Monday, June 27, 2016

*The ‘Objective’ Intellectual…Whatever That Is!

"Unlike Socrates, I’m not going to be super-modest as to say that ‘I know nothing’; however, I see myself as knowing less than I’m supposed to know."

Photo: University of N. Hamshire
Editorial* - I will pretentiously posit this: the ‘objective’ intellectual isn’t some weird animal. S/he is someone who values ‘what is said’ not ‘who said it.’ What matters to the objective intellectual is that X is good and X has been uttered, performed or procured.

The saddest case for any ‘learning’ individual is to say that X is true or acceptable only if uttered by B. And if the same X is uttered by A then we’ll reject it with all our politico-intellectual and socio-intellectual might.

I don’t see myself as an intellectual; I see myself as a student. Unlike Socrates, I’m not going to be super-modest as to say that ‘I know nothing’; however, I see myself as knowing less than I’m supposed to know. That’s my general truth! And this ‘knowing’ comes from people of all works of life. Indeed, learning doesn’t come only from comfortable endeavors but also from things that make us sad or mad.

 Essentially, I see myself not only as a student with epistemic enterprise and pursuit but as a student of life. ‘Knowing’ things can be called my obsession. I always want to ‘know’ even when I might not manage to ‘know’ what I wanted to ‘know’ all the time. And Lao Tzu is right to call knowing of one own self enlightenment. It takes great initiative and self-preservation to know oneself.

As human beings, we were created as beings with ‘scientific’, rational minds. We always want to know the ‘why’ of everything. Some of us settle for less than the reason ‘why’ things actually happen. However, some of us aren’t satisfied by face-value impression of things; these are the people who make sure that ‘whys’ of things are better explained.

In South Sudan, this ‘satisfied-with-first-impression’ is exacerbated by the assumption that what my uncle said or has done is an exceptionalist truth. And anyone who tries to question my uncle’s truth is branded or hated. But this twisted state of mind comes from ‘learned’ minds who ‘know’ the affairs of the world. How can this ‘learned’ people not know that disagreements are normal? How can these learned heart not know that our uncles can be wrong, or even stupid?

If you hate someone because of his considered opinion, then you are either pretending to be learned or you need emotive intervention. You can't just unleash your negative, vengeful ‘intellective power’ on someone just because they disagree with you. On what planet are we all expected to agree all the time?

Like Zarathustra, the Objective Intellectual is calling on all learned hearts to value what is said not just the very people who say them. How many of us quote Mahatma Gandhi all the time but he’s the very man who looked down on Africans in South Africa by calling them ‘kaffirs and inferiors’? 

If X is good, it shouldn’t matter who did or uttered it! But No! Our young ‘intellectuals’ think this: Agree with me and my uncle, or you go to hell! We learn by contradictions and we learn when our ideas are subjected to scrutiny! Why should there be an exception?

So who’s the ‘Objective Intellectual?’ I don’t know! It could be me or you! However, we can only be the Objective Intellectual if we value deeds and not merely the people who utter them.

If a man/woman’s opinion makes you mad, then check yourself…you’re wasting time learning or being in school. School and life should teach you how to dismiss people's ‘wrong’ ideas without being abusive or vilely dismissive!

We might not be the Objective Intellectual, but we sure need her/him in this world and more so, in South Sudan. 

*The Philosophical Refugee



As someone who grew up in war conditions and lived as a refugee for a long time, I'm sometimes considered by many people in the 'west' to be prone to (or have) low self-esteem, be poor or illiterate. Living as refugees or displaced persons, who depended on the good will of others put people in a situation where they don't think much about themselves. But that's not everyone though.

As I stood by our front desk at my place work talking about Race and Identity in relation to my book, Is 'Black' Really Beautiful?, the issue of why many African peoples in North America become so over-sensitive when racial issues come up! For many rational people, this owes its origin to slavery and racial segregation.

But one of my coworkers, a person of European descent, was surprised to realize that her 'black' friend, a very intelligent woman, easily becomes irritated by simple things she [friend] considers racist. The friend considers any mention of a watermelon racist; and complains a lot about 'white privilege.' This means that discrimination is considered something 'whites' don't face because of 'white privilege.' In any discussion between 'blacks' and 'whites', 'white privilege' issue comes up!