Master-mentality or slave-mentality (part 2)

The sole purpose of introducing the word “lack” into our educational curriculum is to create a sense of fear and hopelessness into our hearts and minds because fear paralyses the faculty of reason, diverts concentration and effort and turns will-power into nothingness.

And the majority of our African intellectuals are victims of this strait-jacketing. This type of education makes us panic too quickly and therefore we tend to swallow everything from the white man because the very first day when we step into a classroom, we are taught to consider him to have a superior mind. And as the saying goes: water cannot rise above its own level. In fact any teaching which induces a slave mentality or a sense of impotence is not education at all it is an attack on the minds of people.

In this respect,  Azwell Banda wrote: ‘’For starters, may be it is time we wake up to the simple and yet all important fact that the most important resource Zambia has, is the material between the ears of its citizens’ brains….. Our current education system from nursery to the university lacks the capacity to unlock the full creative potential of our people to be their own liberators. It is largely an education for periphery consumers. Our education system, wittingly or unwittingly, produces graduates at all levels who have no problem with consuming things they have no clue how to produce.’’ (Sunday Post 2nd January 2005)

The same way, Trywell Kalusopa wrote: ‘’I believe that political and economic brains that do not liberate their own people from oozing poverty when they have the instruments to do so are worthless. Brains that recite a pseudo capitalist agenda for self-aggrandisement are a curse to the nation. Brains that cannot break an exploitative system for the good of the Zambian people are dead brains. They are not worth of the brains! They are sterile! These are the sort of brains that believe that the absolute drive towards foreign investment is a panacea to national development.’’ (Sunday Post 19th August 2007).

And consequently in this frigid intellectual climate, there is total lack of original thinking and lack of innate propensity, potential and power to determine our own destiny and spearhead the political and economic revolution that can lift Zambians out of the poverty mire to prosperity. There is total bankruptcy of enterprising and political intellectualism and I just cannot understand how persons who only become clever after events can be called geniuses, intellectuals etc.

I am not, however, in anyway trying to criminalize the colonial system of education per se and the majority of play-boy intellectuals it produces who are automated like machines. But I cannot, however, hesitate to point out its deliberate failure to lay concrete foundations of self-discovery; self-assertion and the quenching of the pioneer spirit. And as a result, there is no hunger for real meaning; no search for ‘’ more’’ and hence the so-called intellectuals allow all sorts of impressions to enter their minds unconsciously and as a result, they are controlled by words, foreign knowledge and cunning powers-that-be that feed their lines as they rob their power of creative individuality. And consequently, there is no search for other dimensions beyond the ordinary conventional western political and economic philosophies that they had swallowed in lecture halls.

The Nigerian statesman, Dr. Azikiwe wrote: ‘’The ability to quote Shakespeare, Chaucer does not indicate original scholarship. The capacity to know what is the periphrastic conjunction, or to solve the Pythagorean problem or to understand the principles of light, heat and sound or to translate Aramaic or to know all important dates in British history do not indicate true academic scholarship. These are the superficialities of a decadent education system. These do not make a dynamic social order, they are simply by-products of the imitative complex.’’

It was only later when I was introduced to Marx, Hegel, Plato, Aristotle, Kant and other immortals that I became a freethinker and developed my philosophical conscience on ‘’how to think.’’ And I have stubbornly refused to be told ‘’what to think.’’ And I face a lot of problems in a society which is instinctively suspicious of independent thinking. I am therefore unlike most natives who have obliged themselves to verify their thoughts to stereotype conventional western education system and so constantly nod their heads to any foreign idea like tree-frogs (popularly known as blue-heads).

I am therefore unlike most natives who have obliged themselves to verify their thoughts to stereotype conventional western education systems and so constantly nod their heads to any foreign idea like tree-frogs (popularly known as blue-heads). But, on the other hand, I strongly believe that the greatest risk is the risk of riskless living.

