Yurugu: An African-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior by Marimba Ani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes, I run out of words. I want to write a book on this book and disseminate it among the masses. I want to encourage everyone and anyone who is interested in seeing a full -- a rather awesomely full, detailed, and well-reasoned -- critique of Western Thought.
Let me be clear: this is a critique of Western Thought while USING Western Thought in conjunction with African spiritualism, zeitgeist, and practical/historical experience with the invasion OF Western Thought. It is a synthesis, but it is also a rather piercing indictment.
AS a personal reaction to the book, I'm flabbergasted as to why it isn't HUGE and widely discussed in ALL academic communities or popularized to the public at large in bite-sized chunks.
Many anti-colonialists already do. Many counter-culture philosophers also do.
Few, if any, actively show us a NEW (or if you please, extremely OLD) zeitgeist, worldview, to see through.
Let me break it down. There are a few terms that are absolutely essential. To discuss other cultures - or your own - you need to accurately define them. If your entire worldview is enmeshed with your descriptions of other peoples, you automatically see-through your own lens no matter how objective you might want to be.
From this point, almost any argument you might make will be colored by your preconceptions. This is the real value of this book.
Asili is the idea of a cultural essence. What kind of world-views does it hold highest? Humanitarianism? Christianity (whatever flavor)? How does it hold the idea above all other values? It defines itself against what it RESISTS. Everything else is lower, less valuable, even worthless. That's asili.
Utamaroho is the drive. A culture's will to power. It's the direction and flavor of what the culture tries to accomplish. World dominance? That's utamaroho. World saviors? That's utamaroho.
Utamawazo is cultural thought process, the rationalization that allows the culture to propagate. How about bringing the convenience of 50's American zeitgeist to the rest of the world, showering everyone else in the love and harmony of the nuclear family unit? That's utamawazo. Progress? A world community? All the pretty things we say we want that paint such pretty pictures of ourselves even as we know we will betray those same ideas? That's utamawazo.
So what's the point? It's this: we have a framework of thought to work within that is NOT Western Thought. We are free to discuss how a culture thinks of itself, how it feels of itself as if it is a real person.
We can use psychology on it. We can ask the hard questions and compare how it perceives itself versus how it actually behaves. We can examine its cognitive behaviors and pinpoint the logical inconsistencies. The hypocrisy. We can judge it by what it ACTUALLY accomplishes versus its stated goal.
When seen from the outside, Western Culture is freaking INSANE.
I mean, most of us already know this. We see bits and pieces and shake our heads. Sometimes we say it's just a bunch of bad apples and sometimes we say it's just huge groups of misguided men and women.
But this book breaks it down in unflinching terms. From Plato, we get the idea of objectivism. We get the idea of dichotomies. We get the idea that we, as individuals, are separated from our actual selves. We split the mind from the body. Instead of having a single real, living creature that we call us, we now have abstract terms that are completely divorced from the living person. We may put them back together and see if we come back with something more or less like Frankenstein's monster, but in the end, it is a divorce from reality.
When you take these ideas and forget that the Terrain is NOT the Map, it's very easy to start objectizing everything. Today, I have a very easy time watching people get blown up or die in horrible ways on tv, but always have a very difficult time watching a puppy get killed in the same show. Why is that? Because we, as a Western asili, are so used to the maps we make of people that we forget that they are ALSO REAL PEOPLE. We're shocked out of that complacency at random times when we see something that is JUST as real but doesn't jibe with what we expect.
We are comfortable with tons of dead people but not a dead puppy because we have dehumanized ourselves.
What does this mean for someone who values being a Humanist?
Now let's not forget all the times when western countries invaded foreign lands under the banner of god, country, or progressive economic equality. The utamawazo, the reasoning, matches our asili, our self-conception. What doesn't match is our will-to-power, our need to dominate, to exploit, or just destabilize foreign nationals because they might prove to be just as rational as you but use a different system of government/economic-system/god.
The stated claims, even for those who are missionaries propelling god's truth, do not match with the actual effects. They hardly ever do. That's because the asili and the utamawazo are there to make ourselves feel good and bamboozle others while the utamaroho, the ACTUAL DRIVE of the culture, is defined by exploitation.
You know the type. Winning is everything, you know. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. That's a Platonic dichotomy, by the way. You'll find drives like this everywhere you look -- once you see them for what they are.
It's the private reasoning of certain individuals who will not be named who believe, in the core of their being, that they must win at all costs. Literally, at all costs. It doesn't matter how many people get dehumanized in the process. They're all maps, after all. The terrain no longer exists. But yet, we still have the utamawazo fully intact. Just look! We're Making ******* Great Again!
Be aware of yourself. Of your culture. Find frameworks that are outside of it. View yourself from others' lenses. It's the only way to truly see yourself as you truly are.
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