Marimba Ani On How Objectivity And Logic Is Used To Disenfranchise And Colonize

Objectivity is used to distance observer from observed which not only creates emotional limpness, but also a sense of being better or being in control. Objectivity implies that emotion is weak, and cultures that are deemed emotional or less objective are framed as less than human, inferior. Objectivity can create social conditions whereby groups of people deemed as less objective–or more emotional– are rendered unfit for authority, such as women in male-dominated societies. Objectivity is used as a tool to divide groups of people into strata: hierarchically positioned social segments whose lower groupings are considered less than human.


In French propaganda scholar Jacques Ellul’s “Propaganda: The Formation Of Men’s Attitudes”, he discusses his belief of two conditions necessary for propaganda to exist at nation-state level. One of those prongs is “Sociological Conditions”. Of those conditions he writes,“For propaganda to succeed, a society must first have two complementary qualities: it must be both an individualist and mass society. These two qualities are often considered contradictory. It is believed that an individualist society, in which the individual is thought to have a higher value than the group, tends to destroy groups that limit the individual’s range of action, whereas a mass society negates the individual and reduces him to a cipher…an individualist society must be a mass society because the first move toward liberation of the individual is to break up the small groups that are an organic fact of the entire society.”


In Ellul’s framework, there is a need for an exclusive “better”(his “individuals”), and a mass of amorphous objects to be categorized and controlled(his “mass society”). Some might wonder why this is so. I believe Author of “Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani can offer some insight here.


She writes in Yurugu:


Any discussion of the nature and origin of European epistemology must focus on, if not begin, with Plato. This is not to say that he was not influenced by the pre-Socratic African philosophies that proceeded him. But what Plato seems to have done is to have laid a rigorously constructed foundation for the repudiation of the symbolic sense–the denial of cosmic, intuitive knowledge.


The dialogue the Republic is Plato’s ideological justification of the State he wishes to bring into being. What we witness in the dialogue can be viewed epistemologically as the creation of the object….The acquisition of knowledge involving immersion in this universe until, through sympathetic participation, meaning is revealed, expressed, and understood via complex and multidimensional symbols. But in the “new” epistemology we exchange symbols for “objects.” The creation of the object requires a transformation of the universe, no longer experienced but rather, “objectified.” This transformation is achieved through a changed relationship of the knower to the known…

“Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani, pg. 30


Her initial assertion, along with historical qualification, works to establish an ideological center and fulcrum. While there are probably a number of other philosophers she could mention, her use of Plato does more for resonance, and Plato’s Republic(and Cave allegory) are templates of federated state rule, validations for social class organization and subsequent resource allocation, and existentialism as self versus self and every other entity from nature to family.


Two things occur, one effecting the other. First, the psyche undergoes a transformation: Slowly the “self” is perceived differently from before; then, the universe to which that self relates is perceived differently, because the nature of the relationship is changed. The self is no longer a cosmic being, instead it becomes “the thinking subject.” The Greek word psyche indicates an understanding of an autonomous self distinct from everything surrounding that self. The primary function of this self becomes the “knowing” and “thinking” of scientific activity, which is no longer connected to “intuiting.”…This new self becomes fiercely isolated from its environment. Why autonomous, distinct, and isolated? Because this “thinking being,” if it is to be capable of scientific cognition, must be, most of all, independent.

“Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani, pg. 30-31


[…]The success and appeal of Homer’s epic depended on the identification of the audience with the characters and plot. His works were memorized and recited, and they rested on the strength of oral expression. When successfully dramatized they evoked emotional response from an audience that felt itself to be personally involved with the subject matter….”The doctrine of the autonomous psyche is the counterpart of the rejection of the oral culture.”…the success of the poetic mode rests with the ability to forge the world into a phenomenal universe, an experienced reality.


According to the new epistemology, in order to be capable of critical thought, we must be independent from that which we wish to know; uninvolved, detached, remote. Clearly, what this allows for is control.


“Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani, pg. 31

The superiority of the intellect over the emotional self is established as spirit is separated from matter. Even the term “spirit” takes on a cerebral, intellectualist interpretation in the Western tradition(Hegel).


“Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani, pg. 32


Marimba drives her point home in this following passage by outlining how dichotomies become “irreconcilable, antagonistic opposites”:


Once the “person” was artificially split into conflicting faculties or tendencies, it made sense to think in terms of one faculty “winning” or controlling the other(s). And here begins a pattern that runs with frighteningly predictable consistency through European thought, continually gathering momentum for ages to come. The mind is trained from birth to think in terms of dichotomies or “splits.” The splits become irreconcilable, antagonistic opposites….First the dichotomy is presented, then the process of valuation occurs in which one term is valued and the other is devalued. One is considered “good,” positive, superior; the other is considered “bad,” negative, inferior.


“Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique Of European Cultural Thought And Behavior”, Marimba Ani, pg. 33


What stands out for me here is her accurate use of “irreconcilable, antagonistic opposites.” Not only are they opposites, but they cannot be reconciled, and they are antagonistic. This is that crux of imperialist and neocolonialist thinking. Any group that differs– and trust, all groups will be found to be differing– is a group that has characteristics and behaviors that cannot be reconciled with theirs, and must be treated as antagonistic. Not only different but demonic.