One of the greatest problems critically facing our nation is that we are victims of the distorted myth within the African political circles that equates politics with superior intelligence and therefore African political demagogues consider themselves to be ‘’geniuses’’ far above the collective intelligence of society. There is a firm conviction within every political party that the embodiment of wisdom, insight, intellect and knowledge including mega-talents and multi-gifts are specifically confined within their inner circle and never elsewhere.

Mr. Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda, then a cabinet minister in the UNIP government spoke about the same thing: ‘’Let us not think we can take the people for a ride all the time. What I am saying applies to the back-bench and the front-bench alike. Let us all remember that we have no monopoly of wisdom or intelligence just because we are MPs, Ministers, Members of the Central Committee, Prime Ministers, Secretary-Generals or Presidents.’’ (The Kapwepwe Dairies by Godwin Bwalya Mwangilwa).

After submitting our preliminary papers, I was one of the 25 participants who were selected to present our papers in various disciplines at the National Symposium on Curriculum at the Mulungushi International Conference in June 2009. My paper was on ‘’A Nation without Culture is Dead.’’ and the general consensus among the academicians was that the current educational system was inadequate because it does not in any way deal with the realities on the ground

It is important that students as the intelligentsia of our society must remain connected to their social and cultural roots. The people must develop consciousness of their proud-being; of their equality with everyone else and of their capacity to make history. However, It’s unfortunate that many Zambian intellectuals wrongly believe that their cultural heritage is derived from their education and conscious approximation to the western living standards.

Dr. Kaunda has a penetrating insight and he put it in a graphic way: ‘’….educational institutions, too, tend to be strictly utilitarian in scope, turning out a stream of technical, professional and scientific people required in central areas of national building… yet the nation that lacks a firm cultural substructure is jerry-built and though the people have title deeds to the property and the key to the front door in their pockets, they are still homeless.’’

Why did President Kaunda say so? Life involves our growing upwards and downwards like a tree, which is able to stretch out its branches to the sky because it also sends its roots into the nourishing earth. Man or tree with no proper roots will fall. The past must live side by side with the present, while the future is the continuation of the past. It’s only and until when we begin to seriously look back into the so-called ‘’primitive’’ past, our future as individuals and as a nation is doomed. It’s the past that unlocks the future. Futurists like economists and demographers look at data, detect trends and extrapolate them to forecast changes.

And the immutable truth is that cultural heritage cannot be magicked away in the twinkle of an eye or eliminated with a snap of one’s fingers. It will live for many a day and be a continual source of weariness and frustration. It is something that can be blocked and thwarted, but cannot be got rid of. Even the western aristocratic education can never drown cultural heritage, because while logic can convince one’s reasoning, it cannot, however, overcome the inertia of dualistic thinking. Intellect may comprehend the oneness of things, but thinking will still continue in dualism.

It is very unfortunate that there exists in this country, a deep sense of intellectual timidity, which means that the majority of ‘’genuine’’ intellectuals are in the habit of ‘’thinking with breaks on.’’ This is where one realizes the excruciating dilemma in which bona-fide intellectuals find themselves because they have to trim their minds continually in order to stay ‘’on course’’, that is, in line with quack ‘’intellectuals’’ who have dominated the intellectual scene.

I strongly believe that Zambia is an intellectual colony, but she badly needs intellectuals with swollen heads i.e., courageous, revolutionized and radicalized in order to become the kind of forum for freewheeling thinking needed to cultivate a creative and dynamic society. The most distinctive feature in the western societies is tolerance of the human being’s potential to think and create. And this respect for the individual’s mind is the key to creativity.

The Post observed in the editorial: ‘’Our society has very few thinkers…..when our future generations ask themselves who the greatest thinkers were at this stage of our history, what will they find? We are afraid they may come up with none. If they should see an amorphous mass of mediocrity ruled by fear of being thought different and in so being subversive. It should not surprise us. It is because we only have time to chase after the little material gleam that is left from the plunderers’ table and nothing more.’’ (ibid. 29th June 2005).

