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Earth Community Organization (ECO)
the Global Community
Jacques L. Hamel
Scientific Affairs Officer
Science, Technology and Innovation Cluster
Sustainable Development Division
Economic Commission for Africa
Research Paper (54 pages): Knowledge policies for Sustainable Development in Africa.
Only the abstract is shown here. A copy of the complete paper can be obtained from the author.
Table of Contents|
A Strategic Framework for Good Governance
Knowledge may be the chief currency and the essence of modern age.
It can also be a strategic resource and a lifeline for Africa’s sustainable development, which requires the acceleration of economic growth, the rehabilitation of the resource base, and the realization of a Green Revolution. These are core conditions of sustainable development. Indeed, sound environmental management, poverty reduction and food security are among the critical mainstays of sustainable development, incorporating vital elements of JPOI and key MDGs targets – in themselves a workable vision of sustainable development. The implementation of this vision requires more efficient development knowledge as an infinitely expansible resource. This knowledge can support more knowledge-intensive sustainable development and needs to be mined, harvested and promoted. Its expansion - a truly revolutionary phenomenon - and its increasing role in development are changing the nature of African societies and their place in the international knowledge order. A better understanding of this knowledge and of the foundations, structure and characteristics of African Knowledge Societies (AKSs) - a concept that goes beyond the prolongation of the information or the digital society - is necessary for formulating policy issues and directions, for upgrading anachronistic knowledge bases and for accelerating the transition from largely pre-modern, knowledge-deprived unsustainable AKSs to fast progressing ones. The nature, content and architecture of these AKSs can be conceptualized as diverse assemblages of a few basic, partially overlapping and competing ancient, medieval and modern macro knowledge systems. This conceptual framework enables the articulation of a knowledge policy for sustainable development - a non-African myth stemming more from the excesses and ‘collateral’ damages of modern development than from the problematic of non-developing traditional societies.
The myth of modernization, supported by scientific, technical and business knowlede, sustains relatively successful development of up to half of Africans, particularly the well-connected, entrepreneurial and opportunistic urban fringes. Modern knowledge remains well below world standards but is improving. It emerges mainly from the release of the power of questioning against traditional forms of thought, which must be encouraged throughout AKSs for removing obstacles to modern knowledge generation, acquisition and diffusion and for transforming an inefficient pre-modern knowledge edifice into an efficient one.
On the one hand, ancient and indigenous knowledge is sustaining the subsistence of up to a quarter of Africans and is geared more toward the past than the future. It is effective for reproducing and enhancing ‘stationary’ societies but not sufficient for profound structural transformation and development. Some pre-modern knowledge may constitute irrelevant relics of long-gone societies and may be holding back development. On the other hand, religious medieval knowledge is capturing, confining the minds and hindering development of up to another quarter of Africans. This knowledge provides sound ethical bases for sustainable development but also engenders insidious obstacles to knowledge advancement. Indeed, Evangelical and Qur’anic knowledge is amongst the most powerful ‘soft’ knowledge ever fashioned by humans but it lacks a set of critical values for knowledge-based sustainable development, such as democratic governance, fundamental freedoms, gender equality, a concern for nature and for the future and a focus on life before death – all necessary conditions of knowledge-enhanced sustainable development. Vigorously promoted by a pervasive physical and human infrastructure - not exactly a fountain of fresh knowledge, - this knowledge, under certain conditions, constitutes virtual owners’ manual for one’s life, especially for Africans-of-one-book, dwarfing development knowledge promoted by development organizations.
In this context knowledge-driven sustainable development must be pursued more forcefully to narrow the growing knowledge divide, which will not be achieved in large parts of AKSs without a profound reform of knowledge. This paper proposes such a reform for a prosperous and sustainable Africa, which must be pursued in the 21st century as aggressively as Africans pursued the myth of the independent Nation-State in the 20th century. Knowledge pursuits must better serve sustainable development. For this, AKSs must seriously take up the tremendous knowledge challenges they face. They must invest massively in knowledge to improve the social soil and environment on which it grows, keep abreast of knowledge development, set in motion dynamic knowledge-creating processes, reduce knowledge deficits, free knowledge from impurities, strengthen knowledge infrastructures and institutions, fight knowledge obsolescence and increase knowledge performance. They must embark on a new adventure of knowledge and realize a knowledge renaissance for knowledge-led sustainable development.
