparate levels of development.

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Second, it is also false that without frequent contact with more advanced societies—for instance, with more technologically advanced societies in Asia and Europe—Africa could not have generated its own advanced science and technology. Here again, the historical evidence refutes such a claim. Ancient Egypt, for instance, produced its own knowledge of metallurgy, architecture, and agriculture without much contact with the outside world, which was then far less developed. In fact, in its relative isolation, Egypt remained for several millennia the beacon of scientific and technological advancement before it was conquered and turned into a Greek colony ruled by Alexander the Great and the Ptolemaic dynasty that succeeded him. We find a similar refutation of the isolation theory in the history of ancient China. Without the influence of outsiders, the Chinese developed gunpowder and movable type. If peoples and nations can, through their own ingenuity and creativity, make economic and technological progress, then is it not possible for pre-colonial African societies, even in the sub-Saharan region, to have developed writing, paper, the wheel, gunpowder, cannons, the gun, and other such technologies on their own, even in their supposed geographical isolation? To believe otherwise amounts to nothing more than a denigration of the African intellect. This is because that belief rests on the assumption that the development of advanced technology is beyond the intellectual capacity of African people and that contact with Asia and Europe was necessary for Africa’s intellectual progress. Thus, the theories that invoke geographical isolation as the cause of Africa’s backwardness may just be vestiges of the traditional racism they even claim they wish to supplant. In the final analysis, they insinuate that African people are not as intelligent as Europeans and Asians. Chapter 2 examines the extent of Africa’s underdevelopment. African and Africanist scholars generally accuse Western intellectuals of maliciously portraying Africa as backward and underdeveloped. According to some of them, it is the west that is actually underdeveloped, rather than Africa. In one way or another, African and Africanist scholars, like Diop, Senghor, Nyerere, Césaire, Rodney, Davidson, and Reader, have suggested that the perception of Africa as the backward region of the world par excellence is an essentially Eurocentric view. Césaire, for instance, in his attempt to rebuke the Western world for its global atrocities, argued in Discourse on Colonialism that the purported advancement or civilization of the west is merely superficial. Western European society, in his view, is a morally bankrupt and innately barbaric culture. For Césaire, pre-colonial Africa, with its humanistic values, was the beacon of civilization and thus, in the true sense of the word, more civilized than the morally depraved Western world. Considering such pronouncements, it is necessary to inquire here if such views constitute an attempt to perform a sort of Nietzschean transvaluation of values or if the purported African underdevelopment is simply a fabrication of the Eurocentric imagination. This chapter shows that Africa’s underdevelopment is a

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reality and that one cannot wish it away with a purported inversion or transvaluation of values. The chapter further shows that it was the reality of the continent’s stagnation in the fields of science and technology that made the conquest and colonialization of the African continent possible. Chapter 3 examines the three most influential theories about the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. It first takes an in-depth look at racialist theory, which claims that the source of Africa’s underdevelopment is an innate intellectual inferiority of African people. Second, it examines the widely accepted Dependency Theory, which argues that the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is the colonial and neo-colonial expropriation of the continent by the European colonial powers. Finally, it undertakes a critical review and assessment of geographical theory, which claims that a patently unfavorable geography set the stage for Africa’s developmental stagnation. The chapter shows why neither race nor neo-colonial dependency nor an unfavorable geography provides a plausible explanation of the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. It argues not only that there is no necessary relationship between race and development or between geography and development, but that there is considerable historical evidence to disprove any such relationship. It points out, for instance, that members of the same race, like the Romans and Greeks, have historically had disparate levels of development in different historical periods, without altering their racial characteristics or their geographical environment. Similarly, the Chinese and Japanese, who belong to the same Mongoloid race, according to the traditional racial taxonomy, have inhabited the same geographic location since ancient times, but have had different levels of development in different historical periods. Some have argued that culture per se is not the determinate cause of development or underdevelopment. They base their argument on the claim that there are peoples and nations with similar cultures but with disparate levels of development. Acemoglu and Robinson, for instance, in their attempt to repudiate the cultural thesis, cite as examples the city of Nogales, Arizona, and the city of Nogales, Sonora. “The city of Nogales,” they write, “is cut in half by a fence. If you stand by it and look north, you’ll see Nogales, Arizona, located in Santa Cruz County.” Yet, they point out, Nogales, Arizona, is a relatively prosperous city, while Nogales, Sonora, is poor. What then, they ask, could account for the disparity in the prosperity of these two cities? According to them, culture could not be the source of the disparity since the inhabitants of the two cities have the same culture, people, and geography. 8 So, dismissing what they called “the cultural hypothesis,” they proceeded to argue that the source of the disparity was the existence of very different political and economic institutions. Nogales, Arizona, is in the United States. Its inhabitants have access to the economic institutions of the United States, which enable them to choose their

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occupations freely, acquire schooling and skills, encourage their employers to invest in the best technology, which leads to higher wages for them. They also have access to political institutions that allow them to take part in the democratic process, to elect their representatives, and replace them if they misbehave. . . . Those of Nogales, Sonora, are not so lucky. They live in a different world, shaped by different institutions. These different institutions create very disparate incentives for the inhabitants of the two Nogaleses and for the entrepreneurs and businesses willing to invest there. These incentives created by the different institutions of the Nogaleses and the countries in which they are situated are the main reason for the differences in economic prosperity on the two sides of the border. 9

However, it appears that Acemoglu and Robinson’s base their arguments on a narrow and erroneous conception of culture. If the two cities in question have very different economic, social, and political institutions, then in what sense do they have the same culture? Does culture not refer to the entire way of life of a people? Are social, political, and economic institutions not part of a people’s culture? If the inhabitants of Nogales, Arizona, live for the most part like the rest of the citizens of Arizona and not very much like the inhabitants of Sonora, then it is quite implausible to maintain that they possess the same culture. They may have had the same culture in the past, but that is no longer the case. To understand culture as referring exclusively to language, music, and religious beliefs, and not to a nation’s political, social, and economic institutions, is too restrictive a view of culture. They also use the word “culture” inconsistently. They argue, for instance, that North and South Korea had the same culture in the past, but today have different cultures. However, how is the case of the two Koreas different from that of the two Nogaleses? If, as they claim, North and South Korea have different cultures today because they have different political regimes with different political institutions and incentives, then the same logic should have compelled them to maintain that the two Nogaleses have different cultures because they also live under different political regimes—the United States and Mexico—with different political institutions and incentives. Surprisingly, they fail this test of consistency. Instead, they firmly assert, though without evidence, that “while ‘culture’ is different between the two Koreas today, it played no role in causing the diverging economic fortunes of these two half nations.” 10 In their view, the existence of inclusive, rather than extractive, economic institutions accounts for a nation’s progress or regress. For them, the phrase “inclusive economic institutions” refers to the existence of specific institutions. Such institutions include secure property rights, an unbiased system of law, public services, and a market economy where the majority of people make use of their talents and skills and can invest freely and without coercion. They also include the ability of the citizens to receive a good education, respond to market incentives, aspire to successful entrepreneur-

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ship, choose and excel in their chosen careers, have access to business loans and foreign markets, etc. Acemoglu and Robinson contrast these inclusive institutions with “extractive economic institutions,” which they understand as the absence of inclusive economic institutions or the existence of institutions designed to extract incomes and wealth from the people in order to enrich a small segment of the society, like the ruling elite. 11 However, if a society, like South Korea, values inclusive economic institutions and goes to great lengths to build and protect them, whereas another society, like North Korea, does not or remains indifferent to such institutions, it would seem that we are compelled by sheer logic to maintain that the two societies have different cultural values and, consequently, different cultures. The word “culture” refers broadly to the entire way of life of a people or a nation, including its social, political, and economic institutions. It can also refer narrowly to a people’s peculiar system of beliefs and national ethics. When Acemoglu and Robinson state that “many people still maintain that Africans are poor because they lack a good work ethic, still believe in witchcraft and magic, or resist western technologies,” 12 they are using the word “culture” in its very narrow and restrictive sense. When culture is used in this narrow sense as referring to a people’s religion, work ethic, belief or lack of belief in magic and witchcraft, etc., as Acemoglu and Robinson do, 13 then it seems quite plausible to contend that it is irrelevant to material progress. However, when they employ the word in the broader sense, they are forced to admit, though incoherently, that social norms are related to culture and that culture “supports institutional differences.” 14 As used in this book, culture refers to a people’s entire conventional life. This includes not only a people’s language or religion, for instance, but also its social, political, and economic institutions. It is not implausible to maintain, as Acemoglu and Richardson have done, that religious beliefs play no significant role in development. Japan and the United States, for instance, are nations with divergent religious beliefs and orientations, yet they both belong to the ranks of the foremost developed nations. So, their religious beliefs have little bearing on their scientific and technological advancement. At the same time, it appears flagrantly odd and implausible to contend that Japanese culture played no significant role in Japanese development. In fact, it is commonplace for historians to claim that it was Japanese cultural pride and belief in Japanese cultural superiority that drove the feverish scramble of the Meiji reformers to close the economic and technological gap that existed between Japan and Western Europe at the dawn of the nineteenth century? A people’s culture consists of its entire way of life, including all its institutions and system of values. Understood correctly, culture refers to the conventions of a society—that is, to the behaviors and social patterns that are not immanent in human nature. What is natural to human beings is common to all humans, but what is cultural varies according to conventional norms.

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Nature compels us to eat, for instance, but what we eat or refuse to eat is culturally chosen. The feeling of revulsion that people have for certain kinds of food—like beef or pork, for instance—arises from being nurtured or socialized in a specific culture. It does not arise from nature. Americans, for example, cringe at being told that dogs and cats are eaten as food in some parts of the world. However, that is a cultural, rather than a natural, reaction. It is imaginable that continental Indians express similar disgust when they contemplate the number of cows being eaten in the United States and other parts of the world. It is by nature that we eat, but by culture that we eat cows or pigs or dogs or hamburgers. Again, it is by nature that we speak, but by culture that we speak English or Ibo or Chinese or Arabic. This understanding of the polar character of nature and culture is commonly reflected in the common question about whether it is by “nature” or “nurture” that we perform certain actions. Culture is therefore synonymous with a people’s entire conventions, including their social, political, and economic institutions. With this understanding of culture, chapter 4 shows that the primary cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is the continent’s long-standing cultural indifference to advancing human knowledge, especially in the fields of science and technology. It has long been recognized that the cultural choices made by a society, rather than the race of a people or the geographical location of a population, play a most significant part in determining its progress or regress. This recognition is not in principle a denial that either race or geography plays a role in development. Rather, it is a denial that the role of either “race” or geography in development is prescriptive or determinative. When the ancient Romans built their magnificent aqueducts and constructed their celebrated Appian Way, it was not because they belonged to a specific race or because they were compelled or pre-determined to do so by their geography. Rather, it was because they had created a culture in which material development and improvement had primacy. The consequence of that primacy was that the Roman ruling classes invested significant time, intellectual power, energy, and resources to the material improvement of the Roman society. There were other European peoples at that time that did not place such importance on material advancement. Consequently, such peoples did not achieve the same level of material development as the ancient Romans. Some historians have argued that the later fall of Rome was caused by its conversion to Christianity. According to these historians, the Christian religion, with its otherworldly emphasis, discouraged and even denigrated the very quest for material and earthly power that was the driving force behind Rome’s pre-eminence as the superpower of the ancient world. 15 If this account of the fall of the ancient Roman Empire is accurate, then these historians, by their very argument, are implicitly acknowledging that the true source of progress and development is culture, since religion itself is cultural. However, whether the account is true or not, the historical fact that Medieval

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Europe, with its primary emphasis on religion and salvation, fell into the Dark Ages in which they forgot the earlier technological advances of the Greeks and the Romans illustrates the critical role that culture plays in the progress or regress of an empire or nation. Ironically, when scholars turn their attention to Africa, they generally ignore this critical role of culture and blissfully attribute the continent’s underdevelopment to either race or geography or European colonialism. The classical exponent of the view that European colonialism is the chief cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is, of course, Walter Rodney. In his popular 1960 publication How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Rodney claimed that Europe was primarily responsible for Africa’s backwardness. The forceful possession of Africa’s lands, mines, and peoples by the Western European nations during the periods of slavery and colonialism, and the consequent expropriation of the labor power and natural wealth of Africans, he claimed, were the chief causes of the subsequent backwardness and technical retardation of the continent. Africa became poor and underdeveloped, according to Rodney, because European imperialists and capitalists expropriated for several centuries both its natural resources and the brains or workforce that could have developed the continent. After colonialism, that relationship of exploitation and expropriation continued in the form of neocolonialism, which is evident in the continuing European ownership of the land, mines, and means of production in Africa. Rodney is, of course, accurate in pointing out that so long as foreigners own the lands, mines, factories, banks, insurance companies, means of transportation, newspapers, and power stations of Africa, then for so long will the wealth of Africa flow outwards 16 into the metropoles, and so long will persist the development of Africa’s underdevelopment. However, recognizing the significant role that colonialist and neo-colonialist expropriation have played in the retardation of Africa’s economy merely explains the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment since the fifteenth century—that is, at the dawn of Europe’s political, economic, and military ascendancy. Unfortunately, it does not answer the question of why the Europeans were able to conquer Africa, enslave its people, and expropriate the continent’s wealth in the first place. If one considers the fact that Africans were the first people to inhabit the earth and that it was in Africa that the light of civilization first flickered into being, it becomes evident that Rodney’s theory is seriously lacking in explanatory power. In fact, Rodney’s thesis positively begs the question it set out to answer. This is because the very ability of Western Europeans to impose themselves on African people and subvert the course of Africa’s development already demonstrated the backwardness and underdevelopment of Africa. The European conquest and expropriation of Africa decidedly shows that the Western European economies had advanced beyond the African economies even in the fifteenth century. However, those were precisely the questions that needed answers. How

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did it happen that African societies, especially given their chronological and historical primacy, fell behind Western European societies in progress and advancement such that Western Europeans were able to conquer, colonize, and expropriate their lands? Dependency Theory does not convincingly answer this question. Its answer is relevant only in explaining the origin of the imbalance in power from the encounter period of the fifteenth century to the present, yet the critical question that needed an answer was how the imbalance arose in the first place, before the fifteenth century. Chapter 5 provides a variety of historical evidence that the most influential African rulers who led African kingdoms and empires during the most critical periods of the continent’s encounters with either the Muslim or Western European invaders were remarkably indifferent to the development of advanced military and production technologies. Such monarchs included Afonso I of Congo, Chaka the Zulu and his successors, King Prempey and the Ashanti ruling elite, and Mansa Musa, the famed emperor of Mali. The chapter compares the reactions of these rulers, who played a significant role in determining the subsequent fate of Africa, with the role played by the traditional ruling classes in ancient Greece, Medieval Islam, Medieval Europe, and modern Japan to show that the African rulers’ indifference to technological progress was unusual and unprecedented, even in their time. If cultural indifference in the face of advancing knowledge in science and technology is the chief cause of Africa’s underdevelopment, then what must be done to overcome it? Chapter 6 recommends that Africa’s leaders study the development strategies of nations that have successfully made the transition from underdevelopment to development, and then try to emulate the best and the most relevant ones. Such strategies can be found in the developmental histories of the earlier pioneers of scientific and technological development, like Western Europe and North America, as well as those of the latecomers, like Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. But alas, contemporary African political thought is dominated by a virulent antimaterialism and toxic denunciations of the view that African nations should strive to bridge the technological gap between them and the advanced nations. In contemporary African liberation thought, one frequently encounters the claim that Europeans and Africans have different human natures and that material development, while compatible with the European character, is incompatible with an authentic African nature. Chapter 7 explores the plausibility of this dogma and argues that it is not only false, but ultimately subversive of genuine African freedom and development. It is subversive of African development because it has traditionally seduced the leaders of modern African nations and their people to take pride in the absence of an industrial culture in Africa and to view themselves as primarily an artistic people whose nature and temperament are unsuited for scientific and technological progress. Thus, even in the face of myriad problems that demand scientific

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and technological solutions in Africa, an overwhelming majority of African leaders remain either indifferent to the task of development or seem utterly oblivious to the need for it. After the leaders of the first modern African republics took the reins of political power from the continent’s former colonial oppressors, they vowed that Africa would become a developed continent. However, instead of promoting the advancement of science and industry, what they promoted was the development of a poorly conceived and highly amorphous new African personality. Decades have now passed since the new African republics embarked on this project. Unfortunately, after more than forty years of celebrating the superiority of this ill-defined new African personality, the material and spiritual condition of the continent has sadly deteriorated. It is now the twenty-first century and African nations have continued their downward social, political, and economic spiral. However, instead of embarking on a concerted effort to solve their real problems through the acquisition of the knowledge of modern technology, these political mal-administrators have persisted in doing nothing more than offering their republics more art, more music, more dance, more religion, and ever more exorbitant and scandalous arts festivals.

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NOTES 1. Harm J. de Blij, A Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa (Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1964), 3ff. Also, William A. Hance, The Geography of Modern Africa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), 43. 2. David Hume, “Of National Characters,” in Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, Vol. 1 (London: A. Miller, 1758), 125. 3. Ibid. 4. Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992), 236–47. 5. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977), 400–401 and 191. See also Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 217–48. 6. Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 247. Diamond makes this claim specifically with regard to the aboriginal population of Australia and their conquest by Europeans with guns, germs, and steel. 7. See Tim Marshall, Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World (New York: Scribner, 2015). 8. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown Business Publishers, 2012), 8–9. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid., 58. 11. Acemoglu and Robinson, Why Nations Fail, 73–76. 12. Ibid., 57. 13. Ibid., 57–58. 14. Ibid. 15. J. Upshur et al., World History (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005), 236. 16. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982), 22.

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Chapter Two

A Crippled and Comatose Giant

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“THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT” More than a century ago, Georg Hegel, while philosophizing about world history, described Africa in openly disparaging terms. He called it “a continent with no movement or progress to exhibit,” “the land where men are children,” “the land of darkness,” and “the land that time forgot.” 1 Offended by those remarks, African thinkers traditionally dismissed Hegel’s views as essentially those of a racist and described them as the products of Hegel’s Eurocentric prejudice. Kwame Nkrumah, for instance, referred to Hegel as one of those European historians who have encumbered African history with the “malicious myths” that Africa has no history and that its development was bogged down by inertia. 2 Maintaining that Hegel’s reading of African history was “a-historical” and not consistent with the actual history of the continent, Nkrumah quickly dismissed it. He then went on to classify Hegel’s views as among “the unfortunate errors” of those who portrayed Africa “either as representing the infancy of mankind” or as a continent whose culture was simple and paralyzed by “inertia” or as that part of the world that was “encumbered by tutelage.” 3 Today, many African and Africanist scholars employ that defensive intellectual posture about criticisms of Africa and are unanimous in denouncing Hegel as a contemptuous and uninformed racist. To many of them, Hegel’s views on Africa are nothing more than the ranting of an incorrigible Eurocentric. For instance, in a recent article titled “The Falsity of Hegel’s Theses on Africa,” Babacar Camara described Hegel’s remarks about Africa as “grotesque, offensive, and defamatory.” 4 Similarly, Charles Verharen, in an article in which he undertook to deal with Hegel’s challenge to Africa and African America, called Hegel’s statements “shocking and offensive,” and as constituting nothing more than “a language of 19 Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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ostracism intentionally designed by Hegel to deny the very humanity of persons of African descent.” 5 However, centuries of persistent African underdevelopment, compounded by the abysmal performance of African nations in every significant arena of modern life, have caused many to wonder whether Hegel was not indeed right in his contemptuously low opinion of Africa. The continent does indeed appear to be the land that time has forgotten and one with no significant movement or progress or development to exhibit. Did not even Frantz Fanon—a passionate advocate of African liberation whose loyalty to the cause of African freedom remains unquestionable— express a similar negative view about Africa? For Fanon, contemporary Africa appears to be vegetating in the Middle Ages with no appreciable progress. Contemptuous of the newly acquired “independence” of modern African nations, which Fanon saw as not truly decolonized, Fanon referred to their tumultuous celebrations of freedom as nothing but “a fancy-dress parade, amid the blare of trumpets and flag-waving.” 6 The flag-waving took place at the top, Fanon wrote, while at the bottom the people constituted “an undivided mass still living in the Middle Ages, endlessly marking time.” 7 Anyone who is dismissive of Hegel and Fanon should take a hard and honest look at contemporary Africa. More than a hundred years after Hegel, the continent remains the most impoverished and the least developed part of the world. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, when nearly every continent has made giant strides in technological, scientific, political, social, and economic progress, African nations still languish in poverty and all sorts of social and economic deprivation. Libraries are overflowing with volumes about the abysmal condition of modern Africa and of the pain and grinding poverty under which its people currently moan. In 2000, the World Bank, in its publication titled African Development Indicators, made the following assessment of sub-Saharan Africa’s current condition: Sub-Saharan Africa enters the new century with many of the world’s poorest countries. Average income per capita is lower than at the end of the 1960s. Incomes, assets, and access to essential services are unequally distributed. And the region contains a growing share of the world’s absolute poor, who have little power to influence the allocation of resources. . . . [M]oreover, many of the development problems have become largely confined to Africa. They include lagging primary school enrollments, high child mortality, and endemic diseases—including malaria and HIV/AIDS. . . . Africa’s place in the global economy has been eroded, with declining export shares in traditional primary products, little diversification into new lines of business, and massive capital flight and loss of skills to other regions. Now the region stands in danger of being excluded from the information revolution. 8 (Emphasis mine)

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Almost a decade before the World Bank wrote this uncomplimentary assessment, Basil Davidson, a widely recognized Africanist, painted a similarly depressing picture of the continent. [T]he actual and present condition of Africa is one of deep trouble, sometimes a deeper trouble than the worst imposed during the colonial years. For some time now, deserts have widened year by year. Broad savannahs and their communities have lost all means of existence, or else are sorely threatened. Tropical forests such as the world will never see again have fed the export maw. Cities that barely deserve the name have spawned plagues of poverty on a scale never known in earlier times, or even dreamed of. Harsh governments or dictatorships rule over peoples who distrust them to the point of hatred, and usually for good and sufficient reason; and all too often one dismal tyranny gives way to a worse one. Despair rots civil society, the state becomes an enemy, and bandits flourish. Meanwhile the “developed” world, the industrialized world, has continued to take its cut of Africa’s dwindling wealth. 9

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Davidson’s comments were written in 1992. By 2005, more than a decade later, Martin Meredith, while lamenting the lack of progress in Africa in his voluminous The Fate of Africa, had much the same denigrating things to say about the socio-economic condition of the continent. Fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa’s prospects (for development) are bleaker than ever before. Already the world’s poorest region, it is falling further and further behind all other regions of the world. Its average per capita national income is one-third lower than the world’s next poorest region, South Asia. Most African countries have lower per capita incomes now than they had in 1980 or, in some cases, in 1960. Half of Africa’s 880 million people live on less than US$1 a day. Its entire economic output is no more than $420 billion, just 1.3 per cent of the world GDP, less than a country like Mexico. Its share of world trade has declined to half of what it was in the 1980s, amounting to only 1.6 per cent; its share of global investment is less than 1 per cent. It is the only region where per capita investment and savings has declined since 1970. It is the only region where school enrollment is falling and where illiteracy is still commonplace: two in five Africans—and half of all women—are illiterate, compared to one in every eight adults in East Asia or Latin America. 10

In the face of Africa’s massive underdevelopment problems, it is not surprising that one of the questions most commonly asked about Africa is why the continent lags so far behind the rest of the world. What went wrong with the continent? What derailed the progress of the continent that was not simply the birthplace of humanity but once the beacon of civilization? How did the first continent become the last? When the new African republics became independent in the 1950s and 1960s, many of the founding political elite were optimistic that the continent would quickly overcome its underdevelop-

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ment and join the ranks of the advanced nations. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of the newly independent Republic of Ghana, which was the first sub-Saharan African country to become independent from colonial rule, was one of the earliest to voice this optimism. In 1959, Nkrumah declared exuberantly that within a short period the new Republic of Ghana would dismantle all the structures of oppression, supplant poverty, illiteracy, and disease, and join the ranks of advanced nations. He even went further to declare that within a few years the Republic of Ghana would create a “paradise of abundance.” Declaring Ghana’s resolve to embark on the path of rapid development, he wrote:

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We cannot rest until we have demolished this miserable structure and raised in its place an edifice of economic stability, thus creating for ourselves a veritable paradise of abundance and satisfaction . . . we must go forward with our preparations for planned economic growth to supplant the poverty, ignorance, disease, and illiteracy left in the wake by discredited colonialism and decaying imperialism. 11

Yet, after five decades of freedom from colonialism, Ghana remains a poor and underdeveloped nation. In fact, since independence the condition of Ghana and that of the other independent African nations has grown worse than it was at the end of the colonial period. Worse still, not only have these nations failed to keep abreast of the scientific, political, and economic developments in the rest of the world, their initial optimism about rapid development appears to have faded. As Peter Schwab recently observed, instead of rapid economic development, most of the African nations have deteriorated. “By the beginning of the 1990s,” wrote Schwab, “much of the continent had devolved into chaos” and “little was left of the optimism that had permeated African leaders.” “Africa, south of the Sahara,” he continued, “had matriculated into a period in which pandemonium, war, predatory governments, disease, poverty, famine, and western neglect were strikingly in ascendance and as the world entered the new millennium, sub-Saharan Africa had all but collapsed into anarchy and viciousness.” 12 The grim statistics on Africa published every year by the United Nations Development Committee corroborate these views about the extent of Africa’s poverty and underdevelopment. These statistics portray accurately the poor performance of African countries in the political and economic arena since they became free from their former colonial administrators. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Committee, in 2004 thirty-two of the world’s fifty poorest and least developed nations were African nations. This meant that out of the fifty-four countries that existed in Africa in that year, more than fifty percent of them ranked among the poorest and least developed nations in the world. 13 This fifty percent included Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, the

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Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia. By 2009, five more African nations had joined that unenviable list, and the United Nations Human Development Report ranked thirty-seven African nations among the fifty least developed countries in the world. 14 In practical terms, this meant that it was in Africa—in 2004, for instance—that one could find the lowest standard and quality of life in the world. It also meant that African people, even in 2004, still bore a disproportionate burden of the ills and sufferings of the modern world. Unfortunately, one year later, in 2005, African nations exclusively made up the United Nations’ list of the twenty “Least Livable Countries.” In this list were Niger, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Eritrea, Angola, Rwanda, and Nigeria. 15 It is now 2020 and the statistics on Africa have not much improved. According to the United Nations 2019 report, thirty-three of the fifty poorest countries are in Africa. The consequences that follow from the fact that Africa is the poorest part of the world are many. First among them is that the majority of African people, unable to afford the bare minimum necessities of life, like food, water, and modern medicine, live under conditions unfit for human beings in the twenty-first century. Whereas most of the people in the developed world have an overabundance of food, clothes, medicine, and other modern conveniences, like electricity and good roads, most African people lack access to such things and to necessities like clean water, good roads, and decent housing. Ayittey’s recent work on the African condition contain a litany of the afflictions that plague the continent because of its underdevelopment. That list includes “poverty, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, ignorance, chronic and persistent political instability, corruption, inflation, typically inadequate housing, poor roads, primitive modes of communication, poorly equipped hospitals, impoverished professional and educational institutions, senseless civil wars, political and social chaos, and the absence of the rule of law.” 16 Meredith would agree with Ayittey’s list but would add that because of Africa’s poverty and seemingly interminable underdevelopment, pessimism about the present and the future of the continent generally prevails, even on the global level. As Meredith writes, the sum of Africa’s misfortunes, especially “its wars, its despotisms, its corruption, its droughts, is truly daunting.” No other area of the world, he continues, arouses such a sense of foreboding, 17 and “few states have managed to escape the downward spiral.” Tragically, Meredith adds, “most African countries are effectively bankrupt, prone

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to civil strife, subject to dictatorial rule, weighed down by debt, and heavily dependent on Western assistance for survival.” 18 These uncomplimentary reports about the current condition of Africa are not just random remarks made by random observers who happen to take a random interest in African affairs. The literature on Africa is overflowing with volumes of such scathing and negative observations. As Andrew Hacker once observed, the modern world is united in its pessimism about Africa’s present and future. “The rest of the world,” he wrote, “regards Africa as the primal continent: the most backward, the least developed, by almost every modern measure.” 19 In fact, in the perception of the rest of the world, Hacker continues, “Africa is regarded as barely worth the world’s attention. If it receives any attention, it is usually in the form of compassion and pity during times of great distress and misfortunes, like war or famine.” 20 Hacker went on to add that for the most part the world carries on its business of living without cognizance of Africa, convinced that the continent has nothing to contribute to the modern world and that it is not even capable of solving its myriad social, economic, and political problems on its own. De Blij would concur with Hacker. In his 2012 publication, Why Geography Matters More Than Ever, de Blij decried the fact that most people in the developed world, especially in the United States, carry on their business of living without giving much thought to Africa and its problems. Sub-Saharan Africa, “the real Africa,” he writes, “is also terra incognito to Americans more than any other part of the world. When Africa does gain America’s attention, it tends to happen because of civil wars, health crises, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks, and only rarely because of the kinds of positive developments that occasionally emerge from other parts of the world.” 21 Thus, he concludes: [I]n the public eye, therefore, Africa south of the Sahara, the ancestral home of hominins and the cradle of humanity, the setting of our first communities and the scene of our first cultures, the place where we made our first tools and spoke our first words, the theater of our first artistic expressions and the landscape of whose Pleistocene variability would propel our ancestors into Asia and the world—that Africa is largely forgotten. 22

A host of other scholars agree with these observations and with the claim that when the rest of the world takes notice of Africa it usually does so at times when the continent is suffocating under one or more of its myriad socioeconomic and political problems. For instance, a textbook on world economic geography, a text with which millions of college students, both African and non-African, are educated in the United States today, has an entry about the prevailing conditions on the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa, the book states, “is the poorest region of the world. Even though it has an overall low population density and an abundance of natural resources, most people there live in poverty and suffer from poor health and lack of education.” 23 So,

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more than a century after Hegel denigrated the continent for its lack of advancement, Africa remains, as Margery Perham described it five decades ago, “the largest area of primitive poverty enduring into the modern age.” 24 One might object to these uncomplimentary views of Africa by pointing out that poverty and underdevelopment are not unique to the continent or to African nations. Poor nations exist in other continents, one might argue, and so does underdevelopment. After all, it is common knowledge that extensive poverty exists in certain parts of Asia (e.g., in India and the Middle East) and in parts of Latin America (e.g., in Haiti, Mexico, and Brazil). Such an objection, however, overlooks the fact that even though poverty exists in other nations and continents, it appears that it is only in Africa that it has found its permanent and most comfortable abode. It is true that most of the third world is poor, but it appears that it is in Africa that poverty has reached epidemic and intolerable proportions. As is well known, Africa’s poverty is so deep and so extensive that in the advanced parts of the world proposals for the possible future development of the continent are commonly greeted with profound skepticism. In the perception of many people in the Western world, Africa represents that part of the world that is no longer expected to develop and would have to depend permanently on the benevolence of the advanced world for its modern economic and technological needs. A few decades ago, most countries in Africa were classified as “third world” nations or as “developing” nations. Now, however, after five decades of independence and self-government, the material conditions on the continent have so deteriorated that some economists have even suggested that the term “fourth world” is more apposite. 25 This is because although the major afflictions that plague African nations—poverty, illiteracy, political instability, and the widespread ignorance of modern industrial techniques—can also be found in other parts of the world, the degree to which they are found in Africa makes the African condition unique. Unlike the other parts of the world, what one finds most commonly in Africa are roads that are shockingly in disrepair, cities without an adequate number of economic and social services, towns and metropoles without electricity or clean water, villages and towns without hospitals or health clinics or any sort of modern medical facilities. To compound these issues, most African nations are plagued by political instability and seem to be eternally engaged in one senseless ethnic or civil war after another. At the global level, African nations, because of their chronic underdevelopment, remain on the periphery of the modern world, seemingly powerless to play a significant or active part in the direction and adjudication of world affairs.

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THE IRONY OF AFRICA’S UNDERDEVELOPMENT It has long been recognized that Africa’s underdevelopment is paradoxical. The continent has vast reserves of natural resources, enough to make it a veritable paradise on earth. According to a 2013 report by the US Geological Survey, Africa’s reserves of precious metals and minerals, like gold, diamond, uranium, chromium, etc., are among the largest in the world. According to that same report, the combined reserves of gold ore in just three African countries—Ghana, Tanzania, and South Africa—outstrip that of the combined gold reserves of Australia and the United States, continents that also possess extensive gold reserves. South Africa alone has for many centuries remained the depository of the largest reserves of gold in the world. In addition to its gold fields, South Africa possesses vast reserves of other critical mineral resources. According to the same report by the US Geological Survey, “South Africa produced more than 59 different mineral commodities from about 920 mines and quarries, which included 116 diamond, 59 coal, 42 gold, and 21 platinum group metals (PGM) operations, and ranked first in the world in the production of aluminosilicates (andalusite), chromite, ferrochrome, gold, manganese, PGM, vanadium, and vermiculite, and second in the production of titanium minerals (chiefly ilmenite) and zirconium.” 26 Yet, South Africa is not the only country in Africa that is endowed with vast reserves of such critical natural resources. Countries like Congo, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Botswana, Namibia, and Liberia possess extensive reserves of diamond ore. Botswana alone possesses the largest reserves of diamond ore in Africa and perhaps the largest in the entire world. Furthermore, vast reserves of other natural resources, like petroleum, iron, copper, and uranium, are found in many other African countries. Petroleum, for instance, is found in overabundant reserves in Libya, Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, Algeria, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Benin, Cameroon, and Egypt. In fact, with only a few exceptions, most African countries are the repositories of extravagantly large quantities of a variety of natural and mineral resources. Tin, cobalt, phosphates, bauxite, chrome, manganese, radium, and uranium are just a few of such minerals. Even after centuries of imperialist exploitation and expropriation, the continent remains a veritable reservoir of these critical natural resources. Unfortunately, despite such immense natural wealth, not a single African nation is developed or developing, and it is because of this irony that the underdevelopment of the continent is typically viewed with bewilderment. Ali Mazrui, for instance, lamented in The African Condition that although Africa is not the poorest of the regions of the world in natural resources, it is, nevertheless, the least developed of the inhabited continents. “In Africa,” he wrote, “immense mineral wealth and agricultural potential coexist with some of the lowest standards of living in the world, resulting in the even further irony that the richest

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inhabitants of the continent are not themselves Africans, but Europeans and Asians who have plundered the continent and used its natural resources to enrich themselves.” Similarly, Mazrui continued, the poorest in per capita terms are the indigenous Africans, while the highest standards of living on the continent are to be found among the white population of southern Africa. 27 Other African scholars have echoed Mazrui’s point. Ayittey, in Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future, found it perplexing that a preponderance of the inhabitants of such a resource-rich continent as Africa should exist “in steaming squalor, misery, deprivation, and chaos,” 28 while their continent possesses the bulk of the world’s gold, cobalt, diamonds, and other critical minerals. However, the wide recognition of this irony has not led to an equally extensive effort on the part of African leaders to develop the continent and bridge the current gap between Africa’s natural resources and the living conditions of her starving millions. There are some who contend that it is inappropriate to describe Africa as “underdeveloped” because, in their view, the continent is developing, albeit slowly. Typically mistaking modernization for development, these thinkers point to the existence of a few modern cities that dot the continent—like Abuja, Lagos, Dar es Salaam, Monrovia, Accra, Pretoria, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, etc.—and believe that given time the continent will catch up with the rest of the advanced nations. For such people, the four decades of post-colonial independence is too brief a time to bridge the development gap between the embattled continent and the advanced nations of Western Europe and East Asia. However, contrary to the views advanced by these naïve optimists, there is a mountain of evidence that the continent is not developing. First, these purportedly modern African cities are not the products of African knowledge and technological skills. Typically, European and Asian engineers are recruited by African governments and paid exorbitant amounts of money to build these cities. In general, African people lack the knowledge and skills to construct these cities on their own. So, in a very real sense, these “African cities” are not truly African. They are in fact European or Asian cities erected in Africa. Second, as anyone who has ever visited any of these “modern” cities knows, they are, with only a few exceptions, “modern” in name only. A great majority of them lack the basic infrastructure and social services appropriate for a city. Compared with the cities of Western Europe and North America, these African cities are undeserving of the name. They are typically filthy, noisy, dusty, and disorderly. Most of them lack good roads and clean drinking water, and not one of them is a very safe and sanitary place to live. In truth, the African city of today is nothing but a Hobbesian “state of nature,” an architectural jungle where life is “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In it, too many people are destitute and deprived, and they live their lives surrounded by mountains of trash and open sewage. In it, people travel along dusty, unpaved, and treacherous “roads,” surrounded by

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innumerable damaged automobiles and rusted metal. In the “modern” African city, too many squalid churches and houses of prayer exist where the poor, the sick, and the destitute huddle together in their misery and needlessly offer supplication to the deaf gods of their former colonial oppressors. There too, battalions of illiterate and starving children die needlessly because their bodies are ravaged by diseases that are curable and preventable today by modern medicine.

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NOTES

1. Georg Wilhelm Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. by J. Sibnee (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1902), 157. 2. Kwame Nkrumah, Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1964), 62ff. 3. Ibid., 62–63. 4. Babacar Camara, “The Falsity of Hegel’s Theses on Africa,” Journal of Black Studies 36, no. 1 (September 2005): 82–96. 5. Charles Verharen, “The New World and the Dreams to Which It May Give Rise: An African and American Response to Hegel’s Challenge,” Journal of Black Studies 27, no. 4 (March 1997): 456–93. 6. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, quoted in Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair (New York: Public Affairs Group, 2005), 147. 7. Ibid. 8. World Bank, African Development Indicators 2000 (Washington, DC: World Bank Group, 2000). Also quoted in George B. N. Ayittey, Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 4. 9. Basil Davidson, The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State (New York: Times Books, 1992), 9. 10. Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair (New York: Public Affairs Group, 2005), 681–82. 11. Quoted in Meredith, The Fate of Africa, 144–45. 12. Peter Schwab, Africa: A Continent Self-Destructs (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 2. 13. United Nations. Human Development Report, 2005, hdr.undp.org. 14. Thomas Krabacher et al., Global Studies: Africa, 13th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 3. 15. Ibid. 16. George Ayittey, Africa in Chaos (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999), 8–9. 17. Meredith, The Fate of Africa, front flap. 18. Ibid. 19. Andrew Hacker, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992), 33. 20. Ibid. 21. Harm de Blij, Why Geography Matters More Than Ever (New York, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012), 293. 22. Ibid., 294.

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23. Frederick Stutz and Barney Warf, The World Economy: Resources, Location, Trade and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2005), 487. 24. Quoted in Atul Kohli, State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 300. 25. George Ayittey, Africa in Chaos (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999), 32ff. 26. The Mineral Industry of South Africa, United States Geological Society, Minerals Yearbook, 2003, 1. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2003. 27. Ali A. Mazrui, The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 70–72ff. 28. Ayittey, Africa Unchained, 2.

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Chapter Three

The Cause of Africa’s Underdevelopment

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Conflicting Theories

Several theories purport to explain the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment. Of those theories, the three most common are the racialist, geographical, and dependency theories. According to the racialist theory, Africa is underdeveloped because African people lack the intelligence to build an advanced civilization or a modern industrial nation. The geographical theory attributes the underdeveloped condition of Africa to either the benign conditions of the African continent or to the limitations imposed on African people by Africa’s geography. Dependency theory, however, rejects both the racialist and geographical explanations and contends that Africa is underdeveloped because of its colonial history and the forceful integration of its economy into the global capitalist system. This chapter examines the plausibility of each of these theories. THE RACIAL EXPLANATION Traditional racist doctrine was not created in a vacuum. It was designed to account for the differences in the level of development and achievement that existed between the “races” or various branches of the human family. According to the proponents of the racialist theory, a hierarchy of intelligence exists among human beings, and the Caucasoid race exists at the apex of this hierarchy. The Mongoloid race, they claimed, is next in rank, while the Negroid occupies the lowest rank of the intellectual hierarchy. Historians attest that one of the persistent themes in the writings of many eighteenth31

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century scholars is that African people were backward because they exhibited a characteristically non-rational and non-scientific outlook. African civilization and the societies it spun, they claimed, were plagued by a stubborn and unflinching animistic and childish understanding of the world. In their view, Asian societies exhibited some of Europe’s alleged rationality and intelligence but also occasionally displayed the degeneracy of black irrationality. 1 In the works of nineteenth-century missionaries, explorers, anthropologists, merchants, journalists, colonial administrators, and even philosophers, one often encountered the notion that African people were really a race of adults suffering from an arrested intellectual or mental development. Some, like Hegel, boldly declared that Africa was the land where men were children. Cecil Rhodes claimed that the African mind was comparable to that of a child. 2 Such views were commonplace among the educated elite in nineteenth-century Europe. As Davidson points out in The African Genius, “the view of Africans held by many white men in Victorian England was of a people whose intelligence became arrested in the course of evolutionary development.” 3 Conservative Victorians were convinced, Davidson continues, that in the great march of progress from savagery to civilization, Europeans were at the zenith of the race to civilization, while Africans were “simply not in the race.” 4 According to Davidson, when these Victorian theorists were informed that Africans once built great civilizations like that of ancient Egypt and even led humanity on the path to advancement, they expressed profound doubts about the truth of such claims and argued that if Africans were once in the race, they had since stopped running. They could not say precisely why Africans stopped running, but some speculated that it was because of some fatal deficiency in the black nature, namely a congenital intellectual inferiority. Some of the theorists claimed that the African brain was too small to develop the critical intelligence needed for civilization. Others claimed that it was not the size of his “cranial cavity” but his “diminished frontal lobes.” Yet others claimed, according to Davidson, that African people fell behind in the race for development because the African brain was endowed with “an insufficiently reliable supra-granular layer of cortex” 5— that is, that it lacked enough convolutions in the frontal neural lobes. One such man was Richard Burton, the purportedly eminent explorer of West and East Africa, who wrote that “once an African becomes an adult, his mental development is arrested and thenceforth he grows backward instead of forward.” 6 Another was Elisabeth Huxley, who pointed out that Africans were backward because they chose, for thousands of years, to remain at virtually the same level of culture. They seem almost alone among the major races, Huxley wrote, to have halted in the Stone Age, too comfortable to go any further. 7 Modern racialist theorists, like de Gobineau, Chamberlain, Rosenberg, and Hitler, had their own variations of this racist dogma. According to de Gobineau, the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is that the black race,

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of all the other races, placed the least value in improving its material condition and, consequently, lacks the very spirit of civilization.

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From the point of view of civilization . . . the experience of centuries shows that they [the Negroes] are no more capable of being civilized than the others. Ages have passed without their doing anything to improve their condition; they are all equally powerless to mingle act and idea in sufficient strength to burst their prison walls and emerge from their degradation. 8

In de Gobineau’s view, each race has its own peculiar gift or talent, given to it by nature. Negroes, he claimed, were endowed by nature with an excess of feelings and emotions, and are most able to express themselves in song and dance. Caucasians, on the other hand, are colder in emotional expression, but are endowed with the highest degree of intelligence. The Mongoloids fall in between, exhibiting the rationality of Caucasian intelligence at times, and the emotionalism of Negroes in general. Some contemporary racialist theorists would disagree with de Gobineau on the place of Asians or “Orientals” on the racial hierarchy. However, they would not dispute the status he assigns to African people. Rushton, for instance, claims that the Orientals are more intelligent than whites because their brains are larger than those of either whites or blacks. According to him, molecular genetic evidence indicates that modern humans, Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. The first humans migrated out of Africa about 100,000 years later. The Caucasian race split out of the Negroid race about 100,000 years ago, and the Mongoloid race split from the white race just about 40,000 years ago. Rushton theorizes that since evolutionary selection pressures were far different in the hot African Savannah, where black or Negroid peoples initially evolved, from what they were in the cold arctic environment, where Mongoloids evolved, it was necessary and predictable that the black, white, and yellow races would develop genetic differences. The more north the early humans went as they left Africa, the harder it was for them to find food and shelter, and raise their offspring. The consequence, Rushton claims, was that the Caucasian group developed larger brains and the Oriental group developed even larger brain sizes. Thus, according to him, the Orientals became the most intelligent of the human races because they have the largest brains, and the whites fall in between the Orientals and the blacks. Blacks, on the other hand, according to him, have the smallest brain sizes and, consequently, the least intelligence. Rushton argues further that since intelligence increases the chances of survival in harsh winter environments, the groups that left Africa had to evolve greater intelligence than the group that remained behind on the continent. Thus, blacks, having evolved in a tropical climate, had to be less intelligent than whites who evolved in a colder climate. The Europeans in turn had to be less

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intelligent than the Orientals, who were the products of the cold arctic lands, which are even colder than the cold temperatures of Europe. 9 Many contemporary racialist and racist theorists would agree with the view expressed by Rushton that the origin of black inferiority is genetic and that African people are by nature intellectually inferior to Asians and Europeans. About half a century ago, Robert Park, the founder of the Chicago School of sociology, described the black race as “the female race” or “the lady among races” 10 because, according to him, blacks, “by natural disposition,” exhibited the qualities most associated with women. For instance, he claimed that they exhibited a lack of intellectual orientation and a pioneering spirit, coupled with a preference for art, expression, and style, rather than substance. 11 It was because of these inherent qualities in the black race, Park claimed, that black people failed to develop an advanced culture comparable to that found in Europe and Asia. Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein made similar claims in The Bell Curve. 12 They claimed, for instance, that the IQ of both continental Africans and African Americans is much lower than that of Asians and Europeans and that this lower IQ is largely inherited. Worse still, they claimed that not much can be done to significantly improve the black IQ. Thus, according to Murray and Herrnstein, the reason black people do not belong to the ranks of the contemporary “cognitive elite” is that they were made so by nature. Another recent exponent of the racialist dogma is Michael Levin. In his book, Why Race Matters, Levin claims that the attainment gap between blacks and whites, and between blacks and Asians, is not the result of social or cultural conditioning, but of the natural or innate qualities possessed by each of the different races. “The widely known and observable global failure of blacks to measure up to the intellectual achievements of whites and Asians,” he argued, “can only be logically accounted for in terms of an innate black intellectual inferiority.” According to Levin, none of the two commonly invoked causes, oppression and racial discrimination, are sufficient to account for the gap, since other oppressed minorities, like the Jews, continental Indians, Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese, have excelled in educational and cultural attainments despite white racial oppression. As is well known, Asians and Jews in all cultures have succeeded in the face of sometimes murderous hostility. Jews in medieval Europe were largely confined to ghettos and forbidden to engage in certain trades. Pogroms occurred regularly in Czarist Russia, and the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews, yet Jews dominate the list of Nobel laureates in science and Fields medalists in mathematics, are over-represented by a factor of 10 in American college teaching, medicine and law, and make up 25 percent of the former Soviet Academy of Science. They have formed resurgent and prosperous communities in Poland and Germany. Before 1930 Jews were a marginal presence in my own field, philosophy, yet by the mid-1990s the majority of the most influential

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academic philosophers were Jewish. . . . Jews have eventually been recognized (and disliked for) their exceptional talent. Blacks have not made the transition to brightness. 13

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RACIAL THEORY AND THE EVIDENCE OF HISTORY The claim that the black race suffers from an innate inferior intelligence and that this intellectual inferiority is the cause of Africa’s long-standing underdevelopment has a long history. It also has a long history of attempts to repudiate it. However, the effort to discredit this racial explanation has not been entirely successful because it has remained firmly etched in the cultural psyche of many, even today. The recent arguments by Murray and Herrnstein in The Bell Curve are examples of its persistence. In a sense, The Bell Curve was a renewed effort to resuscitate the old doctrine of the intellectual inferiority of African people. It seemed that the authors wrote the book to remind a forgetful segment of the contemporary world that the old racist views about the black intellect were accurate, that African people are cursed with an innate low intelligence, and that social programs, like affirmative action, designed to righten America’s past racial injustices against African people, were doomed to fail. Fortunately, many saw that the entire edifice of this racist dogma was erected on shaky foundations. First, it was based on the false assertion that all advances in science and technology have been the exclusive achievements of Europeans. The origin of this view dates back to the late nineteenth century when eminent racist theorists, like de Gobineau, claimed that Europe was the source of all progress and that wherever the light of civilization shone on mankind, it was on account of the vitality, intelligence, and creativity of European people. However, confronted with the amazing variety of contributions of non-European peoples from the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China, these racialist theorists took the stance that these civilizations originated from a now vanished group of wandering Indo-European or white Aryan invaders whom they allege were the ancestors of modern Europeans. According to them, these Indo-Europeans conquered Asia and parts of North Africa in the distant past, and it was from them that the ancestors of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China arose. According to de Gobineau, these Indo-European conquerors first conquered and colonized the indigenous peoples of India, Egypt, and China. After these initial conquests, the conquerors, constituting themselves into ruling aristocracies in their conquered lands and employing the energies of their subject populations, became the architects of the early advanced civilizations of Africa, Asia, and Europe. It was from this primitive stock of Aryan nobility, de Gobineau claimed, that the Brahmins of India, the Zoroastrian nobility of Persia, the pharaohs of Egypt, and later the nobilities of ancient Greece, Rome, France, and Germany arose. However, as Ruth Bene-

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dict has argued, the racist argument of a single white race constituting the core and well-spring of intelligence and inventiveness and from whom culture and civilization are diffused or dispensed to the rest of humanity is not only the consequence of an “unashamed racial megalomania,” it is also historically false. It is false because it is contrary to historical evidence. 14 As she points out, what the history of human advancement shows is that “modern civilization has been built upon the inventions of a great array of different ethnic groups” and that “many of the greatest of these inventions were made when the Europeans were still backward barbarians and the Nordic Aryans were still unheard of in the great centers of population.” 15 Thus, the fundamental assumption of racist theory, that the material and technological superiority of the European race is evidence also of its intellectual superiority, immediately collapses. If the technological pre-eminence that the European race has enjoyed for the past five hundred years is not solely the brainchild of the European race, but the result of various contributions and even the original inventions of non-European peoples, then the fundamental racist contention that technological pre-eminence is evidence of intellectual superiority is brazenly false. Similarly, the contention that Africa’s technological underdevelopment or the underdevelopment of any other segment of the globe is the result of intellectual inferiority seems spurious. The history of human development in various parts of the world shows that neither progress nor regress is necessarily the product of high or superior intelligence. Rather, it is the result of fluctuations in cultural and political behavior. 16 The Romans of the first century B.C. were more technologically advanced than the Celts and the Franks of the same period, yet the English and the French today are more technologically advanced than the Italians. Was the technological underdevelopment of the British Isles in the first century the result of an innate intellectual inferiority? How did that “innate” intelligence diminish such that Britain in the nineteenth century became the center of the industrial revolution and the British were able to colonize and dominate the rest of the world? The same questions could be raised with regard to the development histories of China, India, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, modern Japan, and every other culture that was at one time advanced and then regressed or was once backward and later became the scene of technological progress. Given the historical fluctuations in the level of technological achievements among ancient and modern civilizations, the only conclusion one is entitled to draw is that these attainments occurred because of changes in the cultural and social milieu, and not because of the possession of high or low intelligence by any one race. Such changes either liberated the inventiveness of the people or suppressed it and, consequently, led to the people’s progress or regress. In other words, the cause of technological advancement or retrogression lies not so much in high or low intelligence, but in the cultural

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environment that promotes or discourages such advancement. This is because high or low intelligence has never been the exclusive preserve of any one ethnicity, race, or continent, and because gradations of intelligence exist in every race, nation, or people. This was the core of Benedict’s argument. The historical fact that the same people or nation, like Japan or China, can, in various centuries, choose to promote or repress their own population’s technical ability and make the conscious choice to travel in a completely different historical trajectory or adopt different cultural forms without altering their intellectual and racial constitution demonstrates that culture, rather than high or low intelligence, is the cause of technological progress or regress. 17 GEOGRAPHICAL EXPLANATIONS

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A Benign Geography The view that the stagnation of science and technology in Africa was caused by the benign geographical conditions that existed on the continent from the beginning has been defended by a variety of scholars. Diop, for instance, argued that historically humans lived in two geographically distinct cradles, the southern and the northern cradles. 18 The southern cradle was conducive to agriculture and a sedentary life. The northern cradle, on the other hand, was conducive only to a pastoral and nomadic life. In the southern cradle, nature was sunny and benevolent, and those who lived there responded by creating a system of values and social organizations that were consistent with their benign material environment. A sedentary life required the settled communities to cooperate with one another in order to cope with natural phenomena, like flood and famine. It also required a central political administration to coordinate the necessary cooperative activities. Furthermore, because such a political authority had to transcend the narrow isolating limits of the primitive families and clans, those who lived in the southern cradle, Diop claimed, found it necessary, by virtue of their material circumstances, to confer primacy on cooperation, community, equity, generosity, and a spirit of justice. In the northern cradle, on the other hand, the Indo-Europeans who lived there, according to Diop, developed a system of values and social organizations consistent with the region, namely individualism and aggression, along with a love of freedom, adventure, and warfare. In essence, Diop was contending that from the beginning the Indo-Europeans who occupied the steppes of Europe and Asia were compelled, on account of the nomadic life favored by their material circumstances, to develop a system of values that was antithetical to the system of values that evolved in the more favorable material conditions of the southern cradle. As he wrote,

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Chapter 3 the rugged life on the Eurasian plains apparently intensified the materialistic instinct of the peoples living there. On the other hand, it forged moral values diametrically opposed to Egyptian moral values, which stemmed from a sedentary, relatively easy, peaceful life, once it had been regulated by a few social laws . . . this was the antithesis of the spirit of rapine and conquest that generally characterized the peoples of the North, driven, in a sense, away from a country unfavored by Nature. 19

Claiming that the Europeans developed a spirit of conquest and a love for mechanical contrivances because they inhabited a cold and inhospitable terrain where they were forced to live a nomadic life, he wrote that:

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It is again the strong inherent desire in European man growing out of the nomadic, hunting context of Europe that makes him seek conquest of nature . . . the land was harsh and yielded little food, so machinery would rid the world of poverty. 20

Diop claimed that there was no trace, either in legend or fact, that Africans ever led a nomadic life; hence African societies never considered greed and aggression to be virtues. He then went on to argue that there was abundant archeological and linguistic evidence that the Indo-Europeans, from the beginning, placed a high value on aggression, greed, and the love of warfare. 21 In their religious mythologies, for instance, “it was only possible to enter the Germanic paradise Valhalla if one were a warrior and had fallen in battle,” 22 Diop pointed out. Furthermore, all the Olympian gods spent their time in battle with one another. Again, the very fact that it was by sheer force and with some help from Prometheus that Zeus, the Indo-European king of the gods, triumphed over the rest of the gods, and that there was no injustice from which Zeus recoiled as he coveted the wives of the other gods, demonstrates that war, violence, aggression, robbery, cruelty, and a taste for risk constituted the core of the moral system that developed in the northern cradle. On the other hand, the very fact that the Egyptian gods were revered for their generosity and justice, as symbolized in the classic judgment scene of Osiris where Thoth and Anubis “weigh” the souls of the dead on a scale, demonstrates that the system of values that evolved in the southern cradle placed little value on warfare and aggression. According to Diop, the Nubians and Egyptians of antiquity felt very comfortable in their own country and did not wish to leave it or to appropriate other peoples’ territory. In general, African people, like the ancient Egyptians, were not conquerors, but distinguished themselves by their spirit of justice and piety. Diop cites Herodotus’s report that the Egyptians were not a warlike people and argues that the imperialist phase of Egyptian history—for instance, under Thutmosis II—was merely an act of self-defense that was necessitated by the Hyksos conquest and lasted only for a temporary period.