The Problem with our Intellectuals

Generally speaking about eighty percent of educated Zambians of whatever level are obsessed with their academic and professional attainments and refer to themselves as geniuses, intellectuals, philosophers etc. However, our leaders have not been impressed with such empty claims and at one time President Kaunda retorted: ‘’Intellectuals! Intellectuals! You call yourselves intellectuals, but what have you ever done?’’ And in the same way, President Chiluba said: We have intellectuals and professionals in this country who only cough and smile intellectually.’’

The problem is that ‘’knowledge’’ and ‘’intellect’’ are often mistaken for ‘’understanding’’ and ‘’wisdom.’’ The process of thinking or the use of the mind or brain is a wave extension from the centre of knowledge, which divides that knowledge into ideas and sets them into motion. The quality of a person’s products depends upon the degree of awareness of his knowledge and not upon the quantity or intensity of his thinking. Inspiration is that deep awareness of consciousness which differentiates the genius from a person of average intelligence.

‘’Knowledge’’ is accumulated information (for example: ‘’what is the capital city of Zambia?’’ Lusaka). But even though the voice of a book is one, however, it does not teach all persons alike. ‘’Intellect’’ is mind plus an emotional tug strong enough to determine independent courses of actions. Dr. D.D. Thurstone wrote: ‘’To be extremely intelligent is not the same as to be gifted in creative work. Students with high intelligence are not necessarily the ones who produce the most original ideas. The Quiz kids are often referred to as geniuses, but it is doubtful whether they are fluent in producing original ideas.’’ (Applied Imagination by Alex Osborn).

“Understanding’’ or ‘’insight’’ is the ability to see connections between one fact and another and between facts and real life. And that was why King Solomon admonished: ‘’Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.’’ (Proverbs 2:3,4).

‘’Wisdom’’ is the right use of knowledge or the ability to apply knowledge to everyday life and that is why ‘’wisdom’’ is regarded as ‘’skill for right living.’’ For example, knowledge teaches you how to use a gun, but wisdom teaches you when and at what to shoot. And according to Silvano Borruso, ‘’wisdom is primarily the ordering of units of knowledge and understanding according to their correspondence with reality.’’ (The Art of Thinking: Chats on Logic). What must be noted here is that it is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the application of knowledge that counts.

On the other hand, talent has nothing to do with education, Alex Osborn wrote: ‘’According to scientific tests for creative aptitude, there is little or no difference between university or non-university people of like ages. Dr. William Easton, a man of many degrees, remarked: ‘Education is not a vital factor. Many highly trained persons are sterile creatively, while others accomplish outstanding results in spite of an almost total lack of formal education.’ History records that many great ideas have come from those devoid of specialized training in the problem involved. The telegraph was worked out by Morse, a professional painter of portraits. The steamboat was thought up by Fulton, likewise an artist. A school teacher, Eli Whitney, devised the cotton gin.’’ (Applied Imagination).

For example, In 1991 Zambians saw the emergence of the supposed young intellectuals into the MMD government and this was widely viewed with considerable optimism. The political change that took place was considered positive and promising; the problems of development were felt to be serious but solvable. The assumption was unquestionable that, because the MMD was over-flooded with geniuses of various disciplines, it consequently had the capacity to cushion certain economic problems.

However, it wasn’t long before they themselves realized that their neat lecture hall theories did not work out tidily on the ground when they hit all kinds of snags involved in finding answers about the unpredictable human material which is the object of all governments.

