Alieu SK Manjang
There is substantial growth in number of Africans who are attaining graduate and post-graduates degrees in different fields of studies around the word. This has prompted economic forecasters to be optimistic about the prospect of economic development in Africa. This promising future forecast is also echoed in discourses revolved around African Renaissance. However, what remains under-highlighted is the extent to which the growing number of African intellectuals could contribute to enriching or vitiating African distinct social and cultural values and practices.
Through rich conversations with sample of African intellectuals, I am tempted to believe that there is an apparent correlation between attainment of higher educational degree and rebellion against African cultural and social values and and practices. In most cases African intellectuals, especially those who received their educations in the Western and Arab institutions – are more likely to ridicule social and cultural practice of their own people. The bulk of books and articles written by some Africans and which are dedicated to the discussing and questioning of the validity of our cultural practices in contemporary age is an evidence of this mass intellectual fall out with African cultures . Attempts of propagating Western notion of child rights, women rights, gay rights, individualist rights and other sorts of illusive rights as well as Mass imposition of Arab culture that stand odd to our societies are another snap of examples of how our intellectuals distance themselves from social practices that elevated them to their current status.
I am not anti-progressive neither am I anti-human rights preaching. Rather, I believe that our acquired knowledge and exposure to other cultures should not permit us to belittle what we own; rather our encounter with other none African intellectual works should also pave a way for us to critique and counter those cultures and practices in appreciation of our Indigenous knowledge and cultural values.
It should be realized that there is no god-sent directives that sanctions the western notion of rights. These so-called rights were discussed and defined by people and originated in contexts different from ours. More importantly they are morally argued which qualify them to be false or true depending on different cultural contexts. Unlike scientific and empirical arguments, their moral status surrender them to the mercy of unended debated of objectivism, relativism and emotivism approaches. This has further made them palatable subject in the debates of moral philosophers, who, despite their uncountable intellectual and scholastic efforts, find the debate interminable.
Therefore there should be red-lines or boundary to redifine them to the extent they fit our social context. The universality of these rights is nothing but an attempt to wipe out other cultures in a quest to produce one set of culture guided by martial standardization.
As African intellectuals are intellectually equipped to question their society, the same intellectualism should be used to critique what is preached to them through text books, conventions and agreements . In this aspect, we should question the concept of rights and who define it, we should question and inquiry about the genealogy of certain concepts in terms of when, where and how they find their way to us from their localities. We should be encouraged to question who wants it to be preached, where, when and why it should be applied in certain contexts . Providing answers to these questions should be sufficient to discuss our cultural and social values and define it within our own social context.
Until this is done, our education attainments will be a burden on our society , and more importantly we will remain periphery to others while our very existence will be under threats.
Finally, we should remember that rejecting or denouncing who we are do not reflect our degree of knowledge or novelty; rather it denotes our blind imitation or ignorance.