Monday, 29 October 2007

Dr Watson’s racist findings and Africa’s chronic slide

October 30, 2007
One of the world’s most prominent scientists, Dr James Watson who shared a Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for co-discovering the structure of the DNA molecule in 1962 burnt his fingers when he tried his hand at the hot potato of race and intelligence.

Dr Watson claimed that “most tests” had shown that overall Africans were not as intelligent as people of European descent and that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.” He later apologised “unreservedly” for the comments adding that “there is no scientific basis for such a belief!”

Sadly, Africans always come at the tail end of most important aspects of human development and progress, somewhat lending credence to the purveyors of the racially prejudiced idea that attributes intelligence -or the lack of it- to race.

Many stand on these premises and claim that perhaps Africans would have been “better off” if the colonialists had stayed on “a little bit longer” to see through their dubious project of “civilising” the supposedly backward Africans. The proponents of this argument sneer when challenged by those who assert that colonialism and its effect on governace, was the bane of Africa’s progress.

They point to the fact that many other parts of the world such as Asia and the Americas whose (occupants are not predominantly black) were also colonised at some point but have come off much better than (black) Africa.

Because, Africa was one of the last places to be colonised, by the time the colonialists came to Africa they had learnt great lessons from their abortive experience elsewhere and perfected the art of colonisation. They knew that colonialism would never be acceptable as a permanent condition and would at some point in time be resisted by the “natives.” They had to be shrewd. Ways were devised to gain eternal control and that the continent would be in a state of everlasting dependence and chaos.

A global economic system was perfected to ensure that the South (Africa) perpetually provided raw materials for processing in industries based in the North (Europe) at a minimal cost.

To access lucrative markets, unfeasible standards were set such that African finished products found it impossible to gain entry. The territories in Africa that were not colonised would later suffer this consequence and end up like the rest of the continent– economies with uncertain and insufficient economic bases.

Furthermore to fit into this arrangement, Africans were disadvantaged since they had to abandon their language (and culture) as a medium of communication in trade, education and daily operations, for predominantly English and French. A good percentage of their life time would be spent trying to learn and “catch up;” with their European counterparts as a necessity.

When colonialism ran out of fashion, power was handed back to the “wrong” people ie “democratically elected” fellows (the Obotes) instead of kings and chiefs who “owned” it at the onset of colonialism, in “republics” which were in effect different nationalities that were hastily and haphazardly merged. The contentions between nationalities would feature prominently in the politics of the continent with disastrous consequences.

Naturally these “democratically elected” leaders were resisted. They in turn dug in to protect their new found privilege of power. They fell back onto their tribes mates whom they could trust for their protection and perpetuation. (The concept of Generals coming from one area is no accident). Politics and leadership became a game of one tribe displacing another and trying to hang on as long as possible.

With this came along the evils of sectarianism, and corruption since recruitment was not on merit. Inefficiency, low motivation and productivity set in because being at one’s best did not guarantee promotion in ones field of expertise. Knowing the right people, did. The military coups of the late 60s and the early 70s funded by the dynamics of the cold war, stifled democracy, free thought and created an atmosphere of perennial fear and uncertainty which was definitely not conducive in bringing out the best of Africans.

It sparked unending devastation, with a good amount of the (productive) human resource (16-45 years) wasted either as refugees or as “combatants” practicing the art of destruction and not construction. Foreign aid and its high interest became inevitable yet in real terms encroached further on the continent’s resources, since most of it is either stolen or goes back to the donors as payment to expatriates tied to it.

The continent’s revenues ended up in unproductive defence expenditure instead of research, education, health, infrastructural development and investment and yet these are the aspects that would set a favourable environment and Africans would function and be judged correctly.

Many Africans and blacks, who have had studied and worked in (European) environments that cherish merit, invest in human resource, value and pay fairly for the input of individuals and their ideas, plus create an atmosphere of certainty, security progress and development have shot holes in the idea of race and intelligence.

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