YURUGU: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior" by Sistah Marimba Ani.
EUROPEAN AS “MALE”
The feminist critique of European society has its roots in the bowels of the European tradition. The patriarchal nature of early Indo-European religion indicates more than a desire of men to dominate women. It also results from the association of “male-ness” with superiority and “femaleness” with inferiority. Perhaps the earliest European definition of “self” and “other” was as male and female. In reaction to a more than 4000- year old tradition of male control European feminists organize for an end to female oppression. Some see the base of their movement in the equality of men and women, which they translate as “sameness.” From an African-centered perspective this position is INCORRECT. Others have developed a “feminist ideology”, much of which uses the tenets of and African world-view as its foundation within the category of what Ruether calls “reform feminism,” although they do not identity it as such. The question looms: Why was it the male in the Indo-European experience who sought separation and dominance rather than the female? Or did the female share the same ambitions but simply lost out because of disparity in physical strength? Susan Brownmiller seems to be say8ng that male domination is related to anatomical characteristics that allowed the human male to rape the human female. Engels offers a materialist analysis that links male dominance to the origin of private property. These explanations are not culture-specific. The concept of ASILI (seed) demands that we be above all CULTURE-SPECIFIC.
In our analysis male domination has a specific history in European culture and is linked to the other cultural forms in a uniquely “European” manner. This phenomenon should not be understood as a universal, because while it may have similar appearances in different cultures, the degree of intensity varies, as does the relationship to the asili of the culture. Perhaps the answer to the question that looms is that separation and dominance are themselves part of a “male” or “patriarchal” approach to reality, and that this approach became associated for the European with maleness of gender. Indeed, I have argued that separation opposition, and dominance are characteristic of European mythoform. This imparts what Eric Neumann would call a “patriarchal consciousness” to the culture. This consciousness is directed toward control, distance, and analysis or splitting, and it tends to be threatened by the matriarchal nature of consciousness.
In other cultures where we find patterns of female oppression, these patterns do not have the same ideological positioning in the culture as they do in the European tradition and therefore are not as strong. They co-exist in tension with matriarchal philosophies, often matrilineal descent systems, tradition of female leadership, and strong patterns of cooperation and associations among females. The literature and ideology of European feminism reaches towards these cultures for intellectual inspiration and the creation of a new feminine self, or it attempts to compete with the patriarchal nature of the European tradition by denying the female and seeking to dominate the male.
What is to be learned from African and other non-European philosophies is the principle of appositional complementarity. It is not a question of which gender dominates nor of whether everyone can become “male” (that is, take the dominant position), rather it is a question of whether our view of existence dictates the necessary cooperation of “female” and “male” principles for the success and continuance of the whole.
Plato was very clear on this question, but he was simply developing the Indo-European ASILI (seed) in its intellectual, ideological form. Not only were males superior, but they were superior in ways that demanded their control of women. They were more rational, critical, and intelligent, more capable of grasping higher truths. Only men could be philosophers. In fact, women were not even qualified to be their lovers.
It is not accidental that the term for a male person “man” becomes the term in European languages for ALL human beings. This issues from the initial European self/other distinction, where male is “self” and “female” is other. Michael Bradley (a white man) says, “Caucasoid sexes have never really got used to each other, never really completely trusted each other.” This, he says, is because of the extreme sexual dimorphism necessitated by Neanderthal development as an adaptation to the glacial environment. Caucasoid, he argues, descend from Neanderthals. Bradley assumes that males are more territorially assertive, and as the category of time was approached “territorially” by Neanderthals, men feared women as the bearers of children who would subsequently supplant them.
The European is “scientific man.” To them this implies the essence of universality, objectivity, and the ability to be critical and rational. “Scientific man” does not connote to the European mind, simply the person who is engaged in scientific activity. To them the term indicates a state of mind and of being: a way of looking at the world. As science takes on a magical quality in European culture, so the use of its methodology can impart value to the individual. Scientific man is ‘he” who approaches the universe with a particular attitude. The attitude of science is a vehicle by which the world is consumed. Science for the European is synonymous with “knowledge” and this knowledge” is the representation of power. Scientific knowledge is the ability to control, manipulate, and predict the movements of people and other “objects.” Indeed, Europeans view themselves as this “scientific man” who manipulates the world around “him.”
THE PROBLEM OF THE “MAD SCIENTIST”
According to the European self-image, “scientific man” is in a desirable position, for he is above all logical – remote and detached. But this is not quite the same thing as being “a scientist.” A scientist, in terms of the European image, is one who envelops himself in science. He is totally immersed in the laboratory and wears special “glasses” that allow him to see nothing but his work – the “objects” on which he experiments. This image has a special place in the European cultural ego. Such “scientists” are relegated to a very small portion of the collective personality, but on an unconscious level this personality is identify with a characteristic tendency of the entire culture. It is a part of the self that Europeans perceive themselves to e; yet they neither want to become nor to identify with it.
In this sense it is not part of the European self-image as a “positive” self-concept. It is the only aspect of their culture towards which they express ambivalence and possible fear. A major vehicle for the “mad scientist” in the European nightmare fantasy is an expression of the fear and recognition that somehow it is the European asili (seed) that produces such madness in every “European.” It is a culturally induced madness caused by the very absence of humanity.
In this typical plot one finds the same person. He (always male) is committed only to his experiments and will not stop them, no matter what danger they imply to the community. What excites him are the implications of his being able to control and manipulate some part of nature that has previously been untouched, perhaps something sacred. This he insists is “science” and “progress.” As he is typically depicted, this man cannot love, has no friends, becomes deaf to the admonitions of those around him. He loss the ability even to understand what they are saying He is a fanatic in the fullest sense of the term. This is Dr. Frankenstein (depicted in 1920, 1932 and in 1941 films), Dr Jeckyll and all the others not sufficiently infamous to be known by name but always there. “The Deadly Mantis” (1957); Dr. Cyclops (1940); The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977); “The Thing” (1951); Alien (1979); the theme does not “go out of style” but continues to provide material for the European/American science fiction “thriller.”
There is a certain madness even in the fanaticism and unidirection of men like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. They want to be rational, critical, objective, universal, and scientific; but they are not certain that they ant to be “the scientist.” The sense somehow that in this cold rationalism they will lose control. The nightmare of the self they envision, therefore, is that they have completely lost their humanity and have become monstrous. The reality of the nightmare is that the nature of the European culture is such that this monster can and does gain the power to endanger the lives of those not only in his culture but throughout the world