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The crux of Diop’s theory is that Africa became technologically backward because from the very beginning its people did not develop an interest in material or technological development—that is, as he claims, beyond that necessary for their subsistence. Furthermore, they did not develop an interest in material development, he claims, because they lived in a benign geographic environment where such an interest would have been superfluous and unnecessary. Nature provided them with such an abundance and profusion of natural resources that they had no need to be technologically inventive. “With economic resources assured by means that did not require perpetual inventions,” he wrote, “the Negro became progressively indifferent to material progress.” 23

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According to Diop, the continent of Africa was peopled by successive migrations from Egypt. In Egypt, which was the northern periphery of the continent, the material conditions were less benign and the ancient Egyptians, as such, were compelled to be more technologically inventive. However, after the rest of the continent was peopled, those who migrated to the interior of the continent found the technological emphasis of the Egyptians superfluous. Initially, as long as they maintained contact with the Nile Valley civilization of which they were offshoots, they kept abreast of the technological developments that took place in Egypt. However, once Egypt lost her sovereignty and was overrun by successive conquerors, their contact with the very source of their scientific and technical wisdom became severed, and their technological skills eventually atrophied. Furthermore, because they now lived in the interior of the continent where the material conditions were benign, they did not feel compelled to develop in a technological direction. In the interior, the new offshoots of the Nile Valley civilization, separated from their mother country [Egypt] which was invaded by the foreigner and, withdrawn in a geographical setting requiring a minimum effort of adjustment, the Blacks [in the interior] were oriented toward the development of their social, political, and moral organization, rather than toward speculative scientific research that their circumstances failed to justify, and even rendered impossible. Adaptation to the narrow, fertile Nile Valley required expert technique in irrigation and dams, precise calculations to foresee the inundations of the Nile and to deduce their economic and social consequences. It also required the invention of geometry to delimit property after the floods obliterated boundary lines. By the same token, the terrain in long flat strips required the transformation of the paleo-Nigritic hoe into a plow, first drawn by men, subsequently by animals. Indispensable as all that was for the Negro’s material existence in the Nile Valley, it became equally superfluous in the new living conditions in interior. Since history had disrupted his former equilibrium with the environment, the Black now found a new equilibrium, differing from the first in the absence of a technique no longer vital to the social, political, and moral organization. With economic resources assured by means

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that did not require perpetual inventions, the Negro became progressively indifferent to material progress. 24 (Emphasis mine)

Diop’s view that African societies fell behind in technology because they lived on a benign continent that made technical inventiveness superfluous was shared by many, including Walter Rodney, who also invoked it as part of the cause of pre-colonial Africa’s technological stagnation. Rodney argued that fifteenth-century European technology was not entirely superior to that of Africa or that of any other part of the world 25 and that Africa’s technical stagnation began in the fifteenth century with the imperialist integration of Africa into the global capitalist economy. However, he also acknowledged in his most popular work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, that pre-colonial Africa lagged behind Europe in technological development. However, he attributed the cause of this lag to Africa’s collectivist system of values. African collectivism, he claimed, arose because of the benign conditions that existed on the continent, especially the abundance of land and many natural resources. Content with life in their benign environment, the early African societies developed an indifference toward technological advancement, which to them would have been superfluous. Contrasting the disparate cultural histories of Europe and Africa, Rodney pointed out that in Europe feudalism was the driving force that led to the development of European technology. In Europe, the feudalist landowners owned the land, and the bureaucracy controlled the state, which became the chief instrument of oppression and economic exploitation. Since only a few people owned the land and the majority were tenants, the resultant exploitation and unending quest for profit led the landowners to devise strategies for improving their land. The European program of land improvement was carried out mainly in agriculture, where the feudalist landowners, because of their vested interest in the land, developed a professional interest in technology and played the key roles of initiators and supervisors of agricultural development. Later, Rodney explained, when feudalism gave way to capitalism, the conditions became highly conducive, especially through the greed of the emerging capitalist class of merchants and craftsmen of the feudal period, for further scientific and technological development. As in feudalism, the emerging capitalism was characterized by the concentration of the means of producing wealth in the hands of a few and by the unequal distribution of the products of labor. It was this exploitative accumulation of capital that enabled the bourgeoisie to become the industrialists and financiers whose main goal was not to produce wealth in agriculture, but in industry, and by means of machines in factories and mines, rather than by the employment of human or animal muscle power. However, in their effort to acquire more and more capital, “the capitalists took an ever-increasing interest in the laws of science, and this interest led to

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the development of more sophisticated, efficient and productive machinery.” 26 Contrasting Africa with Europe, Rodney argued that a feudal system did not arise in pre-colonial Africa and that communalism remained the continent’s main principle of economic organization. In all pre-colonial African states, he pointed out, no individual person, including the monarch or emperor, owned the land. Rather, land was owned by the community or the clan. The ruler or the elders merely apportioned the land to the citizens, who did not claim ownership but held it in trust, with the full knowledge that it would eventually revert to the community. 27 The consequence of this communalism, according to Rodney, was a lack of interest in scientific and technological knowledge. Thus, in Rodney’s view, pre-colonial African societies did not develop any significant interest in science and technology because the relations of production on the continent, especially in its sub-Saharan part, did not evolve from communalism into feudalism. Had feudalism evolved in Africa, there would have been, according to Rodney, a class with a vested interest in the land, a class that could have propelled Africa in the direction of capitalist and industrial development, as was the case in Europe where the feudal lords spurred the transition from feudalism to capitalism. He wrote: The weakness in Africa seemed to have been the lack of a professional interest in acquiring scientific knowledge and in devising tools to lighten the load of labor as well as to transform hostile environments into areas suitable for human activity. As far as agriculture in Europe was concerned, this professionalism was undertaken by the class with a vested interest in the land—namely, the feudalist landowners and later the capitalist farmers. . . . Development is very much determined by the social relations of production [i.e., those which have to do with people’s functions in producing wealth]. Where a few people owned the land and the majority were tenants, this injustice at a particular stage of history allowed the few to concentrate on improving their land. In contrast, under communalism every African was assured of sufficient land to meet his own needs by virtue of being a member of a family or community. For that reason, and because land was relatively abundant, there were few social pressures or incentives for technical changes to increase productivity. 28 (Emphasis mine)

There is abundant historical evidence to support Diop’s and Rodney’s claim that pre-colonial African societies exhibited very little interest in scientific and technological advancement. As the next chapter shows in greater detail, African states and empires consistently exhibited gross indifference toward material and technological progress. With the exception of Old Kingdom Egypt, 29 which once led the world in science and technology, the rest of the African states—Ghana, Mali, Songhai, and Kanem-Bornu—when compared with their contemporaries—Arabia, Persia, India, China, and Japan—did not, in spite of their acclaimed greatness, exhibit a high level of technological

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advancement. Even ancient Egypt—where, according to Diop, “mathematics, astronomy, the calendar, the sciences in general, arts, religion, agriculture, social organization, medicine, writing, technique, architecture, and engineering” 30 were first invented—eventually succumbed to this cultural apathy toward science and technology. The consequence of this indifference was that Egypt was eventually overrun by more technologically advanced societies from Asia. Thus, it was because ancient Egypt lagged in the critical technologies of the various periods of its history that its monarchies and empires, including Middle and New Kingdom Egypt, were overrun by the Hyksos, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, and later in the modern period by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, French, and Germans. But, given the historical record of this indifference to technology, it seems rather inaccurate to claim, as Diop and Rodney did, that the cause of the indifference was Africa’s benign material environment. Was it the African environment, benign or inhospitable, that compelled its inhabitants to develop an indifference toward scientific and technological advancement? The two-cradle theory implies that it was. Rodney’s claim that communalism failed to evolve into feudalism in Africa because land was relatively abundant also carries the same implication. According to Rodney, every African, by being a member of a family or community, was assured of sufficient land to meet his own needs. Thus, he claimed, there were few social pressures on the population to invent technical devices to improve productivity. 31 However, these views are not supported by the empirical and historical evidence. It is true that the principles of collectivism prevailed in most ancient African societies. This observation is based on accurate empirical evidence, since collectivism still prevails in many parts of Africa. In most of today’s Africa, the private ownership of property, especially in land and means of production, is still proscribed. However, this African collectivist tradition is not necessarily a product of the African geographical environment, since similar collectivist structures existed historically in societies in other parts of the world where the environment was not benign. In fact, we know from a study of world history that in the earlier stages of civilization, collectivism developed on every continent, regardless of its membership in the southern or northern cradle. Marx and Engels, for instance, show that many ancient societies, including those of France, Germany, and the British Isles, went through an initial stage of collectivism or “primitive communism” before making a transition to more specific forms of private property, like feudalism or capitalism. Indeed, as Marx and Engels argued, history has shown, contrary to the views of those who hold that private property is the first form of property ownership, that “common property” is the original and earliest form. 32 In other words, the communal stage was the earliest and a universal phenomenon in all societies. Thus, there is no intrinsic connection between geography and the emergence of communalism. In other words, if past or contemporary

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African people lacked an interest in technological progress, it was not because of their benign geographical environment. Rather, as Marx showed, its origin arose from the primitive forces of production. In the early epochs of history, whether it was in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas, he argued, we find the constant conjunction of the communal spirit and the communal mode of production of social life. Men lived in clans or tribes and shared labor and property. At this stage, the means of production, the products of labor, and labor power itself were social or communal property. Thus, against those who claimed that private property historically ante-dated communal property, Marx wrote that “a ridiculous prejudice has recently obtained currency that common property in its primitive form is specifically a Slavonic, or even exclusively Russian form. It is the primitive form that we can show to have existed among Romans, Teutons and Celts, and even to this day we find numerous examples, ruins though they be, in India.” 33 Even Rodney cites Marx’s texts as authoritative on this point. Rodney writes that the first major stage of development in Europe after the hunting-gathering stage was communalism, “where property was collectively owned” and “work was done in common” and “goods shared equally.” 34 In other words, in primitive communalism all over the world land was owned in common, rather than as private property. Thus, the rise of African communalism and its accompanying worldview and system of values were not the result of a special African nature or physical environment, but of Africa’s own established values and conventions. This conclusion is further strengthened by the historical fact that this communalism was not a peculiar feature of African society, but one that arose independently of climatic or geographical circumstances.

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An Inhospitable and Defective Geographical Environment In recent years, the theory that a benign geography was the cause of Africa’s technological lag has been largely ignored in favor of a similar but opposing view—namely that it was the isolation of Africa and the inhospitable conditions that prevailed on the continent that led consequently to its underdevelopment. According to the proponents of this view, Africa’s material and physical disadvantages, in comparison with the other continents, are staggering. First, they argue, the Sahara desert is in extension almost the size of the United States, and stretches endlessly from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The Sahara, they claim, isolated sub-Saharan Africa from contact with Mediterranean civilizations from which it could have acquired science and technology. Many African scholars today share this view. One often reads passages like this in contemporary books on African history.

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For geographical reasons, much of the [African] continent was isolated from the contact with other peoples and cultures which is always the greatest stimulus to the development of new ideas and techniques. Thus, over much of the continent the life of the average man has remained that of the simple peasant, tilling the land with the simplest of tools, living in a humble hut built of mud and thatched with grass or leaves, and recognizing a political order no wider than that of his clan. 35

Second, Africa’s isolation is held to be compounded by its lack of natural harbors and year-round navigable waters. It is commonly pointed out that although the longest and widest rivers and lakes are found in Africa, the flow of these rivers, like that of the Nile and the Niger, are interrupted by cataracts, rapids, sandbars, and waterfalls. The reason for these physical features, according to geographers, is that Africa’s continental plate is more than a thousand feet above sea level, and much of that plate consists of high plateaus. So, African rivers, in order to reach the sea, plunge down in the mighty waterfalls that make them unnavigable. And, some African rivers do so in a short distance that compounds the problem. The Zaire, for instance, plunges down more than a thousand feet in a distance of 250 miles in its rush to reach the sea. Other rivers, like the Niger, are navigable only for a few miles and only in the rainy season. Another problem is that African rivers do not flow deep into the interior of the continent, so ships coming from the Atlantic and Indian oceans could not sail farther inland, and travelers and merchants could not make contact with interior African societies. All these features of the continent acted in concert to deprive African societies of both the role that navigation has played in the development of other great civilizations and the advantages that it brought to their societies. It is also claimed that the prevalence of virulent diseases in Africa’s tropical environment directly contributed to its technical stagnation. The cold temperatures of the winter season in Europe and Asia were said to have shielded those two continents from virulent diseases. However, Africa, without a winter season and the cold temperatures of the other continents, became a fertile breeding ground for diseases. African diseases are said to breed yearround, giving Africa the ill repute of being the continent with the most deadly diseases. One often reads that these virulent diseases prevented many areas of East and West Africa from acquiring various crops and animals that could have contributed to the development of African agriculture and military technology. The most commonly cited example is the tsetse fly, which was known to have prevented the widespread breeding and use of the horse in Africa. It is often argued that given the vital role played by the horse in European and Asian development, the tsetse fly alone played an enormous role in undermining the technical development of Africa. It undermined especially the ability of Africans to substitute horse power for slave labor or

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human muscle power, and the ability of African armies to employ the horse for either transportation or warfare.

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A Defective and Tilted North-South Axis The most recent version of the geographical theory is that propounded by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, a book that purports to explain why human history unfolded differently on the different continents in the last thirteen thousand years. In the book’s prologue, Diamond states that Guns, Germs, and Steel was written as an attempt to answer a question posed to him by a New Guinea politician named Yali. Yali’s question to Diamond was “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” Essentially, what Yali wanted to know was how it came to be that European people have so much superior technology and material goods, while African people have very little. So, Yali’s question is really about poverty and wealth, and about development and underdevelopment. Why is it that European nations are wealthier and far more developed than African nations? In responding to this question, Diamond argues that the ultimate cause of Africa’s poverty and underdevelopment is its geography. According to him, the main geographical factors that determined the continent’s course of development were the continent’s north-south axis or continental orientation and the absence of a large number of domesticable native plants and animals. As he explains, Africa, unlike Europe and Asia, had in the beginning a very scant supply of domesticable plants and animals that could fuel its development of agriculture. Of the top five large domestic herbivores (the sheep, goat, cow, pig, and horse) that historically had a significant impact on ancient civilizations, Diamond writes, only the cow was indigenous to Africa. Unfortunately, this indigenous African cow was domesticated only in North Africa, which was isolated from sub-Saharan Africa, and so had little impact on Africa’s agriculture, communication, and warfare. The other four domestic herbivores—the sheep, goat, pig, and horse—Diamond claimed, were indigenous to the Eurasian continent and were domesticated either in Europe or Asia. 36 But what about the bedazzling array of Africa’s other large animals? Diamond claims that these were not, and still are not, domesticable. Large animals, like the elephant, buffalo, zebra, hippopotamus, giraffe, bear, gorilla, chimpanzee, lion, and tiger, abound in Africa, he states, but they are wild and undomesticable. For instance, he states that no one has been able to domesticate the zebra. Not even the most experienced European breeders, who are the inheritors of an impeccable tradition of centuries of successful animal breeding and domestication, were able to domesticate the zebra. Had the zebras, rhinos, and hippos been domesticable, Diamond argues, African people could have employed them in

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agriculture and on the battlefield. For early Africans, these animals “would not only have fed armies, but also provided an unstoppable cavalry to cut through the ranks of European horsemen.” Rhino-mounted Bantu shock troops, Diamond speculated, “could have overthrown the Roman Empire.” 37 Just as Africa was cursed by the absence of large domesticable animals, it was also plagued by the deficiency of large domesticable plants. According to Diamond, Europe and Asia had a wide variety of wild domesticable native plants, but Africa had very few. For Diamond, what was critical was the number of large domesticable plants, not the number of plants in general. In absolute terms, he states, Africa had as many varieties of plants as other continents. However, according to him, very few of these native African plants were domesticable. The consequence of this deficiency was that productive agriculture developed much earlier in southwestern Asia, in the Fertile Crescent, where wheat, barley, sheep, cattle, and goats were domesticated. The domestication of wild plants and animals meant that people in Asia and Europe quickly made the transition from hunter-gathers to settled agricultural peoples. They settled in permanent villages with large populations, where a specialized class like soldiers, kings, and inventors who did not have to produce food evolved. Other advances that came with a settled agricultural population included the discovery and development of metal tools, writing, and complex political structures. Another obstacle to Africa’s development, according to Diamond, is that unlike Eurasia, which has an east-west axis, Africa has a north-south axis. For Diamond, this north-south axis means that Africa spans a much greater distance north-south (about 5,000 miles from Tunisia to Cape Coast) than east-west (about 4,600 miles from Somalia to Senegal). 38 Diamond points out that continents with an east-west axis, like Europe and Asia, have many geographical regions that share the same latitudes and, consequently, also have regions with similar climate, seasons, temperature, rainfall, wildlife and vegetation. When such similarities exist, he states, the diffusion of domesticated animals and plants is relatively easy, since plants and animals spread more quickly and easily within a climate to which they are already adapted. Thus, historically, the diffusion of domesticated plants (like cereals and potatoes) and domesticated animals (like cattle and horses) was much easier in Asia and Europe than in Africa. It was much easier to transport these plants and animals across long geographical distances without encountering a radical change of climate. This was, according to Diamond, the real source of the agricultural revolutions in China, India, Europe, and the Near East—regions that shared the same temperate latitudes. On the other hand, the geographical regions in a north-south axis exist in different latitudes and, consequently, have disparities in climate, rainfall, temperature, seasons, and vegetation. This north-south orientation of Africa constituted a significant obstacle to the diffusion of animals, plants, and technology. In some cases, it made such

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diffusion extremely slow and difficult, while in other cases it made the diffusion impossible. For instance, according to Diamond, it was this north-south axis that impeded the development of Khoisan and Bantu agriculture. Bananas, rice and yams, and other tropical Asian crops for which Africa’s climate was eminently suited and which later became the main foods of tropical Africa, could not reach Africa by land until the first millennium A.D., thousands of years after their domestication in Asia. These crops had to await the later maritime traffic across the Indian Ocean. It was that maritime traffic that also brought corn or maize, which had been domesticated in Mexico around 3500 B.C., to tropical Africa. Similarly, Diamond claims, the Mediterranean crops that became the staples of Egyptian agriculture, like wheat and barley, did not reach the Cape of Good Hope until 1652, when the European colonists brought them by sea. Again, although horses had reached Egypt by 1800 B.C., they could not, according to Diamond, cross the Sahara to help revolutionize West African warfare until the first millennium A.D. Horses did not even cross the Serengeti to South Africa until two thousand years after they reached West Africa. So, according to Diamond, the difference in continental orientation had tragic consequences for the development of Africa. It affected not only the spread of crops and livestock, but also the diffusion of technology, like writing, the wheel, and other major inventions. Writing was developed in Egypt around 3000 B.C., for instance, but it did not spread beyond Meroé and Ethiopia to sub-Saharan Africa until it was later introduced from the outside by Europeans and Arabs. The connection between agriculture and development, in Diamond’s view, is that the production of food led to high population densities, complex political organization, technology, and other advances or instruments of power. People who by accident of their geographical location could produce more food also had higher population densities and subsequently more people to fight wars and invent tools. Unfortunately for Africa, its north-south axis, which was like that of the Americas, made that progression difficult, while the predominantly east-west orientation of Eurasia made the diffusion of plants, animals, and technological inventions relatively easier. Thus, rejecting the explanations of racist theorists, Diamond argues that it was on these east-west and north-south axes that the fortunes of history turned, rather than on any innate differences in intelligence between the races. Thus, for him, it was the geography of Africa that contributed ultimately to the continent’s conquest and colonization by European nations, rather than any innate differences between Africans and Europeans. Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different axes, suites of wild plant and animal species. That is,

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Chapter 3 different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate. 39

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Why Geography Is Not Destiny Diamond’s theory that the ultimate cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is the continent’s geography has the virtue of dispensing with the traditional racial claims that it arose from some innate defect in African people. Unlike traditional racist theories, which claim that Africa is backward because of the inferior intelligence of African people, Diamond argues that the real cause is not any innate difference, but an external unfavorable African geography. 40 If Europe and Africa had exchanged their human populations about twelve thousand years ago, Diamond argues, it would have been the black race that conquered the white race and now dominates the globe, instead of the converse. 41 In other words, the thrust of his theory is that African people fell behind European and Asian peoples because Africans had the misfortune of being put by nature in a geographical environment that put them at a considerable disadvantage in terms of the starting materials—like the plants, animals, and a favorable geographical axis—that they needed for advancement. However, as an account of the fate of different continents and different societies, the geographical theory has many flaws. One of those flaws is that the theory itself is contradicted by historical evidence. Another is that it fails to recognize the central role that the human will, human ingenuity, cultural values, and most importantly good leadership and progressive cultural institutions, have played in the history of development in various parts of the world. A third flaw is that its central claim that the availability of starting materials for agriculture in Eurasia, in conjunction with a favorable east-west axis, led to the sequence that produced agriculture, a large population, specialists that were freed from labor, and thus technological advancement, does not demonstrate that this is the only means by which advanced technology can be produced. There is abundant historical evidence that advanced technology can be produced by political mandate, even in a society without a large population, like modern-day Singapore, South and North Korea, Israel, and nineteenth-century Japan. We shall explore some of the flaws of Diamond’s geographical theory. It is undeniable that geographical factors, like land, oceans, the availability or scarcity of food crops, animals, and other natural resources, play a significant part in economic development. However, the history of the successes or failures of different peoples in their quest for advancement shows that these factors have never been the final determinants of development or underdevelopment. The Chinese, for example, have lived in the same geographical environment for millennia, but their progress or regress has fluctuated according to the kind of political leadership and cultural institutions that

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prevailed under their various dynasties. Diamond acknowledges, for instance, that China was until about 1450 A.D. more technologically advanced and much more innovative than Europe and the rest of the world. China was the first to invent paper, printing, cast iron, the compass, and gunpowder. China also led the world in shipbuilding and navigation. Chinese ships explored the Indian Ocean and sailed to East Africa by 1421 A.D., long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic or Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope. However, China later fell technologically behind Europe, which arrived at the industrial revolution before China. Historians agree generally that it was a result of cultural factors, including internal dissent and power struggle between conservative and progressive factions of the Chinese ruling class. This power conflict led China in the years between 1405 and 1433 to enact repressive laws that eventually isolated the country from the rest of the world. The consequence of this self-imposed isolation was that China’s innovative spirit became stifled in those decades of isolation, and China fell behind the west technologically. 42 But if a nation like China, occupying the same geographic location and inhabited by people of the same race or ethnicity, could attain different levels of development at different historical periods because of a political decision, it must follow that geography is not ultimately determinative to the question of development or underdevelopment. Rather, the factors that seem ultimately determinative are cultural factors, like the progressive or unprogressive ideas of the ruling class and the establishment of forward-looking or backward-looking political, economic, and social institutions. These factors are not generated by geography, yet they have primacy over geographical factors. In other words, the example of the disparate levels of development of China in different historical periods shows that culture, rather than geography, plays the ultimate role in a society’s progress or regress. Diamond, recognizing the weight of this objection, tried unsuccessfully to defeat it. It would seem, he wrote, that given Asia’s east-west axis and the right distribution of domesticable wild plants and animals, that either India or China would be the ideal candidates for global ascendancy. So why, he asked, was it that European societies “rather than those of the Fertile Crescent or China or India, [were] the ones that colonized America and Australia, took the lead in technology, and became politically and economically dominant in the modern world?” 43 His answer is that this reversal was caused by Europe’s political stratification into independent and competing monarchies and city-states. Europe had indented coastlines and high mountains that carved it up into independent linguistic, ethnic, and political units, and made its political unification impracticable. China and India, on the other hand, had smoother coastlines and only modest internal barriers to political unification.

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China’s heartland is bound together from east to west by two long navigable river systems in rich alluvial valleys [the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers], and it is joined from north to south by relatively easy connections between these two river systems [eventually linked by canals]. As a result, China, very early became dominated by two huge geographic core areas of high productivity, themselves only weakly separated from each other and eventually fused into a single core. Europe’s biggest rivers, the Rhine and the Danube, are smaller and connect much less of Europe. Unlike China, Europe has many scattered small core areas, none big enough to dominate the others for long, and each the center of chronically independent states. 44

Consequently, he argued, it was the political unity of China and the political disunity of Europe, which were the results of their geography, that led to the reversal of their fortunes. When the conservative factions under the Ming dynasty decided to halt the long-distance sea explorations, close the shipyards, abandon the further development of many of its leading technologies (e.g., the mechanical clock and the water-driven spinning machine), and isolate China from the barbarians, the political unification of China almost certainly guaranteed that its technological development would stagnate. For instance, in the case of China’s ban on shipbuilding, the technologically progressive factions were left with no alternative shipyards in which to continue the advancement of their shipbuilding techniques. As Diamond argues, “because the entire region was politically unified, one decision stopped fleets over the whole of China” and “that one temporary decision became irreversible because no shipyards remained to turn out ships that would prove the folly of that temporary decision and to serve as a focus for rebuilding other shipyards.” 45 This, he argues, was in sharp contrast with the events in Europe, where an explorer like Columbus was able to get the funds he needed from Spain after being turned down by other European monarchies, like Italy, France, and Portugal. However, this appeal to a cultural decision to explain China’s technological stagnation in the fifteenth century clearly undermines Diamond’s central appeal to geography as an ultimate cause. It shows that human decisions, political ideas, and other cultural factors are oftentimes more determinative than geography. Furthermore, a very significant part of the story of humanity’s progress has been the human effort to overcome the limitations imposed on us by geography in various parts of the world. In this endeavor, some societies have been more successful than others. The crossing of the Sahara, the building of the Suez Canal, and the navigation of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were stories of human victories over the limitations of geography. Today, the human battle with the environment continues, and the societies that, through deliberate choice, refuse to allow geography to dictate their destinies have successfully built and flown airplanes and spaceships; created artificial islands; constructed long, artificial waterways like the Grand and Suez Canals;

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erected bridges over large bodies of water; created underwater channels like the Seikan and English Tunnels; built miles of formidable walls, like the Great Wall of China, to protect their populations from invasions; built space stations; and are positioning themselves to colonize Mars and even distant planets beyond our solar system in the future. The list of such human achievements is endless. Given the victories that people in many parts of the world have won over their environmental limitations, along with the central roles that the human will and human inventiveness have played in such victories, one cannot escape the conclusion that the limitations imposed on African people by the continent’s geography do not adequately explain Africa’s underdevelopment. Some critics of Diamond’s version of the geographical theory see it as a mere reintroduction of the old racist notion of European pre-eminence disguised in the form of a superior European environment, which they claim is favored by nature, as opposed to an inferior African environment, which is held to be cursed by nature. James Morris Blaut, for instance, has argued that Diamond’s theory is merely a repackaging of traditional Eurocentrism because most of the arguments of Germs, Guns, and Steel are devoted to demonstrating the primacy of Europe or to proving that the European environment is the best environment for the invention and development of agriculture and technology, and that Europe is best because it possesses a set of qualities that set it apart from the non-European world that lacks these qualities. 46 Thus, while purporting to discredit the theory of European racial superiority, Blaut charges, Germs, Guns, and Steel underhandedly reintroduces the idea of white supremacy by claiming that Europeans are superior by virtue of being placed by nature in an environment that is more favorable to progress and advancement. Blaut describes this sort of intellectual exercise as the use of Eurocentric arguments of one sort to attack Eurocentric arguments of another sort. 47 Furthermore, Blaut charges, most of the central claims of the geographical theorists are either historically false or undemonstrable. For instance, the purported isolation of Africa, according to Blaut, is false. The idea of isolation implies that the early Africans had very little or no contact with the outside world. However, the historical records show that African caravans and trade routes crisscrossed the Sahara to the Mediterranean and that African ships plied the Atlantic and the Pacific long before the Europeans gained supremacy on the high seas. In fact, Blaut argues, European technological superiority did not occur before 1492—that is, before the European conquest of the New World. Blaut further maintains that prior to 1492, all the major geographical areas of the world had contact with one another and shared similar technology. Africans sailed to Asia and the Chinese sailed to Africa. Second, Blaut charges, the view that Africa’s isolation was the cause of its underdevelopment implies also that Africans were incapable of generating ideas on their own and that without contact with the

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outside world no technological inventions of significance would have arisen on the continent. But this, according to Blaut, is merely a variant of the racist theory because it suggests indirectly that Africans are inferior in intelligence. Thus, Blaut’s version of the geographical theory rejects the view that Europe offered a superior or more favorable environment for development than Africa because of the availability in Eurasia of many domesticable plants and animals or because of its east-west axis. In his view, the main source of Europe’s rise to power was its accidental location on the globe. Europe was closer to North America in sailing distance than Africa and, as such, had immeasurably greater access to the riches of the New World than did Africa or any other Old World civilization. 48 As he points out, by the fifteenth century, Africa was as heavily involved in ocean commerce as any other part of the world. Had Africans arrived in the Americas before the Europeans, they would have had access to the enormous amount of wealth that was available there. Unfortunately for them, the southernmost major seaport in East Africa, Sofala, was three thousand miles further from the closest American landfall than the Canary Islands, from which Columbus began his journey, and five thousand miles from any densely populated coast that offered the possibility for African trade or plunder. 49 Furthermore, the trade winds from the Canaries to the West Indies were more favorable than the prevailing winds from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. Thus, Blaut theorizes, Europe had one advantage over Africa—namely, that America was much more easily accessible to European sailors from the Iberian ports than it was to African merchants or adventurers. The Iberian sailors who journeyed to and from the Canaries, Madeira, and the Azores made use of the trade winds in crossing the ocean. They also used the westerlies in their return voyage. It is likely that Columbus learned of this fact from Iberian sailors, Blaut speculates, since Columbus is reputed to have known that the easterlies would assist him on his voyage to the New World, while the westerlies would assist him on his return. It was thus vastly more probable that a European ship would successfully complete the round trip to America than would an African or Asian ship in the late fifteenth century. 50 The Irrelevance of Location There are many weaknesses in Blaut’s location theory. First, if the Americas were vastly more accessible to Europe than they were to Asia or Africa, it would also follow that Europe was more accessible to the Americas. However, Native Americans did not discover or conquer Europe. To pre-empt this objection, Blaut appeals to the evolutionary history of the two regions. Europe, he argues, was a much older civilization, while the Americas were relatively young. The Americas were not occupied by humans until late in the Paleolithic period—that is, about 30,000 B.C.—whereas Europe had been

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peopled centuries before then. The consequence of this evolutionary history was that the first American immigrants did not possess agriculture, since they migrated to the new world before the dawn of the agricultural revolution about twelve thousand years ago in the Eastern Hemisphere. Furthermore, according to Blaut, most of the migrations to the Americas took place in northeastern Siberia, which was, and still is, too cold for agriculture. Thus, the native Americans had to begin anew as Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, and it was only about four thousand years ago that they reached a condition favorable for an agricultural revolution. So, even though the Western Hemisphere was evolving, it had not arrived at the same stage of development as Europe. The Native American populations of the Americas, consequently, had a lower level of military technology and a higher susceptibility to Eastern Hemisphere diseases, which were mostly agricultural diseases to which they had not developed an immunity. The Europeans were, therefore, able to conquer the Americans by infecting them with diseases and by employing their superior military technology to exterminate them.

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[I]n 1492, military technology in the most advanced and powerful states [of the American continent] was still well behind that of Eastern Hemisphere states. Metal was just coming into use in this arena, and guns had not been invented. Hence the superiority of Cortés’s armies over Moctezuma’s and Pizarro’s over the Incas. (When Cortés arrived at Tenochtitlan the Aztecs were already dying in great numbers from European diseases which, apparently, had been carried by American traders from Cuba to Mexico. Likewise, the Incas apparently were succumbing to these diseases before Pizarro arrived.) 51

However, by invoking this evolutionary explanation, Blaut implicitly conceded that location and proximity were not the decisive factors in determining which continent would be victorious and which would be vanquished. In fact, he appears to have implicitly conceded that the victory of Europe was not a historical accident, since Europe, given its evolutionary age relative to the Americas, appeared to have been pre-ordained to be victorious. Second, Blaut’s claim that technological ideas and techniques were being spread in every direction by the fifteenth century and that no one region— that is, Asia, Europe, or Africa—decidedly exercised technological superiority over the other during that period is unsupported by the historical records. As early as 1300 A.D. Africa already trailed behind Asia and Europe by centuries in technological development. For instance, by the beginning of the twelfth century, Muslim alchemists had developed torpedoes, rockets, and grenades with which they defeated the crusaders. These were military technologies that Africans did not possess and did not know how to produce. During the same period, the Chinese were already in possession of gunpowder technology. Today, historians acknowledge that as early as 1044 A.D., Ceng Gongliang had published his recipes for three kinds of gunpowder. A

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1044 Han dynasty book titled A Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques carried the formula for gunpowder as six parts of saltpeter to three parts of sulfur to one part of charcoal. In fact, by 1132, the Chinese were known to shoot gunpowder using bamboo tubes, a technique from which the idea of the earliest handguns was derived, and by 1332, they had built their first cannon. Similarly, by the thirteenth century, Muslim armies were already equipped with Arab-manufactured guns, while African armies were still being outfitted for war with bows and arrows. Arab military records show that by 1290 Muslim armies had knowledge of gunpowder. Today, historians commonly concede that it was Arab engineers and craftsmen who first mastered the technique of manufacturing gunpowder after they learned it from the Chinese. They later transmitted this knowledge to Persia and to Europe where saltpeter was called “China Salt” or “China Snow.” Knowledge of gunpowder did not reach Europe until later in the thirteenth century, after Roger Bacon discovered it and divulged his knowledge about “some lethal substance used in the east that was made from a combination of saltpeter, Sulphur and charcoal.” 52 Thus, in military technology, for example, both Asia and Europe had left Africa far behind by the fifteenth century. Cannons, which were invented around 1320 A.D., were being produced in great quantities in both Asia and Europe, but Africans in the fifteenth century were unfamiliar with such weapons. At the battle of Constantinople in 1453, for instance, the cannon was the major assault weapon of Suleiman the magnificent who used it to vanquish the Byzantine army. No African monarchy or empire of the fifteenth or even nineteenth century was in possession of cannon technology, and no African army ever wielded African-manufactured cannons against their Muslim and European invaders. It was, however, not only in military technology that the Chinese and Europeans surpassed fifteenth-century Africans. In many areas in which mechanical devices were commonly employed, Asia and Europe were lightyears ahead of Africa—even in the fifteenth century. For instance, by the thirteenth century, the Chinese had invented movable type. Historians now credit Wang Zhen with inventing or building the first movable type. They also concede that it was Zhen’s prototype that provided Johann Gutenberg with a model for building his metal printing press of 1448. 53 In general, in the art of mechanization or the effort to replace human muscle power with the power of machines, Africans of the fifteenth century did not measure up to Europe and Asia. In ancient times, the Egyptians were known to have constructed very sophisticated galleys, as is evident today from the bas reliefs on Egyptian temples. However, even in that ancient world, the reputation for building the most technologically advanced ships went to the Phoenicians. It was not by accident that Herodotus reported that at about 600 B.C. the Egyptians sent out an expedition of Phoenician ships to circumnavigate Africa from the Arabian Sea. This was because the Phoenicians were the

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globally recognized master shipbuilders. It was they who invented the bireme, a ship with two banks of oars on either side and a single mast of square sail, which the Greeks later modified and adopted for naval warfare. Eventually, during the Punic Wars, Rome would adopt this ship in a bid to match or surpass the naval might of the Phoenicians, who had by now colonized Carthage in North Africa. With the help of Greek shipbuilders, Rome ordered the construction of the triremes and quinqueremes, which carried three or four banks of oars and were of heavier construction than the conventional Greek vessels that they once used as their models. However, by the first millennium A.D., and certainly by the fifteenth century, it was the Chinese who led the world in ship-building. By 300 A.D., the Chinese were already reputed to be building well-constructed oceangoing vessels that were as long as 230 feet, and the techniques of navigation were already far beyond those of the most sophisticated African shipbuilders. During this period, African ships were largely dug-out canoes and outriggers, while the Chinese and European ships were large vessels mounted with cannons and navigated with the use of the compass, which was also invented by the Chinese around 1119 A.D. There were other technological inventions that were known in Asia and Europe but unknown in Africa in the fifteenth century: for instance, the water mill, which was in use in Rome by 537 A.D.; the mechanical weight-driven clock, which had been built in China as early as 200 A.D. by Zhang Heng and by 1348 in Italy by Giovanni Padua. So, it is clear that Blaut’s claim that the level of technological development between Africa, Asia, and Europe was roughly the same flies in the face of historical evidence. This falsity is even clearer when one recalls that even before 1492, when the Portuguese first arrived on the coasts of Africa—that is, in 1441—the Portuguese ships were more technologically advanced than any oceangoing vessels the Africans had ever seen. In fact, in 1498, just six years after 1492, when Vasco da Gama and his crew came into conflict with the inhabitants of Mozambique, da Gama bombarded the town with cannons and plundered it before he sailed off to Mombasa. The Africans, still wielding their bows and poisoned arrows, had no defense against da Gama’s guns. 54 Finally, Blaut’s claim that the cause of Africa’s lag in material development was that African people did not have easy access to the massive wealth in the Americas ignores the fact that Africa was as rich in material and mineral resources as North and South America. According to him, if the Western Hemisphere had been more accessible to Africans, the site of the bourgeois revolution would have been Africa and, today, Africans would be the rulers of the world. Alternatively, as he claims, if the forces that laid the foundation for the political and social triumph of capitalism had operated in Africa or Asia, the site of the English Revolution of 1688 would have been Egypt or Zimbabwe, India or China, rather than England. 55

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Chapter 3 The point deserves to be put very strongly. If the Western Hemisphere had been more accessible, say, to South Indian centers than to European centers, then very likely India would have become the home of capitalism, the sire of the bourgeois revolution, and the ruler of the world. 56

However, as we know today, Africa has always been, and remains, a resource-rich continent. If Africans of the fifteenth century were unable to exploit the immense wealth of their own continent and use that wealth to fuel an African industrial revolution, how plausible is the view that they would have used the wealth of the Americas to the same end if the New World was more accessible to them?

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NOTES 1. Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality of Human Races, trans. Adrian Collins (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915), 85. 2. Basil Davidson, The African Genius, 2nd edition (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005), 24. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Huxley, Four Guineas, quoted in Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow, The Africa That Never Was: Four Centuries of British Writing About Africa (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1970), Preface. 8. de Gobineau, The Inequality of Human Races, 85. 9. John Rushton, Race, Evolution and Behavior, Special Abridged Edition (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1999), xiii, 17ff. 10. St. Clair Drake, Black Folk Here and There, vol. 1, (Los Angeles, CA: Center for AfroAmerican Studies, 1987), 52ff. 11. Ibid. 12. Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 288–89. 13. Michael Levin, Why Race Matters: Race Differences and What They Mean (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997), 132. 14. Ruth Benedict, Race and Racism (London: The Scientific Book Club, 1943), 79ff. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid., 81ff. 17. Ibid. 18. Cheikh Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarch and of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity (Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 1959), 11ff. 19. Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, edited and translated by Mercer Cook (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1974), 230. 20. Ibid., 81. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid.,161. 23. Ibid., 23, 156. 24. Ibid. 25. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982), 103. 26. Ibid., 10. 27. Ibid.

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28. Ibid., 40–41. 29. See chapter 1 for a short list of ancient Egypt’s scientific and technological achievements. 30. Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, 234. 31. Ibid., 41. 32. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, translated from the second German edition, by N. I. Stonf (Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1904), 28. 33. Ibid. 34. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, 6. 35. A. E. Afigbo et al., The Making of Modern Africa, vol. 1 (London: Longman Group, Ltd., 1988), 15. 36. Evolutionary biologists hold this view, Diamond points out, because the wild ancestors of these animals—the mouflon, bezoar, aurochs, the wild boar, and the wild horse—existed only on the Eurasian continent. 37. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977), 399. 38. Ibid., 176. 39. Ibid., 191, 400–401. See also, Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 217–48. 40. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 405. See also, Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 236–37. 41. Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 247. Diamond makes this contention with regard to the aboriginal population of Australia. 42. Ibid., 253, 411–12. 43. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 409. 44. Ibid., 414. 45. Ibid., 412. 46. James Morris Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World (New York: The Guildford Press, 1993), 182. 47. Ibid., 149ff. 48. J. M. Blaut, Eight Eurocentric Historians (New York: The Guildford Press, 2000), 2. 49. Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World, 182. 50. Ibid., 182. 51. Ibid., 185. 52. Trevor Williams, The History of Invention (London: MacDonald & Co. Publishers Ltd., 1987), 135. 53. Ibid., 102. 54. John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 357–58. 55. Ibid., 189. 56. Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World, 181.

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Chapter Four

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Africa’s Historical Indifference to Technological Progress

Geography, benevolent or non-benevolent, does not develop or underdevelop a nation. Good leadership does. Historically, the chief cause of Africa’s underdevelopment has been the indifference of the African ruling classes to the advancing scientific and technological knowledge that were remaking and re-shaping the world in their respective historical periods. From the earliest ruling classes in ancient Egypt to those of the medieval kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, and even down to the independent African nations of the modern period, the tale has been remarkably the same. Africa appeared to have been cursed with a seemingly endless succession of leaders who did not have the slightest clue about how to bridge the ever-widening technological gap between the African states over which they ruled and the rest of the rapidly developing world. A quick glance at ancient African history will reveal that indifference. FROM THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION TO THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH It is now well established that Africa is the cradle of humanity and that the first humans to inhabit the earth were black. According to paleoanthropologists, it was in Africa that humanity began its earthly sojourn. About two million years ago, a new species, Homo sapiens, evolved from earlier hominid forms that existed in eastern Africa. From there, after millennia of development, anatomically modern humans spread north through the Nile valley to colonize the Near East, Western Asia, and Europe. 1 According to paleo-anthropologists, it was these ancient black and African people that 59

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built the very first civilizations of Ethiopia (Cush), Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Traditional history books sometimes credit Mesopotamia with being the site of the very first civilization and thereby imply that it was among a nonAfrican people that humanity first arrived at the beginnings of this arduous journey we call “civilization.” Some standard history textbooks even go so far as to maintain that some unidentified, but non-African, people built the ancient civilization of Egypt. In recent times, however, a body of reputable scholarship has emerged that shows that black African people built the civilization of ancient Egypt, and even that of Mesopotamia. The artistic monuments of the Egyptians, for instance, depict their pharaohs as black and with Negroid features. As Diop has argued, to believe that the ancient Egyptians would somehow represent their rulers as black if they were not seems to defy both reason and common sense. Unfortunately, some conservative historians persist in their view that the celebrated civilization of ancient Egypt was not the product of African genius and that Mesopotamia, rather than Egypt, was the “cradle of civilization.” So, the received wisdom is that the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia pre-dated that of Egypt by almost a millennium and that it was in Mesopotamia that humanity first encountered the rudiments of civilization—the invention of writing (the cuneiform), metallurgy, religion, political organization, and a legal system (the Code of Hammurabi). However, current discoveries in archeology and paleontology dispute that evidence. In the view of many historians and paleontologists today, the historical evidence points to no other conclusion than that an Ethiopian civilization predated that of both Egypt and Mesopotamia and was the source of these later civilizations. As part of their evidence, they point to a variety of ancient historians like Herodotus, Diodorus, Strabo, and Pliny whose works bore testimony to the primacy of ancient Ethiopian civilization. Diodorus wrote, for instance, that Osiris, on his fabled mission to civilize mankind, “passed from Ethiopia . . . through Arabia, bordering on the Red Sea, to India and the remotest inhabited coasts.” In India, Diodorus continued, Osiris built many cities, “one of which he called Nysa in honor of the city of Nysa in Egypt, where Osiris himself grew up.” 2 A similar testimony is contained in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Chronicles I, for instance, states that the founders of Babylon and Mesopotamia were descendants of Ham. Ham, of course, is claimed by the Bible to be the ancestor of all African peoples. Furthermore, according to the “Table of Nations” in Chronicles I, the Cushites (Ethiopians) were the founders of Mesopotamia. The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim [Egypt], phut and Canaan. Then Cush begot Nimrod, he became a mighty one on earth. The beginning of his kingdom was Ba’bel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar [Mesopotamia]. 3

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Thus, according to Genesis 10, all African people are descended from Ham. But, if Ham is the ancestor of African peoples, as Genesis 10 states, then, according to the Bible, the lands of Babylon and Mesopotamia were founded by African people. In other words, according to Chronicles I, the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Arabians were the early founders of Mesopotamia or Babylonia and were of African origin. This is the conclusion also reached by reputable Egyptologists. After his extensive study of ancient Egyptian records, Wallis Budge concluded that by 5000 B.C., when no other civilizations had yet come into existence, the Ethiopians—that is, ancient Africans 4—had built an empire that stretched from Nubia or Cush to India and Mesopotamia. That empire, Budge maintained, included the territories known today as the Sudan, Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, Western Asia, and India. Furthermore, according to Budge, the classical historians and geographers referred to the whole region from India to Egypt, including both countries, as “Ethiopia” and referred to all dark-skinned or black-skinned peoples who inhabited that territory as “Ethiopians.” Budge also held that Abyssinia, the country of Cush or Nubia, was merely a subdivision of a larger territory named Ethiopia. Like Budge, Henry Rawlinson, a nineteenth-century English linguist who deciphered the cuneiform scripts of ancient Babylonia and Mesopotamia, came to the same conclusions by studying the ancient Egyptian writings. Rawlinson wrote: Recent linguistic discovery tends to show that a Cushite or Ethiopian race did in the earliest times extend itself along the shores of the Southern Ocean from Abyssinia to India. The whole peninsula of India was peopled by a race of this character before the influx of Arians; it extended from the Indus along the seacoast through the modern Beloohcistan and Kerman, which was the proper country of Asiatic Ethiopians; the cities on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf are shown by the brick inscriptions found among their ruins to have belonged to this race; it was dominant in Susiana and Babylonia, until overpowered in the one country by Arian, in the other by Semitic intrusion; it can be traced, both by dialect and tradition, throughout the whole south coast of the Arabian peninsula, and it still exists in Abyssinia, where the language of the principal tribe (the Galla) furnishes, it is thought, a clue to the cuneiform inscriptions of Susiana and Elymis, which date from a period probably a thousand years before our era. 5

Today, the position of many Egyptologists, based on the preponderance of archeological, linguistic, and historical evidence, is that in antiquity an offshoot of the Cushites—the Elamites—migrated to Asia to colonize Shinar, the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates. There, this group of Ethiopians built, in about 4000 B.C., the famous civilization of Mesopotamia. They also believe that another group of early Ethiopians migrated to the Nile valley and there built the celebrated civilization of ancient Egypt that came to

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prominence in about 3100 B.C. Similarly, other groups of “Ethiopians” founded the ancient civilizations of India and even of China. It is believed that the physical evidence still exists in the black faces of numerous shades of autochthonous Asians who still inhabit that continent today. The primacy of black civilization, however, was not merely anthropological and chronological. It was also political, economic, social, and technological. According to Egyptologists, it was the ancient black Africans who invented agriculture, writing, metallurgy, architecture, engineering, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, religion, theology, law, and the administration of justice. Compared to Asia and Europe, Africa was, at the dawn of civilization, the “First World,” 6 Asia the second, Europe the third, and the Americas the fourth world. Scholars today regularly acknowledge that in the beginning, when the ancient civilizations of Ethiopia and Egypt were at the zenith of their powers, neither Europe nor Asia had risen from barbarism. Then, Asia and Europe were the “dark continents,” and the only corner of the world where the light of civilization shone and did so for more than two thousand years was Africa. At that time, Ethiopia and Egypt were the repositories of knowledge and technical progress. Volney once lamented that it was “a people now forgotten” who “discovered, while others were yet Barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences.” It was this “race of men,” according to Volney, who “founded those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.” 7 Volney further lamented that these black men are “now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair.” 8 The celebrated African scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop, also came to similar conclusions after an extensive study of the history and archeological records of ancient black civilizations. According to him, it was only around 1500 B.C., at the end of the last glacial age, that the Europeans first emerged from the icy caves of what he called their “Northern cradle.” However, by 1500 B.C., Diop contended, the Egyptians had already built and maintained a highly advanced culture, and they had done so for more than two thousand years. 9 Like Diop, Martin Bernal also argued, in Black Athena, that the ancient Greeks and Romans acknowledged Egypt as the primary source of their knowledge of metallurgy, agriculture, astronomy, religion, politics, and architecture. Recently, Richard Poe, compelled by the testimony of the primacy of black civilization he found in the works of these ancient authors, mused that it is a historical irony that Europeans of the nineteenth century portrayed Africa as the Dark Continent teeming with ferocious beasts, impassable jungles, hungry cannibals, and malevolent witch doctors. On the contrary, Poe argued, it was ancient Europe that deserved to be called the “Dark Continent.” When Egypt was a flourishing civilization with grand palaces and magnificent architecture, Poe continued, Europe was inhabited by barbarians and primitive peoples. These included hideous-looking Celts who stripped themselves naked in battle and howled like wild beasts. 10 Then there were bloodthirsty

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and rustic Germans who had no knowledge of the extent of their dense and misty land. Other barbarians of primitive Europe, Poe continued, included Irish kings who celebrated their coronation by having sexual intercourse with horses, Gauls who engaged in human sacrifice, and Scythians (Russians) who drank the blood of the first man they slew in battle and often turned their enemies’ skulls and the skulls of hated relatives into drinking cups. 11 Poe then concluded that in the past Europe was so backward that it would have been appropriate if the rest of the then civilized world had referred to it as “darkest Europe,” because during all those centuries when the other nations of the Mediterranean world were advancing in culture and civilization, “poor Europe” seemed to have been left behind. The Egyptian pharaohs had been sitting on their thrones for at least two thousand years by the time Europe experienced its first major historical event—the Trojan War—sometime around 1250 B.C. As for the Romans, they arrived on the scene only yesterday. Rome had been founded a mere seven centuries before Caesar marched into Germany in 55 B.C. Throughout the whole period of ancient history, the light of civilization shone very fitfully in Europe. In most parts of the continent, it did not shine at all. From the Golden Age of Athens in the fifth century B.C. to the fall of Rome in A.D. 476, the bulk of Europe's lands slept on beneath their forest canopy, as wild and mysterious as the deepest reaches of the Amazon. 12

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THE PHARAOHS AND THE DECLINE OF ANCIENT EGYPT Ancient Egypt is renowned as the cradle of civilization. This is because according to historians the civilization of ancient Egypt led the rest of humanity in the discovery of the rudiments of civilization, like writing, metallurgy, religious and political organization, and the codification of both moral and civil law. However, the question has often arisen about the cause of the decline of this ancient civilization that is reputed to be the product of ancient African genius. What caused the decline of ancient Egypt? Historians generally acknowledge that the decline was caused by pharaonic and monarchical misrule. In certain dynasties of the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, the pharaohs and the ruling royal priesthood squandered the kingdom’s resources in their quest for immortality in the afterlife, and were scandalously indifferent to pressing economic and military matters in the present one. In other words, they were oblivious to the need for material and technological progress in this world, even as they watched their neighboring states advance politically and economically ahead of them. The result of this indifference was that the Egyptian state was left weak and vulnerable to aspiring conquerors from Asia and Europe, like the Persians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans.

