Saturday, 31 December 2011
Fanon and The Sahu: Awakening the Masses
This I have learnt:
today a speck
tomorrow a hero
hero or monster
you are consumed!
Like a jig
shakes the loom;
like a web
is spun the pattern
all are involved
all are consumed!
Martin Carter, ‘You are involved’
Throughout December, commemorations across the world marked the 50th year of the transition of Frantz Fanon. His contributions to Pan-Africanism and insights into the psychological trauma imposed on the colonised by European imperialism remain relevant to our collective struggle to ‘free Africa’ and decolonise the African’s mind. As a revolutionary, Fanon used his psychiatry to articulate the “psychopathology” that must be overcome in the liberation struggle. In other words, the struggle for liberation must, in no small part, be understood at the level to which colonialism, as dis-ease (that which damages, and imposes an unhealthy condition) has traumatised the psyche of the colonised. Collectively freeing ourselves from this psychological condition is inseparable from the overall objective of Pan-Africanism.
Perhaps much is assumed when we talk of ‘collectivism.’ For one thing it might be assumed that all Africans recognise the psychological trauma that has been imposed on us by imperialism and colonialism. And therefore we all seek to be freed from this condition. Certainly, Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks had the collective experience at heart when it examined the impact of colonialism on the psyche of the young Martiniquan boy whose contact with the French Metropolis (the white ‘man’) implied an ‘amputation’ of self, which aimed to ‘fix’ him (in a kind of a psychotic straitjacket) as a racially inferior ‘other.’ This is not Fanon’s experience alone. His self-reflections are not for individualistic indulgent purposes. Fanon’s deliberations are channelled towards the revolution that will liberate Africa and Africans. For Fanon no one is exempt from the responsibility of the suffering endured by any individual. As illustrated by Carter’s poem, ‘all are involved.’ Each of us make up the pattern, we comprise the whole. This is why for Kwame Nkrumah independence for Ghana was only a preliminary victory to the total liberation of Africa. Unless the whole is free, none is free.
But I think I have steered too far ahead. The first assumption about ‘collectivism’ may be that not all Africans identify with Africa. So when I speak of the psychological damage imposed on us by colonialism/imperialism, this might sound like an abstraction to many. It is to this ‘many’ that I dedicate my last Shout for this year. For some time now I have considered whether the many – the ‘masses’ are aware what ‘collectivism’ means as a force for liberation? I wonder whether the power of the ‘masses’ is merely political sloganising which has yet to be acknowledged by that veritable force? For if the people (the masses) are not aware of their potential, how so? And what will it take for this realisation – rather – this awakening of the masses; from unconsciousness to consciousness; from being masked by the self-annihilating extremes of cultural imperialism to becoming unmasked by recognising that Africa is not in our blood alone, but is our soul? I’d like to consider these questions with reference to Ra Un Nefer Amen’s discussion about Sahu men/women as an inherent aspect of Kamau tradition and the individual’s spiritual journey.
In terms of spiritual evolution, the Sahu are the majority of people who are yet to be awakened to attain the heights of Ausar. Ausar is the illuminated, the fully developed spiritual aspirant. Whilst Ausar ‘man’ is perfection, meaning completely awakened, the Sahu are in a state of, not quite darkness, but unconsciousness and therefore unaware of the their potential for spiritual elevation. On the Kamitic Tree of Life the Sahu Division of Spirit is governed by three spheres that together form a unit: Sphere 9 (Auset), Sphere 8 (Sebek) and Sphere 7 (Het Heru). These three influence the behaviour of the Sahu. Being lower numbers on the Tree of Life the Sahu division of spirit is dominated by animalistic tendencies (relating to emotions and sensuality). Here, the influence from the higher parts of spirit (spheres 6 through 1) that signify spiritual assent toward Ausar, are absent. The spiritual aspirant must work through the spheres to attain the heights of Ausar.
The influence from the Auset faculty (sphere 9) relates to our receptivity (the way in which we take in/consume information), gullibility (whereby the information we take in is not critically analysed but taken for granted). Here we are impressionable, in a state of spiritual slumber and we derive inspiration from role models rather than strive to be role models. If we relate this to Christianity, we would be followers of Christ, the sheep of his pasture. Christ is seen as the Shepherd whilst his disciples are considered sheep. Kamitic tradition posed that the individual proclivity was to assent toward Ausar - the Divine realisation of Self – God-in-man- that is, in Christian terms -being Christ- not merely to follow him. The power of collectivism needs to be understood in light of this because, as we’re told by Ra Un Nefer Amen, 5% of the world’s population control 85% of the world’s wealth (Metu Neter, Anuk Ausar, p.132). That 5% of the population, let’s call them the elite, know the power of collectivism which is why they rely on metaphysical idealism that gives power to a shepherd, or role models and celebrities whom we blindly follow (actually idolise) instead of cultivating our own divine consciousness. The Auset faculty influences us in terms of polarity, separativeness and opposition whereas the influence of Ausar is one that tends toward unity.