July 6, 2010
Africa is perhaps the most culturally imaginative and creative region in the world. It is extremely diversified, rich in talents and ingenuity with unlimited resources and potential. It has colonized the planet and it enriches humanity through inimitable arts. Yet, one African out of two lives in dismal human conditions. And despite spectacular progress here and there, it also remains profoundly socially and culturally conditioned, corrupted, domesticated and debased by two self-inflicted intellectual and ritual servitudes – koranic and evangelical - and overwhelmingly regimented, disciplined and deceived by a host of indigenous erroneous beliefs, faulty dogmas, half-truths, intoxicating mythologies, life-denying superstitions, theological entrappings, mystifying fictions, unknown foundational assumptions, pipe-dreams, fantasies, charlatanisms, junk science and a flood of nonsense. It is a region, in comparison with other regions, that is excessively possessed, framed and misled by the unsustainable dearest fallacies, which keep part of it firmly into the darkness of ancient times. So what is needed is to make room for some sustainable, subversive and seditious ideas for the way forward, building on the authority of self-imposed scientific and technical rationality, keeping in mind that reason is before all an instrument of manipulation, deception and cunning, and on the blurred ruins of western modernities, born out of revolts against outdated and illegitimate wicked religious and nasty political powers.
The immense power of science should be directed at the ‘re-Africanization’ of Africa – a region which should be purged from the worthless rubbles of history - by submitting blind religious faith and traditional folkloric loyalty to the criticism of reason and move Africa from the oppression of ancient prejudices to the tyranny of modern ‘neo-Socratic’ rationality.
In this regard African policy-makers should recall the ideals of the French Revolution: down with paternalistic, autocratic and despotic kings and fear-mongering, deceitful and fraudulent merchant-priests. Translated into this region at the present time - obscured and disfigured by foreign metaphysical symbols - on top of the African agenda freedom thinkers, lovers and fighters should put (1) ‘deprivatizing, defragmenting and civilizing African states’ and (2) ‘desacralizing, secularizing and decolonizing African cultures’, for a less totemic, more cosmopolitan, non-Abrahamic, truly enlightened, scientifically-informed and much less patriarchal self-determined and self-empowered post-colony, in search of the superior genuine and purified meta-African, achieving the highest human possibilities.
Science, which should neither be demonized, idolized or worshiped, has never been the forte of the spiritually contaminated African human animal and can never be under current pre-modern overreligious knowledge systems, particularly science as a way of thinking and as a method of evidence and reasoning, that, if allowed to run free, would certainly transform the very cultural underpinning and identity of the continent. The modernization of these old-fashioned systems, as the backbones of any mode of modernity, requires in priority the modernization of our mental and intellectual costumes. This process is essentially the passage from closed, self-confirming, faith-based, customary, totalizing or terrorizing knowledge systems – propagated by bigoted and barbarous ecclesiasts and mysterious ‘witch-doctors’ - to essentially liberal, falsifiable, facts-based, scientifically-established, technically-proven and innovative knowledge systems (not a single new god in the last 1000 years!!). In these uninhibited systems scientific knowledge can be construed as a theory of the real and as a technology of truth and understood as the epistemological foundation of any form of Afro-modernity. It is also the passage from the ‘Book of Scripture’ to the ‘Book of Nature’ and from the submission to the white man’s colonizing gods to the more authentic African stuffs.
The key to an African revival or Renaissance is the breaking of the reigning hegemonic order, basically regulated and sustained by Islam and Christianity – two medieval phallocratic backward solitudes and perverted obscurantist establishments – living in the secluded past, thriving on holy lies, absurd fabrications, fears, mirages, delusions, false hopes and subservient obedience and, genealogically, on the non-African narcotics, values and moralities of ancient middle Eastern ‘slave’ mindsets and worldviews.
