kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Don't worry, it won't happen, Decolonising the intellect

The onset of the Western colonial enterprise that was started by the Spaniards and the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century, continued by the French, the Germans, the British and the Italians, and cemented by the Americans, witnessed the beginning of Western hegemony not only in the military and economic spheres, but the cultural and intellectual spheres as well.

When World War 2 came to an end, the West decided that it was no longer fashionable to hold on to its colonies, and many states in Africa and Asia were granted their independence.

Building our own paradigm that is devoid of Eurocentric influence makes us truly liberated.  
While it is true that the West no longer occupies these territories physically, the same cannot be said about the West’s hold over the minds of the peoples in its former colonies.

This is due to the fact that the Western colonial enterprise was essentially about subjugating the peoples in its colonies — their development, progress and happiness, and the ways of their attainment of knowledge, education and governance, which are now globally infused into the consciousness and institutions of most educated peoples, reflect the worldview, experiences and dreams of Western civilisation.

Doing away with physical occupation was only the beginning of a long and arduous journey of freeing the minds of the subjugated peoples in the former colonies from the tentacles of Western imperialism.

We ignore the West’s influence in shaping the minds of the peoples in its former colonies at our own peril. The failure to come to terms with Western dominance in shaping the intellectual discourse and knowledge production in its former colonies and the rest of the world has led to the creation of a servile mind.

A servile mind is very much similar to a captive mind. The late Professor Datuk Syed Hussein Alatas, one of Asia’s leading intellectuals, conceptualised the captive mind as an extension of the colonial mentality or categories by the recipient country, in relation to the application of social sciences from developed states or the West, without adaptation or critique of the adopted concepts and methodologies, suggesting the continued domination of Western ideas.

Syed Hussein, however, asserted that the captive mind of the subjects was not necessarily intentionally imposed by the colonial or Western discourse, but the subjects themselves submitted unconsciously or were unaware of their own captivity.

Technological and scientific advancement by the West has further perpetuated the idea that Western knowledge is the only knowledge that is desirable.

The downgrading of non-Western epistemologies by the West has created the impression that the Western system of knowledge is inevitable or scriptural to societies living outside the borders of Europe, and over which the West is hegemonic.

The Western intrusion into non-European societies has inevitably created an environment that places little or no value on knowledge that does not fall into the Western knowledge system.

This acceptance is made much easier within the framework of globalisation, and a new relationship between the dominant West and servile East.

We are constantly reminded that we must accept modern science because it is factual and universal. We are also told that Western sociology, history and psychology hold assumptions that are valid the world over because they are based on the values of the Enlightenment period.

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that epistemologies — the theories of knowledge — are profoundly limited by culture.

Many intellectuals in the former colonies have written and spoken on the need to delink our knowledge system from the West because indoctrination through Western education enables colonisation through the capturing of the mind.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for intellectuals in the developing world to make a firm commitment to reorientate their knowledge system to the cultures they are rooted in.

This can be done by, first and foremost, decolonising our universities.

At the International Conference on Decolonising Our Universities held in Penang in 2011, S.M. Idris, one of Malaysia’s leading public intellectuals, said we had failed to understand that colonialism had struck deep roots in our societies.

Put in another way, we need to uproot ourselves and liberate our minds from Eurocentric paradigms. The conference, the first on decolonising universities, paved the way for like-minded intellectuals across the globe to reflect critically on the hegemony of knowledge that comes from the West.

One of the most important outcomes of the conference was that it pointed out that scholars could no longer be a passive recipient of a research agenda.

Alternatively, scholars should expose the writings of thinkers, like Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Syed Hussein, Ibn Khaldun, Mahatma Gandhi, Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi and Ali Shariati, to students.

The challenge is for scholars to create an environment where the thoughts and writings of these alternative thinkers are discussed and debated.

Last, but not least, by delinking our worldview from the West, we can build our own paradigm that gives meanings to our existence that are devoid of Eurocentric influence. By so doing, we can proudly say that we are truly liberated.

Don't worry, it won't happen

ON Sept 16, 1909, W.B. Yeats wrote in his journal: “When I think of all the books I have read, wise words heard, anxieties given to parents... of hopes I have had, all life weighed in the balance of my own life seems to me a preparation for something that never happens.”

That singular journal entry has been quoted many times over, and nothing much has changed and we are left in a quandary.

Well, in most cases, things do happen as expected, but then again, you have the occasional instance when you spend a lot of time worrying about something that never materialises in the end.

The Hospital in the Rock in Budapest was expanded to withstand a nuclear fallout during the Cold War, but was never used for that purpose.

Worse still, if you have spent much money preparing for it. I had the opportunity to visit the Hospital in the Rock in Budapest, and this is one classic example of human wisdom or folly, depending on how you wish to see it.

This is a hospital created in the caverns under the Buda Castle in the 1930s, in anticipation of World War 2. It is part of an approximately 10km stretch of interconnected caves and cellars.

The hospital was used during the 1944-45 siege of Budapest. Many of the wounded were treated here, and the dead were carried out at night and buried in bomb craters.

The next instance when the hospital was used once more was in 1956, in response to the uprising against Soviet rule. However, it was also built as a top-secret military hospital and nuclear bunker.

Between 1958 and 1962, it was expanded to withstand the nuclear fallout during the Cold War. As a nuclear bunker, it must cope with the pressure that lasts for several seconds after the shock waves and block radiation.

The bunker must also accommodate equipment for air conditioning and heating, water supply and storage, generators, and radio and telecommunications.

Imagine the amount of money spent on the project, and the number of hours involved in planning and building it. It was never used for this purpose.

Experts agree that 85 per cent of what we worry about never happens. But then again, common sense tells us that it is better to be safe than sorry.

We do not want to be caught unprepared and neither do we want to be left looking foolish. A more recent phenomenon occurred around the time we entered the new millennium.

There was a lot of fear then that there would be major life changes with the interruption of essential supplies. They called it “Y2K”.

We were afraid to lose everything as the clock struck midnight, entering day one of the new millennium. We were afraid that computers would shut down and all energy supply would be disrupted.

So, we were all encouraged to buy survival kits that comprised cream crackers, instant noodles, water purification tablets, toiletries and a host of other things.

Some families bought boxes of such kits as they braced themselves for the worst. These were usually families with young children, and I knew of one family that bought 400 of such boxes.

I didn’t buy any, and just waited to see the outcome. I wasn’t particularly fond of cream crackers and instant noodles, anyway. Well, nothing that was feared happened, further proving that hindsight is 20/20.

The crackers and noodles had a shelf life, and thus, were donated to orphanages. I suspect that many just dumped the water purification tablets.

A random search about the future on the web will result in bad news and more bad news; from the financial market collapse to World War 3.

Strategies to counter the effects of hard times range from ensuring that one’s financial affairs are in order to developing a survivalist mindset.

The question is, how far should we plan for the unknown or the unexpected? Indeed, we need the wisdom of Solomon to answer this.
Tags: education, perang
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