A Constant Dabbling With African History and Culture

Published on 9th July 2019

The issue of global dominance is not that easy, it was done through the blood, sweat and tears, especially of the African people during the Atlantic slave trade. It is not as easy as Prince Mashele makes it out to be in his article published in the Sowetan of 01 July 2019 under the headline, “Despite its best efforts, China is still far too mysterious to take over the world.”

Moreover, Mashele is constantly dabbling with African history and culture. Mashele unbelievably writes, “What made it relatively easy for the US to rule the world is the historical fact that, by the time Uncle Sam took over the imperial reins, Great Britain had already succeeded in turning the language of a small-island people – English – into a legitimate global lingua franca. The idea that strangers must use English when they interface on the global stage gave the US great cultural power in its engagement with the world”.

To begin with, the US does not rule the world. It has imposed its hegemonic control over a few countries and contrary to what Mashele claims, it was not relatively easy to control those countries as they resisted and are still resisting to date, hence the standoff between North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Libya during Muammar Gaddafi’s time. Angola during Agostino Neto’s time and Mozambique during Samora Machel’s time tried to resist US hegemony. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba resisted western imperialism. Lumumba was assassinated on 17 January 1961 by the US, British and Belgian governments and Nkrumah was toppled by the US in 1966. So who gave the US this global leadership that Mashele mentions in his article? Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and other ANC conformists who accepted western hegemony should not be used as a yardstick to measure acceptance of western imperialism.

Secondly, English is not a legitimate global lingua franca. It is legitimate according to whose definition? English is not even a lingua franca in Europe. The French speak French, Germans speak German etc. So how can it be a global lingua franca when it is not a lingua franca in Europe? In Russia, and many parts of Asia such as China, North Korea, Japan and many other Asian countries they speak their own languages. English is not even a lingua franca on the African continent. Africa still needs to adopt Kiswahili as a lingua franca because it is spoken widely on the African continent. Africans need a lingua franca that every foreigner must use if they want to communicate with us instead of people like Mashele making a case for English. As Dr Cheikh Anta Diop wrote, European languages must not be considered diamonds displayed under a glass bell dazzling us with their brilliance. 

The imposition of English entailed more than “Cecil John Rhodes breaking into non-European society and using a gun to force a whole native population to learn English…” It is much more than that.

Let us examine, for example, how African slaves who were taken from Africa and shipped to the Americas came to speak English during chattel slavery. Members from the same ethnic group would be divided and taken to far and different places in the US and forced to abandon their culture, languages and religion. Those who did not conform were tortured and killed. So how does Mashele describe a language imposed in such a way as a legitimate lingua franca?

Some Africans slaves in the Americas and the indigenous people of the American continent were forced to speak English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. In Haiti and Martinique they were forced to speak French. In Brazil they were forced to speak Portuguese. In Cuba and many Central and South American countries they were forced to speak Spanish.   

Mashele thinks western culture has seized hold of most people’s imagination in the world. This despite the fact that many people in Africa, Asia and the Americas are resisting western culture because of its moral bankruptcy. People believe that the UN is a legitimate organisation because they do not know who founded it and why and how it was formed. However, the IMF has never been regarded as legitimate including its sister organisation the World Bank. He did not mention the World Trade Organisation which is also not a legitimate organisation but an organisation formed to pursue imperialism in another guise.

In his July 8 article in the Sowetan, Mashele writes that what had legitimised the US as a global leader are the liberal values exuded by its people domestically and propagated by the country’s leaders globally. Mashele is writing from the vantage point of Euro Americans not African Americans or indigenous Americans. Liberalism entails liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law. This certainly applies to American whites but not the indigenous people and African Americans. Native Americans were robbed of their land and decimated. They live in reservations and subjected to alcohol. African Americans disproportionately make up the prison population in the US and are killed daily by white cops. These can hardly be described as liberal values.

Mashele’s sweeping generalisation that “blacks are self-destructing” is galling. It is the ANC elite and their partners in crime - the white elite - who are causing the destruction of the African people. Those who were celebrating African people’s self-destruction are the ignorant and foolish ANC voting cattle not every African.

Mashele writes that “American democracy came to embody free human expression at its ideal best. Even the poorest of the Negroes spoke proudly of ‘the American way of life’” If American democracy came to embody free human expression, why was Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and many others killed for expression their views? And who are the Negroes?

Mashele thinks America is or was a democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The US is a plutocracy and an oligarchy. The drafters of the US constitution made sure there was no one man one vote. Donald Trump was chosen by the Electoral College and not necessarily the people of America. Even if he were elected by the Americans, most of them are too naïve and others who are politically conscious do not vote at all. The UK is equally pathetic. The less said about it the better.

Mashele fails to write about African history and culture from an African perspective.

By Sam Ditshego      sam412d@gmail.com

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