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The beginning of ancient Egypt’s decline is generally dated around the sixteenth century B.C., when the Old Kingdom was overrun by foreign conquerors. Beginning with the Hyksos conquest in 1674 B.C., Egypt and other ancient African states began to crumble one after another before a succession of Asian and European conquerors who sought land, slaves, gold, and spices. In the Hyksos conquest, a small band of Asian nomads invaded Egypt, seized its capital, Memphis, massacred its inhabitants, and carried its women and children into slavery. Then the conquerors turned northern Egypt into a Hyksos colony for the next one hundred years. 13 The conquest was both humiliating and devastating to the Egyptian people. Referring to the pain and humiliation wreaked on ancient Egyptian people by the Hyksos conquest, a high priest of Amen-Ra, Ipuwer, in his now famous piece, “The Admonitions of a Prophet,” lamented that foreigners had spread themselves throughout the land, destroyed the homes of the Egyptians, taken over the Delta and the crafts, laid everything in ruin, and replaced laughter with grief. “The virtuous now mourned,” he wrote, “because strangers have now become Egyptians everywhere.” Another celebrated Egyptian high priest, Manetho, who was also a historian and lived in Heliopolis around the third century B.C., described the devastation that was inflicted on ancient Egyptian people by the Hyksos conquest:

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A blast of God smote us . . . and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of an obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others. . . . Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. 14

Northern Egypt was eventually liberated. However, the Hyksos conquest deflated the national ego of the ancient Egyptian people, who referred to it as the “Great Humiliation.” Hyksos colonialism lasted for a century, until Pharaoh Seqenenra Tao II and his sons, Kamose and Ahmose, liberated Egypt from Hyksos rule. The subsequent liberation of Egypt by Ahmose, however, shows that the conquest of the Old Kingdom by the Hyksos was not a historical necessity. It was rather the consequence of political misrule because it was made possible by the lack of foresight and the political conservatism of the ruling class, the pharaohs, and the priestly aristocracy of the Old Kingdom who failed to modernize the Egyptian economy and the Egyptian army in readiness for the inevitable invasion of Egypt. From the beginning of its history, ancient Egypt was a theocratic society in which the priests of Ammon held supreme power. The pharaoh himself was simply the chief priest who was sometimes behold-

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en to the priestly caste. There were other minor priests besides those of Ammon, and they were organized around the temple cults of the various deities, like Ra, Osiris, and Horus. However, all the priests constituted a caste and controlled all the resources in land and wealth among the Egyptians. Diodorus tells us that the basic political structure was a hierarchy in which the priests were at the pinnacle of power, followed by the soldiers and the artisans. This structure seemed successful during the initial period of Egyptian civilization, and other civilizations envied it and tried to duplicate it. Even Plato, who studied in Egypt for thirteen years, was convinced that it was superior to the democratic structure in fourth-century Athens because he tried to defend it in the Republic. But, as time went on new political realities intruded into Egyptian life that demanded a change of political form. But the conservative priestly class resisted all changes and, except for brief interruptions of their power during the First and Second Intermediate periods, succeeded in reasserting the same archaic structure for more than three thousand years. For example, to maintain its power, the ruling caste continued to rely on its old method of waging war with a peasant army, instead of making a transition to a standing army. Without a professional army, Egypt also was deprived of new military technologies that were available even around its borders, because in a peasant army, the soldiers own their own instruments of warfare; in the twelfth dynasty, these instruments were simply bows and arrows. By the twelfth dynasty, the Egyptians, of course, knew about the existence of chariots and bronze military weapons. They also knew of the devastation these weapons were causing around the ever-shifting territories of the Mediterranean empires of the second millennium B.C. However, relying steadfastly on their outdated military equipments and strategies, Egypt was left vulnerable to foreign conquests. The Hyksos were the first to take advantage of that vulnerability. The Egyptian army was made up of footsoldiers with stave bows. They had neither chariots nor iron weapons. The Hyksos had bronze weapons, chariots, and composite bows. Cognizant of Egypt’s military weakness, the Hyksos seized control of Avaris in the northeastern delta. From Avaris they marched to Memphis, which fell to them without much resistance. The Hyksos then ruled Egypt for over a hundred years, from 1640 until 1532 B.C. Historians have often tried to explain why ancient Egypt did not possess such important military equipment as the chariot before the Hyksos conquest. Some have speculated that it was probably because ancient Egypt had no horses or because she felt secure that she was protected by the deserts and high mountains. However, the fact that in the twelfth century Amenemhet I built fortresses in the northern border called “The Walls of the Ruler” discredits the explanation that Egypt felt secure from invaders. Similarly, the fact that the Egyptians could have imported horses from Arabia also undermines the explanation about the absence of horses. The explanation that finds

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abundant support from ancient Egyptian history is that it was because the ruling class sought to maintain its theocratic grip on the state in perpetuity and intentionally failed to build a professional army that could undermine the power of the pharaoh and the priestly class. The priesthood, through its control of the wealth of Egypt, had become a leisure class and had transformed itself into the depository of knowledge. 15 However, it also took great measures to prevent the dissemination of this knowledge to the general population. First it instituted a cult of secrecy, the mystery cults, in which the most profound knowledge of the priests was concealed in esoteric theological doctrines and ceremonies, with highly demanding and intricate requirements to discourage membership. Second, the ancient Egyptian ruling class steered the populace away from material aspirations by a theology that revolved around the afterlife. To this end, the pharaohs devoted and squandered the resources of the people in building monumental pyramids in a vainglorious effort to preserve the souls of the dead pharaohs and achieve eternal life as demigods. For this reason, the Greeks and Romans who sought knowledge at the feet of the ancient Egyptian priests were content to acquire whatever true knowledge the Egyptian priests possessed, but ignored their metaphysical religious fabrications. In fact, some philosophers have understood the initial struggle between the Greek materialists and idealists as the effort of the leaders of thought in Iona and Athens to sift true knowledge from its superficial forms. Socrates’s and Plato’s defense of certain aspects of ancient Egyptian knowledge can be understood as their efforts to convince the Greeks to model their institutions, especially their political institutions, after those of Egypt, while the doctrines of Thales, Democritus, and all the early Greek atomists were, collectively, a rejection of Egyptian priestly idealism. Ancient Greek atomism was an effort by a school of ancient Greek philosophers to make Greek political structure accommodate the innovations that were taking place in the rest of the world. Herodotus himself lamented the senselessness of Egyptian political and economic conservatism. Diodorus Siculus could not understand how the pyramids, which consumed such enormous resources, could have been tombs for the dead. Count Volney had very similar thoughts when he visited Egypt and reflected on how the senseless and poor administrative decisions of the ancient Egyptian ruling classes underdeveloped Egypt and made her vulnerable to foreign conquests. Revolted by the self-destructive policies of the pharaohs, Volney wrote: I have sometimes calculated what might have been done with the expense of the three pyramids of Gizah, and I have found that it would easily have constructed, from the Red Sea to Alexandria, a canal one hundred and fifty feet wide and thirty deep, completely covered in with cut stones and a parapet, together with a fortified and commercial town, consisting of four hundred houses, furnished with cisterns. What a difference in point of utility between such a canal and these pyramids! During twenty years, says Herodotus, a

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hundred thousand men labored every day to build the pyramid of the Egyptian Cheops. Supposing only three hundred days a year, on account of the Sabbath, there will be 30 millions of days’ work a year, and 600 millions in twenty years; at 15 sous a day, this makes 450 millions of francs lost, without any further benefit. With this sum, if the king had shut the isthmus of Suez by a strong wall, like that of China, the destinies of Egypt might have been entirely changed. Foreign invasions would have been prevented, and the Arabs of the desert would neither have conquered nor harassed that country. Sterile labors! How many millions lost in putting one stone upon another, under the forms of temples and churches! Alchymists convert stones into gold; but architects change gold into stone. Woe to the kings (as well as subjects) who trust their purse to these two classes of empirics! 16

Volney’s lamentation is justified if one considers that Egyptian artisans were highly skilled as carpenters, coppersmiths, potters, jewelers, and pyramidbuilders, and yet during the Hyksos invasion the Egyptian army remained primitive and without sophisticated military technology, while it was threatened on its northern borders by Asiatic nomads equipped with chariots. That the possession of chariot technology was not beyond the technical abilities or financial resources of the Egyptians is amply demonstrated by the ease with which, after 180 years of Hyksos rule, the ruling house of Thebes reorganized the army around the new chariot technology. During that period of Hyksos rule, skilled workmen in Thebes learned to produce bronze tools, especially the dagger, battle-axe, and shield. The mastery of these skills was to result in a new campaign to expel the Hyksos. 17 In 1565 B.C. pharaoh Ahmose assembled the Egyptian forces, equipped with chariots, battle-axes, and bronze shields, and drove the Hyksos from Egypt. He recaptured Memphis and Avaris without much resistance. Emboldened by his easy victory and new military machinery, he pursued the fleeing Hyksos into southern Palestine, determined to deprive them of the possibility of posing any future threats to the Nile Valley. The Hyksos took a last stand at the fortress of Sharunem. The battle was fought for three years, and in the end Sharunem fell. The Hyksos conquest of Egypt was made possible by Egypt’s slowness in adopting the bronze and chariot technology of the era. Ironically, the lesson that the Egyptian ruling class ought to have learned from the Hyksos conquest was lost on some of the subsequent pharaohs, who were just as slow in adopting the technologies and military innovations of their time. In the second millennium B.C., for instance, a new military innovation arose that began to reshuffle the boundaries of the territories of the Mediterranean. This new machinery was mounted cavalry. Around this period, the eighth century B.C., horseback riding arose in the Eurasian steppes. Once it was realized that a soldier could launch a series of arrows while at full gallop, this innovation quickly became a military technique. The technique was so effective that

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it spread rapidly. Henceforth, all the major armies of the period, like the Assyrian and Persians armies, had well-equipped cavalry divisions, except Egypt. This made the Egyptian state weak and vulnerable to any aspiring general from Asia. One such general was Cyrus II of Persia. After subduing Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, Cyrus, whose army had a special cavalry division, set his eyes on Babylon and Egypt, the only two major powers left standing. In 538 B.C., he captured Babylon. Unfortunately for the Egyptian people, as Cyrus prepared to conquer Egypt, the Egyptian ruling class seemed oblivious to the vulnerability of the Egyptian state. Without a mounted cavalry, the Persian victory was assured. Meanwhile, Cyrus died on the battlefield, and Cambyses, his son, took over the command of the Persian army. In 525 B.C., Cambyses marched on Egypt and found the Egyptian army weak and poorly equipped. He conquered it without difficulty. However, the Persian conquest of Egypt by Cambyses was merely a historical accident. It was not written in the Egyptian stars. It could have been avoided by a competent and wise political leadership. Before Cambyses’s invasion, the Egyptian ruling class had sufficient time to adopt iron weapons and mounted cavalry. Ironically, they did not. Deeply wedded to their conservative political structure in which the pharaoh was divine and in which religion had primacy over the economy, the pharaoh, in collaboration with the priestly aristocracy, neglected their most important political obligation, which is to secure the freedom of the state and its people. In the New Kingdom, for instance, Akhenaten, who ruled in the eighteenth dynasty, was so obsessed with religious concerns that he grossly neglected the affairs of the state. As a pharaoh, his driving passion was to reform the religious establishment and install Aton as the supreme god of the land. Akhenaten’s single-minded devotion to this goal led him to ignore the military establishment and to squander all the resources of the Egyptian state in building temples and religious monuments. The consequence of this misrule was that during Akhenaten’s reign, Egypt suffered one military defeat after another. All the territories conquered by his predecessors—for instance, Palestine, Syria, and Nubia—were lost and the army disintegrated to the point that Akhenaten’s successors could not restore it to the discipline it had attained under the warrior pharaohs. After Akhenaten’s reign, the professional chariot army that had secured the empire in the previous dynasties had become outdated, but it was never modernized. Egypt had reverted to its former conservatism and indifference to progress and innovation. Thus, when the new armies of Assyria and Persia, which were mounted on horseback and used iron weapons, struck in the Late Period, the seventh and fifth centuries B.C., respectively, Egypt was once again overcome. Had the pharaohs been more competent and taken an interest in modernizing the Egyptian army, the Hyksos conquest and many of the subsequent

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conquests of the ancient Egyptian state could have been averted. Ahmose and his brothers were among the very few kings in African history who understood that in a world in which land, territories, and natural resources were still heavily contested and in which nations and peoples still vied with each other for power and ascendancy, military impotence could spell the death of a people or a nation. Other rulers of ancient Egypt who embodied that insight were Ramses I, Ramses III, and Tuthmosis III. These were later referred to by historians as the “warrior pharaohs.” Against aspiring conquerors, Ramses III could boast, “I arose against them, the likeness of Montu; I was equipped in the panoply of victory; I entered the ranks, fighting like a falcon’s seizing, the serpent on my brow felling my enemies for me. She breathed her flames of fire into the faces of my foes. I was like Ra when he arises at dawn.” 18 After the great humiliation of Egypt, the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, to pre-empt future invasions, consciously turned Egypt into an imperial state and, from the eighteenth to the twentieth dynasties, sent armies north into Western Asia. This Egyptian strategy brought Syria and Palestine under Egyptian dominion. They also conquered Nubia and Cush to their south to pre-empt the frequent incursions from the African hinterland. The Egyptian New Kingdom that emerged after these conquests lasted for more than four hundred years, from 1539 to 1075 B.C. It was also able to wage wars against frequent invasions from Asian kings. The warrior pharaohs fought these battles and defeated every foreign aspirant to the Egyptian throne. A good example of their military success was Tuthmosis III’s defeat of a coalition of Canaanite kings in 1469 B.C. In that year, a joint army put together by the rulers of the city-states of Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon gathered on the Plain of Esdraelon in the city of Meggido with the intent to conquer Egypt. Tuthmosis III, however, mounted a siege on Meggido. Seeing a military coalition of many foreign kings as an opportunity to bring these kingdoms under his dominion by defeating them in a single battle, he commanded his engineers to dig a moat around Megiddo and to construct a palisade to prevent the soldiers from escaping. “The capture of Megiddo would be equivalent to the capture of a thousand towns,” he delightfully announced to his generals. The siege lasted almost a decade and brought the coalition army to its knees. As recorded in the Annals of Tuthmosis III, which were carved on the walls of the temple of Amun at Karnak, the city surrendered to Tuthmosis III in 1482 and the pharaoh, describing himself as “Horus the Falcon,” triumphantly carried off enormous booty in gold, silver, and slaves. The booty also included 2,041 horses, golden chariots, bows and coats of mail, bronze artworks, ebony, and lapis lazuli. 19 A few decades later, during the reign of Ramses III, another coalition, this time of people described as the “Peoples of the Sea,” marched against Egypt. In the Egyptian records, the names of these “Peoples of the Sea” are given as Peleset, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen, and Weshesh. Assembling a formidable

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fleet, the “Peoples of the Sea” sailed from Anatolia to the Nile. Throughout the Levant the “Peoples of the Sea” were known for their cruelty and brutality in battle, and Ramses III was determined to put an end to their reign of terror. As they destroyed and burned every city that opposed them in Cyprus and northern Syria, what the entire Levantine coast thought of them was described in an 1176 B.C. inscription written during the reign of Ramses III: No land could stand before their arms, from Hatti, Qode, Carchemish, Arzawa and Alasiya. . . . A camp was once set up in Amurru to defend against them, [but] they desolated its people, and its land was like that which has never come into being. They were advancing toward Egypt [and] [t]heir confederation was the Peleset, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen, and Weshesh, lands united. They laid their hands upon the land as far as the circuit of the earth, their hearts confident and trusting: “Our plans will succeed!” 20

The same inscription describes Ramses III’s preparations to counter this formidable army of the “Peoples of the Sea.”

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The heart of this god [i.e. Ramses III himself], the lord of the gods, was prepared and ready to ensnare them like birds. I established my boundary in Djahi, prepared in front of them the local princes, garrison-commanders, and Maryannu. I caused to be prepared the river mouth like a strong wall with warships, galleys, and skiffs. They were completely equipped both fore and aft with brave fighters carrying their weapons and infantry of all the pick of Egypt, being like roaring lions upon the mountains; chariots with able warriors and all goodly officers whose hands were competent. Their horses quivered in all their limbs, prepared to crush the foreign countries under their hoofs. 21

Ramses III’s battle strategy was to station his archers on the shore of the Delta from where the coalition ships would be showered with arrows as they tried to disembark on the Delta. He also had a navy ready to attack the invading army at sea as they fled in disarray. Both strategies were successful, and the confederacy of the Sea Peoples was routed both on land and on the sea. That victory was later commemorated on a stone wall of the temple at Medinet Habu and in the Harris Papyrus. In those records, Ramses III boasted that he annihilated every army that came against his kingdom and destroyed even the seeds of his enemies for all eternity. 22 The victories of the warrior pharaohs like Tuthmosis III and Ramses III, considered in conjunction with ancient Egypt’s unending cycles of advancement and decline or freedom and humiliation, show that the progress and regress of the ancient Egyptian state were not the consequences of some inexplicable and inexorable historical laws. On the contrary, they show that these repeated failures and recoveries were the consequences of the cultural choices made by the Egyptians themselves, especially by the Egyptian ruling classes. The ancient Egyptian state was a stable and free society when it was

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ruled by resourceful and progressive leaders. It was weak when the pharaohs were visionless and politically incompetent. For instance, Tuthmosis III had built the Egyptian state into an empire to pre-empt invasions from Asia. For that purpose, he conquered Palestine, Syria, and Nubia and stationed his armies even as far as the fourth Cataract. However, many of the succeeding pharaohs did not possess his vision and his resourcefulness. As weak and incompetent rulers ascended the throne of Egypt, aspiring conquerors from Asia took advantage of their weaknesses. The consequences of such weaknesses were that the ancient Egyptian people suffered either enslavement or colonialism as an avalanche of successful conquerors from Asia and Europe overran the ancient Egyptian state and most of North Africa. After the Hyksos came the Assyrians, then the Persians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, and the English. The Assyrian conquest took place in the seventh century B.C. Two centuries before this, Assyria had risen to regional prominence as a formidable military power, and its rulers had mounted a relentless assault on all their neighboring states. Under Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, the entire Near East trembled before the Assyrian advance. In an inscription on a temple wall, Tiglath-Pileser III recounts what he did to the warriors who opposed his advancing armies.

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Like the thunder, I crushed the corpses of their warriors. I made their blood flow over into all the ravines and over the high places. I cut off their heads and piled them at the walls of their cities like heaps of grain. I carried off their booty, their goods, and their property beyond all reckoning. Six thousand, the remainder of their troops who had fled before my weapons and thrown themselves at my feet, I took away as prisoners and added to the peoples of my country. 23

Assyria’s war machine was formidable, and the Assyrian soldiers themselves delighted in their own barbarity. The delight with which Sennacherib recounted his victories to his scribes gives one a glimpse of the depth and extent of this barbarity: With the weapons of Assur . . . I decimated the enemy host with arrow and spear. All of their bodies I bored through like a sieve. . . . Speedily I cut them down and established their defeat. I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives as one cuts a string. Like the many waters of a storm, I made the contents of their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds, harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood as into a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked and the evil, were bespattered with blood and filth. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plains, like grass. Their testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like seeds of cucumbers . . . their hands I cut off. 24

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Tragically, Assyria’s possession of a formidable army and the reputation of its soldiers for barbarity did not spur the Egyptian monarchs, like Taharqa, who ruled Egypt at the zenith of Assyria’s power, to upgrade their own war machinery in preparation for the inevitable conflict with Assyria. The ancient Egyptians may have been a peaceful nation, as some historians like Diop have claimed, but they also lived in a cultural milieu where greed and force held sway, and where life and liberty rested on the strength of a nation’s armies and fighting men. Under such circumstances, an inordinate love for peace and lack of military preparedness on the part of any nation amounted to political suicide and collective subjugation. This appeared to be precisely the course that Egypt had chosen, because in 667 when Ashurbanipal invaded it, he found the Egyptian army surprisingly weak and ill-prepared. However, Ashurbanipal was delighted. He crossed the Sinai desert, defeated Taharqa’s army, and sacked the Egyptian capital, Memphis. He then carried off most of Egypt’s artisans and skilled workmen to Nineveh as captives and slaves. Another weak pharaoh who ascended the throne of ancient Egypt barely seven decades after the reign of Tuthmosis III was Amenhotep IV who came to be known as Akhenaten. As pharaoh, Akhenaten failed to duplicate the accomplishments of the warrior pharaohs and was regarded even by his contemporaries as politically incompetent. Consumed by his passion for religious reform, and his resolve to consolidate the disparate deities of Egypt under the worship of his favorite god Aten, Akhenaten utterly neglected his political responsibilities. Under him, the state of Egypt deteriorated both economically and militarily. Eventually, as Egypt lost most of the colonies that the warrior pharaohs had added to the Egyptian state, the very machinery of government itself crumbled and the empire deteriorated, leaving the state vulnerable to foreign conquests. Egyptian pharaohs who squandered the resources of their empire in building massive statues and temples, rather than in modernizing their armies and improving the security of the state, contributed immensely to the weakening and deterioration of the ancient Egyptian state. As a result of such neglect, the stage was gradually set for the final conquest and destruction of the Egyptian state. Eventually, in 700 B.C. the Egyptian New Kingdom was overrun by the Assyrian army, and Ashurbanipal turned the weak and defenseless state into an Assyrian colony. Henceforth, the Egyptian people, having lost faith in the ability of the state to protect them from the dominion of foreign conquerors, merely hoped that those conquerors would be benevolent. At first, they hoped that Cambyses would be one of those benevolent conquerors. Cambyses, the Persian general who conquered the Assyrians in 525 B.C., had succeeded Ashurbanipal as the new colonial overlord of Egypt. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, the colonial yoke imposed upon them by Cambyses proved to be even worse than that of Ashurbanipal. So,

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the Egyptians, in their desperation, looked toward Greece for relief, and when Alexander arrived in 322 B.C., they hailed him as their long-awaited “savior.” Alexander, however, was no savior. As it turned out, the very “god” to whom the Egyptians looked for redemption would be the one to take away their freedom forever. Steindorff and Seele recount this irony in Egyptian history.

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In 525 B.C. a Persian army under the leadership of Cambyses crossed the eastern frontier, and Egypt was integrated as a Persian province into the effectively consolidated administration of the new world power centered at Persepolis. While the foreign yoke was shaken off from time to time during the following two hundred years, each brief hour of freedom eventually had to be expiated with the most bitter penance. When finally Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. turned his triumphal course into the valley of the Nile, he was acclaimed by the Egyptians as the savior and liberator of their land. Little did they realize that he whom they received with open arms had come to take away their free native rule forever. He converted the ancient empire of the pharaohs into a province of the Greek world, and that it remained for three hundred years, when it fell victim to the rapacious empire of Rome. And with the tragic end of Antony and Cleopatra ended also the ancient glory of Egypt. 25

Alexander was a more ruthless colonial oppressor than any Assyrian or Persian conqueror. Under his rule, the Egyptians were banned from participation in public life and from owning property. Not only did he proclaim himself a pharaoh, he also claimed to be a god, the son of Amen or Ammon, and made the Egyptians worship him. When he eventually left Egypt to wage war against Persia, he appointed his general, Ptolemy, as his successor on the Egyptian throne. Greek colonialism lasted until the Ptolemaic dynasty was ousted by another rising foreign power, Arabia. However, the Arab generals who defeated the Greek armies in the seventh century also invaded northern Africa. Luckily for North Africa, the numerical weakness of the Arabs and a strong opposition from the Berbers made the initial invasion unsuccessful. In the fifteenth century, however, the Muslim generals returned. They had tasted sumptuous fruits of colonial expropriation in their previous excursions into Africa and now longed for more. Equipped now in the fifteenth century with even more advanced military weapons, the Muslim generals went about destroying every North African army that marched against them. In the end, they turned most of North Africa into a mere colonial outpost of Arabia and imposed on their conquered African subjects the Islamic religion and Islamic political rule. Since that time, Egypt has not regained its freedom. Today, in the twenty-first century, Egypt remains an Islamic state and is peopled mostly by transplanted Arabs in whom political and economic power is reposed.

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The indigenous black population, on the other hand, remains a powerless and an oppressed majority. Regrettably, the ancient Egypt state was not the only African kingdom that proved weak and vulnerable in the face of foreign conquest. Every other major African state in Africa’s history has exhibited the same cultural and military feebleness in the face of foreign invasion. Like Egypt, all the other northern African states were at one time or another overrun by the Muslim armies in the seventh and ninth centuries, and there was no African state in the north sufficiently powerful to stem the tide of the Islamic conquest. The consequence of this historic weakness was that the Muslim generals seized most of North Africa’s lands, massacred most of the indigenous populations in these states, or reduced them to slavery. Then they sowed both their religion and their promiscuous genes like wild oats over the entire land. Today, all of North Africa, including Egypt, is effectively under the control of the Muslim world and is a de facto extension of southern Arabia to the extent that the only part of Africa that is now regarded as legitimately African is the part below the Sahara, called “sub-Saharan Africa.” But even then, sub-Saharan Africa was plagued by the same impotence as the north. That impotence became evident when the Portuguese arrived in the fourteenth century. Before then, the sub-Saharan African states had for centuries existed in relative freedom and security. Relatively large empires like Ghana, Mali, Songhai, and Kanem-Bornu had emerged and succeeded each other in the western hump of the continent. Monomatapa and Zululand had consolidated their social, political, economic, and military powers in the south. Cush, Ethiopia, and Meroe had imposed their own hegemonies successfully and successively in the east. Although none of these states was conquered militarily by an Asian or European state, their encounter with Muslim civilization and Islamic culture through the Berbers led to their decline and subsequent demise. This deterioration was so extensive that when the Portuguese arrived on the coast of West Africa in the fourteenth century, these ancient or medieval African empires no longer existed. Depending on their relative importance to the trans-Saharan trade and the Muslim quest for gold and slaves, their stars had shone and waned in succession like the moon in the African sky. Some, like Songhai, had been invaded and destroyed by a coalition of Arab and Berber armies outfitted by the Arab sultan of Morocco, ElMansour. However, the other ancient empires, like Ghana, faded as the trade routes shifted and the physical environment deteriorated. When the Portuguese arrived in the fourteenth century, the only African states left to challenge them were not the ancient empires of Mali, Ghana, and Songhai, but small monarchies and kingdoms like those of the Congo, the Ashanti, and the Zulus. However, the Portuguese also set about systematically dismantling these monarchies in order to reconfigure them into European markets for slaves and gold. In their quest for a sea route to the Spice Islands of India, the

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Portuguese had initially intended to use their African ports as supply stations and to solicit the support of the African monarchs as allies in their bid to supplant the then formidable Islamic power. However, finding the inhabitants of the Congo weak and complacent, the Portuguese began to ship them to Portugal as domestic slaves. This program of enslavement lasted until 1492 when the European demand for slave labor in the New World became intensified as a result of the discovery of the Americas. From the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, the Portuguese, joined by other European powers, mounted successive incursions into the West African coastal states. It was from these coasts that a majority of their slaves were captured, sold, and shipped to the New World. For three hundred years, the societies of Western Africa were combed and ravaged by Arabs and Europeans. Finding African states to be weak and backward, a succession of Arab and European conquerors seized African lands by force and shipped millions of African people to the “New World” as slaves. This ill-reputed trans-Atlantic slave trade went on for the next three centuries, and African leaders and monarchs were unable to halt it on their own. It was only when the British government in 1870 declared slavery illegal and mounted a military assault against the trade that it began to wane. Of course, African peoples, especially in the British and American diaspora, played significant roles in the abolitionist movement and contributed in many ways to the destruction of the institution of slavery in the modern period. However, their contributions consisted mainly in their appeals to the conscience of the slave masters to dismantle the evil institution. In the end, they had no power on their own to stop the trade, and the institution of slavery would never have been destroyed without the will and military power of the very British government that once championed the trade. In other words, the abolition of the slave trade did not occur because the abolitionists tried to discredit it morally. Rather, it occurred because the institution itself became an obstacle to the emerging institution of industrial capitalism. As Al-Mazrui once asked, is it not ironic that Britain, once the foremost slave-trading nation, was also one of the first to mount a war against it? In time, England, the United States, and other European powers succeeded through their concerted efforts in putting an end to the enslavement of Africans. However, this European abolition of the very evil institution that they created and once defended did not usher in a new dawn of African freedom. This was primarily because it was not the Africans themselves or the military might of their own states that dismantled both the institution and the trade. Rather, black enslavement came to an end because it was no longer compatible with the new mode of Western production and had become an obstacle to Europe’s own industrial progress. As historians and political economists have observed, in the late nineteenth century, Europe’s industrial demand was no longer primarily human muscle power. There was now mechanical power,

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and the new European industries needed less human muscle power to drive industrial production. What they needed most urgently were raw materials, which were abundant on the continent of Africa. So, the focus of the new industrial economy was no longer the individual African slave or “beast of burden.” It was for this reason that the foremost European industrial nation, Britain, became also the foremost adversary of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Ironically, once again, the abolition of the slave trade merely inaugurated a new phase of the subjugation and oppression of African people, the illfamed scramble for the partition and colonization of Africa by the new European industrial powers. In 1888, after the Berlin conference, the Western European nations, led by the very British government that had championed the war on the slave trade, set about partitioning the continent for colonization. Like a pack of predators, these Western nations pounced on Africa and, after apportioning her flesh and bones among themselves, set about devouring their own portions of the continent in the relative peace and quiet of their lairs. France and Britain got the lion’s share. At the height of French colonial rule, her colonies and mandates in Africa included Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mauritania, French Guinea (now Guinea), French Sudan (now Mali), Niger, Dahomey (now Bénin), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Gabon, Middle Congo, Central African Republic, Niger, Togo, Chad, French Somaliland (Djibouti), Madagascar, and the Seychelles Islands. The British share included Nigeria, Kenya, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Egypt, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Somaliland, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South West Africa (now Namibia), Uganda, Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), British Togoland, Cameroon, Gambia, Mauritius, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Nyasaland (now Malawi), Swaziland, Sudan, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar (now Tanzania), and so on. The Netherlands seized a small but significant share of the carcass. The story about how a small band of Dutch invaders came to impose colonial rule on South Africa was in many ways a repetition of the stories of the endless cycles of humiliation of African societies by pockets of foreign invaders. It is a familiar story in African history. In the late sixteenth century, a small band of Dutch mariners from the Netherlands established itself as a settlement on the southwestern cape. The initial goal of the settlement was to be a supply station for the ships sailing to Asia from Europe. However, by the seventeenth century, many of the settlers, finding themselves in an environment in which there was an abundance of land, turned into independent farmers called the “Freeburghers” or “Boers.” As the Dutch settlement expanded, conflict inevitably arose between the Boers and the indigenous African population. In the ensuing conflict the Boers, who were equipped with superior weapons, massacred innumerable members of the aboriginal Khosian and Bantu groups, seized their most fertile agricultural lands, and, under the pretext that they had a “manifest destiny” to civilize the African savages,

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reduced the people to slavery and forced labor. In the course of the next three centuries, large deposits of gold and diamonds were discovered in the region, and the Dutch settlers, in collusion with the English colonists who had joined them in their infamous “scramble,” expanded and consolidated their dominion over the black population. They named their conquered territory the Republic of South Africa and imposed on its conquered people a most repressive system of racial discrimination they called “apartheid.” Under the apartheid system, the minority white settlers, who constituted only a tiny segment of the entire population, seized 78 percent of the land, including the territories with large deposits of diamonds, gold, and other precious minerals. The black population, on the other hand, they confined to a mere 14 percent of the land. Thus imprisoned in reservations called “Bantustans” or “Homelands,” the black population, which constituted more than 75 percent of the South African population, was compelled by means of brutal and naked force to live on the most unproductive sections of their own land. Forbidden by law to live outside the Bantustans, they were also proscribed from intermingling socially with the European population and even with a parasitic Asian minority that had managed to entrench itself as a second-class citizenry. Like the Jim Crow government of the early twentieth-century southern United States, the apartheid regime in South Africa also enforced strict racial segregation in all public arenas—in schools, churches, restaurants, buses, hospitals, beaches, and public parks. For more than four hundred years, this system of apartheid was imposed on all South Africans. This led to protests, riots, civil disobedience, strikes, mass demonstrations, and clashes between the indigenous people and the apartheid police. The series of protests, riots, and petitions to the United Nations and the international community were of little avail. In response, the white minority Dutch government enacted even more repressive laws and enforced them with even more brutal violence. Hundreds of South African leaders and millions of ordinary folks were murdered or imprisoned. Their only “crimes” were the infringement of the unjust laws that were imposed by an illegitimate alien government and designed not only to deprive them of their freedom in their own land, but to treat them contemptuously as racial inferiors. It was only when, under international pressure, the corporate giants in the Western world began to divest themselves of their South African businesses that the apartheid regime was reluctantly dismantled. Seeing its economy becoming increasingly isolated and understanding the inevitable consequences of this isolation, the National Party, led by Frederik de Klerk, “voluntarily” agreed to dismantle the system of apartheid, thus formally ended one of the most repressive systems of oppression that ever existed on earth. This story about how a small band of invaders succeeded in imposing a brutal and repressive economic and political system on millions of South

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Africans for more than four centuries is just one illustration of the magnitude of Africa’s historic weakness. There are several others. In the nineteenth century, for instance, the indigenous population of the Congo Basin suffered a similar fate. This time it was not at the hands of the Dutch, but of one man, King Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold had read the 1877 report of the explorer Stanley who had written about the vast and untapped natural resources of the Congo Basin. Driven by greed and a lust to power, Leopold, after extensive political maneuvering, convinced the signatories of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 to recognize the Congo Basin, a territory of about one million square miles and more than seventy-five times the size of Belgium, as his private estate and empire. Renaming his new colony “the Congo Free State,” Leopold, for the next two decades (1885–1908), imposed on the Congo people one of the most despotic and most barbarous colonial administrations. At first, his rabid quest was simply to amass incalculable wealth from the sale of African ivory and copper. However, with the surge in the demand for rubber that came in the 1890s, Leopold turned his ravenous search for ivory into a murderous hunt for rubber. Martin Meredith summarized the consequences of Leopold’s reign of terror for the indigenous population of the Congo Free State:

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With the invention of the pneumatic tyre, fitted first to bicycles and then to motor cars in the 1890s, demand for rubber and the price for it soared. Using a system of slave labour, concession companies, sharing their profits with Leopold, stripped the Congo’s equatorial forests of all the wild rubber they could lay their hands on, imposing quotas on villagers and taking hostages whenever necessary. Villagers who failed to fulfil their quotas were flogged, imprisoned and even mutilated, their hands cut off. Thousands were killed for resisting Leopold’s rubber regime, thousands more fled their homes. 26

Leopold made enormous profits from the production and sale of rubber, and he “used the wealth he amassed to build palaces and monuments.” 27 However, in doing so he also created and presided over a system of expropriation that led directly to the massacre, mutilation, enslavement, and wanton murder of millions of Congo people. For more than two decades, his private army, the Force Publique, routinely and recklessly brutalized and dismembered the inhabitants of the Congo by cutting off the hands of the men, women, and children who were unable to meet the king’s demand for forced labor. Every village was ordered to produce a specific quota of rubber. When a village was unable to deliver its quota, the Force Publique was sent to “punish” the villagers. They shot the men, raped the women, and sold the children into slavery. To prove that the soldiers’ bullets and cartridges were not wasted, the soldiers were ordered to cut off the right hands of their victims and deliver them to their commanders. Under Leopold’s reign of terror, “the baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European

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post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State.” 28 The soldiers themselves intensified the reign of terror by exploiting Leopold’s barbarism for their own gain. Most often, after the soldiers’ cartridges had been spent on hunting big game, they cut off the right hands of living people to make up their numbers. 29 In the two decades of Leopold II’s reign of terror, more than ten million Congolese were murdered. When Leopold II seized the territory in 1891, the population of the Basin was twenty million. However, by 1911, just two decades after it was formally annexed by the government of Belgium, the population of the Basin had decreased dramatically to 8.5 million. Leopold’s reign of terror in the Congo Basin in late nineteenth-century Africa is commonly told as a tale of one man’s greed, ambition, ruthlessness, and excessive brutality. However, it is more than that. What is often missing from the narrative is that it was a stark example of the continuing weakness and cultural indifference of African states in the face of brutalization by foreign invaders. For almost two decades African people in the Congo Basin were murdered and brutalized by Leopold and his private army, yet not a single African state or monarch dared to challenge Leopold or raise an army to destroy and dismantle his brutal regime. As in the case of South Africa, it took international pressure initiated by missionaries and humanists in Europe and America who recognized that the brutality of Leopold’s rule was so excessive, even by colonial standards, that it had to be stopped. They subsequently mounted a campaign to liberate the Congo. In 1908, Leopold was compelled to cede his murderous and blood-drenched fiefdom to the Belgium government, and the Congo Free State was wrestled from his murderous grip. BLACK CIVILIZATION AND THE PRICE OF TECHNOLOGICAL INDIFFERENCE Africa’s historic weakness and the consequent destruction of African states, from northern Africa down to the southern end of the continent, occurred because African societies had fallen behind Asia and Europe in technical advancement, especially in military technology. Without the advanced military technology of the Arabs and Western Europeans, the conquest and colonization of Africa and the mass enslavement of African people would never have occurred. So, the question that needs to be addressed is why Africa fell behind Europe and Asia in technological advancement. This question is even more compelling in light of the well-known historical fact that Africa is the cradle of civilization. If, as the cradle of civilization, Africa once led the other continents in knowledge and technological progress, how then did the continent become so technologically backward that it was eventually overrun

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by the emergent civilizations of Asia and Western Europe? According to Diop, the cause of this reversal of Africa’s fate is “the great enigma of history.” How did it happen, Diop asks, that a people who once built great civilizations and led the world in knowledge and technology fell so low afterward that they are now prostrate before the rest of humanity and have even become the object of the world’s contempt? Chancellor Williams, in The Destruction of Black Civilization, agrees that this is a question that demands a most urgent answer. “If Blacks were among the very first builders of civilization and their land was the birthplace of civilization,” Williams wrote, then how did it happen that they are now left “at the bottom of world society?” 30 My experience in teaching Africana philosophy in the past two decades has shown me that invariably one of the questions African and African American college students want answered is why Africa, with all its past glory and achievements, fell behind Europe in technological development and was easily conquered and colonized by a handful of European nations at the dawn of the modern period. Traditionally, the answer to that question was that the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the colonization of Africa were the causes of the continent’s technological stagnation. In the scant literature that focuses on Africa’s developmental problems, the claim was commonly made that Africa was keeping abreast or even ahead of the rest of the world in developing technology when, on account of the enslavement and conquest of African peoples by the Arabs and Europeans, that development was suddenly arrested. According to Rodney, one of the chief proponents of this view, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, in which millions of Africans were captured and shipped to the New world, resulted in the depopulation of Africa, thereby depriving the continent of millions of young minds that could have contributed to the scientific and technological advancement of the continent. If millions of young Britons had been captured and sold into slavery, and then shipped out of Britain to plantations in distant continents to toil as slaves for four centuries, do you think, Rodney asks, that Britain would have attained its current level of development? What would have been Britain’s level of development had millions of them [Europeans] been put to work as slaves outside of their homelands over a period of four centuries. . . ? The European slave trade was a direct block, in removing millions of youth and young adults who are the human agents from whom inventiveness springs. Those who remained in areas badly hit by slave capturing were preoccupied about their freedom rather than improvements in production. 31

According to Rodney, colonialism, with its accompanying expropriation of human and natural resources, led directly to the stagnation of Africa’s economy and its forces of production. However, Rodney’s argument above falters on two grounds. First, preoccupation with freedom and improvements in

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production are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one might argue that the preoccupation of African people with their freedom during the slave-trading period should have compelled them to advance their military technologies in order to halt the slave trade and pre-empt both Arab and European colonialism. History is replete with examples of people who made such improvements. The ancient Egyptians did so even at the height of Hyksos colonial power in order to regain their freedom. The Japanese also undertook such improvements in the modern period in order to pre-empt European colonialism. Second, to invoke either slavery or colonialism as the cause of Africa’s technological stagnation, as Rodney does here, is question-begging. This is because slavery and colonialism are the effects of technological backwardness, rather than its cause. It was not because African people were conquered and enslaved, and their natural and human resources expropriated, that the African continent became technologically backward. Rather, it was because African societies were technologically backward that they were conquered and their human and natural resources expropriated. In other words, the productive technologies of African states did not begin to stagnate after the continent’s encounters with Asia and Europe. Rather, they were already stagnant before the encounter. In fact, it was precisely because the European armies were equipped with far superior military technology and had superior military organization—training, tactics, and logistics—that they were able to destroy the African armies that challenged them on the battlefield. Regrettably, many scholars, perhaps on account of a self-defeating cultural pride, have difficulty conceding that Africa’s pre-colonial backwardness in technology was the cause of the continent’s defeat at the dawn of the colonial era. However, cultural pride cannot obliterate the historical evidence. It was Europe’s superior military technology and organization that brought African kingdoms and armies to their knees. As noted in a recent work on West African responses to European imperialism in the nineteenth century, West African societies lost their wars of resistance against the European invaders because the African armies “were poorly equipped, poorly trained and poorly officered.” 32 In essence, what proved decisive in the imperial conquest and occupation of west Africa was the technological and organizational superiority of the invaders. 33 The European armies were equipped with the most recent advances in military weapons, like the Maxim and Gatling guns, against which the primitive bows and arrows wielded by the African armies proved wholly and absolutely ineffective. 34 It was this disparity in military capabilities that gave the colonial conquerors the capacity to impose their will on African states. Suppose that the pre-colonial African states had comparable military technology and technological skills during the period of the initial encounters. Would the mass enslavement of African people have occurred? In fact, if the productive technologies of the early African societies had been more advanced, the need for some African middlemen and mem-

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bers of the ruling class to exchange their fellow Africans for the merchandise they could easily have produced through their own industry would never have arisen. We know now that one of the primary reasons for the institution of slavery in every part of the world was the absence of advanced technology. Early societies needed slaves because they had not yet discovered alternatives to human muscle power. They had not learned to substitute animal or wind or water power for the strength of the human muscle. So, from historical hindsight, it is clear today that slavery is the result of technological backwardness. Slave economies relied more extensively on human muscle power where more technologically advanced economies relied to a larger extent on mechanical power. Thus, both the institution of slavery in Africa and the subsequent participation of African middlemen in the slave trade were symptoms of the technological backwardness of the continent, not its causes. Had the slave-trading African rulers embarked on a course of technological improvement, they would quickly have come to the realization that the very persons they so cheaply traded for worthless merchandise constituted their society’s most invaluable resources. They would also have sought to protect their people rather than squander them as mere commodities to be peddled to strangers. Thus, without the gross disparity in military technology between the pre-colonial African societies and the invading European nations, the African armies, as Chinweizu has so aptly observed, would have been able to “roll the European ships back into the Atlantic Ocean.” 35 Pre-colonial African societies did not possess the firepower to defeat their Arab and European invaders. Had they possessed the appropriate military technologies, the scramble for Africa and subsequent partition of the continent by England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other European powers in the early period of the nineteenth century would never have occurred. It was because the European nations were so confident of their technological and military superiority that they even dreamt of possessing African colonial empires. In fact, so confident were they of the weakness of African states that they partitioned the continent and apportioned it to themselves in Europe before they even embarked on the actual conquest. As Kelly puts it, “so sure were European rulers of their military superiority that they divided the continent into spheres of influence even before venturing out to subdue the natives.” 36 In fact, if one considers the fierce and courageous resistance to colonial conquest that African soldiers exhibited in many parts of the continent in spite of their technological and military handicaps, it is clear that if the pre-colonial African armies had comparable military technology, the European invasion, if it had occurred, would have had a different outcome. It is therefore quite plausible to conclude that Africa’s conquest and colonization were consequences, not causes, of the continent’s backwardness in technology. When the British, French, Dutch, and German colonists arrived in Africa, they had ships, guns, and cannons. The African ar-

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mies, on the other hand, wielded nothing but bows and arrows. Had the early African societies mastered the techniques of shipbuilding and gun manufacture, the attempted colonization of the continent would have failed and Africa would have been spared its subsequent colonial humiliation. Unfortunately, the continent failed woefully in this regard, and the consequence of that failure was that in every war in which a large African army was confronted by a small band of invading European armies and their African mercenaries, the African army was easily demolished. The technological imbalance in these wars is common knowledge among military historians. The Zulu army of Cetshwayo, for instance, was heavily outgunned and outmatched by the Dutch and British columns even before either of them appeared on the battlefield. According to Victor Hanson, even though the British columns were vastly outnumbered by Cetshwayo’s thirty to forty thousand impis, General Chelmsford’s army was still vastly superior to that of the Zulu, and that superiority lay in “organization, military equipment, technology, tactics and logistics.” The Zulu warriors wielded bows, arrows, and assegai (long throwing spears). They also employed a grossly outdated enveloping tactic. The “Red Coats,” on the other hand, were armed with Henry-Martini rifles and Gatling guns. The Red Coats also knew how to build fortifications designed to defeat the enveloping tactics of the Zulus. Thus, even though fortune occasionally smiled at the Zulu army, as she did at the battle of Isandhlwana, in the end it was the Zulus who lost the war, with the massive slaughter of the impis at Rorke’s Drift and Ulundi. Surprisingly, many scholars are reluctant to admit the role of advanced military technology in deciding the outcome of these battles. This, as Hanson has observed, is probably because they either confuse the question of military superiority with the larger issues of intelligence or morality, or because they focus on occasional European military setbacks, like the temporary victory of the Zulus at Isandhlwana, as if these were typical of Europe’s history of warfare in Africa. 37 NOTES 1. Elizabeth Isichei, A History of African Societies to 1870 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 35. See also 29–37. 2. Quoted in Ivan Van Sertima and Runoko Rashidi, eds., African Presence in Early Asia (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1995), 40. 3. Genesis 10 and I Chronicles 1. 4. The word “Ethiopia” originated from the Greek words Ethios (burnt) and ops (face) and simply means “burnt face.” It was used by the Greeks to refer to all black people, whose faces were believed to have been burnt by the heat of the sun. As it was used, it did not refer only to those who inhabited the land of Abyssinia (today’s Ethiopia), but to all indigenous African people. Similarly, the land of Ethiop, as understood by the Greeks, referred to all of Africa, especially the Sudan, with which the Greeks were more familiar. 5. Quoted in Van Sertima and Rashidi, eds., African Presence in Early Asia, 39. See also Charles S. Finch, “Africa and Palestine in Antiquity” in African Presence in Early Asia (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1995), 186–96. In this article Finch approvingly sum-

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marizes Diop’s theory about the primacy of black civilization. Note that Rawlinson’s published works include the following: The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun (1846–1851) and Outline of the History of Assyria (1852), both reprinted from the Asiatic Society’s journals; A Commentary on the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Babylon and Assyria (1850); Notes on the Early History of Babylonia (1854); England and Russia in the East (1875). 6. See Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1974). See also Cheikh Anta Diop, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991). For a good summary of the ancient achievements of Africans, see Maulana Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies, 2nd edition (Los Angeles, CA: The University of Sankore Press, 1993), 87–90. 7. Constantin-François de Volney, The Ruins: Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires and the Law of Nature (New York: Peter Eckler, 1890), 16–17. 8. Ibid. 9. Ivan Van Sertima, ed. Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1989), 242. See also Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, 10, 230. 10. Richard Poe, Black Fire, White Sparks (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997), 5. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid. 13. Hyksos colonialism lasted for the entire duration of the Second Intermediate Period, that is, from 1630—1523 B.C. 14. Quoted in G. Steindorff and K. Seele, When Egypt Ruled the East (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 24–25. 15. In the Metaphysics, Aristotle claimed that the early sciences arose among the priestly class in ancient Egypt, and he further attributed that rise to the fact that the priests there constituted a leisure class. Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. Hugh Tredennick (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933), 981b. 16. Volney, The Ruins, 37–38. 17. Similarly, the confidence enkindled by the new military techniques led Tuthmosis III to embark on one conquest after another, resulting in one of the greatest expansions of the empire and the constitution of the Egyptian military as the most formidable army in the region. Under Tuthmosis III, the Egyptian army was so technologically advanced in chariot warfare that the Egyptian chariots were to play the primary role in Tuthmosis III’s defeat of the coalition of Canaanite kings at the battle of Megiddo—the famous battle of “Armageddon” almost a century after the Hyksos invasion. At the battle of Megiddo in 1482 B.C., the Egyptian forces, in addition to their infantry and navy, had an elite chariot corp. According to the Annals of Tuthmosis III found at the old temple of Karnak, when the pharaoh appeared at dawn and the battle command was given, Tuthmosis “set out on a chariot of fine gold, decked in his shining armor like a strong-armed Heru, lord of action.” The coalition forces were gathered in the Plain of Esdraelon where Megiddo was located. Tuthmosis besieged the city. He asked the Egyptian mathematicians to measure the city. A ditch or a moat was then dug around Megiddo. A wall or palisade was constructed to prevent anyone from escaping. Tuthmosis reasoned that since many kings were in the city, the capture of Megiddo would be equivalent to the capture of a thousand towns. The siege brought the coalition to its knees. In 1482 B.C., the city surrendered to Tuthmosis, who carried off enormous booty in gold, silver, and slaves, 2,041 horses, golden chariots, other war machinery (including bows and coats of mail), bronze artworks, ebony, and lapis lazuli. However, in spite of the successes of Ahmose, Tuthmosis III and other earlier or later pharaohs like Ramses, Egypt was merely postponing its decline, for it eventually reverted into the same anti-war culture that once made it vulnerable to foreign invaders. Eventually, it fell into the hands of Persia and, later, of Greece and Rome. From these later conquests it never recovered. Henceforth its fate was sealed. 18. S. Quirke and J. Spencer, Ancient Egypt (New York, New York: Thames & Hudson, 1992), 134. 19. “Annals” of Tuthmosis III in M. Asante and A. Abarry, African Intellectual Heritage (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 607.

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20. The Sendjirli Stele, trans. by Daniel Luckenbill in Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol. 2, 1st edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1927), 580. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid. 23. J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd Edition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969). Quoted in Phillip Adler and Randall Pouwels, World Civilizations, vol. 1 (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006, Volume I), 40. 24. Jiu-Hwa Upshur, et al., World History, 4th edition (Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2005), 22. 25. G. Steindorff and K. Seele, When Egypt Ruled the East (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 271–72. 26. Meredith, The Fate of Africa, 96. 27. David Renton et al., The Congo: Plunder and Resistance (New York: Zed Books Ltd., 2007), 3. 28. Ibid., 31. 29. Ibid. 30. Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C to 2000 A.D. (Chicago, IL: Third World Press, 1992), 40. 31. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982), 101-5. 32. Ugboaja Ohaegbulam, West African Responses to European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Lanham, MD: The University Press of America, 2002), 170. 33. Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies, 103. Karenga correctly points out that ships gave the Europeans “the capacity to collect and synthesize technique and other knowledge from around the world” and “to control, block or bombard the African coasts,” while capitalism gave them “the capacity to mass-produce, monopolize and expand their technology in great strides.” 34. Ibid., 171. 35. Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us: White Predators, Black Slavers and the African Elite (New York: Vintage, 1975) 392ff. 36. Jack Kelly, Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 232. 37. Victor D. Hanson, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 309.

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Monarchs of “The Encounter” and Their Feeble Responses to Europe’s Technological Superiority

Even if one grants that Africa’s geographical limitations, either in terms of its starting materials in domesticable plants and animals or because of the obstacles posed by its north-south continental axis, explain the continent’s lag in agriculture and technological progress, this concession could only be valid up to the beginning of the fifteenth century. However, it could not explain why many other parts of Africa that were in contact with Asia and Europe long before the nineteenth century failed to adopt or acquire a variety of early Eurasian technologies, like the wheel, windmills, the cannon, and the ship, which were not dependent on climate or continental orientation. The common claim is that African societies lacked the knowledge of these technologies because of the continent’s isolation. However, historical evidence does not support that claim. Despite the continent’s purported isolation, Africa has a long history of contact with technologically more advanced peoples, like the Romans and Carthaginians. African societies could have developed far better agricultural and military technologies by emulating the Romans and the Carthaginians. Doing so would have equipped them with the military technology with which to pre-empt both the Islamic assaults of the sixteenth century and the European invasions of the nineteenth century. For instance, as early as 800 B.C., long after the destruction of ancient Egypt, which led the world only in Stone Age technology, North African societies were in direct contact with the Phoenicians who had wrestled Carthage, Tripoli, Cyrene, and a string of other coastal cities from them by sheer military force. On the Mediterranean coast of the eighth century B.C., the Phoenicians possessed the most advanced naval and military technologies. Phoenician engi87

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neers built giant galleys which crawled all over the Mediterranean like colossal centipedes, yet could, despite their slowness, destroy almost any rival fleet that challenged them. 1 It was Phoenician engineers who invented the diere or the bireme, a ship with two banks of oars on each side. This ship was constructed with a solid deck that could withstand the shock of ramming, a common battle tactic in the naval warfare of the period. In addition to their advanced naval technology, the Phoenicians also built chariots and siege engines, and were highly skilled in the manufacture of glass and iron. In fact, in the field of technology, the Phoenicians were so advanced that they were “the leading explorers, seamen, manufacturers and traders” of their time, and for almost nine centuries the Berbers of North Africa lived side by side with them. Yet the Berbers never developed the shipbuilding capacity of the Phoenicians or mastered the Phoenician military strategies that led to the loss of their coastal cities. Contrast this Berber indifference with the response of the Romans of the same period who were equally under the assault of the Carthaginians. Confronted with what they perceived as the “Carthaginian threat” or the Carthaginian attempt to become the supreme commercial and naval power on the western Mediterranean, the Romans immediately embarked on the project of acquiring the same shipbuilding technology that gave the Carthaginians their reputed maritime supremacy. From the Greeks and the Etruscans, as reported by the Byzantine and Greek historians Procopius and Polybius, the Romans recruited engineers who taught them the art of shipbuilding. Historians commonly claim that the Romans acquired this knowledge simply by studying and copying a Carthaginian cataphract that was blown off the coast of Italy. 2 However, the counter evidence provided by Procopius and Polybius indicates that this may have been just a popular tale fabricated to emphasize both the ingenuity of the Roman engineers and the indomitable will of the Romans in their determination to acquire a critical technology of the era. The point here, of course, is that the Roman ruling classes were not indifferent to a crucial technology that was possessed by an alien power that had appeared in dangerous proximity to their empire and was threatening to impose its power and dominion over the Roman people. Historians even inform us that prior to the Punic Wars, Rome was essentially a land-based republic and the Romans knew little about sea faring. However, once the republic felt threatened by the rising Phoenician power in the Mediterranean, the Roman ruling elite immediately commissioned the construction of a fleet of quinqueremes and triremes, and tried to bridge the gap in military technology between Rome and Carthage. The consequence was that within a short time the Romans had not only mastered the technique of shipbuilding, they were also capable of producing warships that could challenge the Carthaginian navy at sea. The Roman engineers even went as far as making technical improvements on the quinqueremes by adding the corvus to it and turning the traditional sea bat-

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tles between ships into the equivalent of land battles at which the Romans were more experienced and had significant advantages. Had the Roman republic been indifferent to the advanced military technologies of the time and had the Roman ruling classes been so culturally inflexible as not to recognize that they needed to modernize their naval and military technology to be able to meet the Carthaginian threat, the republic may have been subdued by Carthage. In the end, it was the political leadership provided by the Roman republican government—namely the recruitment of Greek and Etruscan engineers, the training of a new generation of Roman engineers, builders, and architects, the commissioning of the construction of Roman war fleets that were paid for from the republican treasury—in conjunction with the primacy the rulers placed on national freedom, that saved ancient Rome from Carthaginian conquest and colonialism. Given the military and technological weakness of Rome before the Punic Wars, it was not unimaginable that the city of Rome would have been reduced to ashes, rather than the city of Carthage that the Romans subsequently set ablaze. The foresight and leadership provided by the Roman ruling classes as they encountered the superior technology possessed by the Carthaginians prior to the Punic Wars stands in sharp contrast with that provided by the African ruling classes as they encountered, for instance, the superior technology of the Romans in the first century B.C. After the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C., the Romans gained control over the former Carthaginian colonies, and most of North Africa was brought under Roman colonial rule. For the next three centuries, the Romans turned North Africa into a wheat and olive-producing plantation and the North African inhabitants into slaves and laborers. Shiploads of grain and olives were exported from North Africa to Rome where they were distributed freely to Roman citizens. 3 However, for all their colonial exploitation and expropriation of North Africa, Roman craftsmen, technicians, and even politicians and statesmen led the world of their time in engineering, medicine, architecture, politics, and law. It was the advanced organizational and technical skills of Roman engineers, politicians, generals, and architects that produced the Appian Way, the innumerable aqueducts for which Rome became well known, the famous Roman bridges, domes, vaults, amphitheaters, temples, warships, siege engines, Roman law, the impenetrable Roman armor, the Roman drill, the technique of fighting in phalanxes, and along with other military technologies with which the Romans conquered and imposed their will on both African and non-African peoples. These imperial subjects constituted the bulk of the Roman Empire and included Egypt, Carthage, Numidia, Mauretania, and other parts of “Roman Africa.” The Romans themselves had acquired most of their technologies from the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Phoenicians, and other parts of Asia. As Jacques Ellul acknowledges in The Technological Society:

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In the first century when Rome—the perfect example of the technological spirit in antiquity—took up industry, she too turned to the east for industrial techniques—the refining of silver and gold, glass making, the tempering of weapons, pottery, ship construction, and so on. All these techniques came to Rome from the east, either early through the Etruscans, or much later after the (Roman) conquests. 4

Unlike Rome, however, the North African societies of the first century B.C. and their ruling classes, which for more than three centuries were subject to Roman rule and witnessed the formidable technological skills that constituted the bedrock of Roman imperial power, somehow failed to be seduced into the quest to bridge the gap in technological progress between them and the Romans. Not even for the goal of defending their freedom and their land were they persuaded to seek a mastery of the knowledge of the advanced technologies of the Romans. Where in North African history does one witness a massive effort by the Berbers to adopt the wheel, writing, and the windmill? Where does one find even a nominal effort made by the Berbers to build a fleet of warships that would measure up to Roman or Carthaginian standards in order to challenge the naval supremacy of the Romans on the Mediterranean? Where was the evidence of the Berbers’ purportedly avowed “love of freedom,” which should have made them the ideal candidates for technological inventiveness and for the absorption of the knowledge and skills necessary to guarantee that freedom? Finally, where in history did the North African states and their rulers display a significant commitment of human and natural resources for the education and production of indigenous African engineers, architects, and chemists of the caliber that could then be found in ancient Rome? Instead, what history witnessed were North African societies that, under the Roman rule in which they were reduced to slaves and colonial subjects in their own land, persisted in employing their old methods of waging wars, growing food, tilling the land, and supplying water. That was cultural indifference par excellence. As a phenomenon, this cultural indifference was most strikingly manifest among the African ruling classes whose primary function was to lead their societies, and this indifference contributed in no small measure to the stagnation of Africa’s technological knowledge and the subsequent backwardness of African societies that the Western Europeans encountered in the closing decades of the fifteenth century. Lamentably, Africa’s history, both past and present, is replete with examples of such indifference to technological progress on the part of the continent’s ruling classes and even on the part of the African intellectual elite. In the medieval period, for example, a variety of African states and empires were in contact with Arabia, China, and Western Europe, and could have acquired a variety of new technologies, like shipbuilding, gunpowder, and

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cannon manufacture from these Eurasian sources of new inventions. The history of technology shows that advanced shipbuilding, gunpowder, and cannon manufacture techniques predated the conquest of Africa by several centuries. Although it is commonly claimed today that medieval African societies could not have acquired the advanced technologies of the period because of Africa’s geographical isolation from Europe and Asia, that claim is not supported by historical evidence. Throughout its history, African merchants undertook voyages across the Sahara to Egypt, Arabia, India, China, and even Europe. In return, a long list of travelers and voyagers from Asia and Europe visited African cities either by crossing the Sahara or sailing across the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans. The Phoenicians built a colony in Carthage by 800 B.C. Hanno, the Carthaginian, sailed to the west coast of Africa as far as the Cameroon Mountains by 500 B.C. and, as recorded by Greek historians, Hanno described these mountains as the “Chariots of the Gods” (Theôn ochèma). Hanno returned to Carthage with heads of gorillas set on his stems. 5 Before Hanno, the Phoenicians, under the commission of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, circumnavigated Africa, perhaps as early as the seventh century B.C., as recounted by Herodotus. 6 Later, in the early fifteenth century A.D., the Chinese admiral Cheng-Ho sailed to several east and south African coastal cities and returned to China with presents from African monarchs. Though these travels were intermittent, they demonstrate that African merchants and travelers maintained unbroken contact with Europe and Asia throughout the ages and, consequently, that the claim that Africa was so isolated as to be cut off from access to new technical ideas from the outside is not a statement of historical fact. A recent textbook on history emphatically makes this point: Africa has never been cut off from the crosscurrents of world history. It was the source of the earliest human biological and cultural developments and the point from which some of the most essential elements of human society and growth were derived. Africans also borrowed from other continents fundamental innovations in agriculture and material technology: food crops, such as corn (maize), manioc (cassava), and yams from the Americas and East Asia, and the knowledge of iron probably from the Middle East. As early as the first millennium A.D., Africans participated in a busy Indian Ocean trading system dealing with distant places in Arabia, India, Persia, and China, and they exported gold and other commodities across the Sahara Desert to Europe. The Middle East and Europe were also in contact with Africa, exchanging scholars and ideas with important centers of learning in the Arabic-speaking world. Thus, long before the better-known contacts between Europe and Africa that started in the fifteenth century, parts of Africa had interacted continuously with other world areas over centuries. Yet the emphasis in Western writings and popular thinking on the “discovery” of the continent by white explorers from Prince Henry the Navigator to David Livingstone in the nineteenth century contrib-

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It is true that the Sahara, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and numerous other geographical factors constituted obstacles to frequent contact between Africa and Asia or between Africa and Europe; however, they did not isolate Africa, even sub-Saharan Africa, to the extent that African people knew nothing of the advancing technologies in Asia and Europe. As McKay further argues, even the usual culprit, the Sahara, may have been a barrier to very frequent contact, but it never constituted an obstacle that absolutely prevented the exchange of ideas between Africa and Asia or Europe.