The Sebek faculty (Sphere 8) influences the way we take in verbal information – what we are told becomes what we perceive to be reality. What we know is what we are told to know; we need to hear it for it to be. When we congregate, say in church, and are preached to – that tends to be what we accept as reality; the external information is taken in by us without critical reflection. The Het Heru faculty (Sphere 7) influences our imagination. Images reinforce the ways we should react in given situations – it is a conditioning of our spirit. Although visualisation through the imagination can be used for success – for what we desire to be, it can also be used to set us up for failure. Images fed to us over and over are used to manipulate and control us, thus keeping us in a state of slumber, unable to rise to Ausar. An example is the increased number of TV Channels with programmes that feed us banal, spiritually deadening information. The countless channels give us a false premise of choice. But this choice is from one sedative to another. Programmes like Big Brother, Eastenders, I’m a Celebrity..., all the main stream News etc keep us entertained and sedated. We immerse ourselves in these programmes as if they represent reality. But truly they feed our animal spirit, which is a self-gratifying pursuit. In this way we are unable to perceive the essence of collectivism; for we alone are in this; satisfying our selves, indulging our individual personalities. We have no time, nor the desire to meditate because everything is external to us and at the ready. It is too much of a burden to delve deeper and deal with the ‘wretchedness’ of our collective condition. We cannot turn off the TV, stop and dwell in stillness and endure the humming silence. We must consume; extend hair, nails and lashes but never a hand to our brother and sister suffering while we stuff our lives with false images.
When Fanon writes that “every one of my silences, every one of my cowardices reveals me as a man” (BSWM,p.89) it is to acknowledge his personal responsibility for the well being of another’s suffering. For him God is not responsible for man’s hatred of one another. Again, ‘all are involved, all are consumed’. His involvement, my recognition of my sister’s suffering (being also consumed, being also involved) are examples of collectivism and the unity necessary for our collective liberation. When the individual transcends the separativeness of Sahu she begins the journey of spiritual elevation that will assent toward Ausar and her design in the pattern, her part in the whole – the empowerment that comes from unity. The liberation of Africa, and really the world - from the monstrous self-annihilating system that is capitalism and imperialism- will not come unless we start recognising our part in the collective.
To do this might mean experiencing the dissociation that comes from aligning oneself with Africa. As Fanon writes: ‘I was responsible at the same time for my body, for my race, my ancestors. I subjected myself to an objective examination, I discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics, and I was battered down by Tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetischism, racial defects, slave ships’ (BSWM p.112). The masses are not prepared to endure this weight of responsibility, if indeed they perceive it is theirs. The Sahu do not yearn for freedom, which has its dear price. The Sahu’s paradise is self-imprisonment. They live for the party to wind and dance, consumed by a perpetual ‘seeing and blind, hearing and deaf’ rhythm. But for Fanon, the objective examination was necessary and liberating. The mirror to which he turned did not completely shatter before him; the self-reflection set him free from false affiliations. He defeated the enemy within first and then steadied himself to fight the bigger war. He knew catharsis could be violent. He recognised that trance, possession and all those excitable extremes we associate with Africa and which terrify us are necessary for our psychological reconditioning for ‘this disintegrating of the personality [that comes from possessions], this splitting and dissolution [of the composite self], all this fulfils a primordial function’ (Wretched, p.45). This function is a liberating power that unites our soul with Africa.
The Sahu are not aware that they are in a state of trance (sedated) insofar as they cleave to habits, are slave to emotions and desires that permit them a ‘personality’. For the most part this ‘personality’, through memorisation (and as in a trance) is performed over and over until it becomes fixed. Therefore, as Ra Un Nefer Amen asserts, “spiritual cultivation from this perspective is a process of detrancing or dehypnotising consciousness away from the personality in order to re-establish the identity with the divine Self. In other words it is a process of awakening” (1994, p.88, my italics). For the Sahu to awaken, they must be willing to. So maybe if the people, the many, the masses, the Sahu do not recognise their power, it is because they do not desire to. For oblivion is a sweet seduction. The objective peering into the psyche is an unbearable burden. Muscles are too weak to be flexed for a fight that seems too far removed from their reality. The meaning of ‘mass power’ is lost on the masses because it’s identified as what the majority is doing. For example, the cross cultural majority watch Eastenders; the majority of African women wear weave, an increasing cross-cultural majority bleach their skin. And because the majority are doing ‘it’, the individual feels compelled to join them in the given action. Now if that alignment was for political mobilisation (as the various Occupy movements have attempted) then the people would assume the collective power to liberate themselves from oppressive systems.
As the year closes I pay tribute to the memory of Frantz Fanon and the work on Pan-Africanism he bequeathed to us. Though the amputation by European cultural imperialism was attempted, it did not succeed. For as he writes “with all my strength I refuse to accept that amputation. I feel in myself a soul as immense as the world, truly a soul as deep as the deepest of rivers, my chest has the power to expand without limit” (BSWM, p.140). That exhilarated feeling – from unconsciousness to consciousness – was channelled toward the African liberation struggle. Until the masses, the Sahu are prepared to take that self-reflective leap into the psyche and transcend the separatism, individualism and polarisation that Western culture promotes, the power of collectivism, of ‘all being involved’ will remain largely an aspiration of political mobility.