Historically, science has proven to be too toxic, troubling, unsettling or destructive for a region whose knowledge systems are plagued with spirituo-, mystico-, magico-, abrahamo-, euro- and phallo-centricity, that excessively seeks comfort in historical debris, bogus revelations, pseudo prophecies, imaginary deities, ancestors’ spirits, phony limbos, made-up angels, mind-boggling miracles, wonderful heavens, amazing demons, implausible resurrections…and other strange and unconscious chimeras, taboos and biases, providing ample material for Freudian theses. It is a region that fell prey to a gigantic fraud and misfortune and that babbles abusively in the invention of hypothetic other-worlds and after-lives, which confines the minds, poisons or vampirizes life, drags Africans outside nature and denies or weakens this worldly existence. It also wears down the natural self, consumes time and precious resources, drains valuable energies, devalues the body, camouflages the discovery of the earth, lessens control over natural environments and erects interreligious barriers, which split communities and undermines Pan-African solidarity. Uncovering an original Afro-modernity, distinct from the North-Atlantic style, requires liberating and supporting the few progressive, autonomous, scientific, secular and free thinkers on the continent, which entails unashamedly blaspheming in every meeting, on every wall, on every CoP, network and blogging site, with an unorthodox radical neo-narrative.
Science in Africa has to become defiantly offensive and utterly heretical and sacrilegious to be effective and win over the two great non-African pathetic phallocracies that deplete the African spirit and vitality and dampen African innovation, as the current state of a self-alienated region amply demonstrates. Muslim and Christian cosmic visions and phantasms, masquerading as divine revelations, are not helpful and absolutely not needed in Africa, as the degree of human development of Finland, Japan and Singapore, for example, abundantly demonstrates, for they constitute insidious obstacles to cognitive development and to the emergence of scientific ways of constructing and ordering realities. These anachronistic vestigial phallocracies, oppressive machineries of churches and mosques and institutionalized captive systems of mental cruelty, where escape is nearly impossible or statistically insignificant, flourishing on selling the shameless notion of personal immortality, impact sublimely and negatively on all aspects of African life, including in unsuspected places, such as in agriculture where repeated long periods of fasting, numerous religious holidays, prayers for rain, faith in providence, belief in humans as supernatural beings, women’s banned inheritance and ownership of land, fear of ungodly bio-engineering, dismissal of scientific facts and rejection of common-sense truths, etc. are contributing to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. They also impact positively in many respects as they fill a basic human need and provide some soothing intelligibility to a fundamentally incomprehensible tragic world.
Part of the solution, in addition to economics and politics, for going beyond the trivial, superficial realities, entrenched mental habits, close-mindedness, demagogueries, populist pomposity, stubborn views, narrow provincialism, conventional system of thought, confounding appearances, mythical taming canons, self-deceptions, self-flagellation, wishful thinking, intellectual torpor, inflationary rhetoric, circular or tautological arguments, feel-good meetings and ceremonial entertainment, is to become compassionately disrespectful of long-established authorities, roll Imperial-Doctrinaire-Contemptuous Islam and Hebraic-Pauline-Constantinian-Roman Christianity out of Africa – two proselytizing religions of decadence - and battle magical witchcraft and mystical shamanism, which would open the way to superior insight, understanding and awareness and to a distinctive version of Afro-modernity, honoring unbelievers and infidels. This paradigmatic shift toward modern ways of knowing and acting requires championing the scientific method, the rule of technique and innovation as well as promoting decisive scientific arbitrations, increased technical mediations and a redefinition of STI’s relationships with religious, cultural, social and economic life. For this shift to occur there is a need to better appreciate modern science, not as a Christian crime, but as a method of both calculative and subversive thinking and as a means of achieving the systematic unmasking and renovation of conventional / medieval / pre-modern realities. This call for re-cosmologizing, re-mythologizing, ‘re-prophetizing’, re-charlatanizing and re-directing the evolution of a mutilated empirical reality toward a truly ‘African’ future, emancipated from the sacred relics of a convoluted history.
African science policy makers have to design sustainable visions, strategies and policies to let the scientific spirit out of the bottle, fight medievalism, drive a new relationship between Africa and the emerging modern cosmos, forge a new engagement with the naked world, de-technocratize the mostly empty development discourse in science and practice the science of the ‘hammer’.
Jacques L Hamel
Scientific Affairs Officer
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