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African peoples have never been isolated from other peoples. In North Africa, contacts with Asian and European civilizations date back to the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The native Berbers, who lived along the Mediterranean, intermingled with many different peoples—with Muslim Arabs, who first conquered the region of North Africa in the seventh and eight centuries C.E. and with Spanish Muslims and Jews, many of whom settled in North Africa after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. The peoples living along the east, or Swahili, coast developed a maritime civilization and had rich commercial contacts with southern Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, China. . . . Thus, the trans-Saharan caravan trade, which began in full force in the 5th century B.C. and continued till it was undermined by European shipping in the 19th century, gave African merchants access to Egypt and the Mediterranean coast and, consequently, to India, China and Europe. African merchants not only transported gold and slaves to Asia and Europe, Asian and European travelers also visited Africa through these caravan trade routes. It was through these routes that visitors and ancient scholars, like Ibn Battuta and Leo Africanus, made their famous visits to Africa. The Sahara may have been a barrier to very frequent contacts, but it was never an insurmountable obstacle to the exchange of ideas or to technical development. 8 (Emphasis mine)

Through the trans-Saharan trade routes, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean, Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Indian, Arab, and Chinese merchants and travelers visited Africa long before the arrival of the Portuguese caravels in the fifteenth century. Many of these travels were huge and elaborate expeditions, conducted under the banner of powerful monarchs like the Ming emperors of China. Cheng-Ho’s journey, for instance, consisted of a fleet of 317 junks, 100 supply ships, water tankers, warships, transports for horses, and patrol boats, and carried 28,000 sailors and soldiers aboard. 9 Cheng-Ho also had corps of engineers, medical officers, builders, merchants, ambassadors, recorders and secretaries, and military officers aboard his ships. Admiral Ho and his fleet visited several coastal towns of Africa, among them Malindi, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Kilwa, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar. In those coastal towns Cheng-Ho’s crew was received by a variety

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of African monarchs. 10 The two parties, Chinese and African, exchanged gifts. The African kings received Chinese goods like porcelain, silk, and beads, while Cheng-Ho’s crew received African goods and souvenirs. It is recorded that Cheng-Ho returned to the Ming court with some giraffes and peacocks. He also took with him some envoys from Malindi who formally presented an African dwarf to the Ming emperor. 11 Today, this brief historical encounter between China and Africa, which took place almost three decades before the Portuguese arrived in 1441, is commonly recounted in the context of seeking an answer to the perplexing question of why China, despite its early lead in technological and cultural innovation, eventually lost that lead and fell behind Western Europe. Under the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) the Chinese had constructed the largest and most technologically advanced ships of the period. They built warships that could altogether carry up to thirty thousand soldiers and could sail down the entire stretch of the Indian Ocean—past India and Arabia—down to the southern cape of Africa. However, as China encountered Western Europe in the fifteenth century, it suddenly recalled those ships, prohibited the construction of new merchant ships and warships, and went into a period of selfimposed isolation. One of the major consequences of this isolation was that a formerly progressive Chinese state gradually fell behind Western Europe in maritime and naval technology. However, it is also true that the historical encounter between the early Chinese explorers and Africans in the first decades of the fifteenth century demonstrated not just the early Chinese lead in technological inventiveness and in shipbuilding technology, but also that at least three long decades before the African continent became devastated by the warships and battlefield artillery of Western European invaders, societies on the eastern coast of Africa had encountered superior Chinese maritime technology and were fully aware of the inferiority of African military and ship-building capabilities. In other words, three decades before the arrival of the Portuguese explorers, the east African coastal states had seen firsthand what other cultures and other human beings, who were every bit as human as themselves, could achieve through their own intellectual inventiveness and resourcefulness. Yet, we have not a single historical indication that any member of the east African political elite, on beholding Admiral Cheng-Ho’s mammoth vessels, sought to replicate this Chinese shipbuilding achievement or was even convinced that his contemporary African artisans and engineers could acquire the knowledge and the skills to produce technologically comparable vessels. Worse still, we do not find any historical indication that the monarchs and rulers of these coastal states found the engineering skills demonstrated in the construction of these oceangoing vessels worth possessing. If they did, they would have commissioned Chinese engineers to teach them the art and to transfer the knowledge to their African subjects. Furthermore, how many twelfth century African craftsmen, on beholding Admiral Cheng-Ho’s

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entourage, made sketches of the Chinese vessels and tried to decipher the principles behind their construction? How many twelfth- or even thirteenthcentury African poets and oral historians composed and recited odes about the new giant fleet from across the ocean and how nothing like them had ever previously been beheld by the sight of “men?” And how many African rulers in Kilwa, Mombasa, or Zanzibar entered into contractual agreements with Cheng-Ho’s engineers and craftsmen to transmit the knowledge of the latest Chinese shipbuilding techniques to their African craftsmen? The historical records show no such concerns on the part of the Africans of the period. Instead, what we find is a stunning indifference on the part of the twelfth century eastern African societies in the face of their knowledge that other cultures, like China, had surpassed them in technological innovation and resourcefulness. The historical fact that no African shipbuilding industry of the scale and sophistication of the Ming shipyards arose even five centuries later in Africa, and even up till today, demonstrates that Cheng-Ho’s magnificent vessels were treated with the same cultural indifference with which African people and their rulers have historically treated every advanced technology from outside the continent. The African rulers that beheld or heard about Cheng-Ho’s ships treated these ships as just another piece of alien curiosity deserving neither their time nor the commitment of their effort and resources. If the reverse were historically true—for instance, if an African admiral, rather than Cheng-Ho, had sailed into Canton with a giant fleet in 1415 while the Chinese still glided up and down the Yangtze on the bark of trees and dugout canoes—the Chinese reaction would have been remarkably different. Chinese artists would have drawn sketches of the incredible new contraption, and in a matter of a few years their engineers and artisans would have reproduced one of the most sophisticated versions of these African ships. We know from historical evidence that this was the very reaction the Chinese displayed when they first set eyes on the Dutch and Portuguese ships at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Four hundred years after the collapse of the Ming dynasty, long after Cheng-Ho’s epic journey had faded from popular Chinese memory and their once advanced techniques of ship construction had almost been forgotten, the rulers and inhabitants of China saw the first modern Portuguese and Dutch warships that appeared on Chinese waters in the nineteenth century as a sort of novelty. They also saw the warships as a symbol of Chinese naval weakness, since their traditional junks proved unable to match the European ships in the frequent ocean skirmishes that took place between them. Years of selfimposed isolation had not only limited any sort of cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world, it had also given the Western European nations sufficient time to greatly improve their shipbuilding techniques and to achieve naval and maritime superiority over China. An 1842 Chinese imperial edict, lamenting the numerous Portuguese victories over the Chi-

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nese junks at sea, acknowledged truthfully that “in the invasion by the rebellious barbarians, they depended upon their strong ships and effective guns to commit outrageous acts on the seas and harm our people, largely because our native war junks are too small to match theirs.” 12 For this reason, the document explained, “I, the emperor, repeatedly ordered our generals to resist on land and not to fight on the seas,” because “in my opinion what the rebellious barbarians rely upon is the fact that the Chinese war junks are incapable of going out to sea to fight them.” 13 However, the ruling emperor was not content with lamenting the inferiority of the Chinese junks. He also took definite steps to remedy this defect by commissioning Chinese engineers and technicians to study modern European shipbuilding techniques so that he could bridge the technical gap between China and Portugal in maritime technology.

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AFONSO I OF CONGO This historical Chinese reaction to the Portuguese and Dutch naval superiority in the first decades of the nineteenth century was in remarkable contrast to that of the African political elite under whose reign the problem of European technological superiority on the battlefield first reared its ugly head. Instead of taking decisive steps to bridge the gap between African and European technology of the period, especially the gaps in production and battlefield technology, the various African ruling classes were content with merely purchasing outdated guns, rather than producing them. This cluelessness about the right course of action to take in securing the freedom of their states or the direction in which they ought to have led their monarchies and empires contributed immeasurably to the subsequent conquest of African states in the nineteenth century. It certainly did so by exacerbating their society’s technological lag, since virtually none of the African rulers of the re-encounter period between Africa and Europe made any significant effort to master the advanced technologies of the pre-modern period, like that of shipbuilding. In fact, two decades after the exposure of the East African coastal states to a host of new technologies from China, this attitude of indifference persisted, and we find it displayed again in the fatal encounters of both the West and East African coastal states with even more advanced Portuguese technologies in the middle decades of the fifteenth century. For instance, when the Portuguese first arrived on the coasts of East and West Africa in 1441, it was evident to the African ruling classes of the time that the empires and kingdoms over which they presided lagged in knowledge and technological expertise. The Portuguese came in large warships fitted with cannons, and their foot soldiers were equipped with arquebuses and muskets. To the African rulers there was little doubt about who possessed superior power. Indeed, so

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conscious were the African rulers of the superiority of Portuguese firepower that they solicited Portuguese aid in their wars against rival African states and monarchs. Afonso I, for instance, employed Portuguese military might in usurping the throne in Congo in 1506. It was also with Portuguese mercenaries and guns that he kept himself in power for many years. 14 The Portuguese themselves were also conscious of the disparity in power between them and the African armies. In fact, this consciousness made them so culturally arrogant that they strode about boldly and confidently in a land in which they knew they were outnumbered by thousands of “well-trained” indigenous warriors and in which they were perceived as nothing more than unwelcome intruders. However, armed with the confidence engendered by their guns and cannons, they boldly aided competing African kingdoms in war, engaged in military expeditions in their feverish hunt for gold and slaves, meddled in internal African land disputes, dethroned African kings who challenged their authority and presence, installed their own African puppets to replace dethroned monarchs, and assigned large tracts of forcefully seized lands to missionaries for the building of Christian churches. Occasionally, in defiance of the wishes of their African “hosts,” they set up castles called “trading posts” and had them heavily fortified and defended with cannons. Furthermore, when a rebellious or an incredulous African monarch doubted their military superiority, the Portuguese would “entertain” him and his people with displays of the lethal power of their guns by shooting down a big animal like a cow or by bringing down a bird in flight with the mere pull of a trigger. In some instances, when a serious conflict arose between the Portuguese and an African monarch, “the Portuguese would demonstrate their ruthlessness by actually shooting down an African slave or servant as a warning to the king and his people of the potential consequences of challenging Portuguese authority.” 15 With such demonstrations of their military superiority, the European invaders were able to go wherever they wished, trade with whomever they pleased, and dictate whatever terms of trade they desired. Meanwhile, African monarchs, fully aware that their own armies, equipped as they were with bows and spears, stood at an overwhelming military disadvantage in the event of an outbreak of war or of a confrontation with their European “guests,” took no deliberate and determinate steps to remedy this imbalance. Initially, most of the conflicts between the Portuguese and the African states did not result in war, and this was primarily because monarchs like Afonso I were fully conscious of their weakness and potential military vulnerability. However, moments of tension later arose when even Afonso I wished he had the military strength to control the arrogance of the Portuguese and compel them to act in accordance with what he believed were the norms of justice. These tensions usually revolved around disagreements about terms of trade, the acquisition of land, slave-trading rights, missionary work, and what was perceived by the African monarchs as presumptuous

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Portuguese meddling in the internal affairs of their African hosts. For instance, in 1526, when the Portuguese began capturing and shipping slaves from the Congo to their sugar plantations on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, Afonso I wished to stop them, but found he did not have the military power he needed to do so. Once an active participant in the slave trade himself, Afonso I had become disenchanted with it and wished to end it. The Portuguese habitually outsmarted him and outcompeted in the trade, and they remorselessly deprived him of the profits he thought were legitimately his, given his royal status. So, Afonso I ordered the Portuguese to stop their slaving activities. He informed the Portuguese that henceforth only missionary activities and trading in non-human goods would be permitted in his kingdom. The Portuguese merchants, who had no intention of abandoning the huge profits they were amassing from the trade, defied Afonso’s orders and continued with their slaving expeditions. Sadly, Afonso I, unable to enforce his own decree, wrote to King John III of Portugal, pleading for his intervention in halting the enslavement of his relatives and nobility. In the letter, Afonso complained that his own authority as king of the Congo was being disregarded by the Portuguese slave merchants, and he shamelessly implored the king of Portugal to help him restore that authority. Sir, Your Highness should know how our Kingdom is being lost in so many ways that it is convenient to provide for the necessary remedy, since this is caused by the excessive freedom given by your agents and officials to the men and merchants who are allowed to come to this Kingdom to set up shops with goods and many things which have been prohibited by us, and which they spread throughout our Kingdoms and Domains in such an abundance that many of our vassals, whom we had in obedience, do not comply because they have the things in greater abundance than we ourselves; and it was with these things that we had them content and subjected under our vassalage and jurisdiction, so it is doing a great harm not only to the service of God, but the security and peace of our Kingdoms and State as well . . . and we cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the mentioned merchants are taking every day our natives, sons of the land and the sons of our noblemen and vassals and our relatives, because the thieves and men of bad conscience grab them wishing to have the things and wares of this Kingdom which they are ambitious of; they grab them and get them to be sold; and so great, Sir, is the corruption and licentiousness that our country is being completely depopulated, and Your Highness should not agree with this nor accept it as in your service. And to avoid it we need from your Kingdom no more than some priests and a few people to teach in schools, and no other goods except wine and flour for the holy sacrament. That is why we beg of Your Highness to help and assist us in this matter, commanding your factors that they should not send here either merchants or wares, because it is our will that in these Kingdoms there should not be any trade of slaves nor outlet for them. Concerning what is referred [to] above, again we beg of Your Highness to agree with it, since otherwise we cannot remedy such an obvious damage. 16 (Emphasis mine)

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John III replied that since the Congo had nothing of value other than slaves, the Portuguese enslavement of the Congo people must continue. 17 After such a scornful response, one would have expected a monarch of Afonso’s stature to exercise some political initiative and design his own strategy for effectively ending the enslavement of his people and for rescuing his kingdom from the Portuguese assault. Lamentably, no such initiatives were taken either by Afonso I or the Congo political elite. Nowhere does one find any ingenious scheme on Afonso I’s part or that of his nobility for effectively putting an end to the increasing Portuguese destruction and depopulation of the Congo kingdom. In fact, Afonso I’s own letter to the king of Portugal shows that he had no clear understanding of what he needed to do to save his people and his kingdom. In the history books, Afonso is usually celebrated for being one of the few African monarchs to recognize early that his society needed to be modernized and to request the king of Portugal to send him teachers and technicians. However, a closer reading of that famous letter reveals that Afonso desired just a few priests, carpenters, and masons, but not the kind of skilled technicians—like engineers, shipbuilders, and cannon manufacturers—that would have been necessary to construct foundries and shipbuilding yards for the purpose of transferring the knowledge of the new technologies to the Congo artisans who would eventually modernize the Congo and bridge the technological gap that existed between the Congo and Portugal. In fact, Afonso I had become an ardent and fervent convert to Christianity, and such lofty dreams as building a modern shipyard were contrary to his heartfelt ambitions. What he most desired was to send young men from his kingdom to Portugal to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but not to study engineering and the technological sciences. As he stated in his letter to the king of Portugal: “we need from your Kingdom no more than some priests and a few people to teach in schools, and no other goods except wine and flour for the holy sacrament.” So, the royal court in Portugal sent him some carpenters and masons and priests, but not the sort of skilled engineers and technicians that could build modern ships and gun foundries. Had Afonso understood what needed to be done, he would have sought, as the Japanese later did during the Meiji Restoration, to modernize the Congo economy so that the Congo people themselves would possess the technical skills necessary to produce the ships, guns, and fortresses without which the Congo stood no chance against Portuguese military and cultural aggression. To carry out the goal that he desired, it was necessary for Afonso I to rely on his own strength of will and administrative creativity, rather than on the sympathy of the royal court in Portugal. This was especially so because in the fifteenth century the Vatican had an official prohibition against the transfer of gun and gunpowder manufacturing techniques to the African “savages.” Even the sale of guns by Christian monarchs and merchants to the “savages” and “heathens” of Africa was decidedly prohibited by a decree from the

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papacy. 18 Afonso I could, for instance, have captured a Portuguese engineer or gun manufacturer and, either by bribery or by force, compelled him to teach the Congo artisans the techniques of shipbuilding and cannon construction. After all, the latter was a preferred and time-honored strategy of technological transfer employed by a variety of ancient monarchs who were in similar circumstances as Afonso I. Dionysios, the famed tyrant of Syracuse, for instance, employed that strategy as early as 399 B.C. According to the historical records, Dionysios had planned an invasion of Sicily, which was then a Carthaginian colony. However, he did not have the warships and the missiles to carry out the planned attack. So, he sought out skilled technicians from Italy, Greece, and even Carthage, and brought them into his service both by force and by the lure of high wages. As reported by Diodorus, Dionysios “gathered skilled workmen, commandeering them from the cities under his control and attracting them by high wages from Italy, Greece, and even Carthage. He then divided them into groups in accordance with their skills and appointed over them the most conspicuous citizens, offering great bounties to any who created a supply of arms.” 19 Dionysios charged his new team of engineers with building warships larger than the then common triere. Further, Diodorus reports, the tyrant’s “purpose was to make weapons and every kind of missile in great numbers, including tetreres and penteres, being the first to think of the construction of such ships.” 20 It was during this enterprise that Dionysios’s engineers invented the siege engine and the catapult. The result was, according to Diodorus, that when the tyrant invaded Sicily two years later, his weapons were so technologically advanced that the Carthaginians were completely routed and fled the battlefield. Himilkon [the Carthaginian general] attacked the first ships [of Syracuse], but was held back by the multitude of missiles; for Dionysios had manned the ships with a great number of archers and slingers, and the Syracusans slew many of the enemy by using from the land the catapults which shot sharppointed missiles. Indeed, this weapon created dismay among the Carthaginians, because it was a new invention at the time. As a result, Himilkon was unable to achieve his design and sailed away to Libya. 21

Dionysios was not unique in using a combination of force and bribery to bridge the technological gap that existed between his society and a more advanced state that threatened it. Other monarchs in various historical periods—ancient, medieval, and modern—are known to have employed very similar strategies of modernization and transfer of technology. The Muslim caliphs of the medieval period and the Japanese ruling classes of the Meiji Restoration era adopted similar tactics in their effort to acquire both gun and gunpowder technology. Surprisingly, ancient African monarchs, like Afonso I, seemed to have been unaware of such an ancient tactic. In spite of his unusually long reign of thirty-seven years, Afonso I made no recognizable

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effort to force or persuade any of the numerous Portuguese merchants and renegades to divulge the secrets of their technology, even for a price, such as gold or land. Instead, for the next three decades of his reign, the famous king of the Congo watched helplessly and passively as the Portuguese overran his kingdom, imposing their will on both king and subject alike. In the end, Afonso quietly and piously found solace in the Christian faith and the god of his conquerors. He sent his own son to Portugal to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Why did Afonso I of Congo plead with King John III of Portugal to send him priests, carpenters, and masons instead of shipbuilders and cannon manufacturers? Furthermore, why did Afonso I, after the rejection of his plea for technical assistance by King John, not adopt a strategy like that of the famed Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal of luring to his kingdom any European merchants with technical expertise to teach his blacksmiths and artisans the art of gun-making? Like Dionysios, the famed tyrant of Syracuse in 399 B.C., he could have lured renegade but skilled European technicians to teach his people how to make guns. Here, in the case of Afonso I, the historical evidence suggests that his reasons were purely personal. Afonso ascended the throne not through his own military might but through the assistance of Portuguese missionaries. As a boy, he had converted to Roman Catholicism. When his father’s throne became vacant, he solicited the aid of the Portuguese missionaries and merchants who helped him defeat his own half brother, Mpanzu a Kitima, who was a rival for the throne. After his victory at the Battle of Mbanza Kongo, Afonso I was crowned king, and he ruled over the kingdom of Congo for more than three decades—that is, from 1509 until 1543. However, throughout his reign, his overriding ambition was to convert the Congo people to Roman Catholicism and to make his kingdom a Christian state. To that end, he channeled all his energies and his people’s resources to building churches and schools. He also devoted his time to the study of theology in an attempt to reconcile Catholic theology with the traditional Congo institutions and values. Thus, Afonso I’s failure to invest in the war-making machinery or in the modernization of the Congo army arose from the fact that he did not see the Portuguese as invaders or potential conquerors. He perceived them as friends, Christian brothers, and allies in his effort to Christianize the Congo. Unfortunately, his lack of foresight led to the enslavement of his people and the eventual loss of the sovereignty of the Congo to their British and French colonial overlords. CHAKA THE ZULU AND HIS SUCCESSORS Afonso I was not the only African monarch who displayed this failure of leadership. The same kind of mystifying indifference toward technological

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advancement was exhibited by a wide variety of other prominent African rulers. When the Dutch arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa in 1600, the Zulu ruling classes foresaw the immediate threat posed to Zulu land by a wandering band of alien merchants armed with guns and cannons, and intent on acquiring slaves either by trade or by force. However, instead of embarking on a determined effort to bridge the technological gap that existed between the Zulus and the Dutch, the Zulu monarch, Chaka, and the members of his ruling classes merely used the British and Dutch “merchants” against rival African kingdoms. 22 The mercenaries were delighted to “assist” him. They helped him destroy his enemies one after another until Chaka was left standing as the “undisputed” ruler of the land. However, his ruthless destruction of rival monarchs also left him with no significant ally in the confrontation with the invaders that was then both inevitable and foreseeable. Eventually, the British, in alliance with the Dutch, turned against Chaka’s successors and destroyed one of the most powerful and most promising kingdoms that could have emerged as an African superpower. Chaka was notoriously dismissive of the importance or necessity of acquiring the technology of the gun. According to Fynn and Isaacs, both Chaka and his successor Dingane were intrigued by the possibilities provided by the gun, and this was evident in their use of European mercenaries in their wars with other African kingdoms. However, both Chaka and his successors failed to acquire this technology and use it to modernize the Zulu army. Fynn and Isaacs reported that when they called the king’s attention to the vulnerability of his army in the event of a war with a European power, Chaka failed to see that vulnerability and claimed that the Zulu shield, if dipped in water, could deflect the bullet or that the awesome speed of a Zulu warrior could overcome any advantages offered to the Europeans by the gun. “When the white people discharge their muskets,” he told Isaacs, “we could then go in and spear them before they reloaded.” 23 When Fynn further informed him that British soldiers fired volleys by ranks and that such volleys would nullify the speed of his soldiers, Chaka retorted that he might lose a few men at the first volley, but that the speed of his soldiers would prevent the British from discharging a second volley. Chaka was then shown the battle square formation and informed that the Zulu soldiers would find it impossible to penetrate the concentrated fire of the British troops. However, Chaka refused to be persuaded. 24 It is true that it took considerable time to reload and fire the early muskets, but that did not justify Chaka’s incredulity. Worse still, it did not justify Chaka’s cluelessness about the future possibilities of the gun technology itself. In the end, writes Knight, Chaka’s overconfident view failed to consider the extent to which European technology improved over half a century, and “it was the Zulu nation’s tragedy that in 1879 the British were no longer using the slow, cumbersome and inaccurate Brown Bess with which Fynn and Isaacs had been armed.” 25 And, in trying to counter British

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firepower with the speed of their foot soldiers, the Zulu monarchs sacrificed thousands of able-bodied men unnecessarily. They had more than four centuries to prepare for the war. Since inferior military technology was largely responsible for the conquest of the Zulu nation, the question naturally arises about why the Zulu kings, Dingiswayo, Shaka, and Cetshwayo, did not invest time, energy, and resources to correct the imbalance in military technology long before the Zulu army engaged the Dutch and the British on the battlefield. From the arrival of the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope in 1600 until the annihilation of the Zulu army at the Battle of Ulundi in 1879, the Zulu ruling classes had a period of almost three hundred years to prepare for the inevitable conflict. Why, for instance, did Shaka not attempt to produce his own cannons, muskets, and battleships to replace his clearly outmoded and outmatched assegais and poisoned arrows? The answer is that Shaka could not have invested time and effort in the production of guns because he was unconvinced that the gun was a superior weapon on the battlefield. As noted in his conversations with Fynn, Shaka’s impression of the gun was that it was cumbersome because of the interval it took to reload. The gun with which he was familiar was the muzzleloader, and Shaka believed that the speed of his soldiers would nullify any advantages offered to the European armies by the gun. 26 Shaka may also have taken into consideration the numerical strength of his army compared to the motley group of European traders who combed his land in search of gold and ivory, and found no reason to doubt that he could defeat them in battle. Furthermore, as Fynn reported, Chaka shared a Zulu superstition of his time that the great Zulu shield, if dipped in water, could deflect the bullet from the gun. However, considering the roughly twenty thousand soldiers that Shaka had at his command against the assorted bands of English and Dutch traders and adventurers that threatened his kingdom, it is not surprising that Shaka obstinately rejected all attempts to persuade him to update his military technology. This obstinacy even led him to execute eight of his generals who once informed him that King George had as many soldiers as he had and that the Zulu impis could be defeated in a war with the British army. 27 PREMPEY AND THE ASHANTI RULING CLASSES A similar failure of leadership was displayed by the ruling classes of the Ashanti, who first encountered the Portuguese in the early part of the fifteenth century. Then, the Ashanti political elite understood clearly the potential consequences of Europe’s military superiority. Yet, for three hundred years, they permitted the Portuguese to trade and live alongside the indigenous population, without any sustained effort on their part to modernize the Ashanti economy or its military establishment. They watched acquiescently

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as the Portuguese acquired land, slaves, and gold, and as they built castles fortified with stone walls, and defended those castles with mounted cannons. By 1471, the Portuguese had built the infamous castle at Elmina, which was also defended with cannons mounted on high stone walls. The building of St. Jorge’s castle followed in 1482. By the seventeenth century, other European invaders had joined the Portuguese and built similar forts, which they camouflaged as trading posts. When the Swedes built a fort at Cape Castle with twelve mounted cannons behind high stone walls, should it not have dawned on the Ashanti ruling class that the mission of the European merchants was not mere trade and peaceful co-existence, but conquest? Yet, for more than four centuries, the Ashanti political elite cooperated with the European “traders” who, emboldened by their technical superiority, desecrated, assaulted, raped, pillaged, and expropriated Ashanti society. When the British army eventually declared war on the Ashanti, the courage and determination of the Ashanti soldiers proved ineffective in saving the kingdom from destruction. In 1874, when General Garnet Wolseley invaded the city of Kumasi, the famed courage of the Ashanti soldiers melted like wax under the heat of Maxim and Gatling gunfire. As reported by an eyewitness of the event, the Ashanti soldiers broke and fled in the wildest disorder, and the ground was covered with traces of their flight. Umbrellas, the war-chairs of their chiefs, drums, muskets, and the killed and wounded “covered the whole way and the bush on each side was trampled as if a torrent had flowed through it.” 28 Worse still, as punishment for their almost one hundred years of intermittent resistance to Britain’s colonial ambitions in the Gold Coast, General Wolseley decided that Kumasi must be reduced to ashes. The eyewitness account added that: Sir Garnet, who was anxious that his European troop should return to the coast with all possible speed, ordered the town to be destroyed. The engineers worked all night, and the fuses were lit at 8 a.m. of the morning of February 5th, after the invading army had marched out. The whole town was soon one blaze of fire and a few hours later nothing remained of Coomassie [Kumasi] but a heap of smouldering ruins. 29

Thus, after a century of heroic resistance with outdated European muskets, and after a series of defeats in the unnecessarily protracted British-Ashanti war, the Ashanti kingdom lay prostrate like a wounded wildebeest before being devoured by its predator. In 1902 the once mighty Ashanti Empire was declared a protectorate or colony of Great Britain. Today, when historians reflect on the British-Ashanti war, they do not equivocate about why the vastly outnumbered British army of about 30,000 soldiers, including their African recruits, was able to destroy an Ashanti army that outnumbered them by more than 170,000 men. Robert Edgerton, for instance, gives the reason as follows:

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Chapter 5 By 1853, the Enfield rifle, accurate up to eight hundred yards, was available to British troops, and in 1866 the .577-caliber snider rifle (that strangely enough had been invented by a New York wine merchant) was adopted. It was this weapon, along with artillery, that gave them success in the great battles of 1874. When the final round of fighting took place in 1900, British forces had still more accurate and longer-ranged rifles, along with Maxim machine guns (like their precursors, the Gatling and Hotchkiss guns, also invented by Americans) and modern 75-mm artillery-weapons. . . . Most of the Ashanti were still armed with muzzle-loading, smooth-bore flintlock muskets. 30

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The British themselves knew the source of their victories and celebrated it. “Whatever happens,” the poet Hilaire Belloc had written about the BritishAfrican wars, “we have got the Maxim gun and they have not.” 31 Unfortunately, the Ashanti soldiers had no weapons about which to celebrate. It is true that some Ashanti generals could purchase muskets from some British and Dutch merchants, but those guns were known to be poorly manufactured and of poor quality. “Their stocks split easily,” wrote Edgerton, “and their barrels were likely to burst.” The Ashanti had similar problems with the gunpowder they purchased from European traders. The merchants, to increase their profits, typically sold to the Ashanti gunpowder that was low in saltpeter. So, in the end, the Ashanti soldiers had not only poorly manufactured muskets, but also poor-quality gunpowder and few bullets. They eventually resorted to using slugs of lead and iron, which had little or no lethal power on the battlefield. Ultimately, the conquest of Africa was made possible by the superior military technology of Western Europe. As Reader has written: While African troops were armed mostly with early nineteenth century muskets, which took at least one minute to load, had a range of only eighty meters, and misfired at least three times in ten, European troops had breech-loading rifles from 1866 and repeating rifles from 1885. But it was the Maxim machine gun, patented in 1884, which delivered the most deadly blow. Capable of firing eleven bullets a second into the ranks and defenses of opposing forces, the Maxim gun devastated the palisaded strongholds of east Africa and the baked mud defenses of the savanna. With the Maxim gun on their side, French forces suffered not a single casualty when driving the Tukulor from Segou in modern Mali, and the British killed at least 10,800 Sudanese at Omdurman with a loss of just 49 dead. 32

Why did the Ashanti ruling classes fail to manufacture their own guns in order to bridge the gap in military technology that existed between them and the British army? From 1482 when the Portuguese first began to construct their infamous castle at Elmina to the destruction of the Ashanti army and the burning of Kumasi in 1874, the Ashanti ruling classes had almost four hundred years to correct the imbalance in military technology between the

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Ashanti imperial army and the British forces. Why did they fail to do so? The available historical sources indicate that the chief reason was the availability of guns in the Cape Coast, along with the ease with which guns could be purchased to equip the Ashanti army. Long before the first shots were fired in the Anglo-Ashanti war that began in 1824, the various European merchants on the coast, in competition with one another, sold guns to their indigenous allies along the coast. The historical records show that the British sold thousands of muskets to various indigenous peoples as early as 1646 33 and that by 1892 more than 52,540 muskets were sold along the West African coast. The Dutch merchants were also heavily involved in the gun trade, and the historical records show that in 1833 the Ashanti rulers ordered 10,000 guns from the Dutch in preparation for the second phase of the war. Similarly, in 1870, they ordered 18,000 muskets and 29,000 kegs of gunpowder from the Dutch in preparation for their third war with the British. Thus, the ready availability of guns seemed to have been the determining factor in the Ashanti lack of interest in manufacturing their own guns. However, as we saw above, although the Ashanti purchased large quantities of guns and used them on the battlefield, the muskets that were sold to them were of very poor quality. Typically, the barrels of these muskets burst easily, and their accuracy was so low that the guns were only effective at a very close range. 34 Furthermore, the Ashanti ruling classes did not envisage that as time went on there would be an industrial revolution in Britain and that this revolution would lead to the production of far more accurate and devastating weapons like the Gatling and Maxim guns.

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MANSA KANKAN MUSA OF MALI No African ruler embodied the continent’s failure of leadership or displayed the persistent African indifference to the emerging new technologies from Asia and Europe more glaringly than the famous Mansa Kankan Musa of Mali. As emperor of Mali, Mansa Musa had no grander political vision and ambition for his people than the erection of an Islamic state. He had been converted to Islam by the Almoravids and Almohad, who were Arab and Berber conquerors that overran Mali in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In 1324, seventeen years after his ascension to the Mali throne in 1307, Mansa Musa undertook a most flamboyant and extravagant pilgrimage to Mecca. For that pilgrimage, he had an entourage of sixty thousand soldiers, five hundred slaves, and one hundred camels each loaded with three hundred pounds of gold. The gold was distributed so freely in Egypt and Mecca that, according to Al-Umari, the gold trade went into a recession for the next twelve years. From historical hindsight, Musa’s pilgrimage was nothing but a grand expropriation of his people. Not only did he, as emperor, fail to im-

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prove the material condition of his people, he emptied their treasury in his shameless quest to serve a foreign god. While his people lived in abject poverty by fourteenth century standards, he stole their wealth and squandered it on the affluent class of a foreign state in the most wanton and prodigal almsgiving ever recorded in history. As Al-Umari reported twelve years after the Mansa’s pilgrimage, in Musa’s unreasoned generosity, “there was no person, officer of the court, or holder of any office of the Sultanate (of Arab Egypt) who did not receive a sum of gold from him . . . so much gold was current in Cairo that it ruined the value of money.” 35 On his return to Mali, the emperor brought back from Arabia the Muslim architect al-Saheli, whom he commissioned with four hundred pounds of gold to build new mosques in Timbuktu, Sankore, and Gao. Yet, in the very fourteenth century when Mansa Musa undertook his famous but ignoble hajj, Mali and the rest of North Africa were under the dominion of the Muslim world, which then led the world in science and technology, and was aggressively carving out an extensive empire in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Had Mansa Musa invested the enormous wealth in his custody on the modernization of Mali’s economy or on the construction of gun foundries and shipyards, the fate of Mali may have turned out differently. After all, it was because of the enormity of this wealth that Mansa Musa’s fame spread even as far as fourteenth century Europe. He was pictured in the European maps of the period as the monarch with the gold nugget. Unfortunately, he lavished that gold on the building of mosques, minarets, and Koranic schools and left his people in the abject poverty from which they are yet to recover. Today, the Republic of Mali, which is the third-largest producer of gold in Africa, and which was once part of the much-celebrated medieval empire of Mali, is ranked by the United Nations Development Committee as one of the fifty poorest nations in the world. 36 Why did Mansa Musa spend the enormous wealth of Mali in building mosques and theological schools, instead of improving the scientific and technological knowledge of his people? He could have used Mali’s wealth, for instance, to modernize his own military technology and to raise a formidable army that could help rid North Africa of Arab colonialism. Alternatively, he could also have used the wealth to revolutionize Mali’s agriculture in order to prevent the eventual environmental degradation and economic collapse of the empire when the pattern of trade shifted from the Sahara to the Atlantic. After all, in the fourteenth century in which Mansa reigned as emperor, the Muslim world from which he sought both religious and political guidance had far outstripped West Africa in scientific and technological knowledge. By the fourteenth century A.D., the Muslim world had made many advances in writing, shipbuilding, agriculture, metallurgy, the manufacture of gunpowder, cannons, and other military technologies. Why did Mansa Musa not burn with the desire to indigenize these advances in science and technology from the Muslim world and to turn Mali into a depository of

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technological progress? From the available historical evidence, one can infer that the answer to these questions lies in Mansa Musa’s single-minded commitment to his Islamic faith. His vision was so focused on fulfilling his religious duties that his political obligations became secondary. This is not a behavior unique to Mansa Musa. There is no doubt that fulfilling a person’s religious obligations is not necessarily incompatible with performing one’s political duties effectively. A variety of Muslim and Christian monarchs had done so successively. However, history is also replete with examples of monarchs who conferred primacy on their religious duties to the neglect of their political obligations. Akhenaten or Amenhotep IV of the ancient Egyptian eighteenth dynasty are classic examples. Afonso I of the fifteenth century Kingdom of Congo is another. In the end, Mansa Musa’s prodigality helped to set the stage for the eventual collapse of the empire of Mali. It also contributed in no small measure to the subsequent scientific and technological stagnation of the modern nations that were once integral parts of the empire of Mali—namely, Ghana, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso. Having witnessed the presence of a variety of foreign nations that were scornful of the cultural traditions and military capabilities of ancient and medieval African states, and having seen that the sole power they exercised over African people lay in their superior technology, it is remarkable that in the four centuries that passed between the arrival of the Western Europeans in the fifteenth century and the conquest of the entire continent of Africa in the nineteenth century, no African states revolutionized their economies or their systems of production in order to avoid conquest and colonization by the invading powers. As political economists have come to recognize, the main factor that determines whether a nation becomes developed or underdeveloped, rich or poor, free or colonized, progressive or regressive, is its chosen system of production. As history progresses, new knowledge, novel technologies, and new systems of production that make the older knowledge and older technologies obsolete emerge in one part of the world or another. Societies that choose to adopt the new knowledge and the new technologies generally prosper, while societies that remain entrenched in their obsolete systems of production generally regress. In general, societies that remained hunter-gatherers were less wealthy than those that more easily adopted the agricultural mode of production. So were those that remained at the Stone Age or produced bronze, in comparison with those that could produce iron or steel. As Erik Reinert has pointed out, it can be stated as a rule that “the wealth of a nation is dependent on what that nation produces, 37 and, that “development” has always been, and still is, “the outcome of conscious and deliberate policy” 38 on the part of the political authority who emulates the systems of production of more advanced states or nations. In other words, the development of a nation is not a phenomenon that occurs inexorably because

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of race, 39 geographical environment, capital, natural resources, or even by the mysterious and invisible hand of unguided market forces. Rather, as the actual development histories of various parts of the world show:

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Rich countries got rich because for decades, often centuries, their states and ruling elites set up, subsidized and protected dynamic industries and services. They all emulated the most prosperous countries at the time, bringing their productive structures into those areas where technological change was being focused. 40

Thus, neither race nor geography develops a nation. Good leaders do. That is the evidence of history. Developed nations are so only because they were led by wise and competent leaders who made intelligent decisions about what their nations were to produce and by what techniques the production was to be carried out. On the other hand, poor and underdeveloped nations are so because they had leaders that failed to follow the time-honored blueprint for production and advancement. In Reinert’s view, poor countries are those that “specialize in being poor.” For him, specializing in being poor means choosing to remain as suppliers of raw materials for the current system of production. It is the choice to remain as consumers, rather than producers. Remaining a mere consumer in the current system of production is a specialization in being poor, Reinert adds, because “no country has ever become rich by exporting foodstuffs without also possessing an industrial sector.” 41 Today, most African nations are poor because, despite decades of political independence from their previous colonial rulers, they have remained largely exporters of raw materials, rather than manufacturers of finished products. However, the decision to remain as exporters of raw materials is not one that can be attributed to some peculiarities of the African gene or to the limitations and deficits of Africa’s geography. It is the result of unwise and incompetent political leadership. The conquest and colonization of Africa by the Arabs and Europeans at different periods was not the consequence of an inexorable historical law. It was a purely historical accident that could have been avoided had the African rulers who oversaw the entry ports into the continent taken the right steps to subvert the invaders’ colonial and imperial intent. To bridge the technological gap between his people and the Portuguese or the English, an African monarch like Chaka or Afonso I could have, for instance, coopted renegade European engineers to teach his artisans how to construct warships so that African armies could fight the Europeans at sea rather than on Africa’s continental land. It is quite remarkable that in those long years in which the invaders made war on these embattled monarchs, none of them seriously applied himself to a study of the art of producing modern instruments and machineries of war, like cannons and battleships. Monarchs in other parts of

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the world did just that. They studied the art of warfare and took active steps in the advancement of military technology to ensure victory on the battlefield. In Europe, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal was a prototype of such monarchs. In Asia, the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun was another. In fact, history is full of examples of far-sighted monarchs in other parts of the world who, upon recognizing their societies’ lag in technology, invested enormous amounts of energy and resources to bridge that gap. In the medieval conflicts between the Muslim worlds and Western Europe, al-Mamun was cognizant of the Muslim lag in science and technology and was determined to fix it. To that end he converted the “House of Wisdom,” which had previously been dedicated to the acquisition of Persian knowledge in Bagdad, to a center for the translation and acquisition of Greek, Byzantine, and Indian scientific and technical knowledge. A dedicated patron of knowledge, al-Mamun dispatched scholars to the court of the Byzantine emperor to procure manuscripts on science, philosophy, engineering, and astronomy. These works were brought to Bagdad and translated into Arabic. It was out of this translation movement that the scientific and technological achievements of the Islamic Golden Age arose. Within a century, the House of Wisdom was producing a variety of mathematicians, architects, engineers, physicians, philosophers, and astronomers. The intensive study of the scientific and technological knowledge of the West pioneered by al-Mamun and undertaken by the scholars of the House of Wisdom contributed in no small measure to bridging the prior gap that existed in knowledge and technology between the Muslim world and Western Europe. During the Golden Age of Islam, from about 750 to 950 A.D., Muslim engineers could build paper mills, manufacture guns and cannons, construct foundries and aqueducts, and build advanced warships and commercial galleys. Muslim engineers also perfected the waterwheel and the water clock, and made significant contributions to the construction of many scientific instruments. Today, the contributions of medieval Muslim scholars in the fields of mathematics, mechanics, medicine, music, astronomy, philosophy, physics, agriculture, and architecture, and the fact that it was through the Islamic world that Renaissance Europe recovered the scientific and technological knowledge it lost during the Renaissance, are widely acknowledged, even by European scholars. Another Islamic ruler who was an ardent patron of knowledge was Abd al-Rahman, who ruled Muslim Spain from 912 to 961 A.D. Determined that his dominion should not be left behind in the race for scientific and technological achievement, Abd al-Rahman commissioned the importation of books from the House of Wisdom in Bagdad. He also attracted scholars with high wages to his court at Cordoba. Under Abd al-Rahman’s patronage, schools, libraries, and hospitals, were built from which eminent scholars, engineers, and physicians were produced to sustain the scientific and technological civilization of Muslim Spain for four centuries.

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In East Asia, we find a similar effort undertaken by the Japanese rulers of both the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, who were determined in the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to bridge the gulf that had developed between Japan and the Western European nations in scientific knowledge and in industrial and military technology. The Tokugawa Shoguns of the early seventeenth century, beginning with Ieyasu, had forced Japan into a period of isolation to protect the country from what they believed was the destabilizing influence of Western merchants and missionaries. Deeply convinced of the socially disruptive character of the Christian religion, especially of its Roman Catholic form, the second Shogun, Hidetada, the son and direct successor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, had about seven hundred Japanese Christians executed. The third Shogun, Iemitsu, continued the suppression of Christianity. Hidetada’s persecution of Christians led to the Shimabara Rebellion, in which about thirty-seven thousand Christians and their peasant sympathizers mounted an armed rebellion against the government. The rebels took a stand on the Shimabara Peninsula near Nagasaki, and the Japanese military regime, the bakufu, had to send an army of one hundred thousand soldiers and a contingent of Dutch naval officers to suppress that rebellion. One of the consequences of the Shimabara Rebellion was that the bakufu, fearing the alliance of some political factions with Spain and Portugal, ordered the expulsion of all Portuguese and Spanish missionaries from Japan. Only the Dutch, who were protestant Christians, were permitted to remain in Japan. However, they were restricted to the island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay. 42 The bakufu imposed other restrictive measures designed to stabilize the Japanese state and control the influence of Western Europeans. It imposed, for instance, the death penalty on any Japanese who defied the embargo and traveled outside or returned to Japan. It also forbade the construction of large ships that could be used for overseas trade and distance travel. Thus, when a Portuguese diplomatic corps came in 1640 to negotiate the lifting of the trade and missionary embargo on Portugal, the bakufu had all the members of the diplomatic mission publicly executed. 43 The self-imposed isolation of Japan lasted from 1633 until about 1858. After Commodore Perry’s expedition in 1858, the United States forced the Japanese rulers to sign several treaties effectively ending the isolation of Japan. The period of isolation, however, enabled the Japanese rulers to unify the state and strengthen the economy. However, it was during the long period of isolation imposed by the bakufu that Western Europe made some of its most significant advances in science and technology. As Morton and Olenik summarize it: In those two centuries lay the achievements of Galileo, the polite but ultimately earth-shaking conversations of the Royal Society (founded 1662) and the Académie des Sciences (founded 1666), the chemical experiments of Robert

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Boyle, and the solid theoretical work of Isaac Newton . . . Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathemathica, (which) was published in 1687 and did more than any single treatise to form the scientific worldview of the west. 44

However, after the period of isolation, the Japanese rulers became cognizant of their lag and made monumental effort to bridge it. Seeing Japan lagging behind the Western nations in science and technology, and sensing the potential conquest and colonization of their country, a group of samurai oligarchs overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1863, initiated the Meiji Restoration, and embarked on a movement to appropriate all the practical and useful knowledge then available in Western Europe. To that end, they established schools and learning centers and embarked on an extensive translation movement they described as “rangaku” or “Dutch Studies.” Through rangaku, European works in physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, geography, metallurgy, navigation, ballistics, and military tactics were translated into the Japanese language and became widely disseminated. Dutch studies were at first resisted by members of the Confucian establishment, like Hayashi Razan. However, progressive oligarchs like Fukuzawa Yukichi or Nakamura Masanao were able to overcome that resistance. If the medieval African rulers or ruling classes had launched a massive translation movement like those of al-Mamum, Abd al-Rahman, or that of the Japanese oligarchs of the Meiji period, the fate of Africa could have been different. Had these African rulers invested the necessary resources and embarked on the acquisition and dissemination of the knowledge of writing, physics, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, mathematics, geography, architecture, metallurgy, navigation, ballistics, and military tactics, the subsequent history of Africa could have been different. There are records of African blacksmiths in Benin, Elmina, and other parts of Africa, who possessed the skills to repair defective muskets and produce gunpowder. However, the knowledge and technical skills needed to build modern factories that could mass-produce textiles, food, trains, steamships, modern guns, and battlefield artillery went far beyond those possessed by these blacksmiths. Extensive studies on firearm technology in Africa show that there were no instances in which the pre-colonial African rulers provided the necessary resources or attempted to create the economic and social conditions that would have enabled their indigenous craftsmen to produce the gun in its entirety and in the quantity needed to supply entire armies, like those of the Ashanti and the Zulus. In fact, none of the purportedly wealthy and powerful African monarchs is recorded to have taken any active interest in the acquisition of gun technology or invested any significant resources toward the production of firearms, a critical technology they needed to defeat their invaders. 45 The African ruling classes, because of their centuries of indifference to Africa’s technological backwardness, not only laid the foundation for the

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subsequent conquest of the continent, they also set African development back for many more millennia. In their failure to chart a new course, even as they witnessed the threat posed to their states by new technological advances from Asia and Europe, they carelessly laid the foundation for Africa’s subsequent underdevelopment. Thus, it was not without justification that Chinweizu indicted them for failed leadership, especially in the critical centuries before Africa became gobbled up by Western Europe. During the four centuries that preceded Africa’s colonial conquest, he wrote:

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Our ruling classes, especially our coastal ruling classes, keepers of our waterfront to the world, did not exercise foresight, did not bother to learn how to make the arms they imported daily, did not bother to master the ways of the trading partners from overseas, did not bother to copy and improve upon the European ships and gunboats. [Rather], they were satisfied with their vulnerable fleets of war canoes. Nor did they strive to reorganize their strength just in case some future contest erupted. [Instead], they sat on the crumbling carcasses of their states as they stagnated and decayed, [and] took little thought for the future that was encroaching on them from the waterfront. And when that future burst upon their heads, it toppled their rusted power, pitched them off their stools and thrones, and blinded them with the dust of ruin. And because they had not adequately prepared for their showdown with the West, their desperate heroism under attack was thoroughly wasted. Four centuries, four long centuries wasted on particularist greed, four exhausting centuries bloodily exporting their kind, four centuries of political disorientation and social disorganization. May their souls sleep without rest in our memories to warn us away from any repetition of their ruinous neglect. 46 (Emphasis mine)

It is commonly claimed that proximity and frequent contact between societies are necessary for the diffusion of advanced technology and, consequently, that technologies, like that of the gun, could not have been acquired by African societies because of their distance from Asia and Europe. However, historical instances abound in which great distances and infrequent contact did not prevent the diffusion of gun technology. Gunpowder technology reached Europe without unceasing contact between the Europeans and the Chinese in the Middle Ages. For the acquisition of gun technology by the Zulus, for instance, a single visit by an ambassador of Chaka, or of his successors, Disginwayo and Cetsewayo, to the Ming court would have been sufficient to begin the process of acquisition. Perhaps a group of Ming engineers and technicians could have been sent by the emperor to the Zulu court to construct foundries and educate the initial Zulu apprentices. In the same way, ambassadors to Portugal from King Alfonso or to London from King Prempey could have brought back detailed accounts of the construction of clocks, wheels, windmills, ships, writing, the printing press, and steam engines, to the Congo and to Ghana. The entire process could have taken the form of a translation movement, and could have founded schools, as, for

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instance, in ancient Greece, Arabia, Spain, and Japan, when the Greeks, Muslims, Spaniards, and Japanese, at different historical periods, sought advanced knowledge from ancient Egypt, Byzantium, and Muslim and Dutch scholars. Volumes of work were produced, even in ancient Asia and Europe, and in medieval Mediterranean and Western Europe, from which ancient and medieval African states and empires could have acquired the most critical technologies they needed to escape conquest. “Greek Fire,” for instance, the technology with which the Byzantium navies destroyed the Muslim Dhows, was known by the fifth century, and the Muslim generals had acquired it by the seventh century. Yet, despite all the trans-Saharan cultural exchanges between Africa and the Muslim world, we do not find a knowledge of “Greek Fire” existing anywhere in Africa.

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CULTURAL RECEPTIVITY IN THE HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT Historically, no society or part of the world, not even China, has been the source of all the advanced technologies or the technical inventions it currently possesses. Rather, different societies, even the most technically advanced today, have acquired their fundamental techniques from other parts of the world. In the ancient world, for instance, Egypt and Mesopotamia were the foremost centers of advanced technology. It was they that laid the foundations for later techniques in architecture, medicine, mining, metallurgy, and engineering. By the fifth century B.C., however, the technological lead formerly held by Egypt and Mesopotamia had passed to Greece. It would eventually again pass from Greece to Rome. However, with the destruction of Rome in the fifth century A.D., there followed a millennium of technological decline in the Western Roman Empire. Nevertheless, scientific and technological knowledge continued to flower in China. During the long slumber of the Western world in the “Dark” or Middle Ages, a period of nearly one millennium in which the West was consumed by religious fanaticism, it was the Chinese that led the world in technological development. According to Landes, the list of technological inventions that the Chinese transmitted to the world includes the wheelbarrow, the stirrup, the rigid horse collar, the compass, paper, printing, gunpowder, silk, tea, and porcelain. 47 To that list, Diamond adds “canal lock gates, cast iron, deep drilling, efficient animal harnesses, kites, the magnetic compass, movable type, sternpost rudders, and wheelbarrows.” 48 Then, in the High Middle Ages, the once backward Arab Peninsula gained ascendancy in technological development, surpassing the Western world and competing favorably with China. However, by the close of the Middle Ages, the mantle of technological progress once again shifted to Western Europe. This time, the centers of innovation were Portugal, Brit-

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ain, Germany, and France, rather than Greece and Rome. What caused these historical shifts? According to historians of technology, these shifts commonly begin with a society’s recognition of its own technological lag. This recognition is then followed by effective economic and political strategies devised to bridge that gap. A brief exploration of the history of technology in various parts of both the ancient and medieval worlds would show that cultural receptivity has historically been the driving source of technological progress and, consequently, that Africa’s historic indifference to European technological superiority in the four decades that preceded the continent’s colonial conquest was the chief source of the continent’s eventual technological stagnation.

