An old proverb declares, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This proverb seems quite apropos when reflecting on the independence of various African nations. Most have been independent for more than 50 years.
Cynically, many had the seed of a vision for a future tied to a pre-colonial past, which died in infancy, was still born, or died in utero. Myopia and blindness caused all to fall into the ditch. People perished. Dreams perished. Freedom became just another word for nothing left to loose and the shackles of colonialism, though rusting, remained as binding as ever.
When one thinks of fundamentalism, one thinks of religions with narrow definitions of the truth and possessing the absolute certainty that they have or are that whole, stable truth. Such well defined boundaries demarcating the true from the false, such unmitigated certainty, such constrained logic sadly holds a certain appeal to some. It is particularly appealing to those who craving power, control, and an illusion of security.
Stagnation is inevitable because real change is impossible. The present and future are constrained by one past moment reified, a snapshot, a fragment of time. Community is impossible because those who possess other fragments, other parts of the whole, are labeled as enemies and heretics. What passes for life is merely a mummify, a well preserved corpse about which all who look say “Doesn’t he look natural.”
What is religion? The terms ‘religion’ and ‘rely’ share a common root. That root word means to fasten, to connect, or to bind. So, religion simply refers to that which binds together. At its root, there is no metaphysical dimension, no divine being. Thus, religion is foundational to all groups of people. It is a way of orienting, of sense-making, of creating meaning, memory, and story.
Individuals tend to be bound together around common interests, needs, and purposes. Understood in this way the religious and the political are merely different faces of the same coin. Sadly, this African religion is but a form of fundamentalism. Its evangelists, its truth makers, its prophets (a.k.a.) political leaders, sell snake oil to the masses at exorbitant prices.
Their truth is an illusion that keeps the masses mired in an opiate of survival. There is power in the blood of the masses. The prophets, aging, yet eternally young, sing hallelujah and shot “Amen!” as more souls are subsumed, consumed, and drowned in baptism in the river of nihilism. Ye shall know the truth (because I am the truth) and the truth strengthens me over thee. Such fundamentalism is a fool’s errand not even fit for fools.
Lies dressed as truth are still lies. Colonialism in blackface is still colonialism. Cursed be the ties that bind, that quench, African hearts and spirits. Decolonizing the mind starts with decolonizing the religion, the ties that bind.
Marcus Garvey had a vision for an Africa united in spirit and purpose; an Africa controlling her narrative, her organic narrative, not the narrative which is mere protest against her oppressors, and thus still controlled by the haints and haunts of those oppressors.
Say! Africa for the Africans, …
This the rallying cry for a nation,
Be it in peace or revolution.
Blacks are human being, no longer cringing fools;
They demand a place, not like weak tools;
But among the world of nations great
They demand a free self-governing state.
Hurrah! Hurrah! Great Africa wakes;
…Time has changed, so hail! New Africa!
We are now awakened, rights to see:
We shall fight for dearest liberty.
What a glorious vision whose ember is still warm, whose light still shines on a worthy path. Despite the debris of current events, we must not lose hope; we must press on in faith.
O Africa, Africa, mother of races, who kills the griots and stones the ancestral messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
Who will rescue us from this body of death? How long must the peoples follow where there is no vision? How long will anxiety and insecurity wear the mask of leadership? Nkrumah, Lumumba pray for us! Let the spirit fall, let it rain reviving like the sweat of Mandela, Tutu, and Sirleaf. Can these bones live? O Mother, thou knowest. Can these bones live? Let sight return, the people see visions, the community dream dreams! By the power of Nommo we declare àṣẹ.