According to an international organization, the National Citizens’ Coalition report in Social Watch Report 2002: “When former President Chiluba took office from President Kaunda in 1991, the poverty rate was 56 per cent. When he left the government after ten years, poverty had risen to upward of 80 per cent. Large-scale corruption had diverted resources meant for the people of Zambia, while they watched in sorrow and desperation as their country headed towards becoming the poorest in the world. A characteristic feature of Zambia’s poverty is that the government and the international institutions bred it. Zambia’s poverty did not just happen; it was caused…..Former Chiluba’s government was the most corrupt in the history of this country. Resources that should have been used to improve the people’s quality of life were misappropriated in grand corruption episodes.”

And corruption has now become the graphic symbol of the Zambian politics and hence, it was reported on BBC Focus on Africa programme on 12th April 2002 that Zambia was counted among the top ten most corrupt nations of the world. No wonder John Phiri sarcastically asked: “…which universities did these educated fools go to where they were given degrees, masters and PhDs on how to plunder the nation’s funds.” (Education Post 10th July 2005)

Generally speaking in nine out of ten, intellectualism comes out in the middle of immense enterprise, when one is trying to make sense of what seems to be a meaningless slaughterhouse. It is in this intensity though unknown even to himself that a person takes part in the life of the universe and releases the hidden potential within himself, because talent comes out of decay.

The genius’ mind is strengthened, increased and enriched by those very ideas that escape the senses; the less there is to see, the more there is for the indomitable spirit of reason to pursue. For any idea cannot be said to be real, living, until it is tried and has triumphed over everything that would destroy it. It’s this war with the senses, which enables the genius to win a more glorious victory. The genius develops a specific type of alteration of thinking, feeling and relation to the external world___ a gulf that defies description. And therefore the mystery of the genius’ mind lies in three acts: genius, madness and reawakening.

A genuine intellectual is a visionary, innovator and a pioneer who matches to a different beat to that of the clever or the brilliant and is catapulted into activity by what is called the ‘’persistent principle’’ propelled by diligence, which is an inward attitude for success and this means telling the mountain to move out of the way. But if any intellectual lacks the persistent principle, diligence and anticipatory vision, then the hope of ever achieving something worthwhile in his or her life is simply an illusion. Potential without passion lacks success and remember that children are born out of intense passion.

The Cancer of Mental Corruption.

There has in recent years erupted an epidemic, known as ‘’national cancer of mental corruption,’’ which has greatly eroded Zambia’s intellectual output. There are certain people whose apparent impressive family educational backgrounds dating back from their stupid great-grand-fathers merely strive on the vicious cycle of examination leakages and other dubious means of managing to secure places for their foolish and totally dull children into institutions of higher learning without the minimum entry qualifications.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) recently arrested the assistant registrar at the University of Zambia for allegedly modifying Grade 12 results to enable six individuals meet entry requirements at the university as first year students, contrary to Section 6 of the Computer Misuse and Crime Act, No. 13 of the Laws of Zambia.

What about those children whose parents cannot afford to buy examination papers? It was reported on ZNBC news that Grade 12 students had rioted and damaged school properties at various Kitwe secondary schools because the mathematics examination paper was too difficult. They were demanding that the Examination Council of Zambia should prepare another easy one, so that they could pass with ‘’flying colours.’’

On the other hand, Attorney-general, Mumba Malila said that the legal profession was in considerable disrepute. ‘’…some learned legal practitioners at ZIALE expecting to enter what is known as the noble profession have deemed it convenient to shamefully cheat their way into the profession by helping themselves to leaked examination papers..’’ (Sunday Post 28th April 2007

This simply means that there is no hope for the development of a worthwhile intelligentsia in this country. And unfortunately because of ‘’good corrupt connections,’’ these bunches of half-baked quack intellectuals who are the products of examination leakages are the ones holding key positions in this country.

I believe that any knowledge, and especially at this critical period in Africa which does not come down to try and break the vicious cycle in  a peasant’s life, no matter how brilliant is just an illusion. Education can only be valuable to us and to those around us when we grasp its essence and properly apply it to our daily realities. It is not the acquisition of book knowledge, but the application of that knowledge that counts.