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Ancient Greece Ancient Greek civilization is widely recognized for its achievements in politics, geography, astronomy, art, mathematics, science, philosophy, technology, and architecture. Yet, Greece was not always a center of innovation in the ancient world. In fact, during the “Greek Dark Ages,” long before it acquired its ancient intellectual and technological ascendancy, it was a collection of poor and unaccomplished city-states. It was so poor, in fact, that Hesiod nicknamed it “poverty’s sister.” 49 Plato himself, because of both the poverty and barrenness of the land, described it as “the land where the rocks poked like bones through the surface of the earth.” 50 Even non-Greeks, like the Egyptians over whom they later came to exercise colonial dominion, recognized the cultural inferiority of the ancient Greeks and contemptuously referred to them as “children.” 51 However, as Greek history unfolded, the ancient Greeks became cognizant of their backwardness, and their passion to bridge the gap in learning between them and the Egyptians became a cultural obsession. We see the evidence of this obsession in the eagerness with which the Greeks, at the beginning of the sixth century B.C.E., sought and consumed ancient Egyptian knowledge. Their early history presents us with a long procession of Greek scholars and statesmen who thronged to Heliopolis, Thebes, and other Egyptian cities to place themselves under the tutelage of the Egyptian priests. This obsession was also evident in the massive borrowing of ancient Egyptian knowledge in mathematics, philosophy, religion, politics, mechanics, architecture, medicine, metallurgy, and engineering by the early Greek thinkers. The list of Greek students who were educated in ancient Egypt by the Egyptian priests includes Pythagoras, Thales, Plato, Solon, Isokrates, Eudoxus, and Democritus. Reports of their sojourn in Egypt were recorded by classical Greek and Roman historians. Herodotus wrote that many of the doctrines of the early Greek scholars, like that of the immortality of the soul, were borrowed from Egypt by Greek thinkers who claimed these doctrines as if they were their own. 52 He also reported that the political

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constitutions of Greek cities, like Sparta, were of Egyptian origin. According to him, even the new political model, the republic, which was then being proposed by Plato, was also of Egyptian origin. Plato himself stated unequivocally that ancient Egypt was the source of most of the art and technical knowledge possessed by the Greeks. It was the Egyptian god, Thoth, he claimed, who invented language, writing, numbers, arithmetic, geometry, and all the sciences, and the Egyptian people who are credited with the invention of art and music. 53 Strabo reported during his own later sojourn in Egypt that he and his entourage were shown the very quarters in which Plato and Eudoxus lived and studied as students.

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We saw over there the hallowed halls that were used in the past for the lodging of the priests; but that is not all; we were also shown Plato’s and Eudoxus’ dwelling, for Eudoxus had accompanied Plato here; after arriving at Heliopolis, they stayed there for thirteen years among the priests: this fact is affirmed by several authors. 54

Diogenes Laertius corroborates Strabo’s claim that Eudoxus was a student of the Egyptian priests. According to him, Eudoxus spent sixteen months in Egypt and had to shave his head to be able to study with the priests. 55 Strabo further added that these Egyptian priests were profoundly knowledgeable about astronomy, and that it is to them, not the Greeks, that the world owes the knowledge of what fraction of a day had to be added to 365 whole days to have a complete year. Strabo went further to report that the writings of the ancient Egyptian priests and those of the Chaldeans were translated into Greek and became the source of Greek astronomy. 56 The long list of the technical accomplishments and philosophical doctrines that the Greeks borrowed from ancient Egypt and eventually transmitted to Asia and Europe is well documented. Diop’s Civilization or Barbarism contains an extensive number of them. James’s The Stolen Legacy also contains an extensive list of these accomplishments. In fact, the substance of James’s argument in The Stolen Legacy is that the entire corpus of ancient Greek philosophical and technical knowledge—in architecture, medicine, philosophy, religion, art, etc.—was borrowed directly by the Greeks from Egypt, without acknowledgment of their original source. According to him, ancient Greek philosophy did not originate from Greece at all, but was an African system of knowledge and an intellectual tradition of thought “stolen” from Africa by the ancient Greeks. More recently, Martin Bernal, in Black Athena, corroborated Diop’s and James’s views that Egypt was the source of the early Greek knowledge in the arts, sciences, and technology. According to Bernal, it was the ancient Africans who led humanity in knowledge and technique. In Black Athena Bernal further contends that the classical and Hellenistic Greek authors themselves (Bernal’s “Ancient Model”) held unequivocally

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that Greek culture arose because of both the colonization of Greece by the Egyptians and the massive borrowing of Egyptian knowledge and technique by the Greeks. 57 It was because of this historical discovery that Bernal could conclude that the later denigration of Egypt and the Eurocentric view that the Greeks borrowed nothing of consequence from it (Bernal’s “Aryan Model”) arose only in the eighteenth century, and only because of modern European racism. Before 1600, according to Bernal, “no one seriously questioned either the belief that Greek civilization and philosophy derived from Egypt or that the chief ways in which they had been transmitted were through Egyptian colonization of Greece and the education of Greek students in Egypt.” 58 On the contrary, he argued, it was held emphatically by the classical Greek authors that Egypt was the source of all “Gentile” or secular wisdom. 59 It was well known, for instance, that Thales studied geometry in Egypt, while Solon and Pythagoras studied politics and arithmetic, respectively. It was also well known that Greek students of Egyptian knowledge translated and reproduced the early Egyptian books in religion, mathematics, and astronomy, and transmitted them to Greece. According to Diogenes, for instance, Eudoxus translated the most important Egyptian books in astronomy and used them to introduce an accurate understanding of the course of the planets and their epicycles. 60 By the third century B.C., during the period of Greek colonization of Egypt, the Greek lust for Egyptian science and technique had reached its apogee. Conquered by Alexander in 322 B.C., the Egyptian state had been reduced to a Greek colony. Ironically, Alexander himself was a great admirer of Egyptian knowledge and high culture. He not only declared himself a pharaoh and sat on the throne of Egypt, he also supported the building of numerous schools and centers of learning in Alexandria, the Egyptian city that he rebuilt and named after himself. It was to these schools that the throngs of Greek scholars came to be educated at the hands of the Egyptian priests who taught in them. And, as James lamented in The Stolen Legacy, “from the sixth century B.C. to the death of Aristotle in 322 B.C., the Greeks made the best of their chance to learn all they could about Egyptian culture” 61 and had uninhibited access to ancient Egyptian manuscripts. It was as if they were in a frenzy to appropriate all the scientific and technical knowledge that was available in their day. Once spurred onto the path of knowledge and technique, the Greeks eventually outpaced the Egyptians in techniques and the sciences. According to Diop, the reason for this reversal in status was that historically, ancient Egypt was a theocracy run by a tightly knit college of priests. The pharaoh was simply the highest-ranking priest, chosen from among the priestly rank. Unfortunately, this priestly class, to perpetuate its power, erected an entire administrative structure, along with a supporting worldview and system of values that was designed to promote not material development but spiritual well-being. So, the entire political administration was declared to be devoted to the realization of mààt, the ethical

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principles later encoded in the forty-two negative-recitals to Mâ, the goddess of truth. Thus, the Egyptian ruling class that was once the wellspring and reservoir of science and technique became conservative as it took an active interest only in the idealistic dimension of the ancient Egyptian wisdom, which it considered higher knowledge. Henceforth, instead of expanding its knowledge in the direction of the sciences and technical knowledge, the priestly ruling class diverted it toward the service of the gods and the quest for immortality. Instead of expending the enormous Egyptian resources at their disposal for securing the defense of the state, for instance, by constructing a wall across the Suez Canal to shield Egypt from the wrath of various Asian invaders, as Volney would later observe, the pharaohs of the fourth dynasty—Khufu (Cheops), his son Khafré, and Menkauré (Mycerinos)— embarked on the building of the gigantic pyramids of Gaza for the preservation of the souls of dead pharaohs—a most intensive but unproductive labor. Thus, as Volney would later charge, under the cloak of religion, the pride of the ruling priestly class founded temples and built extravagant tombs, mausoleums, and pyramids for vain skeletons. For this vainglorious project, millions of hands were employed in sterile labors, and the luxury of princes, imitated by their parasites and transmitted from grade to grade to the lowest ranks, became a general source of corruption and impoverishment for the people. In this manner, the multitude came to be condemned to perpetual poverty and had to restrain their labor to simple necessities. In other words, it was the Egyptian ruling class that, somewhere in the course of Egyptian history, derailed or subverted the Egyptian drive toward technical progress. However, unlike the Egyptian scholars, the Greek students who studied under the Egyptian priests did not become seduced by Egyptian idealism. Instead, they were interested mainly in the material dimension of Egyptian wisdom. 62 For example, Thales was reputed to be more interested in geometry than theology and independently arrived at the insight that there was a fundamental principle behind all things. As his contemporaries understood him, he was claiming, contrary to the Egyptian priests, that the entire natural world and the cosmos were governed by their own inexorable laws—that is, by principles immanent in them and without reference to the gods. In other words, nature had its own independent principles of action apart from the gods. Thales was even understood by some as maintaining that there are no gods and that what people conventionally understood as gods were merely principles inherent in matter. Of course, Diop and James have shown that this doctrine of materialism attributed to Thales was already propounded by prior Egyptian scholars. According to Diop, early Egyptian cosmogony did not conceive matter as created ex nihilo. Rather, it maintained that matter had always existed. Matter was understood as nothing other than “primordial chaos” that, nevertheless, contained within itself, as an immanent property, both the archetypes of all that could exist and the “propensity” or drive for

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order or for “beauty,” as it were, that is the quest for change in order to bring the archetypes contained within it into being. In other words, primordial chaos, they held, contained within itself the law of its own transformation. Diop points out that in Egyptian cosmogony, this “becoming,” change, movement, or “spirit”—Khepera—was understood to have emerged out of Nun, the primordial “waters.” The Egyptian priests also taught that Ra, through the action of Khepera or becoming, emerged as the first “eye” or the first conscious being. Thus, Ra becomes the son of the divinity Nun, the son of God, who completes the work of creation begun by his father and who would later return to his initial state of eternal rest, never to intervene further in the work of creation. These doctrines, Diop argues, showed that Egyptian cosmogony began as a form of materialism. It postulated the existence of uncreated matter (materialism) that later evolved into a new and higher form (idealism). With the introduction of the idealistic elements, Khepera and Ra, the Egyptian worldview took a new direction in favor of idealism. However, when the Greek students studied under the Egyptian priests, they seemed uninterested in grasping this idealistic element or rising to the profundity of Egyptian thought and remained essentially at the level of material or practical knowledge.

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Up to this point, the Egyptian “cosmogony” is materialistic in essence; for it is professing a materialistic faith when postulating the existence of an uncreated eternal matter, excluding nothingness and containing its own principle of evolution as an intrinsic property. This materialistic component of Egyptian thought will prevail among the Greek and Latin Atomists: Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius. . . . But with the appearance of the demiurge, Ra, Egyptian cosmogony takes a new direction with the introduction of an idealistic component: Ra achieves creation through the word (Islam and Judeo-Christian religions), the logos (Heraclitus), the spirit (the objective idealism of Hegel). 63

However, it was this practical interest of the Greek thinkers that led them to the rapid advancement and flowering of early Greek science and technology, while Egyptian technology atrophied under the yoke and ironclad nature of Egyptian idealism. The Greek appropriation of foreign knowledge, however, was not limited to that available in Egypt. They displayed the same thirst for the wisdom and technique of Mesopotamia, Crete, India, and China. Eventually, after years of appropriating and digesting the achievements of more advanced cultures and civilizations, the famed “Greek Genius” was to blossom into what became known as ancient Greek technology, philosophy, and science.

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Medieval Islam It was in a similar manner, through a combination of responsible leadership and cultural receptivity, that the medieval Arab peoples once made a transition from their nomadic and poverty-stricken existence in the unfertile and arid sands of the Arabian Desert to a state of technological and cultural ascendancy from the seventh to the fifteenth century. Ancient Arabia, arid, desolate, and a once backward strip on the Mediterranean, did not become a beacon of technology for medieval Europe and parts of the Middle East until it had drunk at the fountain of the scientific and technological wisdom of ancient Byzantium, India, and China. In the late seventh and early eighth centuries, when the Muslim armies poured out of the Arabian Peninsula intent on conquering the world, the Arabian Peninsula was just a backward strip of the Middle East, and its nomadic Arab populations were a technologically backward people whose only strength lay in their fast-riding cavalries. Compared to the ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Indian, and Chinese engineers and architects, the Arabs were technologically unaccomplished. They had built no magnificent and imposing pyramids, constructed no aqueducts or “Appian Ways,” or erected any structures comparable to the Chinese walls. Instead, they lived mostly in tents and had sandy pathways for roads. In military technology, the Chinese and Greeks built triremes and galleys, the Romans and Greeks clad their soldiers with body armor, and the Byzantines equipped their ships with a device for scorching enemy ships from a distance—“Greek Fire.” Arab soldiers, on the other hand, rode into battle in plain clothes. By the sixth century A.D., Arab knowledge of advanced techniques in agriculture, medicine, metallurgy, architecture, writing, and paper making lagged by centuries behind those of Egypt, Western Europe, Byzantium, China, India, and Persia. However, by the tenth century, Muslim knowledge in many of these areas came to surpass that of Western Europe, India, and most of Asia. How did this happen? “The expansion of Islam,” writes Tamin Ansary, “had brought the Arabs into contact with the ideas and achievements of many other peoples including the Hindus of India, the central Asian Buddhists, the Persians, and the Greeks.” 64 In the course of this contact, the emerging Muslim leadership, intensely aware of the Muslim lag in the new techniques and sciences, was determined to bridge this gap in knowledge and achievement. In pursuit of that goal, they invested enormous time, resources, and effort in rewarding the acquisition of knowledge and skills from Egypt, India, and China, and to disseminating these techniques by translating the most important scientific and technical works of the time into the Arabic language. To acquire Byzantine science and techniques, for instance, Muslim caliphs, like al-Mamun, established learning centers, like the famous “House of Wisdom,” in the city of Bagdad in the eighth century B.C. There, al-Mamun ordered scientific and technical books to be brought from

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every part of the world and translated into Arabic. The philosophical works of the ancient Greek philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, were translated and disseminated, for instance, but a great emphasis was placed on the translation of technical and more useful texts, like the medical works of Galen and Hippocrates, the mathematical works of Ptolemy and Euclid, and a variety of works in astronomy, mineralogy, and mechanics. The Abbasid caliphs who succeeded the Umayyadd dynasty followed as ardent patrons of science and technology and continued to commission the painstaking work of acquiring the most advanced knowledge and techniques of the East and the West. Ansary gives us a glimpse into the role played by the Abbasid caliphs in the dissemination of Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese knowledge to the Arab-Muslim world. The Abbasid aristocracy took a great interest in these (foreign) ideas. Anyone who could translate a book from Greek, Sanskrit, Chinese or Persian into Arabic could get high-paying work. Professional translators flocked to Bagdad. They filled whole libraries in the capital and in other major cities with classic texts translated from other languages. [Consequently] Muslims were the first intellectuals ever in a position to make direct comparisons between, say, Greek and Indian mathematics, or Greek and Indian medicine, or Persian and Chinese cosmologies, or the metaphysics of various cultures. 65

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During the reign of the Abbasid dynasty, Bagdad was turned into an intellectual and cultural center for the acquisition and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge. It was under Abbasid patronage that Islamic mathematicians and scientists adopted both “Arabic numerals” (as they later came to be called) and the even more sophisticated mathematical concept of safir (zero) that had been invented in India. As Upshur informs us: Islamic rulers were also enthusiastic patrons of scientific endeavors. Under the Abbasids, Bagdad became a major scientific center, much like Hellenistic Alexandria under Ptolemaic rulers. Translating voluminous materials into Arabic, Islamic scientists preserved both Greek traditions and Persian and Indian texts. Arab mathematicians studied and enlarged upon Indian traditions of numerical reckoning, including the concept of zero. Arab scholars were particularly interested in geometry and astronomy and were especially advanced in the development of navigational devices such as the astrolabe. They also made substantial progress in the study of optics. 66

History books today are filled with references to the early Islamic receptivity to scientific and technical knowledge, and to the fact that this receptivity was the source of the technical lead that the Muslim world later came to possess over medieval Western Europe. Diamond, for example, writes that although Islamic societies in the Middle East today are conservative and not at the forefront of technology, in the Middle Ages:

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Medieval Islam in the same region was technologically advanced and open to innovation. It achieved far higher literacy rates than contemporary Europe; it assimilated the legacy of classical Greek civilization to such a degree that many classical Greek books are now known to us only through Arabic copies; it invented or elaborated windmills, tidal mills, trigonometry and lateen sails; it made major advances in metallurgy, mechanical and chemical engineering, and irrigation methods; and it adopted paper and gunpowder from China and transmitted them to Europe. In the Middle Ages, the flow of technology was overwhelmingly from Islam to Europe, rather than from Europe to Islam as it is today. Only after around A.D. 1500 did the net direction of the flow begin to reverse. 67

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However, before that reversal occurred, Muslim cultural receptivity and innovations flowered into a “Golden Age of Islam,” during which the Islamic achievements in science and technology dwarfed those of Western Europe. It was during this period that the Muslim technicians bequeathed to the West advanced techniques in agriculture, medicine, mathematics, the sciences, philosophy, the arts, and military technology. Bernard Williams summarizes the achievements of Islam during its Golden Age. At the peak of Islamic power, William writes: There was only one civilization that was comparable in the level, quality, and variety of achievement, and that was, of course, China . . . [F]or centuries . . . Islam represented the greatest military power on earth—its armies, at the very same time, were invading Europe and Africa, India and China. It was the foremost economic power in the world, trading in a wide range of commodities through a far-flung network of commerce and communications in Asia, Europe, and Africa; importing slaves and gold from Africa, slaves and wool from Europe, and exchanging a variety of foodstuffs, materials and manufactures with the civilized countries of Asia. It had achieved the highest level so far in human history in the arts and sciences of civilization. Inheriting the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle East, of Greece and of Persia, it added to them several important innovations from the outside, such as the use and manufacture of paper from China and the decimal positioning numbering from India. . . . From the Middle East they were transmitted to the West, where they are still known as Arabic numerals, honoring not those who invented them but those who first brought them to Europe. To this rich inheritance scholars and scientists in the Islamic world added an immensely important contribution through their own observations, experiments and ideas. In most of the arts and sciences of civilization, medieval Europe was a pupil and in a sense a dependent of the Islamic world, relying on Arabic versions even for many otherwise unknown Greek works. 68

Landes also acknowledges that from about the eighth to the twelfth century A.D., “Islamic science and technology far surpassed those of Europe,” and that in those centuries “Islam was Europe’s teacher.” 69 It was through Muslim engineers, for instance, that the techniques of gun and paper manufactur-

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ing were transmitted to the West. During the reign of the Abbasid caliphs, engineers were recruited from China, and later from Europe, to build warships and manufacture cannons, rockets, and guns. The Ottoman rulers who overthrew the Abbasid dynasties financed the building of such gun foundries for the manufacture of heavy artillery. Mohammed II is reputed to have actively sought European gun manufacturers and paid large sums of money to lure them into his service. His most famous gun-founder, Orban, was a Hungarian. Orban was commissioned by Mohammed to build the monstrous Mahometta, “a huge gun of fantastic size, made of hooped iron, which could throw stone balls of about one thousand pounds weight.” The Mahometta was so huge that about 60 to 140 oxen were required to move it to the battlefield, required about one hundred men were required to maneuver it, and it took two hours to reload. According to the chroniclers of the period, the Mahometta’s noise, on discharge, was so terrifying that it caused miscarriages among pregnant women. 70 It was with this monstrous artillery, combined with Greek Fire, that Mohammed II battered down the walls of Constantinople and took the city in 1453. In some instances, Muslim caliphs, in their quest to appropriate Western technology, captured European gun manufacturers and forced them to divulge the secrets of their craft. 71 In other instances, according to Cipolla, they did not need to capture Western technicians, since there were scores of renegade technicians willing to sell their skills even to “the devil,” if the price was right. 72 Thus did Islamic civilization gradually lay the foundation for its later, though temporary, ascendancy. By the fifteenth century, Muslim generals, armed with the knowledge and techniques they had appropriated from the East and the West, blasted their way through parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and were poised to overrun the rest of Asia and Europe. Unfortunately for them, as happened in ancient Egypt, the conservative wing of their religion, for whom the quest for material and technical progress was less important than religious and spiritual matters, became preeminent. Consumed with doctrinal squabbles and with questions about rightful succession to the prophet, Muslim generals dissipated their energies in innumerable internal disputes, and Muslim scholars and learned men ceased to invest their energy and resources, as they had done during the Golden Age of Islam, the pursuit of scientific and technical innovations. Eventually, Islamic science and technology atrophied and Muslim civilization lost its lead in science and technology. The gradual decline of Islam, as a civilization, had begun. Within a decade, Muslim armies were beaten back by European generals armed with superior ships, guns, and battlefield artillery. Six centuries later, Islamic civilization is yet to recover from its historic and self-inflicted regress into scientific and technical slumber.

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Medieval Europe It is now widely acknowledged that the historical and “miraculous” rise of Western Europe to technical superiority and world dominance began with the massive borrowing of scientific and technical knowledge from various parts of the world, especially from the Muslim-Arab world, and from India and China. “In its formative stages,” Jones admits in The European Miracle, Europe “borrowed ideas through Islam and from as far afield as India and China. 73 Williams writes that much of Islamic scientific and technical knowledge “was transmitted to the medieval west” and that eager European students went to study in what were then the Muslim centers of learning in Spain and Sicily. 74 Other students were commissioned to translate scientific texts from Arabic to Latin. 75 Similarly, Sowell, in Conquests and Cultures, points out that the massive scientific and technological borrowing of Western civilization from the Islamic world and from Asia provided the foundation for the West’s own later rise to world pre-eminence in the fields in which it had once been a follower. 76 Huntington agrees that Toynbee’s description of this cultural receptivity as the “eager and systematic appropriation of suitable elements from the higher civilizations of Islam and Byzantium, together with the adaptation of this inheritance to the special conditions and interests of the West” 77 is historically accurate. According to Huntington, Western Europe, from the seventh to the twelfth century, lagged behind many other civilizations in its level of knowledge and technical development. It lagged behind China under the T’ang, Sung, and Ming dynasties. It also lagged behind Byzantium from the eight to the eleventh century and was behind the Islamic world from the eight to the twelfth century. Another scholar, Kelley, points out that “in the thirteenth century, the followers of Islam had established a cosmopolitan culture stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to India with technical achievements surpassing anything in Christendom.” 78 So, the unanimous consensus of historians and scholars is that the rise of Western Europe in the field of technology began with the eager, systematic, and massive appropriation of the most advanced knowledge and techniques developed in other parts of the world. Rejecting the views of those who claim that the rise of Western Europe was due to some racial qualities 79 unique to Europeans, Cipolla contends that “what the Europeans showed from the sixth to the eleventh centuries was not so much inventive ingenuity as a remarkable capacity for assimilation.” 80 According to Cipolla, Europeans “knew how to take good ideas where they found them and how to apply them on a large scale to productive activity.” 81 This European cultural receptivity was evident in many fields, like metallurgy, agriculture, engineering, and architecture, but it was especially manifest in the field of military technology. The struggle for military and cultural pre-eminence between Europe and the Muslim world began in the seventh century and intensified in subsequent centu-

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ries. In spite of earlier European victories—at the Battle of Tours, for instance—Muslim generals displayed every intention of overrunning Europe. By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they had used their knowledge of cannons and gunpowder technology to destroy European armies. In 1425, a triumphant Mohammed II, after a year-long siege of Constantinople, marched into the city, killed Constantine XI, and turned the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Now, the Muslim empire straddled North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southern Europe. In Southern Europe, the Turks were advancing. Northern Serbia was invaded in 1459, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1463, the Negroponte in 1470, and Albania in 1468. 82 According to Cipolla, Europe at this time was militarily incapable of standing up to the Muslim threat, and it was on account of “exceptional circumstances” that the European states were saved from “complete destruction.” 83 However, as one European nation after another fell to Turkish and Islamic rule, the European nations became alarmed at the impending eclipse of European civilization and began to seek the means of halting the Muslim advance. So, mindful of the true source of Muslim power—that is, its technological superiority—the European political elite embarked on a determined and calculated quest to modernize their societies. They began this modernization by first sending European students to be tutored at the centers of Islamic learning in Spain. Then the Western European monarchs began to encourage a translation movement very similar to that which had propelled the Muslims to their recent scientific and technical accomplishments. Henceforth, volumes of Islamic books in science and technology were translated into Latin for the education of European students. Scholars, like Adelard of Bath and Gerard of Cremona, achieved their fame from their untiring efforts to master and disseminate Islamic texts, like copies of Euclidean geometry, which were translated from the Arabic. Other scholars, like Gerard, organized a team of Jewish and Latin scribes to translate Arabic texts into Latin, which was then the lingua franca of Europe. The popes and many European monarchs also played an active role in the establishment of schools and centers of learning for the transmission of Islamic, Indian, and Chinese science and technology. Alfonso X of Portugal, for instance, commissioned, in 1276, the translation of numerous Arabic texts on mechanical devices. 84 Popes Nicholas IV and Innocent IV were known to be enthusiastic patrons of new learning and actively supported the transmission of Arabic and Eastern science and technology to Western Europe. Furthermore, in their quest for powerful allies against the Muslim empires, Nicholas IV and Innocent IV sent “envoys,” like Marco Polo and John of Plano Caprini, to the imperial courts of the Mongol Khans in China. These envoys returned with detailed descriptions of Chinese technology. Marco Polo, after seventeen years of living in the court of Kublai Khan, returned to Europe and wrote an encyclopedic description of not only the government, culture, cities, and geography of China, but also of Chinese

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ships, crafts, merchandise, and industry. Another European envoy to the East, William of Rubruck, a Franciscan friar, returned from China in 1257 with clear accounts of the technical skills possessed by the Chinese and of descriptions of the manufacture of paper, paper money, silk, gunpowder, and rockets. William of Rubruck also described the process of printing and the technical knowledge and skills with which Chinese physicians practiced medicine. It was after these “visits” to China and the citadels of Islamic power that experiments with gunpowder and rockets began to take place in Europe for the first time. Roger Bacon is commonly credited with being the first scholar in Europe to discover the correct formula for gunpowder. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV to compile an encyclopedia of human knowledge about the cosmos, Bacon informed Clement in 1267 of the existence of “a child’s toy of sound and fire made in various parts of the world with the powder of saltpeter, Sulphur and the charcoal of hazelwood.” 85 Not surprisingly, Bacon was also a friend of William of Rubruck. So, the historical evidence does not support the common racist contention that the triumph of the West arose from some unique qualities immanent in the European gene or geography. Rather, what it shows is that the “European miracle” was made possible by the resolute and active borrowing of new ideas and techniques from around the world, regardless of where the science and technique originated. Had Europeans been more intelligent or rational than all other peoples, they would have had no need to borrow or absorb non-Western ideas, since all the innovations in science and technology would have been made or discovered in Europe before everywhere else. It would have been, for instance, the Chinese and Indians who sought the techniques of manufacturing silk, paper, printing, gunpowder, the gun, and the compass from Europe, rather than the reverse. But, as it turned out, Europeans learned mathematics from India and the technologies of cannon-casting and shipbuilding from China and the Muslim world. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, for instance, employed Arab and Chinese ship-builders. It took decades of learning and practice for a resurgent Europe, armed with its newly acquired scientific and technical knowledge, to mount its assault on the rest of the world and emerge as an ascendant and triumphant civilization. But it achieved this feat with a military technology that it did not invent, but perhaps perfected. And, it remains a fact of history that the innovations that occurred in Europe from the eleventh century onward were “adaptations of ideas developed elsewhere.” 86 In some cases, these ideas and techniques existed for more than a century before they found their way into Europe. Modern Japan Nineteenth-century Japan offers us another example of the critical role that political leadership has historically played in the development of a nation and

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its people. For over two centuries, from 1600 to 1867 A.D., the Japanese ruling class, the Tokugawa, convinced of the superiority of the Japanese people and their culture, viewed the arrival of Western Europeans in their midst in the sixteenth century and the European missionaries’ introduction of the Christian religion to Japan, as exerting corrupting and negative influences on the well-established Japanese social and political order. So, they adopted a policy of severely restricting the contact of the Japanese populace with the foreigners. Beginning with Tokugawa Ieyasu’s 1614 edict, a series of new edicts were issued banning the Christian religion, Western books, and all things Western. Japanese converts to Christianity were arrested, and some were executed and burned at the stake. Foreign ships, except Korean, Chinese, and Dutch vessels, were banned from all Japanese ports. All trade with the Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, and Americans was prohibited. As a result of this policy of isolation and exclusion, Japan failed to benefit from the scientific, technological, and industrial developments that were taking place at this time in the West. So, Japanese technology fell behind that of the West. However, in 1853, Commodore Perry arrived with his warships and commanded Japan to open its ports to Western trade. Confronted by a superior military power and sensing imminent military conquest, the Tokugawa Shogunate acceded to the American demand. Japan had witnessed the defeat of China in the Opium War of 1860 and did not wish to be humiliated in a similar fashion. In that war, a coalition of British and French forces had crushed the Chinese army, sent the Qing dynasty into exile, burned the imperial palace, and forced an unjust and dangerous trade in narcotics on the Chinese people. Now, in 1853, American warships commanded by Commodore Perry were in the Sea of Japan threatening to overrun the state and demanding that the Japanese open their borders to European commerce. Embarrassed by its own military weakness, but fearful that the fate of China might befall Japan, the Japanese ruling class acceded to the American demand. However, in subsequent decades, the Japanese reverted to their policy of isolation, and in 1863, the jōi faction at Chōshū tried to stop Western ships passing through the straits of Shimonoseki by firing at the vessels in violation of the treaties the Japanese had signed with the West. The Western nations reacted swiftly. In 1863, England, France, Holland, and the United States dispatched seventeen warships and destroyed the forts at Chōshū. The same year, British warships attacked Kagoshima, claiming retaliation for the Japanese murder of an English sailor the previous year. Faced by these defeats and its evident military weakness, the Japanese ruling class felt embarrassed and humiliated. Traditional Japanese culture had propagated the belief that Japan was the land of the gods and was under the protection of Amaterasu, the sun goddess. According to the theological doctrines taught by the Shinto priests, the Japanese were a unique people who were superior to all other peoples. Now, confronted with its own weakness in the face of Euro-

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pean aggression, the ruling class sought an answer to the question of how to deal with a threatening and dangerous Western Europe that seemed bent on the conquest of Japan. All the members of the ruling class were united in the conviction that the Europeans must be expelled, but they disagreed on how to achieve that goal. On that issue, two schools of thought emerged. One school was represented by Yoshida Shōin, the son of a samurai. Shōin favored the immediate and forceful expulsion of all the European intruders. He was so outraged by the signing of the treaties with the Europeans that he attempted to assassinate one of the Tokugawa Bakufu’s councilors who helped to sign the treaty. In that attempt, Shōin failed and was arrested and executed. The other school of thought was represented by Sakuma Zōzan. Zōzan believed that it was unrealistic to attempt to expel the Europeans by force in light of their clearly superior military power. So, he counseled that the best way to accomplish the European expulsion was to master the secrets of European science and technology, and then fight the devil with his own deadly weapons. Sakuma Zōzan also recommended that this acquisition and dissemination of European knowledge and technique be done without sacrificing Japan’s traditional moral and religious beliefs.

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In teachings concerning morality, benevolence, and righteousness, filial piety and brotherly love, loyalty and faithfulness, we must follow the examples and precepts of the Chinese sages. In astronomy, geography, navigation, surveying, the investigation of the principle of all things, the art of gunnery, commerce, medicine, machinery and construction, we must rely mainly on the West. We must gather the strong points of the five worlds and construct the great learning of our imperial nations. 87

In the ensuing struggle between the two factions, it was the Zōzan school of thought that eventually won, and its champions became the architects of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which transformed Japan from a predominantly feudal society into a modern industrial state. During the Restoration, Japan’s former policy of cultural isolation, which it had instituted in the sixteenth century after its first encounter with the Portuguese, was immediately abolished, and a rigorous program of studying and appropriating the Western techniques of industrial production was embarked upon. In the Charter Oath of the Meiji Restoration, Emperor Meiji pledged that all worthless customs of the past would be destroyed and that knowledge would be sought throughout the world for the sake of protecting and preserving the empire. 88 Fifty Japanese officials, the famed Iwakura Mission, were sent to Europe to study the techniques and methods of European industrial production. The delegation visited England, France, Germany, and the United States from 1871 to 1873 and studied the political, economic, and social systems of the European nations in their search for the best model of development. Determined to succeed in their endeavor of catching up with the West, the Japanese ruling

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class vowed not to be seduced into emulating the institutions and cultural values of backward and underdeveloped countries whose poverty and weakness lay in their lack of scientific and technical knowledge. “There are strong and wealthy nations, which are called mature civilizations,” wrote Fukuzawa Yukichi, a member of the Iwakura Mission, “and there are also poor and weak nations which are primitive and underdeveloped.” They thought that in general the nations of Europe and America illustrated the first category of nations, while those of Asia and Africa represented the second. 89 The Iwakura Mission was determined that the future course of Japan would follow only that of the advanced nations. To that end, the Meiji Reformers instituted a variety of political and economic changes designed to bring Japanese society into alignment with the nations of Western Europe. In their view, Western Europe achieved its pre-eminence through industrialization and the mastery of modern science, and thus the only way to develop Japan and bring it into the modern world was to industrialize the nation. To that end, the Meiji Reformers focused single-mindedly on the task of industrialization. They sponsored and supported the establishment of heavy industries, built a modern furnace for the smelting of iron using a Dutch manual, 90 used the smelted iron to cast their first cannon shortly thereafter, built railroads and shipyards, and began to produce modern ships by 1868. According to Morton, “the industrial development of Japan was sponsored and financed by the Japanese government and was made possible only by a deliberate decision to favor heavy industry at the expense of agriculture.” 91 The Meiji leaders foresaw that the new military forces required a modern economy to supply their needs. Accordingly, they secured the establishment of the needed industries by granting subsidies, purchasing stock, or forming government corporations. The government leaders were careful to support not only light industries such as textiles but also heavy industries such as mining, steel and shipbuilding, which were necessary to fill military needs. Once these enterprises were founded, the government generally sold them to various favored private interests at extremely low prices. In this way, a few wealthy families, collectively known as the Zaibatsu, gained a stranglehold on the national economy that has persisted to the present. 92

Eventually, as a result of this critical role played by the Japanese ruling class in appropriating Western knowledge, Japan became transformed into a modern industrial nation that competed favorably with the Western nations on the basis of Western science and technology. The above examples from ancient Greece, medieval Islam, modern Europe, and modern Japan demonstrate that cultural receptivity and the right political leadership, rather than race or geography, have traditionally played the most important roles in the development of a nation and its people. As Kohli showed in a recent study of developing nations, what is critical in

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economic, technological, or industrial growth in a nation is the role of political leaders. 93 Economically successful nations have political leaders who set clear economic goals, like industrialization, as a singular priority and achieve goals through the intensity of their commitment, the organizational capacities they generate and make available to achieve those goals, and the extent to which they commit the resources and bureaucratic apparatus of the state to achieving this singular priority. 94

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NOTES 1. L. Sprague de Camp, The Ancient Engineers (New York: Ballantine Books, 1960), 100ff. 2. Charles Singer et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 569. See also, Polybius of Megalopolis, The Complete Histories of Polybius, trans. W. R. Paton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 1:22–23. 3. Kevin Shillings, History of Africa, 2nd edition (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), 65. 4. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), 33. 5. Singer, A History of Technology, 568. See also, Pliny the Elder, Natural History, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), 2:169a. 6. Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 4:42 (144). 7. J. McKay et al., A History of World Societies, vol. 1, 6th ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004), 279–82. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., 507. According to McKay, Cheng-Ho’s fleet represented “the largest naval force in world history up to World War I.” See also Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 412. Diamond writes, “In the early 15th century it (China) sent treasure fleets, each consisting of hundreds of ships up to 400 feet long and with total crews of up to 28,000, across the Indian Ocean as far as the east coast of Africa, decades before Columbus’ three puny crossed the narrow Atlantic Ocean to the American coast.” 10. John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1997), 329. 11. Ibid. 12. Quoted in Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976), 139n2. 13. Ibid. 14. Shillings, History of Africa, 196–97. 15. Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent, 357–58. 16. John Blake, West Africa, Quest for God and Gold, 1454—1578, 2nd ed. (London: Curzon Press, 1977), 75ff. 17. Ibid., 375. 18. Gavin White, “Firearms in Africa: An Introduction” Journal of African History 12, no. 2 (1971): 174ff. 19. Quoted in de Camp, Ancient Engineers, 102. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. Dan Wylie, Myth of Iron: Chaka in History (Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006), 375ff. Such mercenaries included Henry Francis Fynn, Nathaniel Isaacs, and Francis Farewell. Ian Knight writes that they hired themselves out as mercenaries to Chaka in order to support the king’s war effort with the firepower of European muskets. In return, Chaka gave them land, cattle, and granted them trade monopolies and freedom to

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accumulate wives according to local custom. See Ian Knight, The Anatomy of the Zulu Army from Chaka to Cetshwayo 1818–1879 (London: Greenhill Books, 1995), 35ff. 23. Knight, The Anatomy of the Zulu Army, 165ff. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965), 80. 27. Ibid., 89. 28. Sir Francis Fuller, A Vanished Dynasty: Ashanti, 2nd ed. (London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1968), 138, 140. 29. Ibid. 30. Robert B. Edgerton, The Fall of the Ashanti Empire (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 67. 31. Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent, 585. 32. Ibid. 33. Robert Edgerton, The Fall of the Asante Empire, 67. See also R. A. Kea, “Firearms and Warfare on the Gold and Slave Coasts from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries,” The Journal of African History 12, no. 2 (1971): 190. 34. Robert Edgerton, The Fall of the Asante Empire, 67. 35. Quoted in J. MacKay et al., A History of World Societies, vol. 1, 6th ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004), 293. See also P. Hopkins, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 271. 36. United Nations, Human Development Report, 2005, hdr.undp.org. 37. Erik S. Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (New York: Public Affairs, 2008), 118. 38. Ibid., xx. 39. Ibid., 212–13. 40. Ibid., xxviii. 41. Ibid., 166ff. 42. W. Scott Morton and J. Kenneth Olenik, Japan: Its History and Culture, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2005), 122. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid., 134–135. 45. Gavin White, “Firearms in Africa: An Introduction” Journal of African History 12, no. 2 (1971): 174. 46. Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us, 53–54. 47. David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999), 55, 57. 48. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 253. 49. Felipe Fernández-Armesto, “Empires in Their Global Context: 1500 to 1800,” in Jorge Caizares-Esguerra and Erik R. Seeman, eds., The Atlantic in Global History: 1500–2000 (Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 97. 50. Ibid. 51. Plato. Timaeus, trans. Donald J. Zeyl (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2000), 22b. 52. Herodotus, Histories, II, 144. 53. Plato, Phaedrus, trans. with Introduction, Notes, and Interpretive Essay by James H. Nichols, Jr., and Donald J. Zeyl (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 274D. See also Epinomis, 986ff and Philebus, 16C. 54. Strabo, Geography, vol. 8, trans. Horace Leonard Jones (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932), Book XVII, 1, 29. Also quoted in Diop, Civilization and Barbarism, 354. Also quoted in Cheikh Anta Diop, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology, 3rd ed. (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991), 354. 55. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, vol. 2 (Cambridge, MassachusettsA: Harvard University Press, 1925), VIII, 86–89.

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56. Strabo, Géographie, Book XVII: 1, 29. Also quoted in Diop, Civilization and Barbarism, 354. Diodorus corroborates Strabo’s view that the Egyptians had the most sophisticated calendar, based on their superior knowledge of the heavenly bodies. According to Diodorus:

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The Thebans assert that they themselves are of all men the most ancient, and that they were the first to discover philosophy as well as scientific astrology, since their country facilitates a very clear observation of the rising and setting of the stars. Their ordering of months and years is also peculiar to them, for they do not count off the days according to the moon, but rather by the sun, fixing the month at thirty days; and they intercalate five days and a quarter in every twelve months, in this way bringing the yearly cycle up to full measure. But they neither make use of intercalated months, nor do they subtract days, as do most of the Greeks. Also, they seem to have studied with care the eclipses of the sun and moon and make predictions concerning them, infallibly foretelling every particular. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, Book II, trans. by Edwin Murphy (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990), 65–66. 57. Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 121ff. 58. Ibid. 59. Ibid. 60. Diop, Civilization and Barbarism, 354. 61. George G. M. James, Stolen Legacy: Greek Philosophy is Stolen Egyptian Philosophy (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1992), 1. 62. Diop, Civilization or Barbarism, 311. 63. Ibid. 64. Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes (New York: Public Affairs Books, 2009), 99. 65. Ibid., 100. 66. Jiu-Hwa Upshur et al., World History (Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth, 2005), 401. 67. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 253. 68. Bernard Williams, What Went Wrong: The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 6–7. 69. David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999), 54ff. 70. Carlo M. Cipolla, Guns, Sails, and Empires: Technological Innovation and the Early Phases of European Expansion 1400–1700 (Manhattan, KS: Sunflower University Press, 1996), 94. 71. Ibid. 72. Ibid. 73. Eric Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia, 3rd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 45. 74. Williams, What Went Wrong, 79. 75. Ibid. 76. Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures: An International History (New York: Basic Books, 1998), 345. 77. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 50. 78. Jack Kelly, Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 22. 79. For instance, an innate European intelligence or rationality or a superior climate. See chapter 1 for the discussion of racial theories. 80. Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000—1700 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976), 160. 81. Ibid.

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82. Ibid. 83. For instance, the death of Ogödäi; the concentration of the interest of the khans in the east rather than the west; and the dynastic quarrels within the Muslim ranks. See also Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976), 208. 84. Ibid. 85. Kelly, Gunpowder, 25. 86. Ibid., 168ff. 87. Quoted in Hane Mikiso, Pre-Modern Japan, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), 217. 88. Marius Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 338. The spirit of the charter or its legislative intent, as Emperor Hirohito interpreted it later in 1946, is that it is a “false conception that the emperor is divine and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.” It is rather “an oath to proceed unflinchingly toward the elimination of misguided practices of the past [and] construct a new Japan through . . . obtaining a rich culture and advancing the standard of living of the people.” Ibid., 349. 89. Ibid., 358. 90. W. Scott Morton, Japan: Its History and Culture, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2004), 157. 91. Ibid., 159. 92. L. S. Stavrianos, The World since 1500: A Global History, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), 527. 93. Atul Kohli, State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 88. 94. Ibid.

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A Blueprint for Africa’s Development

Africa’s underdevelopment is a fact. It is not some Eurocentric falsehood invented out of contempt for the continent and its people. Africa’s widespread poverty, along with its other ailments, like hunger, disease, illiteracy, chronic political instability, and absence of modern social and economic infrastructures, are universally recognized indices of underdevelopment. Thus, the question that needs to be raised is not whether “development” and “underdevelopment” are Eurocentric notions that are inapplicable to Africa, but what should be done to rescue the continent from her current crippling and debilitating condition. Unfortunately, there are indeed African and Africanist scholars who, in a valiant effort to save the continent from the embarrassment of being backward and underdeveloped, insist that the continent has its own criterion of development that is contrary to the Western notion of development. For them, the Western criterion of development is “material development,” whereas the African criterion is “moral development.” In the early thirties, the Negritude philosophers argued, for instance, that the prevailing notions of development and underdevelopment, with their emphases on scientific, technological, and industrial advancement, were highly Eurocentric in the sense that they illegitimately elevated the cultural values of Western Europe and denigrated African cultural values and the values of other cultures that were non-European. Pointing out that European culture is essentially individualistic and materialistic while Africa’s culture is collectivist and moralistic, they argued further that it could indeed be shown that it was Western Europe that was really underdeveloped because it was morally bankrupt, backward, and even decrepit. For many of those philosophers, the long and ugly track record of Europe’s barbaric wars and enslavement of conquered peoples, along with her passionate colonization and expropriation of non-European lands, provided sufficient proof of Europe’s 133

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moral decrepitude. No Negritude philosopher made that point clearer than Aimé Césaire who, in his “Discourse on Colonialism” undertook a lengthy critique of Western European culture, insisting that it was in its very core a racist, barbaric, and morally bankrupt culture. 1 The other Negritude philosophers shared Césaire’s view on this issue. For many of them, like Leopold Senghor, Africa is not, strictly speaking, “underdeveloped.” Rather, the continent and its people possessed a different set of cultural values, and these values were neither inferior nor superior to the cultural values of Western Europe, but simply different. If traditional African culture conferred primacy on collective well-being, and European traditional culture conferred that primacy on the individual’s private freedom and personal well-being, Senghor argued, then rather than understand those two cultures in terms of development and underdevelopment or in terms of superior and inferior, it was best to think of them as complementary. However, if Africa’s development is to be understood in terms of moral progress, what praxis could one recommend for the future of the continent other than more moral advancement? Was it therefore surprising that no political or economic praxis emerged from the Negritude movement of yesteryears other than the erratic and amorphous calls for African people to reassert and reclaim their traditional values and to develop a nameless new “African Personality”? Having sneered at the very idea that Africa is actually “underdeveloped,” and having considered such a view as signifying nothing more than further evidence of Europe’s Eurocentrism and racial contempt for African people, it was no longer ideologically possible for the Negritude philosophers to recommend technological and industrial development as legitimate trajectories of development for African peoples. So, rather than follow the examples of other developing and modernizing “third world” countries that were at that time also grappling with the problems of poverty and third-class global citizenship, the proponents of the cult of African personality deluded themselves by imagining that all that was needed to solve Africa’s myriad socio-economic and even racial problems was simply for Africans to get rid of their “recently acquired European values,” like greed, individualism, and the quest for material prosperity. Proclaiming loudly that such “vices” were superimposed on the original and authentic African character by decades of European colonialism and by a degenerate Eurocentric system of education that Western European imperialists exported into Africa, they proposed to solve Africa’s problems with the simple plea and exhortation to cultivate a “new personality.” Unhappily, such dystopian proposals had nothing but tragic consequences for Africa as a great majority of the leaders of the newly independent African nations sought the path of moral development rather than tread the path of scientific, technological, and industrial progress. So, in the end, the ideological recommendation to reclaim Africa’s pre-colonial values led both the people and the African political elite

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to dismiss the idea of material advancement as inconsistent with the true and authentic African spirit. The first section of this chapter shows that some of the eminent champions of African freedom at the dawn of Africa’s independence in the 1950s and 1960s were either hostile to the idea of material development or disparaged and dismissed it by claiming that it was inconsistent with true African values and what they claimed was an authentic African character. The section will also undertake a critique of the claim that African people have a unique nature or a “black soul” that is different from the nature of Europeans. The purpose of this critique is to show that the common claim that advancement in the fields of science and technology are inconsistent with an authentic African personality is false and not well grounded. However, the focus of the entire chapter is on addressing a question that one hears most frequently in informal, rather than formal, discussions about the African condition. What must contemporary African people do in order to overcome their continent’s underdevelopment? In other words, what must be done to save Africa from its current chronic underdevelopment? Today, that question can mean nothing more than what must be done to cure Africa’s poverty and vulnerability to curable diseases. What must be done to rescue the continent from mass illiteracy and the seemingly interminable political instability of its numerous republics? What must be done to save African people today from the racial contempt with which they are treated in a global context on account of their underdevelopment? Is it really possible to drag Africa out of the Bronze Age in which it still basks into the twenty-first century? The chapter attempts to answer these questions and to recommend a blueprint for Africa’s development. There is a widespread opinion among African and Africanist thinkers today that the path to African development is pan-African unity. According to the proponents of this view, the development of Africa will never materialize unless all current African republics unite in a sort of commonwealth like that of either the European Union, the United States, or the British Commonwealth. Believing that lack of unity is the chief cause of Africa’s backwardness or that it is at least at the foundation of the continent’s underdevelopment, these “pan-Africanists” envision a sort of “United States of Africa,” with a continental president or head of state, a common legal system, a common market, a common central bank, and other associated economic institutions, but without the abolition of the continent’s inherited colonial boundaries. In the past, the former Organization of African Unity (OAU) was the outcome of this belief that a continental commonwealth is the key to Africa’s development. However, the OAU existed for more than five decades, during which time it regularly adjudicated the continent’s affairs, yet not a single republic on the continent saw the light of development. On the contrary, during the OAU’s tenure as the continent’s chief adjudicator, the political, social, and economic condition of African countries grew decid-

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edly worse. They did not, however, grow worse on account of the existence of the OAU; rather, they deteriorated because mere unity was not sufficient to address the most important problems that plagued, and still plague, the continent. Now the Organization of African Unity has evolved into the African Union. It did so officially in 2001. However, almost all the nations that constitute the union have continued to deteriorate politically and economically. This is because the change from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union is merely nominal and does not constitute the sort of substantive political and economic change that will propel African nations toward the path of development. Another common proposal is to redraw the continent’s inherited colonial boundaries as a strategy for development. According to the proponents of this idea, the extensive ethnic conflicts that plague the continent today are a major cause of its underdevelopment, and redrawing the colonial boundaries would reduce not only the excessive number of unviable states on the continent but the prevailing political instability that appears to be the consequence of the existence of too many dysfunctional states. But, what evidence is there to show that redrawing the colonial boundaries would lead to development? Does historical evidence support the notion that development is not possible without unity? Suppose, as a thought experiment, that Africa’s boundaries were actually redrawn. Would such an action necessarily lead to the development of the continent? Did we not see above in the case of the OAU and the African Union that unity does not necessarily lead to development? Of course, this should not be construed as implying that unity in itself is an undesirable social goal or that the OAU was not a useful organization. Far from it! Unity is always desirable, and the OAU did a lot of good for Africa. It successfully mediated several conflicts between its member nations, for instance, and played an active role in the liberation of South Africa. It also supported various liberation movements on the continent and was, during the time of its existence, the main voice of Africa at the United Nations and around the world. However, the OAU also contributed its share of conflict and disunity to Africa. It even contributed, to some extent, to perpetuating the conflicts that it was designed to resolve. As is well known, during the Cold War, the members of the OAU were split along ideological lines. Some leaned toward the Soviet Bloc and Cuba, while others leaned toward Western Europe and the United States. Similarly, the members, on account of their ideological affiliations, often failed to agree about which faction to support in Africa’s unceasing wars. They were, for instance, divided on how to mediate the civil wars in Angola and the Congo. The OAU members also split along ideological lines in mediating the wars between Somalia and Ethiopia, and between Uganda and Tanzania. So, considering these facts, one cannot escape the conclusion that continental unity is not a sufficient condition for the development of Africa. Indeed, continental unity of the sort envisaged by

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many pan-Africanists is not at all a necessary condition for Africa’s future development. The first necessary step toward development is a fundamental change in the economic, social, and political structures and institutions of African nations. Without such a change, any confederation into a commonwealth is bound to be, in the end, nothing more than a solidarity of poor, impoverished, and underdeveloped republics. That is what the African Union really is currently—a confederation of impoverished African nations. One more observation needs to be made with regard to the notion that redrawing the boundaries of modern African republics is a strategy for development. In principle, this idea assumes that cultural and ethnic homogeneity are necessary for development. Typically, the argument has been that the chief impediments to Africa’s progress are the incessant wars and ethnic conflicts that pervade the continent. These conflicts, it is claimed, are the consequences of the colonial partitioning of Africa in the nineteenth century. It is now well known that the Western colonial powers, in their bid to carve out imperial enclaves in Africa, met at the Berlin Conference in 1884 and arbitrarily drew lines across the continent and called their coveted estates “colonies” or “dependencies.” It is also common knowledge now that in some cases these colonial lines were drawn on their map of Africa without knowledge or regard for the people who lived in those territories. Consequently, entire ethnic groups were sometimes arbitrarily split into two or three subgroups, and each group was consigned to a different nation. Furthermore, many of these colonial territories were too small in size or population to constitute viable independent nations. Worse still, a sizeable proportion of these states were carved out solely as plantations for cash crops that would supply industrial raw materials to their colonial overlords in Western Europe. Consequently, there was no consideration of access to the outside world for the purposes of trade or communications. The result is that a considerable number of African states are today landlocked, and this has contributed in many ways to their lack of development. Reader summarizes the problem eloquently. The boundaries dividing Africa’s nations add up to more than 46,000 kilometers (compared with under 42,000 kilometers in all Asia). Not surprisingly, most African states have more than one neighbor; twenty have four or more; Tanzania and Zambia each have eight; Congo and the Sudan each have nine. Fifteen African states are entirely landlocked, more than in the rest of the world put together, and no country in Africa is free from the problems of access, security, and economic instability that are directly attributable to the boundaries they inherited from the colonial era. 2

There is no doubt that the historical partitioning of Africa was arbitrary. However, the proposal to redraw the territorial boundaries of the new African republics is based, once again, on the assumption that cultural homogeneity

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is necessary for development. However, even this assumption is vigorously refuted by history. A review of the developmental history of the currently developed nations shows that not one of them has been entirely culturally homogeneous. Rather, every one of them was in the past constituted by disparate ethnic groups that were usually in conflict with one another. However, as time progressed these disparate groups learned to resolve the social, political, and economic problems generated by their ethno-linguistic and cultural heterogeneity, and to mitigate their ethnic conflicts constitutionally. England, for instance, was forged out of disparate ethnic groups like the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes; the United Kingdom, out of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish peoples; France, out of Gauls, Franks, Saxons, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Bretons; and Germany, out of Saxons, Bavarians, Swabians, Frisians, Sorbs, Silesians, and Danes. Even China, which is commonly perceived as a homogeneous nation, is in reality peopled by the Han, who constitute the majority, and a variety of other minor ethno-linguistic groups—the Hui, Miao, Uyghur, Tujia, Zhuang, Manchu, Yi, Mongol, Buyi, Dong, and Yao. Similarly, Japan, which is also widely, but erroneously, perceived as a homogenous nation, was forged out of the union of the Yamato (the majority), the Ainu, Ryukyuans, and Nivkhs. So, it is entirely inaccurate to claim that cultural and ethnic homogeneity are necessary for development. What is necessary for development is not cultural homogeneity, but the adoption of the tried and tested strategy of development by which developed nations have historically made their transition from poverty to wealth, from underdevelopment to development. As many political economists have shown, there is indeed a specific strategy of development, and this strategy has successfully been employed by all the currently advanced nations in their quest for development. Reinert describes this strategy as the “toolbox” of development and shows that it is applicable everywhere, regardless of differences in cultural and geographical environment. According to Reinert, there was a strategy of development that the currently advanced nations of Western Europe and North America used to make the transition from poverty to wealth, and it was this specific strategy that the later industrialized nations of East Asia, most notably Japan and South Korea, employed to achieve the same result. In other words, each of these nations, in their quest for economic advancement, employed a specific economic strategy, a formula of advancement, a “toolbox” of development. Furthermore, Reinert contends, these developed nations employed the same toolbox of development and applied it in exactly the same manner. 3 What was this strategy of development? According to Reinert, it was simply to industrialize their economies and become producers of finished products, rather than remain exporters of raw materials and importers of finished products. Recounting the developmental history of various nations, Reinert points out that sixteenth-century England, under the reign of Henry

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VII, “is the prototype of how a country goes from rich to poor.” 4 When Henry VII ascended the English throne in 1485, Reinert recounts, England was a destitute nation in comparison with the wealthy nations of Europe, like Italy and Holland. These wealthy nations had little arable land but had, from the thirteenth century onward, become wealthy, not through agriculture, but by creating a “triple rent” system of manufacturing, overseas trade, and control of a very critical raw material. Henry VII realized that the cause of England’s poverty was the very economic structure it had adopted. The English were content to export raw wool to places like Florence, Venice, and Holland, where the wool was woven into cloth and the finished product imported to England. As a result of this exchange, Florence, Venice, and Holland grew increasingly wealthy, while England remained poor. If England was to become a rich nation, Henry VII realized, it must change its economic structure. “What groseness of wits be we of,” John Hales once mockingly asked his fellow Englishmen, “that will suffer our owne commodities to go and set straungers at worke, and then buy them again at theyr handes.” 5 Thus, resolved to end England’s poverty and turn it into a wealthy nation, Henry VII undertook to restructure the English economy. But how was this goal to be accomplished? According to Reinert, Henry VII’s strategy was to emulate the very same method by which the wealthy states and city-states of Europe, like Florence, Venice, and Holland, became wealthy. He chose to institute the triple rent system and turn England into an industrial nation rather than an exporter of raw wool. History’s first deliberate large-scale industrial policy was based on an observation of what made the rich areas of Europe rich: that technological development in one field in one geographical area could extend wealth to an entire nation. King Henry VII of England, who came to power in 1485, had spent his childhood and youth with an aunt in Burgundy. There he observed great affluence in an area with woolen textile production. Both the wool and the material used to clean it (Fuller’s Earth or aluminum silicate) were imported from England. When Henry later took over his destitute realm with several years’ future wool production mortgaged to Italian bankers, he remembered his adolescence on the continent. In Burgundy, not only the textile producers, but also the bakers and the other craftsmen were well off. England was in the wrong business, the king recognized and decided on a policy to make England into a textile-producing nation, not an exporter of raw materials. 6

Henceforth, Henry VII created an extensive economic policy toolbox that included export duties, tax exemption for English manufacturers, and largescale incentives to attract craftsmen and entrepreneurs from abroad, especially from Italy and Holland. According to Reinert, it was this strategy, which was also followed by Henry VII’s successors, especially Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, that made England an industrial nation. It was for this

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reason that the strategy came to be called by eighteenth century English historians the “Tudor Plan,” in recognition of the wisdom enshrined in this economic strategy and vision of the Tudor royal household. Was Henry VII’s strategy of development unique to England? According to Reinert, it was not. The development strategy that English historians later came to refer to as the Tudor Plan was the very strategy employed by France in transforming its feudal economy into an industrial one in the sixteenth century. Later, in the nineteenth century, the United States employed the same strategy in making its transition from a predominantly agrarian nation to an industrial power. In his 1791 publication titled Report on the Manufactures of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, the first US secretary of the treasury, re-created an economic policy toolbox quite similar to that of Henry VII; Hamilton, against the advice of the English politicians and economists at the time, opted for the industrialization of the United States under the protection of tariffs, rather than allow the young nation to remain a supplier of raw materials to Great Britain. After Hamilton, the very same principles encapsulated in the Tudor Plan and the Hamiltonian toolbox were employed by virtually all continental European countries in the nineteenth century, by Japan during the Meiji Restoration in the 1860s, and by South Korea in the 1960s. Indeed, it was the successful application of this toolbox that turned South Korea, which was poorer than Tanzania in 1950, into a rich and rapidly industrializing nation, while Tanzania, which did not adopt this strategy, has remained, even up to this day, an impoverished nation. 7 Apart from Japan and South Korea, other East Asian nations, most notably China, Taiwan, and Singapore, have adopted the same strategy with very similar results. Those principles involve, among other things, creating a large industrial or manufacturing sector, relative suppression of the landed nobility and all groups that have a vested interest in the production of raw materials, the financing and protection of young industries, emphasis on scientific education, patent protection for valuable knowledge, and frequent bans or heavy taxation on the export of raw materials in order to discourage it. From the developmental history of the advanced economies one can infer that today’s poor nations are those that have failed to employ the “toolbox” of development. These poor countries are those where the landowning class constitutes the dominant political power. Like the Southerners in the American Civil War who wished to remain cotton growers and suppliers of raw materials, Reinert illustrates, this landowning class has won in the conflict between them and the industrializing class, “the cotton-spinners” who wished to industrialize the nation and the economy. 8 According to Reinert, the deliberate large-scale industrial policies embraced by all these developed nations at different times was based on the same strategy and the same understanding that technological development was the key to making a nation wealthy in the modern period. Wealth was no longer created primarily—

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as it was in the past by conquest, that is—by forcefully seizing already existing wealth. The production of wealth was no longer a zero-sum game as it was understood by old-school economists like Adam Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo. Rather, the chief method of creating wealth in the modern period is through industrialization, as has been established by the countries that successfully made the transition from poverty to wealth. 9 Today, the rich countries are “those who emulated the leading industrial nations into the ‘Age of Industry.’” 10 Thus, Africa is poor today because it remains primarily a continent that exports raw materials to the advanced industrialized nations and imports finished industrial products from them. This fact, commonly referred to as “neo-colonialism,” is widely recognized, especially by African dependency theorists who for centuries have made it the main refrain of their battle cry for African continental autarchy. But autarchy without large-scale industrialization, especially without the scientific and technical knowledge to build modern industries, condemns an economy to perpetual feudalism. Simply isolating an impoverished nation or withdrawing it from the global marketplace without modern industries to sustain it will inexorably lead such a nation to even further poverty and destitution. Thus, the first steps toward developing African economies is to industrialize them. African nations must, like the rest of the developed world, stop being mere suppliers of raw materials and become producers of finished products. Since the seventeenth century, the world has been driven by advances in the industrial arts and in science and technology. Africa has not taken part in this revolution in human knowledge and technical skills. African nations do not produce enough scientists, technicians, physicians, engineers, computer scientists, etc. to drive the continent toward the path of development. Consequently, African nations are unable to produce the food, clothing, medicine, roads, cars, and telecommunication systems they need to live in the modern world. This is the chief cause of the continent’s poverty today—namely, the gross absence of largescale industrialization of the continent. Today, the wealth of a nation depends on what that nation produces. Before the industrial revolution, it depended on what a nation could seize by force, conquest, or colonization, but that is no longer the case. Today’s economy is no longer divided between the conquerors and the conquered, but between producers of finished products and suppliers of raw materials. 11 The producers of the finished products are the wealthy nations. The suppliers of raw materials are the poor. The wealth of the producing nations arises from their technological advancement, while the poverty of the poor nations lies primarily in their technological and industrial backwardness. This is an undeniable fact of the modern world, and in reality owes its existence to the fact that industrial power, as Reinert explains, generates increasing returns, while the absence of industrial power generates diminishing returns. A finished product, he points out, costs from ten to a hundredfold the price of the raw material needed to produce it, and this is

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because a multiplier, the industrial process, lies between the raw material and the finished product. The multiplier is the “industrial process demanding and creating knowledge, mechanization, technology, division of labor, increasing returns.” 12 A nation specializing in supplying raw materials to the rest of the world will sooner or later “reach the point where diminishing returns set in.” 13 The law of diminishing returns means, according to Reinert, that at a certain point the supplier will receive smaller and smaller returns for every unit of labor or capital invested. On the other hand, a nation specializing in the production of finished and non-natural objects can expand production at falling costs, and thus is able to receive increasing returns in spite of the falling costs of production.

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Rich countries specialize in man-made comparative advantages, while poor countries specialize in nature-made comparative advantages. Comparative advantages in nature-made exports will sooner or later work their way into diminishing returns because Mother Nature provided one of the factors of production in different quantities, and the best quality will normally be used first. 14

Thus, given the operative economic laws, unindustrialized countries that choose to remain as suppliers of raw materials have, in effect, chosen, as Reinert describes it, to “specialize in being poor.” They specialize in being poor because despite understanding that all economic activities are not rewarded equally, they choose to engage in the very economic activities that are least rewarded by the marketplace. Reinert compares such a choice to that of an individual who chooses to specialize in washing dishes in a restaurant, rather than becoming an engineer in a high-tech industry. Since different economic activities are qualitatively different carriers of wealth or low wages, independent of the personal attributes of the individuals performing the activity, the wages of the dishwasher will never rise to the level of the engineer, regardless of the level of education of the dishwasher. 15 The dishwasher has in effect chosen to specialize in being poor or in earning very low wages. Reinert observes that it is because of this very economic reality that parents, as private individuals, advise their children not to specialize in employment that is poorly rewarded by the marketplace. 16 So, what must the poor and underdeveloped nations of Africa, or indeed any other part of the world, do to overcome their underdevelopment? Reinert’s answer is of enduring value. If the society across the river has taken the step from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, and your own society is now faced with the options of remaining in the Stone Age or emulating the neighboring society and following it into the Bronze Age, “what,” he asks, “is your best or most reasonable course of action?” “There should be little doubt,” he answers, “that the best course of action is the latter.” 17 There is one and only one way to develop Africa, and that is to industrialize it. Any other proposal

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that does not have as its principal focus the industrialization of the continent is a subversion of Africa’s future. Industrialization will revolutionize Africa’s agriculture and create employment for the masses of its unemployed populations. It will give African nations the scientific and technical skills and the means to produce more food to feed their starving populations and the medicine to control or cure the diseases that undermine the health of their people. Industrialization will give Africans the knowledge and the tools with which to build better educational institutions, generate electricity, build better and safer roads, and provide African people with clean water. The task of industrialization is huge and enormous, but it must be undertaken. Without it, all the rhetoric about African freedom, justice, equality, and the improvement of the standard of living of African people in order to bring them into alignment with living standards in the advanced world are nothing but idle, pretentious, and pious declarations.

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IS TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS A BETRAYAL OF AFRICA’S CULTURE? Ironically, there is a prevailing opinion among a wide segment of African thinkers that industrialization and modernization are synonymous with Europeanization and, consequently, constitute a betrayal of “African culture”— that is, of the authentically African way of life. In his book Africa in Chaos, Ayittey refers to proposals for modernization and industrialization of the continent as “unimaginative aping” of European culture. Purporting to indict those who confound the notions of modernization and development, he even declares that the equation of modernization with development is a “pathological condition.” According to him, “the prevailing tendency to equate industrialization and modernization with development is a manifestation of a pathological condition known as the religion of development.” 18 Remarkably, Ayittey himself fails to articulate even a minimally justifiable notion of development. In his view, a yearly increase in economic output by Africa’s peasant farmers “using their simple traditional agricultural implements” represents economic development. 19 However, this notion of development is “development” in the general sense of the word, not in the sense at issue in this context. Of course, there is a sense in which such a yearly increase in economic output represents a kind of economic development. However, the “development” that is at issue here is not mere improvement, devoid of any specific context. Rather, the development that is in question is that of the forces of production in the African economy, in comparison with the advanced economies of the world. As Rodney correctly points out, “development” is a comparative term. 20 When economists and political economists speak about a developed and an underdeveloped economy, they are not refer-

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ring to minuscule, temporary, and superficial improvements in a nation’s economic output. An economy does not become “developed” simply because it has produced more goods and services than it did in the last production cycle. If this were so, many of the currently impoverished and “underdeveloped” third world economies could be classified as developed. But then, we would have confounded the meaning of the words “developed” and “underdeveloped.” This would lead to the absurdity of maintaining that an underdeveloped economy is at the same time developed. On the contrary, a nation is developed because it has certain economic features that are consistent with the features of universally recognized developed economies, just as being human means possessing certain features that are universally recognized as human features, such as being featherless and a biped, and possessing the ability to reason. The word “development” is not an arbitrary designation that any economy can erratically assign to itself. For instance, an African country like Nigeria cannot, in spite of its sprawling poverty and abysmally low production of goods and services, arbitrarily designate itself as a “developed” nation. When political economists survey the economies of the world, they find that certain economies are in the forefront of the production of goods and services and lead the rest of the world in possessing the most advanced forces of production and in enjoying the highest standards of living. These economies they describe as “developed.” In comparison with them, other economies lag behind in possessing relatively unadvanced and sometimes unadvancing forces of production and, consequently, fall far behind in the production of goods and services. These they refer to as either “undeveloped” or “underdeveloped.” As Rodney also pointed out, an indispensable criterion for classifying an economy as developed is industrialization. In other words, no economy can be considered developed in the world today if it is unindustrialized and if its population is predominantly poor, illiterate, and largely unskilled. Developed economies have certain characteristics which contrast with underdeveloped ones. The developed countries are all industrialized. That is to say, the greater part of their working population is engaged in industry rather than agriculture, and most of their wealth comes out of mines, factories, and other industries. They have a high output of labor per man (sic) in industry because of their advanced technology and skills. This is well known, but it is also striking that the developed countries have a much more advanced agriculture than the rest of the world. Their agriculture has already become an industry, and the agricultural part of the economy produces more even though it is small. The countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are called agricultural (rather than “developed”) countries because they rely on agriculture and have little or no industry; but (also because) their agriculture is unscientific and the yields are far less than those of the developed countries . . . (and) because the developed countries have a stronger industrial and agricultural economy than

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the rest of the world, they produce far more goods than the poor nations. 21 (Emphasis mine)

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Given these criteria above, all African countries, with the possible exception of South Africa, are underdeveloped because their economies rely on agriculture, with little or no modern industry, and because even the agriculture on which they rely is unscientific. Thus, when Ayittey defines development simply as “improving upon the existing ways of doing things to make the process more efficient and productive than before” or as “using the same indigenous system or existing system to produce more output,” 22 his understanding of development has logically drifted from the one at issue. Ayittey is unequivocal about what he means by “the same indigenous system.” According to him, it means the existing methods of production, like the method of shifting cultivation in agriculture, rather than the use of tractors or combine harvesters or other modern agricultural machinery. He also clearly indicates that by “indigenous system” he means the existing technologies or the purportedly simple and “primitive implements” 23 of the African peasant populations, whom he calls the “Atingas.” 24 He acknowledges that the farming technique of the Atinga is “slash and burn,” and that this technology is “primitive” and “restricted to such implements as the cutlass and the hoe.” 25 Yet he confidently contends that African agriculture should not currently be mechanized because, according to him, such mechanization is alien to Africa and the continent is not yet ready for it. Black Africa is not yet ready for mechanized agriculture. . . . A child learns how to crawl first before he walks and runs. One cannot jump from simple agricultural implements like hoes and cutlasses to tractors and combine harvesters. Neither can one jump from a dugout canoe to a fishing trawler. But black Africa is a place where people are trying to fly when they haven’t even learned how to walk. 26

The concept of development that informs Ayittey’s “blueprint” for Africa’s development is not just unenlightening, but entirely flawed. If development means simply producing more by using the existing methods of “slash and burn” or fishing in dugout canoes rather than, as Ayittey contemptuously remarks, doing so in “laser-guided trawlers equipped with global positioning systems,” 27 then it is possible for Africa to become “developed” while remaining an impoverished and underdeveloped third world continent. In fact, given Ayittey’s understanding and definition of development, African economies will be considered developed any year in which African farmers are able to increase their gross agricultural output by any percentage over those of the previous years. Ironically, in the opening pages of his Africa Unchained, Ayittey laments the gross disparity in income per capita between two major African countries—Ghana and Nigeria—in comparison with

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South Korea. When Ghana gained its independence in 1957, Ayittey points out, “it stood at the same level of development as South Korea. Both countries had income per capita of $200. In addition, Ghana, unlike South Korea, had large deposits of gold, diamond, bauxite, and manganese, and it exported cocoa, coffee, and timber, and thus had enormous economic advantages over South Korea. Yet, four decades later, South Korea’s income per capita is $4,400, which is ten times greater than Ghana’s income per capita of $420. Similarly, Ayittey’s lamentation continues, Nigeria, after its independence in 1960, had the same income per capita as South Korea. However, by the year 2000, forty years later, Nigeria’s income per capita remained the same as it was in 1960. 28 Oddly, Ayittey is silent about how South Korea achieved this outstanding economic success. What he failed to mention was that South Korea’s high-performance economy did not distance itself from that of Ghana and Nigeria without modernization and industrialization. Had South Korea rejected the development of heavy industries and remained satisfied with the paltry agricultural output of its peasant population who, like Ghanaians and Nigerians, once eked out a bare existence with their primitive implements before Park Chung Hee stirred the country toward industrial development in the early twentieth century, South Korea may have remained at the same level of economic development as Ghana and Nigeria. Considering the course of development taken by the advanced nations of today, and given the abysmally poor economic performance of the currently underdeveloped nations, it is odd that Ayittey seems painfully unaware that industrialization and the mechanization of agriculture are the only viable means of producing enough food to feed the teeming masses of the very African peasants in whom his hopes for Africa’s future development are entirely reposed. It is understandable that what Ayittey wants to repudiate is the unintelligent adoption of Western technology without an understanding of how it is produced and without the infrastructure needed to make it advantageously and truly productive. However, this should not lead him or any other theorist to deny the painful fact that development today means industrialization and modernization. Rather than reject these ideas in themselves or contend that Africans are not ready for industrialization, Ayittey needed only to have made the distinction between modernization and development, and rejected the typical African elite’s attempt to modernize Africa without necessarily embarking on a program that will promote actual economic and industrial development. If the currently unimaginative African ruling classes understand industrialization to consist exclusively in blindly copying the signs 29 or trappings of industrialization and, consequently, believe that simply importing combine harvesters, fishing trawlers, and foreign cars into their countries or paying foreign engineers to construct bridges, basilicas, 30 and high-rise towers for their nations is synonymous with development, then Ayittey should have contented himself with denouncing such a twisted and

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perverted understanding of development. In so doing, he should have defended a more genuine and more authentic notion of development. In a genuinely developed economy, the mere effects or symbols of modernization are not confused or mistaken for development itself. Thus, from the very fact that some African politicians confound the symbols and products of the modern industrial process with being developed or industrialized, it does not follow that the very notion of industrialization itself is thereby discredited. Rather, it is the ignorance and lack of comprehension of these African leaders that is discredited. Surprisingly, Ayittey, in an effort to support his contention that development does not mean “modernization and industrialization,” cites Japan as an example of a country that achieved “modernization” without Westernization. This is ironic and clearly shows some incoherence in his theory. All along he argues against “modernizing” Africa and claims that any desire to modernize and industrialize the continent is a sickness, a “manifestation of a pathological condition.” 31 He further refers to such a desire as a “perversion” of the notion of development and as a “betrayal” of Africa’s culture. 32 However, in his reference to Japan, a country that achieved its current global status as a developed economy through modernization and industrialization, he suddenly appears to support modernization, but with the qualification that it must be done without Westernization or Europeanization. In other words, after rejecting modernization, without qualification, as a disease and as an intellectual defect, he inconsistently exalts Japan for its modernization and does not see Japanese modernization as exemplifying the pathology that he so passionately and desperately desires to cure in Africa. Instead, quoting the Washington Times approvingly, he argues that “Japan’s postwar success has demonstrated that modernization does not mean Westernization.” 33 “Japan was modernized spectacularly,” he affirms, “yet remains utterly different from the West.” 34 Ayittey could not have chosen a worse example. Japan did not modernize itself by clinging tightly to its traditional Japanese mode of production. On the contrary, the Meiji Reformers who were largely responsible for setting the country on the path to modernization joyfully embraced industrialization as the only way to modernize their country and as the only course open for the future of Japan. Today, Japan is the modernized and industrialized nation that it is because it rejected, during the Restoration, all that was retrogressive in old Japanese culture and embraced what it considered progressive in Western European culture. As we saw in the last chapter, what the Meiji Reformers rejected were the Christian religion and its moral precepts, which the Reformers believed were inferior to those of Buddhism and Confucianism. However, in science and technology, the Reformers were quite willing to acknowledge that Europe was far more advanced than Japan. They were thus prepared to learn the art of industrial production from Western Europe. As we also saw earlier, Sakuma Zōzan, one of the architects of the Restoration, made a clear

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distinction between science and morality and proposed that the Reformers emulate Western Europe in the former, but not in the latter. According to him, Western European culture was then superior to Japanese culture in science and technology, but not in the realm of morality.

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In teachings concerning morality, benevolence, and righteousness, filial piety and brotherly love, loyalty and faithfulness, we must follow the examples and precepts of the Chinese sages [i.e. as taught in Buddhism and Confucianism]. In astronomy, geography, navigation, surveying, the investigation of the principle of all things, the art of gunnery, commerce, medicine, machinery and construction, we must rely mainly on the West. We must gather the strong points of the five worlds and construct the great learning of our imperial nations. 35

Ayittey is correct that modernization and industrialization are not synonymous with Westernization or Europeanization. He is also correct to contend that African nations can be developed without becoming Europeanized. However, he must be careful not to appear to be promoting a very superficial understanding of African culture and African identity. In the past, quite a few African thinkers have labeled that which is merely superficial to African culture as essentially “African,” and those labels have continued to wreak havoc on both the African and non-African imagination. One can even see vestiges of that understanding in Ayittey’s equation of modernization and industrialization with “Europeanization.” Is modernization really Europeanization? Does the mechanization of agriculture through the use of tractors and combine harvesters constitute Europeanization? What does Ayittey consider African and what is specifically African? In fact, what does it mean to be African and what does it mean for an African to be Europeanized? Does being Europeanized mean giving up certain traditional African habits and ways of doing things? Does it mean refusing to subscribe to certain values that no longer seem to serve the social, political, and economic interests of African peoples? Is it even possible for an African person to ever cease to be African? Clearly, the rejection of certain African habits and customs cannot make an African person cease to be African. Today, Africans drive cars, wear European clothes, and live in houses modeled after those found in European countries. They also fly in airplanes, speak European languages, adopt the Christian religion, and live in European countries, without ceasing to be Africans or becoming transformed into “Europeans.” Even Ayittey’s Atingas have in many ways abandoned many traditional African customs and ways of doing things in favor of European and other foreign traditions. For instance, many of the Atingas are Christians or Muslims or, sometimes, both. Many of them also speak English or Arabic or French, encourage their children to acquire European education, and prefer to travel in cars or buses, instead of trekking long distances. If one were to follow Ayittey’s logic, one

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would have to argue that solving the transportation problem in Africa has to be done with simple technology that the Atingas can understand and maintain—for instance, the wooden hand-pulled truck—and that introducing a car or bus is “pathological,” since most African nations do not have good roads or sufficient skilled technicians to build cars or maintain their imported European or Japanese cars, as is evident in the number of broken-down vehicles that litter African cities and highways. One would also have to argue that driving a car is a betrayal of African culture, since neither the traditional nor modern African societies have manufactured cars, nor do they currently have the skills to do so. Happily, we know that even if all Africans agree that “Europeanization” or “Westernization” should be rejected, it does not necessarily also follow that every dimension of African life, including its outmoded agricultural habits and implements, must be retained. Had Ayittey argued that African economies can become developed through modernization and industrialization, while retaining only what is good and progressive in African culture, his arguments would have been more persuasive. However, what he seems to be advocating is the wholesale retention of Africa’s traditional customs, good and bad, simply because they are African. Such a view and the arguments that purport to support it simply have no merit. In every culture, including European and Asian cultures, certain customs and ways of doing things can become obsolete in due course and have to be given up. In the past, Western Europeans adopted Christianity, Chinese technology, Egyptian architecture, and Arabic numerals without ceasing to be European or “betraying” ancient European culture. Similarly, the Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese in the past adopted European methods of industrial production without ceasing to be Japanese, Korean, or Chinese. So, obviously, Africans can industrialize Africa, using the principles of industrialization perfected in Europe, North America, Japan, China, or South Korea, without ceasing to be Africans or betraying African culture. African identity is certainly not conferred by the use of an agricultural implement or by obstinately clinging to the outmoded ways and primitive technologies of ancient Africans. A hoe and a cutlass are not essentially “African” implements. They were also independently invented on other continents and were once employed widely as primary instruments of production in Europe and Asia. If Europeans and the Japanese can adopt the technical inventions of other civilizations without betraying either the European or Japanese culture, why should the same practice in Africa constitute a betrayal of African culture? WHO WILL INDUSTRIALIZE AFRICA? Proposals for the future development of Africa ultimately revolve around the question of who would carry out the program. Thus, one of the objections to

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the common proposals to liberalize the economy, establish democratic institutions, or redraw the current national boundaries in Africa has been that the proposals are essentially unrealistic. Who will liberalize and democratize Africa’s economy and political institutions, given the gross corruption of the continent’s leaders, whose propensity has been to corrupt the electoral process, crown themselves “presidents-for-life,” or impose one-party states on their subjects? Who will redraw Africa’s colonial boundaries when Africa’s governments religiously affirm the integrity and inviolable sovereignty of the territories they have inherited from the colonial era? For very similar reasons, one may raise the objection that the proposal to industrialize Africa is unrealistic. Africa’s modern political leaders, both past and present, have had enormous natural and fiscal resources at their disposal for more than five decades, yet they have consistently, through corruption and fiscal mismanagement, failed to industrialize their respective nations. As Ayittey has rightly objected, it would be naive and unrealistic to expect that the current neopatrimonial, corrupt, mafia states of Africa will reform themselves and embark on the task of development. 36 So, in light of the knowledge that a program of industrialization requires huge, efficient, and honest management and investments of the resources of the state and that African leaders have generally squandered those resources remorselessly and ruthlessly in pursuit of their own private gains, one is justified in wondering if the proposal to develop Africa by industrializing it is realistic and attainable. Who will undertake this task of industrializing the continent? Examples of the enormous amounts of money stolen by Africa’s corrupt political “leaders” and hidden away in foreign banks in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or in some other European countries, can be found in various publications of the World Bank and the international media. For instance, according to the 2004 World Bank report, under General Abacha, Nigeria’s political leaders stole approximately $300 billion of the nation’s oil revenues. It was indeed on account of this brazen corruption and widespread fiscal ineptitude of Africa’s rulers that some have suggested that the only hope of developing Africa lies in the continent’s peasant farmers. For Ayittey, this means giving the “Atingas” more economic freedom, placing them at the center of all development projects, and allowing them to teach the government bureaucrats about traditional African farming techniques and traditional medicine. 37 Ayittey calls the program of development he envisages “The Atinga Development Model.” This Atinga model, he contends, must be based on peasant agriculture rather than industrial or mechanized agriculture. He admits that the peasants do need improved technology but quickly adds that this improved technology must be “simple,” like a foot-driven water pump with no moving parts. 38 Ironically, even this proposal is riddled with circularity. Africa’s leaders have commonly turned out to be dictators who monopolize political power and fail to liberalize the societies and the economies over

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which they preside. Worse still, they have commonly proven to be unresponsive to domestic and international demands to establish a more liberal environment in which human rights, the rule of law, and economic and political freedom will flourish. So, how do Ayittey and those who share his views propose to make these vampire elites grant this freedom to the peasant population? The project of industrializing Africa cannot be carried out by the current vampire states that litter the continent. As Douglas Rimmer found after his extensive study of the economies of West African nations, these political leaders, as a rule, have never been interested in economic growth and economic development. On the contrary, they are nearly always interested in looting their respective states for their own personal enrichment and that of their cronies and political supporters. 39 Claude Ake arrived at the same conclusion after observing the performance of African countries for several decades after independence. He found that development was merely an ideology that the post-colonial African rulers adopted to legitimize the arbitrary power they inherited at the end of the colonial era. In reality, Ake wrote, development was never really on their agenda, since all their energies were consumed by their unending struggle to legitimize this power and prevent their political competitors from gaining access to it.

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The new leaders of independent Africa knew that to hold on to their power and to divert their people from the demand for redistribution and for the structural transformation of the colonial economy [they had inherited], they had to find something to replace the nationalist ideology of self-government, something that would, they hoped, create a sense of common purpose. In the end, they settled for the ideology of development. However, the struggle for power was so absorbing that everything else, including development, was marginalized. 40

The project of industrialization can also not be carried out either by Africa’s peasant populations or by individual or private capitalist ventures. This is because the development of an industrial republic requires that the state organize the credit necessary to promote commerce and investment, and that the state acts to create a protective environment around those industries that contribute more advanced productive technologies to the entire national labor force.” 41 Historically, industrial development has occurred only through the directing hands of the state. This [that it is the state that plays the key role in the process of industrialization] was the case for the France of Louis XI, for Tudor England, for France from 1653 through 1814, and for the young American republic. It was the case for Meiji Japan, and the case in the effects of [Friedrich] List’s Customs-union Germany. [Indeed] never in the course of modern economic history in any part of the world, has private capitalist investment succeeded in developing a healthy capitalist economy. [Rather], what private capitalist venture does ac-

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complish is to enable different technological and entrepreneurial ingenuities to compete in such a way that those enterprises embodying the best combinations of technology and management will tend to predominate, and new, more progressive firms will nip threateningly at the heels of those firms whose managements tend to become lazy in respect of technology, and parasitical in respect of their use of profit-incomes. This system of competition functions only on condition that the state creates a system of credit and taxation through which progressive ventures are aided to prosper at the relative expense of more backward and parasitical capitals. 42 (Emphasis mine)

Reinert’s extensive study of the trajectories and characteristics of developed and underdeveloped nations leads him to the same conclusion. Contending that successful industrialization has commonly been the result of a consciously willed economic policy by the state, Reinert shows that it is the state that creates the institutions enabling improvements in the production and distribution of goods and services in conjunction with the “incentives that make the vested interest of the entrepreneur coincide with the vested interests of the society at large.” 43 He does not deny that the private entrepreneur plays an active part in the project and process of industrialization; however, he shows that according to the historical evidence, it is not the private capitalist that drives the process, but the state. From the fact that all developed economies became so only through the intervening policies of the state, it is easy to see why the proposal that either the peasant farmers or the private entrepreneurs lead the drive for Africa’s development are inadequate. Only the African state can develop and industrialize Africa. Thus, since most of the current states on the continent are dysfunctional, the first task in the program of development and industrialization is to build a genuine and functioning state. A genuine state will recognize the necessity of industrialization and embark upon it. Now, the only way to erect a genuine state in Africa is through revolutionary pressure. Just as the apartheid regime was brought to its knees under revolutionary pressure in South Africa, the African vampire states must first be brought to their knees. This can only be accomplished if the people organize themselves in such a way that they are able to hold their leaders accountable for their misrule. NOTES 1. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 1ff. 2. John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 574. 3. Erik S. Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (New York: Public Affaris, 2008), 62ff. 4. Ibid., 74. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., 79.

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7. Ibid., 82. 8. Ibid., 82–83ff. 9. Ibid., 81. 10. Ibid., 121. 11. Ibid., 62ff. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid., 108ff. 14. Ibid., 111. 15. Ibid., 28. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid., xxiii. 18. George Ayittey, Africa in Chaos (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999), 137. Six years later, Ayittey repeated this charge unmodified in Africa Unchained, 87–92. 19. Ibid., 136–37 20. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982), 14. 21. Ibid., 16. 22. Ibid., 89. 23. Ibid., 88. 24. Ibid., 10ff. 25. Ibid., 12. 26. George Ayittey, Africa Unchained (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 256. 27. Ibid., 88ff. 28. Ibid., 2. 29. Ibid., 255. 30. Ibid., 84. 31. Ibid., 87. 32. Ibid., 88, 93ff. 33. Ibid., 360. 34. Ibid. 35. Quoted in Mikiso Hane, Pre-Modern Japan (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), 217. 36. Ayittey, Africa Unchained, 430–31. 37. Ibid., 365ff. 38. Ibid., 367. 39. Douglas Rimmer, The Economies of West Africa (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1984) in Meredith, The Fate of Africa, 370. 40. Claude Ake, Democracy and Development in Africa (Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books, 2003), 7ff, 8. 41. A very insightful observation made by Lyndon H. LaRouche in “The Myth about Equilibrium Economics,” in Hans Bandman et al., eds, The Industrialization of Africa (New York: Campaigner Publications, 1980), 29. 42. Ibid., 29–30. 43. Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich, 121.

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Chapter Seven

The Poverty of Contemporary African Political Thought

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INFLUENTIAL AFRICAN SCHOLARS AND THEIR INTELLECTUAL HOSTILITY TO TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS It was proposed in the last chapter that to position Africa on the road to development, its vampire states must be brought to their knees. This, however, is not going to be an easy task, especially because the vampire state is generally supported by a great variety of ideologues whose intellectual efforts purport to affirm its legitimacy. Thus, it is not only the vampire state that needs to be demolished; the false ideologies on which it rests also ought to be dismantled. In other words, if Africa is to emerge from its current underdevelopment, the false ideologies of development that have for decades impeded its technological progress must also be brought to their knees. One of those ideologies, for instance, is the dogma that African development must be conceived primarily in terms of moral, rather than material, advancement or that it is the duty of African people to become the moral beacon of a morally depraved humanity. According to the proponents of this doctrine, the current “development” of Western Europe is not only a false and superficial one, it is actually a form of human debasement. As they point out, modern European civilization erected itself on a science that is essentially materialistic and, consequently, understands progress solely in terms of man’s ability to understand the laws of nature and fabricate mechanical devices to improve the material conditions of human life. Thus, they argue, the result has been that while the developed nations of today have made impressive strides in science and technology, the human being himself has remained unimproved. In other words, in their view, man’s current technological achievements, like the ability to produce better ships, guns, and airplanes, constitute only a 155 Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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superficial form of development. True development, they contend, must include the production of better human beings or the improvement of man himself. But, as they charge, not only has modern industrial society failed to produce better human beings, it has actively and positively denigrated man himself, reducing him to merely an animal with no special status in the final scheme of things. One of the consequences of this denigration was that the European man himself receded progressively into barbarism. This was evident in the European assault on the rest of humanity during the periods of Western Europe’s enslavement of non-European peoples and the colonization and ruthless slaughter of non-European peoples that followed the abolition of the slave trade. Indeed, the charge continues, since the fourteenth century, the main ills that have plagued humanity, like slavery, colonialism, World Wars I and II, imperialism, capitalist exploitation, neo-colonialism, and the like—have arisen essentially because of Europe’s industrial and technological advancement. Thus, purporting to save Africa from following in the footsteps of what they perceived as a morally bankrupt and spiritually degenerate European culture, these new champions of African development sought to steer the newly independent African nations away from the Western model of scientific and technical progress toward a purportedly African model of development. Unfortunately, the alternative African development they proposed turned out to be nothing more than a call to resuscitate ancient Africa’s village communalism. Branding this communalism as “African Socialism,” these ideologues called for a rejection of the Western European model of development and sought to foist the political, economic, and social forms of pre-colonial and long-gone African communities on modern Africa. However, given the well-known failure of the African pre-colonial model, especially in the face of the military and cultural assaults from Western Europe and the Islamic world, was this call for a return to the pre-colonial African model anything more than a reactionist rejection of advancing human knowledge and technique? Considering the abysmal performance of the new African republics in the past five decades, the post-colonial call for the resuscitation of pre-colonial African communalism appears to be nothing more than a reactionary flight from modernity back to the world of magic and spirits and gods. For whether it was camouflaged as spiritual, moral, or cultural progress, what the new calls for African humanism amounted to was a rejection of the idea that technological development is an authentic goal for African and African-descended peoples. Yet, it was precisely such a development that African people needed at the turn of the modern period when their freedom and even capacity for moral agency were under heavy assault from technologically more advanced civilizations. Given the plight of African people at the beginning of the modern period, the almost exclusive focus of African intellectual leaders on moral development was a sort of escape from

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reality, especially in light of the fact that there are ultimately no objective criteria by which one can demonstrate the truth of the common declarations of the ideologues of African socialism that pre-colonial African civilizations were more spiritual and more moral than the civilizations of pre-modern or even modern Western Europe. In fact, one can even plausibly argue that African culture in general is morally inferior to Western European culture. Have African states not historically and through their own cultural negligence allowed their people to be enslaved and brutalized, their lands either colonized or seized by military force, and their natural resources expropriated by foreign conquerors? Given this monumental historical negligence, on what grounds can they lay claim to a higher morality? And, by what intellectual dissimulation does one, like an ostrich, bury one’s head in the sands of moral freedom in the face of economic and military assault from more technologically advanced nations? Anyone who is skeptical of the moral imperative for African technological development only has to recall that African people lost their freedom in the modern period for two main reasons. The first was because Western European people had advanced so far ahead of them in knowledge and technological development, especially in military technology, that Western European nations were always confident of victory in any war with any of the pre-colonial African states or empires. The second was because the African ruling classes of the pre-encounter period, the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, were so sluggish in responding to the cultural changes developing in the major centers of civilization in Europe and Asia that their states were technically and militarily unprepared to counter the cultural aggression and imperial ambitions of emerging Western European nations. The result was that when the armies of the two continents collided on any of the numerous pre-colonial battlefields, even the most advanced and sophisticated African armies of the time, like those of the Zulu and Ashanti, were unable to withstand the Western assault, and most of the African armies were shattered like glass. As recorded in the diaries of eyewitnesses, it was a disconsolate sight that greeted the spectators who beheld the scenes of Africa’s latest 1 humiliation. In the case of the Zulu and Ashanti wars, there were thousands of maimed and dead Zulu and Ashanti warriors sprawled, without heads, arms, or legs, around the surrounding thicket, 2 blown to shreds by battlefield artillery. There were throngs of fleeing warriors scampering and diving through the tropical forest in search of cover, and there were deserted towns filled with wailing women deprived forever of the protection of their men. Other tragedies followed—hundreds of once luxuriant towns and villages burning or smoldering from the torch of the victorious European armies, their smoke rising up to the heavens as if in supplication for divine intervention and vengeance. There were tens of thousands of old and young pleading to be spared the horrors of death or enslavement. Finally, there was the triumphant entry of the mounted European cavalry into the prostrate

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African village to begin the work of enslavement, colonization, and expropriation. Ironically, as tragic as those spectacles may have seemed in those days, such a wide-scale massacre of an African people by militarily superior foreign armies was not a new phenomenon on the embattled and battered continent. It had been carried out innumerable times and in innumerable historical periods in Africa’s beleaguered history. In fact, from the earliest recorded conquest of an African state by an alien force down to the final partition and colonization of the continent in the modern period, one of the chief problems of African states has been their military weakness and their vulnerability to foreign conquest. In prior centuries, African cities and villages were razed and pillaged on countless occasions and their populations carried off to foreign lands for enslavement or forced labor as human beasts of burden for their conquerors. In the ancient and medieval periods, those conquerors came from Persia, Assyria, Arabia, Greece, or Rome. The transAtlantic shipment of African people for slave labor in the new world that began in the closing decades of the fifteenth century was merely the latest in a long series of humiliations for African people in the course of their long and unenviable history. Over time, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished and the colonial administrations in Africa were dismantled. However, the abolition of slavery and the end of colonialism did not bring true freedom to African people. What these brought them was an appearance of freedom. This was because their newly acquired freedom depended essentially on the will of their oppressors and could always be retracted by law or defeated by practice. This was amply demonstrated in Africa by the phenomenon of neocolonialism.

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EARLY BLACK NATIONALISM AND ITS VISION OF AN AFRICAN INDUSTRIAL SUPERPOWER With Africa lying prostrate at the feet of Western Europe at the beginning of the modern period, one would think that the leaders of the newly independent nations would understand the urgent need to correct the errors of the African pre-colonial past and steer the continent on the path of industrial and technological development. Sadly, that was not the case. Rather than embark on a program of economic and scientific development and modernization, what the new intellectual and political leaders proposed was a program of moral development. Instead of exhorting African people to strive for industrial progress, they urged them to develop a “new African personality” and build a new humanistic society in which selfishness, individualism, greed, and material acquisitiveness would be eliminated. Even when some of these new political leaders, like Kwame Nkrumah, made grand speeches about the urgent need for African economic development, not one of these leaders devel-

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oped a successful program to make the country over which they presided economically and technologically independent of the advanced, but predatory, developed nations. Who among the new African leaders successfully devised a program to eradicate hunger, disease, and illiteracy from his nation? Who among them held out to his people a vision of a future in which the traditional subjection of African peoples to all manner of social, political, cultural, and racial indignities would largely be consigned to the garbage heap of history? Had some of these new political maladministrators envisioned such a future, they might collectively have come to the realization that for such a world to become a reality, African people needed to possess the knowledge and the skills necessary to produce their own food and mine their own natural and mineral resources. They might also have understood that African freedom would remain but a dream in a world in which African people are still unable to build their own bridges, dam their own rivers, cure their own diseases and illnesses, and produce all the technological devices they need to live in the modern world. These include electricity, automobiles, airplanes, computers, telephones, modern medicine, and the like. A nation that claims to be striving for moral development and yet does little to assuage the hunger of millions of its malnourished and dying children must have a very poor and twisted conception of morality. A civilization that has consistently failed to be a bulwark of protection for its people in the face of military assault and racial contempt from predatory nations must be a morally bankrupt nation. Thus, when the leaders of the newly independent African nations skillfully dodged the task of industrial development that lay at their feet because of the political office they coveted, and when they substituted in its place the celebration, resuscitation, and reassertion of some imaginary and metaphysical notion of developing a “black personality” or nourishing a “black soul,” they were propounding a poor and an enfeebled notion of development. What sort of liberation could one expect from a “black soul” that eons ago was unable to absorb the advancing knowledge and techniques that were emerging from other parts of the world, and consequently was unable to shield its possessors from enslavement, conquest, and colonialism? Despite the myths that have been spun about this indomitable “black soul,” the historical evidence shows that the celebrated black soul was invariably crushed beneath the weight of the industrial machinery that was fabricated by the non-black “souls” that were flexible enough to appropriate new knowledge and develop new skills. Thus, considering the abysmal economic, military, and social circumstances at the dawn of the modern era, the only authentic philosophy of African development and credible vision of a black future that these leaders ought to have propounded was one that was designed to destroy the post-colonial economic and political structures of oppression and bondage under which most African people at the time languished and from which the majority of African people aspired to be liberat-

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ed. Such a notion of liberation—that is, African or black liberation conceived in terms of economic and industrial advancement—was not alien to many champions of African liberation in the opening decades of the twentieth century. In fact, some of them articulated and advocated it, contending that African people would never truly be free until they erected, through their own knowledge and technological skills, a modern African civilization that would be as economically and technologically advanced as any of the advanced Western European nations or their offshoots in the new world, Canada and the United States. Such a notion of African liberation was even actively advocated by the champions of pan-Africanism who led the battle to liberate Africa from colonialism in the early 1930s. For instance, in the United States, where the movement for African independence first began to acquire force, the proponents of pan-Africanism urged both the black community in the United States and African people on the continent to build a parallel technologically advanced civilization. Contending that an industrialized African economy would be the only means of realizing the true freedom of all black people, some of the early pan-Africanists urged Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to aspire toward building a new industrial power that would rival that of Western Europe in both knowledge and technological advancement. Without a rival African industrial power, they argued, European and Asian nations would always have the power to subjugate and oppress African people. If, on the other hand, African people successfully built an economy comparable to that of the United States or Great Britain, the poverty and subjugation of African people would immediately come to an end, since without a Western monopoly of industrial and military might, African peoples would no longer be dependent on their former oppressors for employment and for social services. The ideal of African and black industrial development was such a focal point of the early black nationalist and pan-Africanist movements that even in the United States, where African American people did not possess their own independent republic, black nationalists maintained that the key to black freedom there was the same. Delany, for instance, argued that it was only through a radical change in the material condition of African American people that black freedom would be realized. “White men are producers,” he wrote, “and we are consumers. They build houses and we rent them. They raise produce and we consume it. They manufacture clothes and wares, and we garnish ourselves with them. They build coaches, vessels, cars, hotels, saloons, and other vehicles and places of accommodation.” 3 Delany went on to contend that since the monopoly of the production of goods and services was the basis on which the European oppression of African people rested, it followed necessarily that if African people wished to make their freedom a reality, they should aspire to build their own houses, manufacture their own coaches and ships, and the like. Blyden, another early champion of African

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freedom, shared Delany’s view about the link between freedom and material advancement. Observing that in the United States the very basis of the oppression of African peoples was the ownership and government of the entire fabric of social, political, and economic institutions by European people and the reduction of the black masses to mere laborers and beasts of burden, Blyden urged African people to seek material development.

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All the affairs of the country [the United States] are in their hands. . . . They make and administer the laws; they teach the schools . . . ply all the trades . . . own all the stores . . . have possession of all the banks . . . own all the ships. They are the printers and proprietors . . . editors of the leading newspapers . . . and shape public opinion . . . and, having always had the lead, they have acquired ascendancy they will ever maintain. The blacks have very few or no agencies in operation to counteract the ascendant influence of the Europeans. 4

For this reason, Blyden insisted that in order for African people to be truly free it was necessary for intelligent, educated, enterprising, and honorable black men and women from North America and other parts of the African diaspora to repatriate themselves to the continent of Africa and there, through the application of modern science and technology, build a giant industrial nation that would rival the advanced nations of Europe. Blyden also added that the primary goal of erecting this rival industrial power was not to compete with Europe, but to elevate the standard of living of African people. A technologically advanced African economy, he pointed out, would lift the millions of poor Africans that still inhabited that continent from degradation and barbarism. There were other black nationalists and pan-Africanists in the early period of the black freedom movement who envisioned African development in terms of industrial and economic advancement. These included Alexander Crummell, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and even W. E. B. Du Bois, who later abandoned this view. Lamenting the backwardness and underdevelopment of Africa, Alexander Crummell, for instance, described the continent in 1861 as “the maimed and crippled arm of humanity” and insisted that a necessary aspect of her development would be in commerce and industrial growth. “Africa needs skill, enterprise, energy, worldly talent to raise her,” he wrote, and these needs must be designed to mitigate her current poverty and degradation. 5 Similarly, Garvey, seeing that the power exercised by Europeans over African people was historically grounded in the superiority of European industrial technology, insisted that African people must erect their own industrial economy if they wished to make their freedom a reality. An African industrial superpower, in Garvey’s view, would not only lift the majority of African people from poverty, it would also help to protect African societies from the ceaseless military assaults that have historically been mounted against them by European and

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Asian nations. Most importantly, Garvey added, this African industrial power 6 would demonstrate the racial equality of African people and show that they are able to reach the same pinnacle of scientific and technical achievement as Europeans. Furthermore, according to Garvey, an African industrial giant comparable to that of the United States would be a primary guarantee that African people will survive in the event of a global racial war. Like many of his contemporaries, Garvey believed that a war between the different races of humanity, especially between the black and white races, was imminent. 7 Europeans, he lamented, have shown throughout history a ruthless, relentless, and remorseless will to subjugate and enslave African people. Now that African people have begun to reassert their freedom, their demand is inexorably destined to be settled on the battlefield. But, he asked, what will happen on that day when battalions of black soldiers, clad for battle, answer the call to defend the freedom of African people? Given the current state of Africa’s technology, Garvey answered, they are bound to be slaughtered like swine. To avert such a possible racial tragedy, Garvey counseled today’s African nations and the African populations in the diaspora to change their current course of scientific and technological indifference and strive to erect their own rival industrial and military superpower. Only such a power, he claimed, will ensure that African nations will be left standing at the end of this inevitable racial “Armageddon.” Envisioning the victorious African soldiers standing tall at the end of this racial war, Garvey likened them to the triumphant solders of Thutmosis III, who in the fourteenth century B.C. crushed a coalition of invading armies from Asia and Europe on the plains of Megiddo. It was for this reason that Garvey admired the architects of the Meiji Restoration in nineteenth century Japan and believed that African leaders should find in the Meiji Reformation a blueprint for Africa’s development. When one considers the long history of oppression to which African people have been subjected and the undeniable fact that their conquest, enslavement, and subjugation always rested on their technological backwardness, then the emphasis that Garvey and some of the early black nationalists placed on black industrial development seems quite justified. Without the material and technical means of countering Western European economic and military dominion, and without the ability of African people to produce the goods and services they need for their own sustenance today, black freedom will amount to nothing more than a figment of the imagination of the champions of the freedom of African and African-descended people.

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LATE BLACK NATIONALISM AND ITS INDIFFERENCE TO MATERIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Unfortunately, the early black nationalist vision of development, understood in industrial, material, scientific,and technological terms, did not endure. While the movement was still in its infancy, it came under the influence of reactionary pan-Africanist thinkers who had been educated in the bastions of European anti-modernist thought. At that time, France and Germany were the citadels of European anti-modernism, and the champions of pan-Africanism, having been schooled in either France or Germany in the 1930s, subverted the original pan-African vision of material development by infecting it with a measure of contempt for modern European cultural values. Contending that modern industrial development was the chief scourge of humanity, these new champions of African freedom typically celebrated in prose and poetry the glories of the rustic and simple life of the African village and claimed that it exemplified true freedom, in contradistinction to the alienation, individualism, and coldness of life in the Western metropolis. They were especially contemptuous of the industrial culture that modern Europe sought to spread around the globe. Proposing to recapture the cultural values of pre-colonial Africa, these new champions of African cultural unity typically called for a rejection of Western culture, especially of life in the modern industrial metropolis. Contrasting the freedom of the African village and the numerous restrictions of the modern city, for instance, one of the prominent panAfricanist leaders of the period, W. E. B. Du Bois, claimed that it was only in the village commune that the genuine human spirit could exist unfettered. In the African village, Du Bois declared, there was friendship, joy, social harmony, laughter, justice, and humanity. In contrast, modern urban life was filled with coldness, alienation, and unfulfilling labor. 8 However, the critical issue that these early champions of pan-Africanism ignored was whether it was possible for modern Africa to halt the march of the advancing industrial-capitalist machinery in order to preserve the idyllic existence of pre-colonial Africa and, if so, with what strategy the new African nations could stop this advance. Considering the global reach and sweep of industrial capitalism, no legitimate liberation theory could ignore the dynamism and long arm of modern industrial capitalism. Historically, this recognition constituted one of the great insights of Marxism, for even a relentless and uncompromising critic of capitalism like Marx could not ignore the long arm of the industrial capitalist. Seeing that the capitalist system of production, because of the sophistication of its ever-expanding instruments of production, was bound to batter down all “Chinese walls,” Marx predicted that all the ancient obstacles erected by all pre-capitalist societies in the form of their modes of production and their feudal or semi-feudal “fixed,

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fast-frozen relations” were bound to be “blown asunder” by the capitalist industrial machinery.

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The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the very artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. . . . [It] has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West. 9

Thus, if, as the subsequent history of capitalism has shown, the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie all over the surface of the globe, and if the bourgeoisie, as a consequence of this need, is compelled to “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere,” 10 as Marx accurately predicted, by what means would today’s African societies halt this imminent destruction of their pre-colonial idyllic existence and the forceful substitution of the capitalist system of values for their traditional cultural values? Nowhere in the theories of these new champions of African development does one find answers to these questions. Yet, taking into consideration the historical fact that Europe’s industrial economy had battered not only the Chinese walls, but also the “African walls” in the conquest and colonial rule over the old African states and empires, this is not a trivial or insignificant omission. It now seems evident from historical hindsight that the new architects of pan-Africanist development recklessly adopted a vision of freedom that was in vogue in Europe in their time and carelessly hung it over the heads of African people. One can look back today and see that the only feature that distinguished their vision of development from that espoused by European anti-modernist thinkers was their substitution of the idyllic freedom of the African village and its system of traditional values for the idyllic life of the European village exalted by the European anti-modernists. As is well known, at the very dawn of the Enlightenment period, critics of modern European culture, like Rousseau, contended that the modern industrial society brought men not true progress, but moral degradation and degeneration. Contending that the modern industrial city was nothing more than a den of greed and immorality, Rousseau took a firm stand against the developmental trajectory of modern Europe. In his view,

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modern commerce and industry had not, as was envisaged, led to the improvement of “man” himself or to the cultivation of genuine human qualities like friendship, kindness, and love for fellow human beings. Rather, it had reduced most people to poverty and meaningless mechanical labor. No longer did love and humane qualities pervade society, according to Rousseau; rather, the entire social fabric was infested with greed, selfishness, and a relentless quest for luxury. Worse still, according to Rousseau, the entire European culture was infected by a socially cultivated wickedness and immorality often camouflaged by the exhibition of superficial civility. In the end, Rousseau condemned modern society for its lack of genuine development and for imprisoning human beings, who were by nature designed for autonomy and moral agency, in the prison walls of the modern industrial city where they had become nothing but mere slaves and instruments for the generation of wealth. “Man is born free,” he lamented, “but everywhere he is in chains.” As Rousseau saw it, modern man was like a ghost trapped in the rigid body of the modern industrial economy, and although the architects of modernity claimed that the goal of industrial capitalism was the improvement of human life through industrial progress, the capitalist economy had miserably failed to achieve that goal. Private ownership of property had not liberated most men from servitude; rather, it had led them to competition, exploitation, and inequality. Even the arts, like music, painting, and sculpture, which were designed to liberate and elevate the human spirit, had, in Rousseau’s view, done nothing but make men soft and effeminate. Thus, according to him, what the entire modern culture and its urban life had achieved, if one could rightly call it an achievement, was making men morally bankrupt, wicked, idle, and shallow. Consequently, Rousseau concluded that if there was any benefit to modern civilization, it was only for the few at the top, the rich industrial capitalists, who had succeeded in subjecting the rest of humanity to their own selfish goals. Rousseau was a reactionary critic of modern civilization who believed that the material and technological advancement of modern society did not represent genuine progress. Genuine progress in his view would consist of the cultivation of the traditional social values—that is, in the advancement of what he and many of his contemporaries referred to as “culture.” Like some of his equally reactionary contemporaries, he charged that modern “civilization” was in conflict with “culture” and proposed that the only hope for human progress lay in a rejection of civilization and a return to “culture”— that is, to the values and way of life of traditional Europe. As many of his contemporaries understood him, Rousseau’s proposal for liberating humanity from the enslavement of the modern age was to escape from it—that is, from the city where, as he claimed, “the souls of men have become corrupted in proportion as their sciences and arts have advanced toward perfection.” 11 Does this mean, he then asked, that society must be abolished and that “man

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must go back to living in the forests with the bears”? Although he responded to this question by denying that he was proposing a return to mere animal life, his contemporary critics were not convinced by his denial, and some of them pointed out that his own words suggested otherwise, for Rousseau had pleaded: Lay down in the midst of the cities your fatal acquisitions, your restless spirits, your corrupted hearts and unbridled desires. Take up again your ancient and primitive innocence, retire to the woods, there to lose the remembrance of the crimes committed by your contemporaries. Do not be afraid of debasing your species by renouncing its enlightenment in order to renounce its vices. 12 (Emphasis mine)

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When Rousseau’s contemporaries read those words, they clearly understood him to be proposing a rejection of modern civilization and a return to the old ways of village communal life. This proposal, however, raised a great deal of intellectual difficulty for some his contemporaries. How would genuine human freedom be realized in a condition in which human beings lived under the necessities imposed by nature without the benefits of modern industrial technology? Is such a life not more appropriately described as “animal” rather than “human”? Was Rousseau not proposing a return to the “state of nature” that Hobbes would later describe in The Leviathan as “nasty, brutish and short”? Does human progress or development not entail a life higher and nobler than the life of beasts and brutes? It was in light of these issues that Voltaire, after reading The Origin of Inequality, wrote the following famous, but contemptuous, response to Rousseau: I have read your new book against mankind. It is impossible to paint in stronger colors the horrors of human society, from which we in our ignorance and weakness expect so much consolation. Never has so much cleverness been used in trying to turn us into beasts; it makes one feel like walking on all fours, when one reads your work. However, it being more than sixty years since I lost the habit, I feel unfortunately that it is impossible for me to get it back and I’ll leave that natural gait to those who are worthier of it than you and I.” 13 (Emphasis mine)

Ironically, in spite of Rousseau’s numerous critics, the tradition of reactionary criticism of modernity that he inaugurated has endured. It would be invoked again later in the nineteenth century by both the French and German anti-modernists. After World War II and the destruction wrought by modern technology, there was in Europe a widespread disenchantment with modernity’s obsession with scientific and technological progress. According to the new critics of Western industrial culture, more than one millennium of scientific advancement had led not to the wealth and happiness of many, as promised by the apologists of technological progress, but to two world wars.

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Worse still, instead of generating international and global harmony, the new advances in industry has been the direct cause of European imperialism and the consequent colonization of more than three-quarters of the globe. This catalog of modern evils, cleverly camouflaged and justified in the name of scientific and technological progress, also included the Jewish holocaust, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of a nuclear winter that could literally obliterate all life from the earth. Worse still, the critics argued, modern science and technology seemed impotent in the face of world hunger, famine, global poverty, and the exponential growth of the world’s underclass. Thus, their general conclusion was that modern industrial civilization was in reality the antithesis of human progress. For these critics, laissez-faire capitalism and its free market economy constituted the chief obstacles to human development. Thus, although some of the critics acknowledged that capitalism led to the production of material wealth and a vast array of goods and services, they also condemned industrial capitalism on the ground that it bred superficiality, mediocrity, and vulgar consumerism. It led, they claimed, to great disparities in wealth between the rich and poor. It led to the standardization of man or the creation of a class of urban dwellers that were similar only in their unceasing quest for material well-being. It bred a mass of people, they claimed, who have no higher aspiration than “money-making.” Critics like Nietzsche even added that the great flaw of capitalism is that it created a cultural climate in which men were no longer disposed to tolerate any distinctions in rank among men. Men of noble birth and superior breed were now treated with contempt because modern society preferred to level everyone to the same mediocre status and to camouflage this modern prejudice as “equal rights.” Thus, sneering at the purported “accomplishments” of modernity and claiming that it produced nothing but the “last men” and greedy shopkeepers, Nietzsche counseled “the higher men,” the Ubermensch, to avoid the stench and mediocrity of the capitalist marketplace. 14 Marx also would later indict capitalist society for destroying the human spirit and human freedom, but also for destroying the glue that held the social fabric together and for undermining the most idyllic values that traditionally bound human beings to one another. The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—-Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled

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by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-laborers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. . . . All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned. 15

This led Marx to propose that the remedy for the decadence of capitalist society was life in the modern commune where, freed from the fetters of the capitalist division of labor, people would no longer be bound by a single, unending, and alienating labor. Rather, they would be able to express their creative potentialities in activities of their own choosing. They would, for instance, be able to “fish in the morning, hunt in the evening, and read poetry at night time.” 16 It is evident that many of the foremost champions of African freedom and development at the end of the colonial period subscribed to this antimodernism of the European intellectuals of the period. For instance, W. E. B. Du Bois, who was one of the leading North American architects of the panAfrican movement in the 1950s and who, through his extensive publications and political activism, exercised considerable influence on the ideas of future African leaders, unequivocally extolled the pre-industrial and pre-colonial African commune as the model for African and African American future development. As an African American intellectual Du Bois had to wrestle with the question of whether the future course of African and African American development should be in the direction of scientific and technological advancement or if it should proceed in a different direction. A future of industrial and technological development, similar to that of the Western European nations, had been proposed for black America and for the African nations by such important thinkers as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey. However, Du Bois took a stance against such a proposal. According to him, the creation of a black industrial civilization similar to that which existed in Western Europe would simply result in a “servile imitation” of European culture and “the absorption of black civilization into the peculiar vision and ideals of European people.” This “absorption,” he claimed, “would not be liberation, but self-obliteration.” In Du Bois’s view, the developmental aspiration of African and African-descended peoples should not be to replicate the advancement of European peoples, but to preserve the unique and peculiar genius of African people—that is, of the black race. In his view, black people have a racial essence, a “black soul,” that ought to be preserved. In this regard, Du Bois seemed to have been merely echoing a view about the “races” that was prevalent among many European intellectuals in his time. According to many European cultural

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theorists of Du Bois’s era, each of the three traditional races—black, white, and yellow—had its own unique racial character that could possibly be obliterated through contact with the other races. As such, the races, many of them claimed, needed to be protected. For Du Bois, this also meant that African people were endowed with a unique racial identity or a racial soul that was distinct from “the souls of white folk.” This was the famous “souls of black folk” about which Du Bois wrote in his famous book The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois, however, was not the original inventor of the idea of a black racial essence. The German physician and social psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, who taught at the University of Leipzig in the latter part of the nineteenth century, was. Long before Du Bois, Wundt had argued that every race had a unique soul, or a Volksseele, that determined its peculiar mentality and prescribed its unique goal and identity. Toynbee, the British historian, had fabricated a similar theory. According to Toynbee, every civilization had a peculiar spirit and character that determined its unique course of development and subsequent demise. So, echoing similar views about the unique identities and aptitudes of the races, Du Bois went on to proclaim that the goal of black civilization is to make its own unique and different contribution to humanity. It was for this reason he argued that the developmental aspiration of African and African-descended people should not be to duplicate Western industrial civilization, but to make an entirely different contribution. However, in fashioning this argument he came to theorize that industrial civilization was the exclusive product of the white race, the result of the unique genius of European peoples. This implied that scientific and technological capabilities were outside the genius of African people. But this was a very curious point of view because Du Bois lived in the postwar period in which Japan had built a parallel industrial civilization without “self-obliteration” and without indictment from anti-modernist critics that it had lost its unique Japanese soul or abandoned “its own unique civilizational mission.” Nevertheless, Du Bois went on to declare that “the Negro people, as a race, had a unique contribution to make to civilization and to humanity that no other race was predestined to make.” 17 A few difficulties are latent in Du Bois’s theory about the racial mission of African people. On what evidence could he or anyone else prove that African people have a unique contribution to make to humanity? How does the idea of racial uniqueness lead to the notion of a mission at all or even of a unique racial mission? Furthermore, even if we grant that there are races and that these races may possibly have unique missions, how do we determine what the mission of any one of those races ought to be, and by what criteria do we make that determination? Of course, one could argue that the mission could be inferred from the cultural inclinations of the people that are said to constitute a race. However, what will become of that mission if the race in question undergoes a cultural change or a cultural revolution? We know that

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history is replete with cultural revolutions. Europe underwent a cultural revolution when, under the influence and military might of the Roman emperors, European peoples were forced to give up their ancient pagan beliefs and adopt Christianity. A cultural revolution took place in Japan during the Meiji Restoration, and a cultural revolution took place in China during the Great Leap Forward. Again, it is now well established that there is no biological reality that corresponds to what was traditionally conceived as “race.” So, what becomes of Du Bois’s claim that the Negro people as a race have a contribution to make to humanity and that this contribution was unique and could not be made by any other racial group? Ironically, in spite of these theoretical difficulties, Du Bois went on to declare that this peculiar mission of African people was to humanize the world or, as he described it, “to hang, among the gaily-colored banners that deck the broad ramparts of civilization, one banner that is uncompromisingly black.” 18 In essence, Du Bois was assigning a role to African people on the basis of a fiction invented by the leading intellectuals of his generation. Worse still, the role that he chose to assign to African people was that of the custodians of traditional village morality. In doing so, however, he helped to lay the foundation for the view that would later become widely held by the new generation of African politicians and statesmen. That view, that African people are a moral people whose essential mission in the world is to be the conscience of humanity, was later extensively propagated by the champions of Negritude, African humanism, and African socialism, ideologies that later had devastatingly negative effects on Africa’s struggle for development in the post-colonial period. At first sight, Du Bois’s view that the unique mission of African people is to humanize the world seems noble. However, if one recalls that in the Christian West a genuine morality is equated with the love of one’s enemies, the unceasing forgiveness of those who cause us harm, the turning of the other cheek, and the ability to resort to non-violence in dealing even with the violent, then African people’s acceptance of the role of the custodians of this morality would amount ultimately to the very cultural obliteration or cultural suicide that Du Bois sought to avoid. In other words, to propound such a role as a racial mission for a people on account of their historic incapacity to defend themselves from the aggression and violence of the other “races” seems to amount in the end to nothing more than the acceptance of the historic racial weakness of African peoples. It also attempts to do so by camouflaging that weakness as a virtue. The question, however, is why the burden of humanizing the world or being the moral conscience of humanity must fall on the shoulders of African people. Du Bois could have argued no less convincingly that since Europeans saw their great civilizational mission as spreading Christianity and its “gospel of love,” their unique civilizational mission was to humanize the world. But, he did not. Thus, the mission of humanizing the world that he assigned to African people was entirely arbi-

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trary because the basis on which he made this assignment was the historical fact that African people had not recently, considering the long history of civilizations, shown any inclination or passion for making “the machine.” In his novel, Dark Princess, Du Bois made one of his characters state that “the darker peoples are the best—the natural aristocracy, the makers of art, religion, philosophy, life, everything, except the machine.” 19 However, from the historical fact that Europeans and Asians have outdistanced African people in the making of “the machine,” does it follow that it is no longer an appropriate goal for African people to build or create technologically advanced machinery? If the Japanese revolutionaries of the Meiji Restoration had employed Du Bois’s logic, they could have arrived at the conclusion that building a comparable industrial civilization was no longer an appropriate or a fitting mission for Japan in the opening decades of the nineteenth century. They could then have argued, arbitrarily of course, that Japan must seek the path of ethical or moral development and that the unique civilizational mission of modern Japanese people would have to be different from that of Western Europeans. Fortunately for the Japanese people of today, the Meiji Reformers were not ensnared in that kind of sophistry. In their collective view, there was no conflict between morality and industrial development. Rather, as we showed previously, they saw the task of defending Japan from Western invaders as a moral duty. They also saw the means of bridging the gap between Europe’s strength and Japan’s weakness as a moral obligation. “The machine,” to them, was a means and not an end. They embarked on the process of industrialization and modernization not as an end in itself, but as a strategy for preventing the West from imposing its will and its cultural values on “the Japanese soul.” Thus, the source of the famed embarrassment that the Meiji Reformers felt after their encounter with Commodore Perry could not properly be attributed to inordinate cultural pride, as some believe, but to a sense of moral obligation to defend the lives of their people and compel “the invading barbarians” to conform to what they considered to be the dictates of justice. Had the modernization of Japan failed, the freedom of Japanese people in the modern world would have remained merely a fantasy in the minds of the architects of the Restoration. Unlike the Meiji reformers, the most influential African and Africanist thinkers of the post-colonial period not only frowned upon the idea of creating a modern industrial culture in Africa, they consciously denigrated such an ideal by exalting the idyllic life and virtues of the pre-colonial African communes. As we saw above, Du Bois led the way for such thinkers by proclaiming that the pre-colonial African commune, with its simple and uncomplicated social life, was the ideal environment for genuine human growth and freedom. Even when he acknowledged that the pre-colonial African commune lagged behind the modern world in technology and economic development or that its inhabitants were vastly ignorant of modern science or

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that pre-colonial African societies lacked many of the luxuries of modern city life, he still insisted that it was the genuine model of development to which the post-colonial African nations should aspire. He even conceded that people in the pre-colonial African village “suffered terribly from preventable diseases, unnecessary hunger, and from freaks of the weather because of their ignorance of science.” 20 Nevertheless, he declared that life in these African villages was far superior to life in modern cities like London, Paris, or New York. Its superiority, Du Bois claimed, resided in the fact that the village life had social warmth, humaneness, unfettered social freedom, and social intimacy. These social goods, according to him, are largely absent in the modern metropolis. Contrasting the modern city with the African village, Du Bois wrote:

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All these [material] things we [in the United States] have in such crushing abundance that they have mastered us and defeated their real good. We meet human beings in such throngs that we cannot know or even understand them— they become to us inhuman, mechanical, and hateful. We are choked and suffocated, tempted and killed by goods accumulated from the ends of the earth. . . . On the other hand, African life, with its isolation, has deeper knowledge of human souls. The village life, the forest ways, the teeming markets, bring in intimate human knowledge that the West misses, sinking the individual into the social. Africans know fewer folk, but know them infinitely better. Their intertwined communal souls, therefore, brook no poverty nor prostitution—these things are to them ununderstandable. 21

As it turned out, Du Bois’s exaltation of communal life was a common and popular refrain of the French and German anti-modernists. What was new in Du Bois was that he singled out for his exaltation the African village rather than village life in general. This, however, is perplexing since the phenomenon of the village, with its pre-industrial communism and idyllic life, was not unique to Africa. Neither were the humanism, freedom, and social intimacy that Du Bois prized so highly unique to the African village or commune. On the contrary, the village unit has appeared everywhere, among all peoples, even among Western Europeans, and in different historical periods. Furthermore, wherever the village existed, it always exuded the very social warmth and intimacy that Du Bois claimed was unique to the African commune. So, Du Bois’s elevation of life in the pre-colonial African village over the communal warmth exhibited, for instance, in the villages of ancient Greece or Rome, appears to be entirely unwarranted. In other words, the critical question that Du Bois failed to address was what made the rustic and simple freedom of the African village the appropriate model of freedom for modern Africa? Most importantly, even if the freedom made possible by African village life actually constituted the model of human freedom toward which African people today should aspire, how did Du Bois and the other cham-

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pions of a return to Africa’s traditional values propose to halt the advance of Western industrial culture and restore the village life to the numerous metropolises that industrial capitalism had created? This issue is particularly pertinent in light of our observation above that Marx foresaw that Western industrial culture, on account of the cheap prices of its commodities, was destined to batter down all “Chinese walls” and compel all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production. Ironically, Du Bois proposed no strategy by which his utopian vision of freedom in a small communal village could be realized and preserved. When Du Bois led the pan-Africanist movement, the intellectual climate was already saturated with the denigration of modern technological progress. In many scholarly circles of the time, the celebration of rural life as the more authentic realm of moral and human progress was common. Thus, it was not an accident that Du Bois envisioned African rural life as possessing a more legitimate character than the city life of any European capital and that his idea of true freedom would revolve around a return to the values he believed were embodied in the traditional African village. In this regard, Du Bois was merely flowing with the intellectual tide of his era. However, as a thinker whose major intellectual preoccupation was the freedom of African people, he did recognize some flaws in the prevalent social theories of his time and tried to modify them. For instance, he saw that the much-celebrated cultural values of friendship, community, honesty, and absence of greed were not peculiar to the European village. If any peoples were known historically to embody these cultural values, he reasoned, it was African, rather than European, people. In his work The Superior Race, he argued that one of the distinguishing marks of African people was their humaneness. 22 For this reason, he concluded that the African village life was a more appropriate model for the ideal society that was being celebrated by the numerous European critics of modernity. In the African village, he pointed out, there existed all the elements of culture, rather than civilization. There one encountered harmony, love, community, friendship, benevolence, vitality, passion, and artistic creativity. But these were the very qualities being exalted by all the new critics of “civilization” and all the new advocates of “culture.” The result of this insight was that in his vision of African freedom, Du Bois substituted the African village for the European village. However, his criticisms of modern industrial culture were made on the same grounds as the French and German cultural critics of his era, and his solution for overcoming the decadence of modernity was, in the final analysis, not too dissimilar from theirs either. When Sombart, for instance, wrote about modern urban life, he derided it as a form of artificial life laden with artificial enticements and things that ought to be spurned in favor of the more authentic life and joys of the old rural village.

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The child of the city . . . no longer knows the song of the birds and has never examined a bird’s nest; he knows not the significance of the clouds drifting across the sky; he no longer hears the voice of the storm or the thunder. . . . The new race lives an artificial life . . . an involved mixture of scholastic instruction, pocket-watches, newspapers, umbrellas, books, sewage disposal, politics. 23

Like Sombart, Du Bois denigrated modern city life and exalted village life. However, when he exalted village life, it was no longer the European village of the European cultural critics that he had in mind, but the African village. As a champion of black freedom, Du Bois also rejected the racist dimension of the social theories that were prevalent in his time. For many of the French and German critics of modern civilization, there was a racial dimension to the movement of world history. In their view, the impending collapse of Western civilization that they predicted was synonymous with the end of all civilizations, and this vision in itself, were predicated on their claims that only the white race, the Teutonic or Nordic Aryan race, was the source of all cultural achievements. As we saw above, de Gobineau, and to some extent Spengler, made similar claims. Alfred Rosenberg also held similar views. 24 According to them, the Nordic Aryans were the primitive ancestors of the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Hittites, Vikings, and the Germanic tribes, and it was from the creativity of these Aryan ancestors that all the achievements of these past ancient cultures sprang. In simple terms, what their claims amounted to was that the white race, specifically its Nordic branch, was the superior race. However, when they set out to account for the source of the creativity and ingenuity of the Nordic Aryans, they did so in terms of the vitality and natural dynamism of the Aryan race. According to de Gobineau, Spengler, Rosenberg, and even Nietzsche, these Nordic Aryans were by nature endowed with an overabundance of creative energy that could not be contained within their original European homeland. Thus, driven by this vitality and urge to create, they traversed the entire globe in search of exploits and tools and instruments upon which to express this vital energy. They were, Nietzsche claimed, artists—political artists—in search of the canvass (slaves and instruments) on which to express their artistic talents, like the building of nations, empires, and colonies. However, it was the racist implication of this theory that Du Bois rejected. If vitality and creative energy were the distinguishing qualities of the superior race, Du Bois reasoned, would it not follow that the black race is the superior race? For Du Bois, the evidence of history appeared to show unequivocally that the black race was the repository of the vital spirit and creative energy. Their record of artistic achievements from very ancient times down to the present was an indisputable demonstration of that vitality. “The black soul sings and dances,” Du Bois wrote. So, the black soul is artistically creative and it is precisely in its

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creative energy, which is also the characteristic spirit of the African people, in which its vital force resides. The black soul, Du Bois continues, is both indomitable and human. It laughs with a delicious chuckle in spite of centuries of oppression. The white soul, on the other hand, Du Bois claimed, is cold, mechanistic, and inhumane. For Du Bois, the inhumanity of the white soul was exhibited in the very character of the civilization it had constructed. In Du Bois’s view, this European civilization was nothing more than “a system of marvelous contrivances for enslaving the many and enriching the few.” 25 Du Bois then went on to declare that work, commerce, the factory system, mines, skyscrapers, New York, Chicago, Johannesburg, Lyons, and Liverpool were nothing but the evidence of the coldness of the white soul and its system of industrial enslavement. For him Europe’s industrial civilization was simply a “soulless Leviathan,” a “vast industrial monster” that had brought humanity nothing but drab uniformity, enslavement to the machine, and uninteresting drudgery. “If their factories and work gave us rest and leisure, gracious community of thought and feeling, sympathy at human distress, tolerance and understanding,” Du Bois argued, “then the white industrial and technological dominion of the world would be enviable.” However, he lamented, the leviathan has proved to be nothing but a hideous beast and a technological culture that creates “devastating machinery which kills men to make cloth, prostitutes women to rear buildings, and eats little children.” 26 Ultimately, Du Bois concluded, the characteristic spirit or soul of this degenerate and ruthless European industrial culture was its coldness, whereas that of African culture was its humaneness. From the forgoing exposition of Du Bois’s social thought, one can see that he was intellectually anti-modern. In principle, he rejected the notion that progress consists in more and more scientific and technological advancement. For this reason, he saw no need to propose that African people adopt a European model of development. This would explain why Du Bois’s works contain no significant discussion about the role of science and technology in African liberation. It would also account for Du Bois’s notorious hostility toward his contemporaries, like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey, who thought of black freedom in terms of scientific and industrial progress. In Du Bois’s view, life in the rural African village, where the traditional and authentic human virtues abound, was to be preferred to life in Europe’s industrial cities, which to him were nothing but the dens of inhumanity, superficiality, and moral decadence. In fact, Du Bois believed that African people had been wise in refusing to be seduced into treading the path of material advancement. His declaration that black culture is the culture of “supermen who sit idly by and laugh and look at civilization” 27 was meant as a denigration of the primacy that European culture placed on material development and an approval of Africa’s historical indifference to this nonmaterial model of development. He appeared to have been saying that

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African culture is the culture of “supermen,” while European culture is the culture of “undermen.” What sort of life did Du Bois envisage in the African village? An examination of his works reveals that he thought of it in terms similar to Marx and Engels’s thoughts of the socialist commune. In the commune, according to Marx, the fetters of the capitalist division of labor would be thrown off and people would no longer be bound by a single, unending and alienating labor. Instead, all would be able to express their creative potentialities in activities of their own choosing. They would be able to “fish in the morning, hunt in the evening, and read poetry at night time.” Du Bois thought of life and freedom in the African village in very similar terms.

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Then will come a day—an old and ever, ever young day when there will spring in Africa a civilization without coal, without noise, where machinery will sing and never rush or roar, and where men will sleep and think and dance and lie prone before rising sons, and women will be happy. . . . The objects of life will be revolutionized. Our duty will not consist in getting up at seven, working furiously for six, ten and twelve hours, eating in sullen ravenousness or extraordinary repletion. No—we shall dream the day away and in cool dawns, in little swift hours, do all our work. 28

However, the difficulty with this vision of the African future championed by Du Bois is that it was utopian. It was conceived without reference to the actual material conditions in which African people existed and still exist in the modern world. Taking into consideration the history of the successive conquests of African societies and the subjection of African people to enslavement and forced labor by alien conquerors from Asia and Europe, of what value is a conception of African future that is divorced from the political and social conditions of the modern world? In other words, how could African people look forward to a life of freedom and harmony in their isolated African villages in a world in which, on account of the absence of modern technology and their lack of knowledge about modern industrial techniques, they remain perpetually subject and vulnerable to the wills of nations and states with more advanced industrial technology? On this issue, one should recall Marx’s prophetic pronouncement in the Communist Manifesto—namely, that since “the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole face of the globe, it must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere and establish connections everywhere.” In fact, according to Marx, capitalism, because of the rapid improvement of all instruments of production and the immensely facilitated means of communication, “draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization.” 29 And, Marx continues, on account of the cheap prices of its commodities, it was bound to batter down all Chinese walls and compel all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production. 30 The subsequent

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history of the world, especially the continuing globalization of the world’s economy today, has shown that Marx’s prediction in this regard was accurate. Thus, one can see that a main weakness in Du Bois’s vision of African liberation and that of any of the proponents of a return to pre-colonial African life and its communal values was that their theories were silent on the strategy by which African people could shield themselves from the inevitable and imminent battering of their “Chinese walls” by the imperialists armed with the artillery and products of modern industrial technology. Given the speed and the ease with which African villages were decimated by Europe’s industrial economy in the past, the continuing exaltation of pre-colonial African communal life, and even its system of values, as a model for Africa’s future development appears to be, in the final analysis, a subversion of black freedom.

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NEGRITUDE AND ITS PHILOSOPHICAL HOSTILITY TO TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT Du Bois was not the only influential advocate of African unity and freedom who propounded a philosophy of development that was anti-modern, antiindustrial, and anti-technological. Other equally influential leaders of panAfricanism who succeeded him held similar views. The most prominent among them were the three Francophone African scholars who met as students in France in the 1930s. Together, these three scholars—Aimé Césaire of Martinique, Léon Gontran Damas of French Guiana, and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal—founded a movement they christened Negritude. As a movement, Negritude was understood as a philosophy of liberation designed to free African people from their long-standing subjection to European racism and European racial oppression. However, instead of propounding a philosophy of material and technological development that would truly liberate African people from their poverty and industrial servitude, they collectively propounded a post-modernist theory of African liberation. Criticizing Europe’s industrial culture for its crass materialism and moral coldness, they denigrated the idea of African material and technological advancement and proposed that Africa’s development must not be a duplication of the Western European model. This section explores the ideas of African liberation propounded by two of the most prolific champions of Negritude, Senghor and Césaire. The purpose of this exploration is to show in what ways their versions of Negritude denigrated the idea of material progress or ignored its importance altogether.

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Léopold Sédar Senghor: Technology Is European, but Artistic Genius Is African Senghor rose to prominence in the 1930s as a co-founder of the Negritude movement. A staunch opponent of the French policy of assimilation in Africa and a champion of African independence from colonialism, Senghor fiercely defended the view that Africans and Europeans were racially equal and called upon African people everywhere to resist the worldwide attempts by Europeans to relegate them to an inferior racial status. However, Senghor was also equally aware that the gross economic underdevelopment of Africa and the primitive state of science and technology on the African continent were the pillars upon which the racialist theorists rested their beliefs in both the superiority of European peoples and the inferiority of African peoples. Consequently, he undertook to offer the world an explanation of the source of the disparate developments in Europe and Africa. However, like many of his contemporaries, the explanation he offered was a racial one. According to him, the different levels of development in Western Europe and Africa arose from the unique racial aptitudes of African and European peoples. Contending that African and European peoples were by nature endowed with different intellectual skills and abilities, Senghor went further to declare that the natural African aptitudes were for art and rhythm, while the European aptitude were mainly for analytic and mathematical thought. Every race, he claimed, has a distinct racial soul or essence that endowed it with its own distinguishing characteristics and pre-determined its potential cultural achievements. So, maintaining that African people have their characteristic racial soul, which he called “âme noire,” Senghor proceeded to propound a litany of the attributes of this soul. According to him, the black soul is primarily a soul that feels, empathizes, and intuits. It is sensual. It is also emotional and, according to Senghor, expresses itself primarily in music, dance, poetry, and a variety of other kinds of artistic creativity. The white soul, on the other hand, is rational and intellectual. According to Senghor, the white soul is logical and is naturally impelled toward mathematical and factual knowledge. Invoking Nietzsche’s famous distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian spirits, Senghor described European culture as essentially Apollonian and African culture as essentially Dionysian. 31 Furthermore, borrowing de Gobineau’s now infamous claim that “emotion is Negro while reason is Greek,” Senghor embarked on various intellectual efforts to convince his contemporaries that emotional and intuitive knowledge were characteristically African, while logical and scientific understanding were primarily European. [T]he Negro feels words and ideas . . . he is peculiarly responsive to the sensible—I might even say “sensual”—qualities of words, and to the spiritual, not intellectual, properties of ideas. . . . Emotion is Negro, just as reason is Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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Greek. . . . The very way the Negro feels explains the way he perceives objects, sees their essence with a directness that is almost violent, loses himself in them, needs them, communes with them, even identifies with them. 32 (Emphasis mine)

One must note that Senghor’s purpose in declaring that emotion is Negro and reason is Greek was not merely theoretical. Rather, his goal was to rescue African people from what he saw as the racial contempt with which Western Europeans and the rest of the developed world had traditionally treated them, especially on account of the underdevelopment of the African continent. He was in essence undertaking to help African people regain their self-esteem by informing the world that it was not on account of any cultural inferiority or moral defect that African people had failed to build a modern industrial civilization comparable to that of Western Europe. In essence, he was claiming that African underdevelopment occurred because African people, being naturally and psychologically predisposed to see and understand the world intuitively and in non-scientific terms, chose to build a distinctively different civilization.

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[T]he African has always and everywhere presented a concept of the world which is diametrically opposed to the traditional philosophy of Europe. The latter is essentially static, objective, and dichotomic. It is in fact dualistic in that it makes an absolute distinction between body and soul, matter and spirit. It is founded on separation and opposition, on analysis and conflict. The African, on the other hand, conceives the world, beyond the diversity of forms, as a fundamentally mobile, yet unique reality that seeks synthesis. 33

However, in taking the stance that African people are not by nature disposed to scientific and technological achievement, Senghor was inadvertently offering an apology for African underdevelopment. In concrete terms, his position was that neither the purported “underdevelopment” of Africa nor the purported backwardness of African people was in any genuine sense an underdevelopment or backwardness. Rather, these were merely the uncritical opinions of those who failed to understand the uniqueness of African and European peoples and, consequently, were unable to recognize the equally unique contributions that these disparate races were designed to make to human civilization. What unique contribution were African people designed to make to human progress? According to Senghor, that mission is not the advancement of science and technology, but rather to humanize the world. In his view, African people were, by virtue of their unique racial aptitudes, called to be the fire that brings joy and warmth to the cold and lifeless world of modern industrial society. Envisioning the progress of humanity as advancing toward a global civilization, Senghor proposed that a global civilization will be one

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in which the unique contributions of African people will be recognized as being on par with the equally unique contributions of European people. In such a world, he delightfully proclaimed, the coldness of European industrial civilization will be fused and leavened with African warmth and African values. In a theory reminiscent of the evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin, whom Senghor admired as a visionary philosopher, Senghor declared that the modern world was evolving toward a new humanism in which the traditional attempts by Western Europeans to assimilate Africans would eventually be understood as both a violation of their unique African nature and an attempt to undermine their uniqueness as a people. Similarly, African people, for their part, will come to view the attempt to absorb them into Western civilization as an attempt to subvert the potential contributions that African people were destined to make to both the present and future world civilization. For this reason, he urged African people not to arrive empty-handed on the dawn of this global civilization, insisting that it would be a betrayal of the destiny of African people to co-exist in this new world without being the yeast that leavened modern industrial society and the rhythm that brought joy and fire to the cold and lifeless modern industrial world of guns and machines.

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Let us report present at the rebirth of the World. Like the yeast which the flower needs. For who would teach rhythm to a dead world of machines and guns? Who would give the cry of joy to wake the dead and the orphans at dawn? Say, who would give back the memory of life to the man whose hopes are smashed? 34

Senghor was steadfast and unequivocal in his belief that a gross error of modernity is its expectation that African people excel in science and technology. It was an error, he believed, because African people were neither by nature or by temperament suited for such excellence. This was the message that many of Senghor’s contemporaries heard in a multitude of his speeches and lectures. In a 1937 lecture to the members of the International Congress on the Cultural Evolution of Colonial Countries, for instance, he told his audience in effect that African people have no natural aptitude for science and technology. After the address, the congress published a summary and a refutation of Senghor’s central message. As the congress reported, Senghor had not only contested the right of the European nations to impose a uniform culture on the human race, he had also claimed that “to apply to Africans a mold of civilization which is neither made for or by them, and for which they are not made, would be to commit an error in orientation and to perpetuate a real injustice that would result in miserable half breeds who are coated with a varnish that would not penetrate because it could not penetrate.” 35 In other words, in the course of that address, Senghor’s audience understood him as saying that African people are a different breed of human beings, that they

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have a different nature, and that the role for which they were designed by nature is to be the artists and entertainers of the rest of humanity. They also understood him as declaring that the ideal human future ought to be one in which European technological advancement will be wedded to cultural warmth and humanistic values of African peoples and that it would be a betrayal of the mission of African people for them to abandon this racial role. Thus, according to the report of the congress, Senghor was philosophically hostile to any suggestion that African people duplicate the European model of development because he was convinced that such an aspiration would result in the betrayal of the racial mission of African people. Senghor’s advocacy of a new humanism in which African people would play the part of musicians and entertainers for the rest of humanity was an apology for African underdevelopment, yet it is commonly described as a brilliant synthesis of both European and African cultural values. Typically, his admirers see him as a humane thinker who was at the same time a staunch and passionate champion of African liberation. However, a closer examination of his vision of African freedom reveals a host of conceptual difficulties. First, his reassertion of de Gobineau’s claim that reason is Hellenic while emotion is African is philosophically problematic. What evidence demonstrates the truth of this assertion? Furthermore, on what facts could Senghor have arrived at the conclusion that African people do not possess the intellectual ability to build a modern industrial society? From Senghor’s works, it would seem that he arrived at that conclusion by the same inductive process as the most prominent racist theorists, like de Gobineau and Chamberlain. De Gobineau had reasoned, for instance, that African people, being the first to inhabit the planet, had existed for such an incredibly long period on the globe without any great scientific and technological accomplishments. According to de Gobineau, all the great accomplishments that can rightfully be attributed to African people have been in the realms of music, dance, and artistic creativity. In agreement with de Gobineau’s view, other proponents of black racial inferiority have pointed out that Africans were so technologically backward that even by the fifteenth century they had not invented the wheel. 36 As a result of these criticisms, the racist theorists typically concluded that Africans were not a very intelligent people. During the Enlightenment period, a variety of racialist theorists argued that African people were by nature a passionate and an emotional people who lived on the basis of their instincts, rather than reason. Ironically, Senghor appeared to have subscribed to these racialist points of view. When, for instance, he looked back at the legendary civilization of ancient Egypt, he saw a great culture in which African people played essentially the role of artists, while the Europeans played the part of architects and builders. According to Senghor, ancient Egypt at the height of its splendor was populated by members of various races. A third of the population, he claimed, was of European extraction,

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while another third was of Negroid ancestry. The rest, according to him, were a hybrid of all the other races. However, he continued, even in that great civilization “the Negroes brought the sense of rhythm, the sense of color, the sense of joy, and the artistic sense, while those of European ancestry brought the methodical spirit and the spirit of organization.” 37 Armed with this belief about the roles of the races in ancient Egypt, Senghor proclaimed that African people have always demonstrated that they are racially distinct from Europeans and that European people have always exhibited, as a people, a colder, more logical, and more dispassionate attitude toward human life. However, as we have argued above, this reasoning is deeply flawed. From the fact that African societies, even up to the nineteenth century, had made no giant strides in science and technology, it does not follow that they were incapable of making such advancements. It also does not follow that such a trajectory of progress was inconsistent with the natural aptitudes of the people. As we pointed out previously, Western Europeans basked in superstition and technological underdevelopment well into the beginning of the early modern period, yet they eventually emerged from what is commonly described by historians as the European “Dark Ages” and became the leading scientific and technological innovators in the modern period. A similar phenomenon occurred in Japan and China, and even in many of the developed countries of today. In pre-Meiji Japan, it was common for European cultural chauvinists to claim that the Japanese people were of mediocre intelligence and were good only at imitating and duplicating the inventions of others. Left to themselves, the chauvinists believed, the Japanese were incapable of building a modern technologically advanced society comparable to those that existed in Western Europe. However, after the Meiji Restoration and the cultural reforms that it introduced, Japan emerged from its technological slumber and became one of the leading industrial nations of the twentieth century. Thus, Senghor’s inference about the intellectual aptitudes of African people on the basis of their historical and cultural propensities flies in the face of well-established historical facts about the development of once backward peoples. In Senghor’s envisioned global civilization, African people are consigned to the same roles they have always played—that of entertainers and artists. They are, according to Senghor, the rhythm that brings joy and fire to the cold and lifeless world of the modern industrial society. Ironically, Senghor’s goal in advocating a new humanism was to restore to African people the racial equality that was stripped from them through the slave trade and the colonial domination of Africa by the Western European nations. However, if in the coming new world the role of African people remained historically unchanged, what would compel European people who continued to believe firmly in the superiority of the intellect over the passions and emotions to place artistic creativity on a par with technological advancement and come to

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see African people as their equals? It is well known that historically the Western intellectual tradition enthroned reason over emotion and, on the basis of this alleged superiority of reason, discredited peoples and cultures that were believed, accurately and inaccurately, to be driven by the emotions. Plato, for instance, argued that reason was superior to the passions and that it was the duty of those governed by reason to rule over those who were driven by their passions and emotions. Referring to those governed by their reason as made of gold and all others as made of either silver or bronze, Plato, in the Republic, declared that it was the proper function of those made of gold to assume the role of legislators and the reins of political power. Similarly, Aristotle argued that those who were by nature endowed with inferior intelligence were also by virtue of that inferiority designed by nature to be slaves. The intellectually inferior, he claimed, were “the lower sorts of men,” and “it was better for them, as for all inferiors, to be under the rule of a master.” So, in assigning to African people both an inferior intelligence and the role of artists and musicians, a role that even Plato contended must be proscribed in the ideal republic, Senghor was essentially urging African people to remain content with the role that they had always played and to be proud of their purported lack of technological accomplishments. He was, in essence, philosophically subverting the very freedom of African people that he purported to be championing. This is because if Africans are unable to produce what they need for their own livelihood in the modern world and depend for that livelihood on the material products of Europe and other parts of the advanced world, they will always be treated as racially inferior. As Hodge once pointed out, Europeans have always associated African people with sensuality and an inability to develop advanced technology and, on the basis of that association, they have always concluded that African people were the intellectual inferiors of Europeans. Just as Westerners typically consider a society or culture inferior which has not developed technological control over nature, so do they also consider inferior a society or culture which has not subordinated sensuality, emotionality, and bodily expression to the strictest control of the will. The cultures of West Africa . . . exhibited neither elaborate technology, nor rigid control over sensuality and bodily expression. The frequent association of black people with animals reveals the Western disgust with the sensual, with nature, and with the body—all three of which are generally considered related objects to be controlled. . . . We cannot fully understand racism unless we understand it in part as a reflection of a Western bias against African culture. 38

The philosophy of Negritude, Senghor’s version or any other, is ultimately hostile to genuine African development. It undermines the very foundation on which a genuine African freedom—that is, Africa’s freedom from imperialism and neo-colonialism—could be erected. As a student of African histo-

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ry, Senghor was aware of the successive conquests and destruction of African states and empires and that these conquests and their accompanying enslavement and oppression of African people were made possible primarily by Africa’s technological underdevelopment. However, instead of addressing the true source of this underdevelopment and devising an adequate blueprint for overcoming it, he chose to become an apologist for Africa’s backwardness. As his biographer, Hymans, accurately charged, by conceiving his new humanistic society as an orchestra in which Europe would play the part of the conductor while Africans played the drums, Senghor “relegated Africa to a subsidiary role in the field of technology.” 39 This meant, in reality, Hymans continued, that Senghor envisioned that Africa would supply the Civilization of the Universal only with its more exotic needs, while Europe supplied it with its real needs. But, Hymans concluded, this amounts to condemning Africa to continuing the traditional unfavorable terms of trade with Europe and the rest of the world. Did Senghor’s contemporaries understand his claim that emotion is Negro as reason is Greek to mean that African people were less intelligent than Europeans, or is that just a later misunderstanding of Senghor’s version of Negritude? The criticisms directed at Senghor’s Negritude by his contemporaries provide ample testimony that the intellectuals of his time understood his viewpoint to be that African people were intellectually inferior to Europeans. They also understood him to be declaring without justifiable evidence that industrial and technological progress were beyond the ability of African people and, consequently, that their role, given their lesser intellectual abilities, was to be the entertainers that bring warmth, joy, and laughter to the cold and joyless world built by European industrial technology. For this reason, Senghor’s new humanism was furiously criticized by a variety of his contemporaries. One of his most widely known critics was the Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, who denounced Senghor’s Negritude for taking “too much coloring from European ideas” and for failing to challenge the basic, but false, premises of European racist logic. Those flawed premises, according to Soyinka, were the declarations that Europeans are capable of analytical thought and scientific inventiveness, while Africans are only capable of emotional and intuitive understanding. Instead of demolishing those “false premises,” Soyinka lamented, Senghor and the Negritude philosophers tacitly accepted them and even sought to introduce an additional false premise of their own. The premise they added was that “intuitive understanding,” which is exemplified in dance and rhythm, was uniquely African, but not European. With this additional premise, the proponents of Negritude confidently declared that the races were in some mysterious ways equal and that this equality ought to be realized in a “symbiotic human culture” in which both Europeans and Africans were to dwell in universal brotherhood, with Africans constituting the “black leaven in the white metallic loaf.” So, the

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Negritude thinkers declared boldly that a future civilization would arise in which Africa’s inherent humanism and artistic talent would constitute the heart and soul of Europe’s industrial culture. Unfortunately, Soyinka’s lamentation continued, such utopian aspirations did not possess the power to wipe away the undying and long-standing European belief that African people are incapable of scientific reasoning and, as such, constituted an inferior human stock. Continuing his criticism of the philosophy of Negritude, Soyinka wrote:

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How could the mistake ever have been made that the new propositions [“Intuitive understanding is also a mark of high human development; the African employs intuitive understanding; therefore, the African is highly developed”] wiped away the inherent insult in [the syllogism: “Analytical thought is a mark of high human development; the African is incapable of analytical thought; therefore, the African is not highly developed”], which was merely a development of the racist assumptions [in the original racist syllogism: “Analytical thought is a mark of high human development; the European employs analytical thought; therefore, the European is highly developed”]. They [the Negritude philosophers] said, oh yes, the Gobineaus of this world are right; Africans neither think nor construct, but it doesn’t matter because—voila!—they intuit. And so they moved to construct a romantic edifice, confident that its rhythmic echoes would drown the repugnant conclusion of [the second syllogism: “Analytical thought is a mark of high human development; the African is incapable of analytical thought; therefore, the African is not highly developed”], which, of course simply refused to go away. How could it, when its premises were constantly reinforced by affirmations such as this: “. . . emotion is completely Negro as reason is Greek.” 40

Soyinka decried Senghor and the Negritude philosophers for uncritically accepting the racist claims that European people were more intelligent than Africans and, as such, constituted a superior race. Negritude, he argued, strangely lent approval to the syllogism that since analytical thought was a mark of high human development and Europeans uniquely employed analytical thought, it followed that Europeans were superior to Africans. 41 Had the Negritude philosophers rejected and demolished that syllogism, he believed, African people would have been freed from “the burden of its acceptance.” Unfortunately, they did not, and Soyinka claimed to have assumed the burden of correcting their “initial error.” Proposing that the word “man” be substituted for “European” in the infamous syllogism in question, Soyinka argued that the position that ought to have been taken by the proponents of Negritude is that it is “man” per se that has the capacity for analytical thought, not necessarily the European man. There are no “watertight categories” of either analytical thought or the creative spirit, his argument ran, since those qualities and aptitudes can be found among the different varieties of men living in every culture and continent, and not necessarily in Western

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Europe. Thus, the Negritude thinkers erred when they accepted the truncation of the human genius by the racist ideologues and acquiesced in the false conclusion “that the black man has nothing between his ears.” Unfortunately, armed with that gross error, Soyinka charged, “the proponents of Negritude proceeded to subvert the power of poetry” by “glorifying their fabricated justification of European domination.” 42 A criticism like Soyinka’s of Senghor’s Negritude was also made by René Ménil. In 1963, Ménil charged Senghor with erecting his entire intellectual edifice on a falsehood—namely, a truncated view of human nature.

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[Intelligence] is beneficial and he [Senghor] attributes it to the whites. . . . On the other hand, emotion, magic, rhythm, imagination, dance, etc.—the Negro’s lot [and] reason, science, technology, the faculty of thinking logically, etc.— the white man’s lot. One mentality, the Negro, is the logical opposite of the other, the white. Here we are facing two human worlds which are mutilated and incomplete. The Negro is only the darkened and inverted shadow of the white. Two halves of humanity to one of which certain faculties are lent only on the condition that they be refused to the other. Neither Senghor’s Negroes nor his whites are men, if to be a man it is necessary to enjoy all the aptitudes of sensitivity, reason and practical will, if to be a man it is necessary to be capable of the infinity of operations proper to the human species. To sum up, in the Senghorian theory, it is necessary to add and combine one white and one Negro to have one man. 43

Senghor’s denigration of the intelligence of African people may have been inadvertent. He lived in an age when discursive reason was under attack from various quarters, especially from the leading French and German vitalists of his time. Seduced by the vitalism of his era, Senghor’s goal was to portray Africa as a vitalist culture akin to that being celebrated by the antimodernists. So, he propounded the theory that African culture was a vitalist culture, a culture bubbling with life and energy, as opposed to the cold and lifeless industrial culture of modern Europe. Ironically, in order to paint that picture of a vibrantly superior African culture, he turned to the vitalism of Bergson and even to the racialism of de Gobineau. Bergson and de Gobineau were among the foremost proponents of vitalism in his era. According to Hymans, Senghor’s biographer, in Senghor’s search for arguments against the notion of black inferiority, he curiously turned to de Gobineau’s Essay on the Inequality of Human Races and adopted de Gobineau’s phrase that “emotion is Negro, while reason is Hellenic.” 44 As we have pointed out, de Gobineau invoked the inner vitalism and creativity of the Nordic Aryans as the basis for his claims about their racial superiority. It was their inner energy and innate impulse to create, he claimed, that drove Aryans all over the world to build empires and civilizations. However, in propounding his doctrine of Aryan vitalism, de Gobineau conveniently ignored the historical displays of

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the same sort of artistic energy among non-European peoples. He claimed, for instance, that the reputed artistic energy of African people was limited to their expression of emotion in music and dance. He further claimed that this limitation accounted for their inferiority to the Aryan Blond Beasts whose vitality and creativity extended to the political, economic, and technological realms. However, perceiving this inconsistency in de Gobineau’s theory of Aryan racial superiority, Senghor, along with the other proponents of Negritude, strove to extend to African people the racial superiority the Germans had falsely denied them by dishonestly and arrogantly appropriating it exclusively to themselves. As Senghor admitted, it was European thinkers who ironically provided him with the weapons with which he tried to counter their denigration of African people.

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Our distrust of European values quickly turned into disdain—why hide it— into racism. We thought—and we said—that we Negroes were the salt of the Earth, that we were the bearers of an unheard-of message—and that no other race could offer it but us. Unconsciously, by osmosis and reaction at the same time, we spoke like Hitler and the Colonialists, we advocated the virtues of the blood. . . . Relying on the work of anthropologists, prehistorians, ethnologists—paradoxically white—we proclaimed ourselves, along with Aimé Césaire, the “Eldest sons of the Earth.” Did we not dominate the world, up to and including the Neolithic period, fertilize the civilizations of the Nile and of the Euphrates before they became the innocent victims of white barbarians, nomads melting out of the Eurasian plateaux? I confess it, our pride turned quickly into racism. Even Nazism was accepted to reinforce our refusal to cooperate. 45

Unfortunately, those ethnologists and philosophers on whom Senghor and the rest of the Negritude philosophers relied were also anti-intellectual enemies of modern progress. In 1963 René Ménil described them as essentially reactionaries who, in their nostalgia for the past, were hostile to progress and to reason. Faced with the negative aspects of modern technology, especially its exploitation of the modern worker, these vitalists, according to Ménil, “preferred the backward-looking formulations of magic and religious obscurantism, and advocated a new golden age, a return to nature, a new sort of feudalism.” 46 In Ménil’s view, Césaire, Senghor, and their disciples were seduced by the false philosophies of Novalis, Frobenius, and Bergson, who were nothing but “superstitious spiritualists.” 47 Hymans agrees with Ménil’s claim about the source of Negritude’s anti-intellectualism and its consequent opposition to industrial progress. He writes that “Senghor and the other militants of négritude participated in the war against technology and the machine age which was waged by many young French intellectuals in the 1930s.” 48 Furthermore, he explained, Senghor employed the concept of African humanism to combat those who valued industrialism over humanism. 49

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Aimé Césaire: Celebrating the Idyllic Life of Pre-Industrial Africa Like Du Bois and Senghor, Aimé Césaire contributed immensely to the antiintellectualism and anti-modernism of the new African elite. Although he was a Martinican poet and playwright, he was a staunch advocate of African independence from colonialism and co-founded the Negritude movement with Senghor. As a champion of the freedom of African people and Africandescended people, Césaire wrote furiously and eloquently not only against Europe’s colonization of Africa, but also against the contemptuous assertions of European racial and cultural superiority by a variety of European thinkers. And, in his diatribes against European racism, he called upon African people to cultivate racial and cultural pride. However, like many of his contemporaries, he too contrasted in his works the warmth and humanism of traditional African life with the coldness and materialism of Europe’s technological and industrial culture. His central message to black people was to reclaim their traditional African values and reject assimilation and absorption by Western Europe. Unfortunately, in celebrating traditional African culture and attempting to demonstrate its equality with European culture, Césaire also became seduced by the false and racist notion that European peoples were by virtue of their race naturally endowed with analytic intelligence and mathematical ability, while African people were by their racial constitution endowed primarily with passion, warmth, and artistic genius. Relying on this contrived view of human nature, he concluded that it was this disparate nature of Africans and Europeans that led to their disparate levels of development, which were in reality separate ideas of development. According to him, the analytic nature of European people led them to blaze the path of scientific, technological, and industrial progress, while the artistic nature of African people, on the other hand, led them to develop a civilization that revolved essentially around artistic creativity. However, what is perplexing about Césaire’s racialist theory is that as a student of African history he was aware that technological inferiority played a most vital role in the colonization of Africa and the enslavement of African people. Yet, he seemed blissfully oblivious to the role that modern industrial development could play in making the freedom of African people a reality. Rather, as Senghor, his cotheorist would later reveal, both he and Césaire preferred to adopt de Gobineau’s view that each race had its own racial soul and thus its own unique contribution to the human family. So, while exhorting African people to resist racial assimilation and absorption, Césaire was also urging African people not to betray their genius by attempting to become that which they were not by nature—that is, not to attempt to build a civilization for which they were poorly equipped or to adopt a system of values that was antithetical to the moral and spiritual nobility of their traditional African values.

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Césaire contended furthermore that Western European culture was essentially a racist and barbaric culture and, as such, was unworthy of emulation by African peoples. In his famous “Discourse on Colonialism,” Césaire employed a battery of disparaging terms to describe the civilization built by modern Europeans. He called it “a stricken and dying civilization,” “a civilization that used and still uses its principles for trickery and deceit,” “a decadent and morally bankrupt civilization,” and “a civilization that was incapable of solving the major problems it has created.” 50 Those problems, according to Césaire, included colonialism and mass poverty. Colonialism, he declared, led to genocide and the mass murder of non-European peoples around the globe. Recalling the genocides against the native inhabitants of Indochina, Madagascar, the West Indies, and Vietnam in the nineteenth century, Césaire contended that these massacres were integral consequences of Europe’s industrial greed. “Think of it,” he wrote, “ninety thousand dead in Madagascar! Indochina trampled underfoot, crushed to bits, assassinated— tortures brought back from the depths of the Middle Ages!” 51 Indeed, he argued, if one considers Western Europe’s history of brutality, sadism, covetousness, violence, race hatred, enslavement of African people, and callous use of force against non-European peoples across the globe, Western European civilization could not even be rightly described as a civilization at all, but a wild and regressive culture. First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and interrogated, all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery. 52

Césaire’s purpose, however, was not merely to chastise Europeans for their colonial atrocities. Instead, his aim was to show that barbarism was an inherent rather than an accidental feature of Western European culture, and that colonialism represented a regression from true civilization. For instance, the emergence of Hitler, he claimed, was not an aberration. It was rather a logical consequence of the sort of culture represented by Western Europe. In his view, a Hitler cannot but emerge from a culture that had for centuries glo-

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rified and canonized moral evil. And that culture, he claimed, was that of Western Europe. In his view, Western Europe has historically been comfortable with the murder and brutalization of non-European peoples. Thus, for Césaire, the commonplace European denunciation of Hitler was mere hypocrisy. European statesmen denounced Hitler, he claimed, only because Hitler inverted Europe’s own barbarism and turned it against the Europeans themselves. But long before Europeans were its victims, Césaire insisted, they were its accomplices. They tolerated Nazism in many ways before it was inflicted on them. “They absolved it,” Césaire wrote, “shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples.” 53 Before Nazism engulfed the entire European world, Césaire charged, it had reddened the European cultural waters until, with Nazism, the bloody water finally oozed, seeped, and trickled from every crack. Unfortunately, Césaire lamented, one of the most tragic consequences of this immanent barbarism was the destruction of African civilizations. With the European colonization of Africa, the world witnessed the wholesale devastation of peaceful African populations and the noble cultures they had built. With the arrival of European colonial administrations, the formerly free peoples of Africa were reduced to servitude and forced labor. Thus, colonialism was merely a weapon with which European people destroyed flourishing African states and empires and confiscated African lands for the settlement of transplanted Europeans. Who has not heard of the record of European atrocities in Africa and around the world? I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out . . . I am talking about thousands of men sacrificed to the Congo-Ocean. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life—from the dance, from wisdom. 54

Having denounced European culture as an intrinsically evil and barbaric culture, and having castigated European peoples for their long list of past and continuing atrocities against African people, Césaire proceeded to propound his theory of development. African people, he proposed, should seek to develop a new personality that refuses to be assimilated into European culture. He coined the name “Negritude” to describe this new personality. According to him, “Negritude” was a call to reject the European effort to assimilate and thereby culturally dominate and absorb African people. It was a call for an African rebellion against Western Europe’s cultural imperialism, a call for African people to affirm the equal validity of their own racial and cultural values. Expounding his own understanding of Negritude, Césaire wrote:

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I used the term (Negritude) first, that’s true . . . it was really a resistance to the politics of assimilation. Until that time, until my generation, the French and the English but especially the French—had followed the politics of assimilation unrestrainedly. We didn’t know what Africa was. Europeans despised everything about Africa, and in France people spoke of a civilized world and a barbarian world. The barbarian world was Africa, and the civilized world was Europe. Therefore the best thing one could do with an African was to assimilate him: the ideal was to turn him into a Frenchman with black skin. 55

Césaire, however, was not content with exhorting African people to resist European cultural domination. He went further to celebrate Africa’s lack of development as a symbol of virtue and cultural nobility. Invoking his belief that the African genius lies in artistic, rather than technological, excellence, Césaire delightfully concluded that African people had historically chosen a trajectory of advancement that rejected modern scientific and technological development. In a commonly quoted passage in Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natale, Césaire jubilated at the “news” that was propagated by the antimodernists of his days that Western civilization, in spite of its technological achievements, was on the verge of collapse. “Listen to the white world; how it resents its great efforts,” Césaire wrote. “Listen how their defeats sound from their victories. . . . Mercy! Mercy for our omniscient, naive conquerors.” 56 Confident of this imminent collapse of the Western industrial culture, Césaire went on to proclaim that it was to African people—the oppressed, the passionate, the artistic, those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass, those who never knew how to master steam or electricity, those who explored neither sea nor sky and for whom the culture of the machine never held any attraction—that the future belonged. In their failure to tread the path of scientific and technological progress, African people, Césaire declared, had kept true to their racial soul and had actually chosen the better and wiser course. The wretched were, after all, destined to inherit the earth. Hurray for those who never invented anything; Hurray for those who never explored anything; Hurray for those who never conquered anything; Hurray for joy; Hurray for love; Hurray for the pain of incarnate tears. 57

This is now a celebrated passage. However, in it, Césaire’s anti-modernist stance is unmistakable. As a student in France, he was already familiar with French postmodernism, especially with the vitalism of Bergson. 58 Bergson had claimed that human beings were endowed with a vital essence, an élan vital, but that the modern industrial culture was gradually sapping away that vital essence. According to him, Western industrial society was decadent because it promoted merely the mechanical aspect of life, a lifeless mécanisme, and denigrated the human vital essence. 59 In his day, Bergson was the

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most influential champion of anti-intellectualism up to the middle of the twentieth century and, as Herman notes in The Idea of Decline in Western History, it was from him that a host of later famous scholars, including Jacques Maritain, Aimé Césaire, and Jean-Paul Sartre, drew their own inspiration. 60 In essence, when Césaire gave a cheer to those who never invented anything, explored anything, or conquered anything, he was in reality denigrating modern industrial society and celebrating the idyllic life of the preindustrial village. This was consistent with the tradition of classical French anti-modernism. This was also precisely how his audience understood him— namely, as one of the prophets of a return to the pre-modern past and as a thinker who lamented the decadence of the industrial present and glorified the warmth and fraternity of the pre-industrial past. Césaire, of course, insisted that he was not one of the prophets of a return.

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[I]t seems that in certain circles they pretend to have discovered in me an “enemy of Europe” and a prophet of a return to the ante-European past. For my part, I search in vain for the place where I could have expressed such views; where I ever underestimated the importance of Europe in the history of human thought; where I ever preached a return of any kind; where I ever claimed that there could be a return. The truth is that I have said something very different. . . . For us, the problem is not to make a utopian and sterile attempt to repeat the past, but to go beyond. It is not a dead society that we want to revive. We leave that to those who go in for exoticism. Nor is it the colonial society that we wish to prolong, the most putrid carrion that ever rotted under the sun. [Rather] it is a new society that we must create, with the help of all our brother slaves, a society rich with all the productive power of modern times, [but] warm with all the fraternity of olden days. 61

However, given the passion with which he wrote about the inherent barbarity of European culture and contrasted it with the humanity and vitality of African people, it was difficult for his audience not to understand his brand of Negritude as philosophically and ideologically anti-modernist. In essence, Césaire’s response to the European domination and oppression of African people was to exhort African people to cultivate cultural pride. He exhorted African people to take pride in things African—for instance, in African art, music, sculpture, literature, dance, history, and African values in general. In the final analysis, his philosophy of Negritude was merely a species of the “Black Pride” movement that was fashioned in the United States in the 1930s as a counterattack to the denigration and attempted absorption of African Americans into white American culture. Unfortunately, historical hindsight shows that the mere rejection of racial assimilation or integration is hardly a legitimate response to the problem of the racial domination of African people. If, as we noted above, the feeling of white racial superiority rests mainly on the industrial might of the West, along with the economic and military

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power that the Western Europeans have historically exercised over African people, then the mere proclamation of black pride is a terribly feeble and impotent response to the problem of black oppression. In the final analysis, Césaire’s visions of black freedom and development were utopian. They revolved around the cultivation of mere cultural pride and ignored the development of black industrial and technological power, without which the freedom of black and African people could never become a reality in the modern world.

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Frantz Fanon: A Rejection of Europe’s Industrial Model The denigration of modern industrial progress that we saw in Du Bois, Senghor, and Césaire was also evident in the philosophy of the famous black liberation theorist Frantz Fanon. Fanon was not one of the Negritude philosophers; however, he shared with them a post-modernist and anti-modernist philosophy of African liberation. As a champion of African freedom, Fanon was critical of certain dimensions of the philosophy of Negritude. He criticized Senghor, for instance, for having a very narrow understanding of culture and for believing that this misunderstood concept had primacy over revolutionary struggle. “It is around people’s struggles,” Fanon wrote, “that black African culture takes its substance, and not around songs, poems, or folklore.” 62 However, Fanon’s disagreement with the Negritude philosophers was in reality about the best strategy for achieving black freedom. It was not, for instance, about the essence of black civilization or about the nature of black culture. In fact, like the Negritude philosophers, Fanon was a vitalist and believed that the enslavement of Africans and the colonization of the African continent by Europeans were merely phases in the cosmic battle between reason and the passions. In the colonization of Africa, according to him, Western Europeans, unconsciously afraid of the vitality of African people, tried to suppress it by denigrating black culture as inferior to European culture. Unfortunately, Fanon lamented, African people unconsciously acquiesced to this denigration by believing the myth about their cultural inferiority. This acquiescence, Fanon contended, resulted in a cultural neurosis that Fanon, as a professional psychotherapist, believed required clinical treatment. However, in propounding this theory about the intrinsic vitalism and nobility of African culture, Fanon also called for the rejection of European culture, along with its decadent system of values. “The history of the west has reached the final point of destruction,” he wrote. “Come, then comrades, the European game has ended, we must find something different.” 63 That “something different” was for him a new humanism strikingly similar to the humanism of Senghor and a rejection of the Western model of development that he claimed had done nothing but suppress man’s vital energies. Fanon

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further theorized that the lives of African people were existentially inauthentic in light of their domination and oppression by Europeans, and he saw his main task as that of helping to dismantle the Western oppressive machinery. According to him, the immediate task of African revolutionaries was to hasten the collapse and destruction of Western civilization through revolutionary action. In his view, the coming black revolution would not be based on class, as predicted by the Marxists and socialists, but on race. The European world, he argued, was already depraved in its thinking, especially by its worship of reason. According to him, it was this European cult of reason that led to the suppression of the vitalism of African people. Ultimately, for Fanon, the contact between black and white cultures was like the meeting of two forces that were by nature opposed, the one rational and the other passionate. 64 Thus, believing that the only hope for bringing about a new era of black freedom resided in the masses of the African poor, which he claimed constituted the repository of authentic vitalism (Bergson’s élan vital) or creative energy of African people, Fanon proposed that true black liberation would consist in the total and violent destruction of the culture imposed on African people by their former colonial and slave masters. For Fanon, violence was necessary as a ritual of purification from white oppression. Expressing a view that was strikingly similar to that of Du Bois, Fanon argued in The Wretched of the Earth that since the Western Europeans and their white industrial civilization had been the scourge of human existence, it would be absurd for people of African descent to aspire to re-create it. Such a re-creation would mean that African people had ultimately bowed down before the genius of the white race, a genius that had created nothing but an industrial monstrosity. 65 Instead of re-creating white industrial society, Fanon proposed, that African and African-descended peoples should establish a world consistent with the unique genius of African people. It would be a world remarkably similar to Senghor’s—namely, a society that is essentially humane and spiritual. African people would create a world in which the white mask with which the black personality had masqueraded would be discarded to reveal the authentic black personality. This would usher in the dawn of Fanon’s vision of African freedom. When I search for man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man and an avalanche of murders. . . . Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth . . . . what matters is to stop talking about output, and intensification, and the rhythm of work . . . it is simply a very concrete question of not dragging men toward mutilation, of not imposing upon the brain rhythms which very quickly obliterate and wreck it. . . . If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe, and (black) America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destinies of our countries to Europeans. They will

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know how to do it better than the most gifted among us. But if we want humanity to advance further, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it . . . then we must try to set afoot a new man. 66 (Emphasis mine)

Since Fanon wrote those famous lines African nations have searched, without success, for this “new man.” They have searched for it under the various titles of Negritude, African Socialism, and African Humanism. For more than half a century, the foremost African nations, purporting not to duplicate the cultural coldness and crass materialism of industrial Europe, have searched and yearned unsuccessfully for the dawn of a new global culture infused with African humanism. Meanwhile, a majority of African economies have gradually collapsed, and many of its states have imploded or are in the process of implosion.

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African Socialism and the Quest for a Utopian Humanism Perhaps no proponents of the view that Africa’s development must not be a duplication of the Western European model have articulated that view more forcefully than the group of thinkers collectively known as African socialists. With the exception of Kwame Nkrumah, who envisioned a technologically advanced and industrialized Africa, a preponderance of African socialists passionately advocated a return to Africa’s pre-colonial cultural values, insisting that those values were more reflective of genuine development than either the liberal capitalist model of development or the doctrinaire Marxist model. For the majority of them, neither the capitalist nor the scientific socialist model of development was representative of true development. A truly developed society, in their view, must be devoid of exploitation, competition, individualism, and class conflict. Consequently, they rejected the liberal capitalist model on the grounds that exploitation and an ethic of individualism were its inherent features. Scientific socialism, on the other hand, they rejected on the grounds that it accepted the inevitability of the conflict of class interest and sanctioned the use of violence as the means of building a just and democratic society. Different African socialists formulated their theories from different philosophical perspectives. However, a majority of them, with the exception of Kwame Nkrumah, declared that a genuine concept of development was embodied in pre-colonial African societies where, they claimed, exploitation and social discord were absent and harmony, collectivism, and social justice prevailed. One of the most passionate exponents of these views and a leading proponent of African socialism was Julius Nyerere, who was the founding president of the Republic of Tanzania. As the new African republics became independent from their former colonial administrators, one of the major issues facing the new republics was how to overcome Africa’s underdevelop-

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ment. In response to that issue, a variety of African intellectuals and statesmen propounded theories and strategies of development. Some proposed following a liberal capitalist model, contending that competition for private profit in a market economy was the basis of the awe-inspiring advances in Western Europe and the rest of the advanced world. Others rejected the liberal capitalist model and proposed a scientific socialist or Marxist model. According to the advocates of the scientific socialist model, Western European capitalism was inherently exploitative, and any attempt to align the new Africa economies with international capitalism would be sabotaged by the deliberate policies of the capitalist nations and multinational corporations. They further insisted that Western Europe was the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment in the first place and that its imperialistic and neo-colonial policies were the continuing causes of Africa’s underdevelopment. As we saw in chapter 3, Walter Rodney was one of the chief exponents of this view. In contrast to these theorists, however, a third school of thought emerged with the view that neither the liberal capitalist nor the scientific model represented true development. Rather, they argued, true development was to be found by returning to the pre-colonial African model. This latter group of thinkers branded themselves “African socialists.” They included a variety of the founding heads of state of the new independent African republics, like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, and Nyerere. However, Nyerere is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of African socialism. This was because he produced a considerable volume of literature on the subject of Africa’s development and future trajectory, and because he was widely regarded as a sage by his people, who called him “Mwalimu,” which in Swahili means “teacher” or “philosopher.” As a theorist of African development, Nyerere sought to provide not only Tanzanians but all African people with a blueprint for the development of Africa. What future development did he envisage for Africa? Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa: A Flight to a Mythical African Past Nyerere is widely known for his contention that capitalist industrial development is not true development. True development, according to him, is the absence of exploitation 67 and the promotion of equal rights and equal justice for all. As such, it is not, in his view, synonymous with economic development. “I am using the word ‘development’ in its proper sense,” he writes, “as meaning the growth of a people in freedom and the growth of a society which upholds and protects freedom.” 68 In his view, neither a capitalist nor a communist society meets these criteria of development. A liberal capitalist development falls short of the authentic notion of development because it is inherently exploitative and leads to gross inequalities in a society. He acknowledges that capitalism has historically led to some of the most impressive

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advances in economic development. However, he argues that it is an error to confound this economic advancement with development. In his view, the inherent flaw in capitalism is that it accepts greed, individualism, competition, and the exploitation of one’s fellow human beings as inherent features of the human condition. Consequently, capitalism has led not to the freedom and happiness of the masses of people, but to their poverty, exploitation, and the denial of their fundamental rights and basic freedoms. “The exploitation of the masses,” he writes, “is the basis on which capitalism has won the accolade for having solved the problem of production. There is no other basis on which it can operate.” 69 Continuing his critique of capitalism, Nyerere indicts the big industrial capitalist economies for their contribution to poverty and gross inequality.

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To see the real meaning of this [the exploitation and inequalities inherent in capitalism] we can once again look at the developed capitalist societies. Then we see the malnutrition among the people of the Appalachian Mountains and of Harlem contrasted with the gadgetry of suburban America; and in Britain we can see the problem of homelessness while color television sets are produced endlessly; and in the same societies we can observe the resources devoted to things like education and healthcare for the people as compared with those spent to satisfy the inessential desires of the minority. 70

Nyerere sees this exploitative character of capitalism reflected on the global level in what he describes as the scandalous economic and social inequalities between today’s rich and poor nations. 71 While a few nations possess great wealth and advanced technology and, consequently, are able to dominate the world politically and economically, the vast majority of the world’s population, he laments, suffers from varying degrees of poverty and deprivation. How can these problems of poverty, exploitation, and the denial of equal right be solved, especially in Africa? For Nyerere, the solution does not lie in material advancement, but in moral development. Contending that poverty and advancement in technology are not the real problems of the modern world, he argues that given the present level of scientific knowledge and technology, modern man already possesses the means and the resources to solve the problems of poverty and homelessness. 72 The reason the problems remain unsolved, according to him, is a lack of adequate moral development. To him, the modern industrial capitalist society, in spite of its material advances, breed individuals who are greedy, selfish, individualistic, and devoid of a genuine concern for others, especially for the poor and downtrodden. Nyerere therefore called upon African people to reject the capitalist model of development that benefits only a numerically insignificant portion of mankind, but promotes the impoverishment of the vast majority of the human population.

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Nyerere’s vision of true development is that of a socialist society. However, the socialism he envisions is not that proposed by orthodox Marxism, but that which he claims existed in traditional Africa. For him, the model of development proposed by “scientific socialism” is also not true development. First, it is atheistic and it is based on a denial of various fundamental human rights and freedoms, like the freedom of religion. 73 Second, it accepts the necessity of violence and the clash of class interests as the means of building a just and classless society. This, according to Nyerere, entails also a denial of a society’s fundamental right and freedom to organize itself peacefully and harmoniously. Rejecting orthodox Marxism on account of its approval of the necessity and inevitability of violence, Nyerere writes:

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The Apostles of communism do not look upon conflict, revolutionary violence and class-struggle as something evil. Instead, they have sanctified violence into a philosophy as necessary for the building of socialism as prayer is to Christianity. “Civil-war” they call “class-war.” They have made violence the basis of a whole way of life. They have made violence something good and necessary, and inseparable from the end to be achieved. 74

For Nyerere, scientific socialism does for classes what capitalism does for individuals. Capitalism endorses the pursuit of one’s selfish interests without any obligation to seek the common good. Similarly, scientific socialism endorses the pursuit of class interest to the denigration of individual rights and interests. Thus, in his view both were to be rejected. Having rejected both the capitalist and communist models of development, Nyerere proposes a vision of socialism that he claims existed in traditional African societies. He calls this vision of socialism “Ujamaa.” He explains that “Ujamaa” means “family-hood” in Swahili and that it denotes the kind of life lived by a man and his family—father, mother, children, and near relatives. 75 Nyerere’s vision of Ujamaa is of: A society in which all members have equal rights and equal opportunities, in which all can live at peace with their neighbors without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited or exploiting, and in which all have gradually increasing basic level of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury. 76

Nyerere points out that the principles embodied in Ujamaa—equality, freedom, common ownership of property, justice, and fraternity—were the pillars of social organization in traditional Africa. Nyerere’s African socialism, purporting to avoid a replication of the ills of European capitalist and communist developments, became an effort to resuscitate the traditional African model. In this regard, his solution to the problems of modernity in general, and to Africa’s underdevelopment in particular, was in remarkable agreement with the solutions offered by Du Bois,

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Senghor, Césaire, Fanon, and many others who issued a similar call for a return of Africa to its traditional values. As theorists, these thinkers were all anti-modernists. As such, the criticisms directed against the theories propounded by Du Bois, Senghor, Césaire, and Fanon above apply with equal force to Nyerere’s socialist theory. One of those criticisms is that considering the abysmal performance of traditional Africa in the face of the military and economic assault from the advanced nations in the modern period, and considering also that the basis of that poor performance was the continent’s technological underdevelopment, the call for the resuscitation of traditional African communalism amounted to a reactionary flight from tackling the real problems of Africa at their source. It is as if these thinkers believe that African people are incapable of catching up with the knowledge and technological advances in the modern world and, consequently, seek solace in simpler times and in simpler socio-economic structures. In a very real sense the solution offered by these thinkers represents nothing more than a call for African people to retreat from today’s battlefield into the imagined paradise of Africa’s pre-colonial times. Unfortunately, African people still live in a world where they need current scientific and technological knowledge to meet the challenges of the modern world, especially of a twenty-first-century world that is still hostile, contemptuous, and, in many ways, anti-black. In the final analysis, the obsessive focus of African leaders on moral development to the neglect of industrial and technological progress is subversive of the very freedom and moral agency of African people that these leaders so passionately tried to defend. This was the essence of Nkrumah’s critique of African socialism. For Nkrumah, African socialism of the type proposed by Nyerere and defended by Senghor and many others was conceived as a return to traditional African social structures. In a paper titled “African Socialism Revisited,” which Nkrumah read at a seminar on Africa in Cairo in 1967, he outlined what he considered to be the flaws in these numerous proposals for “African socialism.” One of these flaws, he says, includes the view that traditional Africa was a classless society imbued with the spirit of humanism. However, according to Nkrumah, the claim that the traditional African society was a “classless [society] in which there were no rich and no poor,” and in which the people enjoyed “a drugged serenity,” flies in the face of the historical facts. 77 All available evidence from the history of Africa up to the eve of European colonization shows that African societies were neither classless nor devoid of social hierarchy. Feudalism existed in some parts of Africa before colonization, and feudalism involves a deep and exploitative social stratification, founded on the ownership of land. It must also be noted that slavery existed in Africa before European colonization, although the earlier European contact gave slavery in Africa some of its most vicious characteristics. The truth remains, however, that before colonization, which became widespread in Afri-

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Chapter 7 ca only in the nineteenth century, Africans were prepared to sell, often for no more than thirty pieces of silver, fellow tribesmen and even members of the same “extended family” and clan. Colonization deserves to be blamed for many evils in Africa, but surely it was not preceded by an African Golden Age or paradise. A return to the pre-colonial African society is evidently not worthy of the ingenuity and efforts of our people. 78

Another flaw that Nkrumah found in African socialism is that it failed to address the problem of Africa’s underdevelopment. As we have argued throughout this book, a host of Africa’s problems, both past and present, are deeply rooted in Africa’s technological stagnation. In order to tackle effectively the hunger, malnutrition, and diseases that plague Africans today, their nations would need to develop modern industries, modern agriculture, and modern medicine. Thus, rather than resuscitate their old cultural forms, what African people need most urgently is knowledge of modern science and industrial techniques. Thus, Nkrumah continues:

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To advocate a return, as it were, to the rock from which we were hewn is a charming thought, but we are faced with contemporary problems, which have arisen from political subjugation, economic exploitation, educational and social backwardness, increases in population, familiarity with the methods and products of industrialization, modern agricultural techniques. These—as well as a host of other complexities—can be resolved by no mere communalistic society, however sophisticated, and anyone who so advocates must be caught in insoluble dilemmas of the most excruciating kind. All available evidence from sociopolitical history discloses that such a return to the status quo ante is quite unexampled in the evolution of societies. There is, indeed, no theoretical or historical reason to indicate that it is at all possible. 79

Thus, rejecting African socialism in its utopian form, Nkrumah contends that scientific socialism, devoid of its traditional atheistic elements, 80 is the appropriate model of development for today’s Africa. Kwame Nkrumah: Scientific Socialism and the Stillborn African Industrial State We have shown above that a strand of uncompromising anti-modernism runs through the heart and soul of contemporary African political thought. We have also explored the theories of development propounded by the leading African and Africanist thinkers in order to expose the anti-modernism latent in them. There is one contemporary theorist of African development, however, who is not anti-modernist and to whom the criticisms directed against anti-modernism above do not apply. That theorist is Kwame Nkrumah. As is evident in his criticism of African socialism in the last section, Nkrumah was decidedly opposed to the idea of a “return” to traditional African social

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structures, or as he describes it, “a return to the rock from which we were hewn.” As he points out, the Africa of today is no longer the Africa of precolonial times and, as such, the simple social structures of its former nontechnical communalist societies are no longer adequate for its needs today. In his view, Africa must meet the challenge of a modern world informed by the knowledge of the sciences and improved by spectacular advances in technology. Arguing that a mere accommodation of the modern industrial and technological culture of the sort proposed by Senghor is futile, 81 he contends that African nations must become industrialized and that African people must acquire the scientific knowledge and the technological skills with which to refashion their world in order to bring it into alignment with the rest of the advanced world. As we saw earlier, at the dawn of Ghana’s independence as a new republic, Nkrumah’s vision for the development of Ghana was that of a rapid industrial development in order to create an African “paradise of abundance.” To that end, he opted to adopt the principles of scientific socialism, which he saw as more progressive, rather than those of African socialism, which he saw as backward-looking. Nkrumah shared with the other socialists a vision of a more just and egalitarian society, but he differed from them in contending that this vision could not be achieved by a return to traditional communalism. Socialism stands to communalism, he wrote, as capitalism stands to slavery. As such, authentic socialism cannot revert to a stage of development it has transcended. In socialism, he argues, the principles of communalism are given expression, but in modern circumstances where sophisticated means of production are taken into consideration. 82 Thus, for Nkrumah, the future development of Ghana must be based, among other things, on “the total industrialization of the country” and “the complete diversification and mechanization of agriculture.” 83 To that end, Nkrumah, as the president of Ghana, invested enormous sums of money in new industrial projects and in programs of modernization. According to one of his biographers, David Rooney, the development of applied science in Ghana and the practical application of that science to improve the lives of Ghanaians was almost an obsession for Nkrumah. 84 In pursuit of those goals, Nkrumah created an Academy of Sciences and laid the foundation stone for an atomic reactor. He also proposed to build a grand Science City with a Palace of Sciences where young Ghanaian and African scientists could conduct scientific research and potentially make outstanding contributions to the development of Africa. Thus, Nkrumah’s vision of development is an exception among the leading theories of African development in contemporary African political thought. As such, the criticisms directed above at the other leading champions of African development—namely, that their theories were antimodern, backward-looking, and utopian—do not apply to Nkrumah’s political thought. Historically, Nkrumah failed to realize his vision of a scientifically advanced and heavily industrialized Ghana. However, that failure was

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due to a host of reasons that were neither racial nor geographical. Among the reasons commonly listed for his failure by political analysts are bureaucratic inefficiency, failure to reform the administrative and legislative structure left behind by the previous British colonial regime, the cult of personality that he built around himself, the economic deterioration of Ghana under his regime, his political party’s inability to control a mounting inflation, and the MarxistSocialist posture of his government. 85 Thus, Nkrumah’s failure was not a repudiation of the correctness of his understanding that closing the technological gap between African nations like Ghana and the advanced nations of Europe and Asia is necessary to save the continent from its long-standing poverty and underdevelopment. Unfortunately, closing that gap is a task that a long succession of Africa’s leaders have abysmally failed to perform successfully, even though it falls squarely on their shoulders.

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NOTES 1. African armies had been defeated and humiliated so many times on the battlefields of the past (for instance, by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Romans, etc.) that their conquest by the Western European nations in the nineteenth century was then simply just the latest humiliation. 2. Ian Knight, The Anatomy of the Zulu Army from Shaka to Cetshwayo 1818–1879, (London: Greenhill Books, 1995), 219–20. 3. Martin Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library, 1852), 2. 4. Edward Blyden, “The Call of Providence to the Descendants of Africa in America,” in Fred Lee Hord and Jonathan Scott Lee, eds., I Am Because We Are: Readings in Black Philosophy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), 123. 5. Edward Blyden, “The Relations and Duties of Free Colored Men in America to Africa,” in Fred Lee Hord and Jonathan Scott Lee, eds., I Am Because We Are: Readings in Black Philosophy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), 221–22. 6. Marcus Garvey, Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey: Africa for the Africans, vols. 1–2 (Eastford, CT: Martino Fine Books, 2014), 90. 7. Ibid. 8. W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Concept of Race,” in Eric J. Sunquist, ed., The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 94. 9. Karl Marx, “The Communist Manifesto,” in David McLellan, ed., Karl Marx: Selected Writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 224–25. 10. Ibid. 11. Cited in Lawrence Cahoone, From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 34. 12. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, ed. Lester Crocker (New York: Washington Square Press, 1967), 253. 13. Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization: Rousseau and Revolution, vol. 10 (New York: Simon & Schuster), 31. 14. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: The Viking Press, 1973), 163–66. 15. Marx, “The Communist Manifesto,” pp. xxx. See also, S. A. Stumpf, ed., Philosophical Problems, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, Inc., 1994), 310. 16. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Marx/Engels Collected Works, vol. 5 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975), 47. 17. Du Bois, “The Concept of Race,” 87.

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18. Ibid., 42–43. 19. Quoted in Arthur Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 189. 20. Du Bois, “The Concept of Race,” 94. 21. Ibid. 22. W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Superior Race,” in Eric J. Sunquist, ed., The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). 23. Quoted in Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History, 230. 24. Ike Okonta, Nietzsche: The Politics of Power (New York: Peter Lang, 1992), 148ff. 25. Du Bois, “The Superior Race,” 65. 26. Ibid., 66. 27. Ibid. 28. W. E. B. Du Bois, “Africa,” in Eric J. Sunquist, ed., The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 646. 29. Ibid., 646. 30. Ibid. 31. Jacques Louis Hymans, Leopold Sédar Senghor (London: Edinburgh University Press, 1972), 41. 32. Léopold Sédar Senghor, Liberté 1: Négritude et Humanisme (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1964), 288. 33. Léopold Senghor, “Negritude: A Humanism of the Twentieth Century,” quoted in Hord and Lee, I Am Because We Are, 48. 34. Hymans, Leopold Sédar Senghor, 100. 35. Ibid. 36. William McCord and Arline McCord, Paths to Progress: Bread and Freedom in Developing Societies (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986), 114. 37. Hyman, Léopold Sédar Senghor, 72. 38. John L. Hodge, Donald K. Struckman, and Lynn Dorland Trost, Cultural Biases of Racism and Group Oppression (Berkeley, CA: Two Riders Press, 1975), 40. 39. Hymans, Léopold Sédar Senghor, 167. 40. Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World, quoted in Hord and Lee, I Am Because We Are, 84–86. 41. Ibid., 84. 42. Ibid., 86. 43. Ibid., 132. 44. Hymans, Leopold Sédar Senghor, 66. 45. Ibid., 71. 46. Quoted in Hymans, Leopold Sédar Senghor, 130. 47. Ibid. 48. Ibid., 103. 49. Ibid. 50. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 1ff. 51. Ibid., 8. 52. Ibid. 53. Ibid., 3. 54. Ibid., 6. 55. Interview with Rene Depestre at the 1967 Cultural Congress of Havana. Published as an appendix to Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 28. 56. Aimé Césaire, “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land,” in The Collected Poetry, trans. Clayton Eshleman and Annette J. Smith (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983), 69. 57. Ibid. 58. Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History, 329–332.

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59. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. A. Mitchell (New York: Henry Holt, 1911), xxx. See also Frank N. Magill, ed., Masterpieces of World Philosophy (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990), 477ff. 60. Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History, 329–32. 61. Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 7–11. 62. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1961), 312ff. 63. Herman, The Idea of Decline in Western History, 361. 64. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 314. 65. Ibid., 312–16. 66. Ibid. 67. Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Development: Uhuru na Maendeleo (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1973), 155. 68. Ibid., 259. 69. Ibid., 387. 70. Ibid., 388. 71. Ibid., 214. 72. Ibid., 213. 73. Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism: Uhuru na Ujamaa (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968), 14. 74. Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Unity: Uhuru na Umoja (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1969), 169. 75. Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism, 2. 76. Ibid., 340. 77. Kwame Nkrumah, “African Socialism Revisited,” (Paper delivered at the African Summit in Cairo, Egypt, in 1967). See https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/nkrumah/1967/ african-socialism-revisited.htm. 78. Ibid., 2. 79. Ibid., 3, 4. The reader cannot fail to notice here the striking similarity between Nkrumah’s critique of African socialism and Voltaire’s critique of Rousseau’s anti-modernism cited above. 80. Nkrumah, Consciencism, 51. 81. Nkrumah, “African Socialism Revisited,” 4. 82. Ibid., 5. 83. Cited in Paul Nugent, Africa since Independence (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004), 171. 84. David Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah: The Political Kingdom in the Third World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988), 202. 85. Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973), 209ff.

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Index

Abbasid aristocracy, 120 Abd al-Rahman, 109, 111 Abuja, 27 Accra, 27 Acemoglu, Daron, 205 achievement gap, 4 Addis Ababa, 27 Adelard of Bath, 123 Afonso I of Congo, 17, 95–96, 98, 99–100, 106, 108 Africa’s underdevelopment, 3–5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 26, 31, 48, 59, 133, 198 Africa: as cradle of humanity, 24, 59; benign geography of, 7, 37, 43; colonial boundaries of, 136, 149; continental plate of, 6, 44; corruption in, 23, 97, 115, 149; dysfunctional states of, 136; geographical isolation of, 7, 9, 11, 90; immense natural wealth of, 1; immensity in size of, 1; inhospitable and defective geography of, 43; NorthSouth axis of, 45–47 African blacksmiths, 111 African cities, 27, 90, 148, 156 African civilizations, 7, 155 African communalism, 41, 156, 198 African cultural values, 133 African Golden Age, 199 African history, 9, 19, 59, 68, 90, 188 African liberation, 17, 19, 158, 176, 177 African personality, 134

African scholars, 4, 26, 43, 155, 177 African socialism, 156, 195, 198, 200 African states, 41, 59, 64, 74, 75, 79, 80, 82, 90, 95, 107, 112, 137, 155, 156, 164, 183, 189 the African Union, 135–136 the African village, 155, 163, 164, 171, 172, 173, 175, 176 African Americans, 192 African-descended peoples, 10, 191 Africanists, 135, 136, 158, 161 Ahmose, 64, 67, 68, 84n17 airplanes, 8, 10, 46, 148, 155, 158 Ake, Claude, 151 Akhenaton, 68, 106 Alchymists, 66 Alexander the Great, 11, 72–73, 115 Alfonso X of Portugal, 123 Algeria, 26, 76 al-Mamun, Abbasid caliph, 108, 119 Al-Mazrui, 75 Almohads, 75 Almoravids, 105 al-Saheli, Muslim architect, 108 Al-Umari, 105 Amenhotep IV, 72, 106 Ammon, 64, 73 amphitheaters, 89 ancient Africans, sedentary life of, 7, 37 ancient Egypt, 1, 41, 59, 63, 64, 65, 68, 72, 74, 114, 115, 181 211

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ancient Rome, 88, 90 Annals of Tuthmosis III, 84n17 anti-intellectualism, 187, 191 anti-modernism, 163, 168, 188, 200, 204n78 anti-modernist, 163, 164, 168, 186, 191, 192, 193, 198, 200 Anubis, 38 apartheid, 76, 77, 152 Apollonian, 178 Appian Way, 89, 119 Arabia, 9, 41, 59, 61, 65, 73, 74, 90, 91, 92, 93, 105, 112, 119, 156 Arabic numerals, 120 Arabs, 41, 46, 66, 70, 73, 75, 79, 92, 108, 119, 202n1 Aryan, 4, 35, 115, 174, 186 Aryan Blond Beasts, 186 Ashanti, 17, 74, 102, 103–104, 111, 155 Ashanti kingdom, 103 Ashanti wars, 103 Assurbanipal, 72 Assyria, 41, 63, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 156 Assyria’s war machine, 71 Assyrians, 63, 70, 72, 73, 174 Atinga, 145, 148, 149 Atlantic Ocean, 43 atomism, 65 attainment gap between blacks and whites, 34 automobiles, 27, 158 Avaris, 64, 67 Ayittey, George, 2, 23, 26, 143, 145, 146, 148, 149 Babylonians, 174 Bacon, Roger, 53, 123 Bagdad, 104, 109, 120 Bakufu, 110, 125 Bantustans, 76 Belloc, Hilaire, 104 Benedict, Ruth, 35, 36 Berbers, 73, 74, 87, 90, 92 Bergson, Henri, 186, 187, 191, 193 Berlin Conference of 1884, 77, 137 Bernal, Martin, 62, 115 birthplace of humanity, 2, 21 black nationalism, 158, 163 the black personality, 193

the Black Pride movement, 192 the black race, 3, 6, 34, 35, 48, 174 the black soul, 158, 174, 178 Blaut, James Morris, 51, 52, 53, 55 blueprint for Africa’s development, 134, 161, 195 Blyden, Edward Wilmort, 160, 161 Boers, 76 Botswana, 26, 76 Bourgeoisie, 40, 164, 167–168, 176 Brahmins, 35 breadbasket of the world, 1 Britain, 36, 70, 75, 76, 79, 104, 113, 140, 158, 197 the British, 36, 41, 75, 76, 82, 100, 100–102, 103–104, 125, 135, 168, 200 the British Red Coats, 82 British warships at Kagoshima, 125 Bronze shields, 67 Brown Bess, 101 Budge, Wallis, 61 Burkina Faso, 22 burning of Kumasi, 104, 156 Burton, Richard, 31 Camara, Babacar, 19 Cambyses, 67, 72, 73 Cameroon, 26, 76, 90 the Cape of Good Hope, 100, 102 capitalism, 7, 40, 41, 55, 56, 75, 163–164, 166, 172, 176, 195, 196–197, 198, 200 the capitalist industrial machinery, 163 Carthage, 9, 54, 87, 88, 89, 90, 98 Carthaginian cataphract, 87 the Caucasian race, 2, 3, 33 the Celts, 36, 41, 62 Ceng Gongliang, 53 Central African Republic, 22, 26, 76 Césaire, Aimé, 11, 133, 177, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 198 Cetshwayo, King of the Zulu, 82, 102 Chad, 22, 75, 106 Chaka, King of the Zulu, 17, 100–102, 108, 112, 129n22 Chamberlain, Houston Stewart, 4, 31 charcoal, 53, 123 chariots, 64, 67, 69, 70, 84n17, 87, 90 Chariots of the Gods, 90 Cheng-Ho, 90, 94

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Index Chicago, 174 China, 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 17, 35–36, 41, 46, 48–50, 53, 55, 61, 66, 90, 91, 92–94, 97, 113, 118, 119, 121, 123, 125, 129n9, 137, 140, 148, 181, 189 Chinese junks, 94 The Chinese Walls, 119, 163, 164, 172, 176 Chinweizu, 80, 111 Christianity, 15, 98, 110, 125, 148, 169, 170, 198 Chronicles I, 59, 61 Cipolla, Carlo M., 121, 123 the classless society, 198 the class-struggle, 198 the Code of Hammurabi, 59 collectivism, 40, 41, 195 colonialism, 9, 11, 15, 16, 22, 64, 70, 73, 80, 88, 106, 133, 134, 155, 156, 158, 178, 188, 189 Columbus, Christopher, 48, 50, 52, 129n9 Commodore Perry, 110, 125, 190 communalism, 41, 155, 198, 200 communism, 41, 172, 198 community, 37, 41, 77, 158, 173, 174 the Congo, 17, 22, 26, 74, 75, 77–79, 95, 96, 98, 99, 100, 112, 136, 137, 190 the Congo Free State, 79 Constantine XI, 123 Constantinople, Battle of, 53, 121, 123 the Corvus, 88 Côte d’Ivoire, 22, 76 Count Volney, 65 Crummell, Alexander, 161 cultural inferiority, 114, 179, 193 cultural neurosis, 193 cultural receptivity, 113, 119, 121, 123, 128 Cuneiform, 59, 61 Cush, 59, 68, 74 the Cushites, 60, 61 Cyrus II of Persia, 67 da Gama, Vasco, 48, 55 Dahomey, 76 Damas, Léon Gontran, 177 Dar es Salaam, 92 The Dark Ages, 15, 114, 181 Davidson, Basil, 2, 11, 21, 31

213

De Blij, Harm, 24 De Gobineau, Arthur, 3–4, 31, 33, 35, 174, 181, 186 De Klerk, Frederik, 77 Delany, Martin, 160 Democritus, 65, 114, 118 dependency theory, 12, 16, 31 development, African, 17, 21, 111, 135, 155, 156, 158, 161, 164, 183, 195, 200 development, Africa’s, 12, 16, 46, 79, 134, 135, 145, 152, 161, 177, 195 development of agriculture, 1, 51 Diamond, Jared, 2, 5, 6, 45–47, 48, 50, 51, 113, 120 diamonds, 1, 7, 26, 76, 145 the Diere, 87 Dingane, 101 Diodorus Siculus, 59, 64, 65, 98 Dionysian, 178 Dionysios, the tyrant of Syracuse, 98–100 Diop, Cheikh Anta, 7, 10, 37, 38–39, 41, 59, 62, 72, 79, 115 Djibouti, 22, 76 domestic herbivores, 45 domesticable native plants and animals, 45 Douglass, Frederick, 161, 168, 175 Du Bois, W. E. B., 161, 163, 168–171, 172, 173, 174, 174–176, 177, 188, 193, 198 the Dutch, 9, 70, 76, 77, 82, 94, 100, 102, 104, 110 East-West axis of Eurasia, 46, 48, 52 Edgerton, Robert, 103, 104 Egyptian cosmogony, 56 Egyptians, 38, 39, 54, 59, 61, 62, 64, 65, 67, 70, 72–73, 80, 114, 115, 130n51, 131n56, 174 the Elamites, 61 Élan vital, 191, 193 electricity, 23, 25, 142, 158, 191 Ellul, Jacques, 89 El-Mansour, Arab sultan of Morocco, 74 Elmina, castle at, 104 the Enfield rifle, 104 the English Revolution of 1688, 55 the Enlightenment period, 2–3, 164, 181 Ethiopia, 22, 46, 59, 61–62, 74, 83n4, 136 Ethnic conflicts, 137

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Etruscans, 88–90 Euclidian geometry, 123 Eudoxus, 114–115 Eurasia, 5, 7, 46, 47, 48, 52 Eurasian plains, 38 Eurocentrism, 51, 134 European breeders, 45 the European miracle, 123 the European model of development, 156, 175, 180, 195 European pre-eminence, 51 Europeanization, 143, 146, 148 exploitation, 16, 26, 40, 89, 155, 164, 167, 187, 195, 196, 197, 200 expropriation, 1, 9, 12, 16, 26, 73, 78, 80, 89, 105, 133, 155 the failure of leadership, 100, 102, 105 Fanon, Frantz, 19, 193–195, 198 Farewell, Francis, 129n22 the female race, 34 the Fertile Crescent, 46, 48 the feudal system, 7, 41 feudalism, 7, 40, 41, 140, 187, 199 the Fields Medalists, 34 the Force Publique, 78 the forty-two negative-recitals, 115 Francophone African scholars, 177 Freeburghers, 76 French Guinea, 76 French Somali land, 76 French Sudan, 76 Friendship, 163, 164, 173 Frobenius, Leo, 187 Fynn, Henry Francis, 101, 102, 129n22 Gabon, 26, 76 Galen, 119 Galleys, 54, 70, 87, 108, 119 Gambia, 22, 76, 106 Garvey, Marcus, 161, 162, 168, 175 the Gatling gun, 80, 102, 104 General Abacha of Nigeria, 149 General Chelmsford, 82 geographical theorists, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 geographical theory, 6, 12, 31, 45, 48, 51, 52 Gerard of Cremona, 123 Germanic tribes, 174

Index Germans, 41, 62, 70, 186 Germany, 5, 34, 35, 41, 63, 82, 127, 137, 151, 163 Ghana, 21, 22, 26, 41, 59, 74, 76, 106, 112, 145, 195, 200 gold, 1, 7, 26, 64, 66, 69, 74, 76, 84n17, 90, 91, 95, 99, 102, 105, 121, 145, 182 the Gold Coast, 41 the Golden Age of Islam, 108, 123 Greece, 5, 17, 31, 36, 66, 72, 84n17, 98, 112, 113–114, 115, 121, 128, 156, 172 greed, 7, 38, 40, 72, 77, 79, 112, 134, 158, 164, 173, 189, 196 the Greeks, 9, 15, 54, 65, 70, 83n4, 88, 89, 112, 114, 115, 130n51 gunpowder, 11, 48, 53, 90, 104, 106, 111, 113, 121, 123, 191 gunpowder technology, 53, 99, 112 Gutenberg, Johann, 54 Hacker, Andrew, 24 the Hagia Sophia, 123 Hajj, 105 Hales, John, 138 Ham, 59, 61 Hamilton, Alexander, 140 Hanno, the Carthaginian, 90 Hanson, Victor D., 82 harmony, 163, 166, 173, 176, 195 Hee, Park Chung, 145 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm, 19, 24, 31, 118 Heng, Zhang, 55 Henry VII, 138–140 Henry VII’s strategy of development, 140 Henry-Martini rifles, 82 Herman, Arthur, 191 Herodotus, 38, 54, 59, 65, 66, 90, 114 Himilkon, 99 Hippocrates, 119 Hitler, Adolf, 31, 187, 189 Hittites, 174 Hobbesian state of nature, 27 Homelands of South Africa, 76 Homo sapiens, 33, 59 horses, 46, 62, 65, 69, 70, 84n17, 92 Horus, 65, 69 The Hotchkiss gun, 104 the House of Wisdom, 108, 109, 119 Huntington, Samuel P., 123

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Index

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Huxley, Elisabeth, 31 the Hyksos conquest of Egypt, 39, 41, 64, 64–65, 67, 68, 70, 80, 84n13, 84n17 Hymans, Jacques Louis, 186, 187 idealism, 65, 115–118 Ieyasu, Tokugawa, 110 imperialism, 22, 80, 155, 166, 183, 190 impis, 82, 102 independent African nations, 22, 134, 156, 158 individualism, 7, 37, 134, 158, 163, 195, 196 Indo-European conquerors, 35 Indo-Europeans, 35, 37, 38 industrial and military techniques, 9 industrial civilization, 166, 168, 174, 179, 193 industrial culture, 17, 163, 166, 171, 172, 173, 174, 177, 184, 186, 188, 191 industrial development, 41, 125, 127, 134, 145, 146, 151, 158, 162, 163, 171, 196, 200 industrial machinery, 158, 163 industrial monster, 174 industrial technology, 161, 166, 176, 184 intuitive knowledge, 178 Ipuwer, high priest of Amen-Ra, 64 Isaacs, Nathaniel, 101, 129n22 Isandhlwana, Battle of, 82 Isokrates, 114 the Isthmus of Suez, 66 the Iwakura Mission, 127 James, George, 115 Jim Crow, 76 Johannesburg, 27, 174 John III, King of Portugal, 96, 98, 100 the jōi faction at Chōshū, 125 Jones, Eric, 123 Kagoshima, Battle of, 125 Kamose, 64 Kanem-Bornu, 41, 74 Kant, Immanuel, 3 Kelly, Jack, 82 Kenya, 76 Khafré, 115 Khepera, 115

215

Khufu, 115 Kilwa, 92–93 Kingdom of Congo, 100, 106 Knight, Ian, 101, 129n22 Kohli, Atul, 128 Kublai Khan, 123 Kumasi, 102, 103, 104 Lagos, 27 Leopold II of Belgium, 77, 78 Lesotho, 22, 76 Levin, Michael, 4, 34 Lewis, Bernard, 108 List, Friedrich, 151 Liverpool, 174 Lyons, 174 Mâ, the Egyptian goddess of truth, 115 Madagascar, 22, 76, 189 the magnetic compass, 113 the Mahometta, 121 Malawi, 22, 76 Mali, 17, 22, 41, 59, 74, 76, 105–106 Manetho, ancient Egyptian high priest, 64 manifest destiny, 5 Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali, 17, 105–106 Marco Polo, 123 Maritain, Jacques, 191 Marshall, Tim, 8 Marx and Engels, 103, 176 Marx, Karl, 41, 163, 164, 166, 168, 172, 176 Marxism, 163, 198 Masanao, Nakamura, 111 mass illiteracy, 134 materialism, 17, 115, 177, 188, 195 Mauritania, 22, 76, 106 Mauritius, 76 the Maxim machine gun, 80, 102, 104 Mazrui, Ali, 26 McKay, J., 92 Mecca, 105 the mechanical weight-driven clock, 55 Medieval Islam, 17, 119, 121, 128 Mediterranean, 41, 46, 51, 62, 64, 67, 87, 88, 90, 92, 112, 119 Mediterranean civilizations, 43 Megiddo, 69, 84n17, 161

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Megiddo, Battle of, 84n17 Megiddo, capture of, 69, 84n17 Meiji Reformers, 14, 127, 146, 171 Meiji Restoration, 98, 99, 110, 111, 127, 128, 140, 146, 161, 169, 171, 181 Memphis, 64, 67, 72 Ménil, René, 186, 187 Menkauré, 115 Meredith, Martin, 2, 21, 23, 77 Meroé, 46 Mesopotamia, 2, 35, 59–61, 61, 113, 118 metallurgy, 1, 11, 59, 62, 63, 106, 111, 113, 114, 119, 121, 123 Middle Ages, 19 military technology, 7, 9, 52, 53, 54, 79, 80, 82, 87, 88, 102, 104, 106, 108, 123 the Ming dynasty, 50, 93 modernization, 27, 99, 100, 105, 123, 143, 145, 146, 148, 158, 171, 200 Mogadishu, 92 Mohammed II, conquest of Constantinople, 121 Mombasa, 55, 92–93 Mongoloid race, 12, 31, 33 Monomatapa, 74 Monrovia, 27 Morocco, 74, 76 Morton, W. Scott, 110 mounted cavalry, 67–68 Mozambique, 22, 55 Mpanzu a Kitima, 100 Musa, Mansa Kankan, 17, 105–106 muskets, 95, 101, 102, 103–104, 111, 129n22 Muslim alchemists, 53 the muzzleloader, 102 muzzle-loading guns, 104 Nairobi, 27 Namibia, 26, 76 Nazi ideologues, 4 Nazism, 187, 189 Negritude, 133, 134, 169, 177, 178, 183–186, 186, 187, 188, 190, 191, 192, 193, 195 the Negritude movement, 134, 178, 188 the Negritude philosophers, 133, 134, 184–185, 187, 193 neo-colonialism, 140, 155, 156, 183

new humanism, 179, 181, 182, 184, 193 the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, 41, 63, 68, 69, 72 Newton, Isaac, 110 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 166, 174 Nietzschean transvaluation of values, 11 Niger, 22, 44, 76, 106 Nigeria, 22, 26, 76, 106, 143, 145 the Nile valley, 39, 59, 61, 67 Nile Valley civilizations, 39 Nineveh, 72 Nkrumah, Kwame, 19, 21, 158, 195, 198, 200 Nobel laureates, 34 Nogales, Arizona, 12–13 Nogales, Sonora, 12–13 nomadic life, 7, 37, 38 Nordic Aryans, 4, 35, 174, 186 North Korea, 5, 13, 48 Northern Rhodesia, 76 Nubia, 61, 68, 70 Nubians, 38 Numidia, 9, 89 Nyasaland, 76 Nyerere, Julius, 11, 195–196, 197–198, 198 Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, 41, 64 Olympian gods, 38 Opium War of 1860, 125 Organization of African Unity, 135 Osiris, 38, 59, 64 the Pacific Ocean, 50 Padua, Giovanni, 55 the Paleolithic period, 52 Palestine, 61, 67–68, 68–69, 70 Pan-Africanism, 163 Pan-Africanists, 160, 163, 164, 173 a paradise of abundance, 21, 22, 200 Peoples of the Sea, 69, 70 Persians, 41, 63, 67, 70, 119, 174, 202n1 the Phaistos disk, 113 Phoenicians, 9, 54, 70, 87, 89, 90, 92 Plato, 64, 65, 114, 115, 119, 182 Pliny, 59 the pneumatic tyre, invention of, 78 Poe, Richard, 62 Polybius, 88

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Index Pope Clement IV, 123 Pope Innocent IV, 123 Pope Nicholas IV, 123 the Portuguese, 55, 74, 92–94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 100, 102, 104, 108, 110 Prempey, King of the Ashanti, 17, 102, 112 Pretoria, 27 primitive communalism and communism, 41 Prince Henry the Navigator, 91, 100, 108, 123 printing, 54, 112, 113, 123 private property, 41 Procopius, 88 Prometheus, 38 the Ptolemaic Dynasty, 11, 73 the Punic Wars, 89 the Pyramids of Egypt, 65, 66, 115, 119 Pythagoras, 114, 115

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the Qing dynasty, 125 Quinqueremes, 54, 88 Ra, 64 the racial mission of African people, 188, 192 the racial soul, 4, 168, 178, 188, 191 racialist theorists, 2–3, 33, 35, 178, 181 Ramses I, 68 Ramses III, 68, 69, 70 Reader, John, 11 reign of terror, Leopold II’s, 77, 78–79 Reinert, Erik S., 107, 108, 137–138, 140, 142, 152 religion, 1, 2, 14, 15, 17, 41, 59, 62, 68, 73, 74, 110, 114, 115–118, 125, 143, 146, 148, 170, 190, 198 Report on the Manufactures of the United States, Alexander Hamilton’s, 140 resource rich, Africa as, 1 revolutionary action, 193 revolutionary pressure, 152 revolutionary struggle, 193 revolutionary violence, 198 Rhodes, Cecil, 31 Rimmer, Douglas, 151 Robinson, James A., 12–14 Rodney, Walter, 2, 7, 11, 16, 40, 41, 79, 80, 143, 195

217

Rome, ancient, 15, 54, 63, 88–90, 113 Rorke’s Drift, Battle of, 82 Rosenberg, Alfred, 4, 31, 174 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 164, 165, 166 rubber, production and sale of, 77–78 Rushton, John, 4, 33, 34 safir (zero), 120 the Sahara, 43, 46, 51, 90, 91, 92, 106 Sakuma Zōzan, 125, 146 saltpeter, 53, 104, 123 Sanskrit, 120 Sargon II, 70 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 191 savages, African, 76, 98 Schwab, Peter, 2, 22 scientific development, 158 scientific socialism, 198 the scramble for Africa, 82 Sékou Touré, Ahmed, 195 Senegal, 195 Senghor, Léopold Sédar, 4, 11, 133, 177–178, 179, 180–182, 183, 184, 185–186, 187, 188, 193, 195, 198, 200 Sennacherib, 71 Seqenenra Tao II, 64 the Serengeti, 46 the Seychelles Islands, 76 Sharunem, 67 the Shimabara Rebellion, 110 Shinar, 60, 61 shipbuilding, 9, 50, 54, 87, 88, 90, 93, 94, 98, 106, 123, 128 shipbuilding technology, 88 Sierra Leone, 22, 76 Singapore, 17, 48, 140 skyscrapers, 174 slave masters, 75 the slave trade, 75, 76, 79–80, 96, 156, 187 slavery, 16, 64, 73, 75, 76, 78, 79, 80, 155, 156, 199, 200 slaves, 7, 64, 69, 72, 74, 75, 79–80, 84n17, 89, 90, 92, 95–98, 100, 102, 105, 121, 174, 182, 192 smooth-bore flintlock muskets, 104 social justice, 195 Sofala, 52 Solon, 114, 115 Somaliland, 76

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Index

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Sombart, Werner, 173, 174 Songhai, 41, 59, 74 the soulless Leviathan, 174 South Africa, 26, 46, 76, 79, 100, 136, 145, 152 South Korea, 5, 11, 13, 17, 137, 140, 145, 148 South West Africa, 76 the Southern and Northern cradles, 37 Southern Rhodesia, 76 Sowell, Thomas, 123 Soyinka, Wole, 184, 185 Spain, 5, 50, 92, 109, 110, 112, 123 Spengler, Oswald, 174 spirit of conquest, 38 Steindorff, G., and Seele, K., 72 Steppes of Europe, 37 Stone Age technology, 87 Strabo, 59, 114, 115 strategy of development, 137, 138, 140 sub-Saharan Africa, 9, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 43, 45, 46, 74, 92 the Sudan, 22, 26, 61, 76, 83n4, 137 the Suez Canal, 8, 50, 56 sugar plantations, 96 sulphur, 53 the superior race, 173, 185 supermen, Nietzschean, 175 Swaziland, 76 Switzerland, 149 Tanganyika, 76 Tanzania, 22, 26, 76, 136, 137, 140, 195 technological advancement, 11, 14, 36, 41, 44, 79, 100, 140, 156, 158, 165, 168, 175, 177, 180, 182 technological and industrial development, 125, 134 technological and military slumber, 2 technological backwardness, 80, 111, 162 technological progress, 1, 11, 17, 36, 41, 59, 61, 63, 87, 90, 113, 143, 155, 166, 173, 184, 191, 198 technological stagnation, 9, 50, 79, 106, 113, 200 technological underdevelopment, 36, 181, 183, 198 Teilhard de Chardin, 179 telephones, 158

Teutons, 41 Thales, 65, 114, 115 Theôn ochèma, 90 the theory of the two cradles, 7 Thoth, 38, 114 Thutmosis II, 38 Thutmosis III, 38, 161 Tiglath-Pileser III, 70 Togo, 22, 76 Tokugawa Shogunate, 110, 111, 125 toolbox of development, 137, 140 the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, 75, 79, 156, 166 triple rent system of manufacturing, 138 Triremes, 54, 88, 119 the Trojan War, 63 the Tudor Plan of development, 139–140 Tunisia, 46, 76 Turks, 123 the Ubermensch, 166 Uganda, 22, 76, 136 Ujamaa, 196, 198 Ulundi, Battle of, 61–102 the United Kingdom, 5, 137, 149 the United Nations, 2, 22, 77, 105, 136 the United Nations Human Development Report, 22 the United States of Africa, 135 Upper Volta, 76 Upshur, J. Jiu-Hwa, 120 utopian humanism, 195 Valhalla, 38 the Vatican, 98 Verharen, Charles, 19 Vikings, 174 vitalism, 186, 191, 193 the vitality of African and European peoples, 35, 174, 186, 193 Volney, Constantin-François de, 62, 65, 67, 115 Voltaire, 166 Washington, Booker T., 161, 168, 175 westernization, 146, 148 the white industrial civilization, 193 the white race, 2, 6, 33, 35, 48, 168, 174, 193

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Index the white soul, 174, 178 white supremacy, 51 William of Rubruck, 123 Wolseley, General Garnet, 102 the World Bank, 19, 21, 149

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the Yangtze river, 50, 94 Yoshida Shōin, 125 Yukichi, Fukuzawa, 111, 127

the Zaibatsu, 128 Zambia, 22, 76, 137 Zanzibar, 76, 92, 93 Zeus, 38 Zhen, Wang, 54 Zimbabwe, 55, 76 the Zoroastrian nobility of Persia, 35 the Zulu army, 82, 101, 102, 129n22 the Zulu shield, 101, 102, 129n22 Zululand, 74

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About the Author

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Ike Okonta is an associate professor of philosophy in the Department of History, Politics, and Social Justice at Winston-Salem State University. He earned his master’s degree in philosophy at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, and his PhD in philosophy from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He specializes in social and political philosophy, mathematical logic, and black political thought. His previous publications include Nietzsche: The Politics of Power and Classical and Contemporary Moral Issues. As an educator, he has won several teaching awards, including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for teaching excellence and the Wachovia Award for excellence in teaching.

221 Okonta, Ike. The Failure of Leadership in Africa's Development, Lexington Books, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,