Liberating the human mind

Suppression of the human body has often been characterized first by the colonization of the mind and spirit. The colonization of the mind is intended to cloud and internalize the human spirit with fear and sense of worthlessness, to condition behavior to the status quo which leads to acceptance of the normalization of the abnormal and where those suppressed don’t see themselves as makers of their own culture and history. Perhaps Bantu Steve Biko articulated this insight in the way which can be best understood, that ‘the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.’ The liberation of the human mind and spirit is necessary in our pursuit for happiness. 

Without a shadow of doubt, one must view the policy of suppression at a psychological level, because whatever else it does economically or politically, it creates confusion in the mind and weakens the resolve. At heart, it is designed to assert control and influence over the human mind. The role of psychological warfare is designed for these purposes, and in many aspects they are the determining factor. The break down of communication and trustworthy relationships enable the effective implementation of psychological warfare through rumors and confusion, which finally results in division. This policy has been most affective in situations of protracted conflict.

Any transformative initiative therefore must necessarily involve a deliberate process of decolonizing the mind, which must be aimed in lifting the human mind from the hegemonic conditions and in instilling new values. Without such a liberative process, the oppressed will only continue in the path laid by the oppressor and within the value system which has been artificially imposed. This continuation would only feed into a cycle that will create a reality in which victims would then become oppressors. Such a tragic event would negate the principles of freedom. 

Transformation demands the renewal of a people’s culture, culture which is the carrier of a society’s values; and values that form the basis of a people’s self-definition. By culture, it implies the dynamic process of cultivating new life. Hence, there is a critical need to identify and reconstitute the cultural base and values which was fragmented by suppression. It means identifying what is and what is not and acting upon it. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o describes it beautifully while responding to western accusations of the prevalent culture of corruption in Africa. 

He says “They wash their hands of what is happening, as if they have never had anything to do with the corruption, with massacres, with backwardness. My concern is with these colonial distortions. There are elements which are indigenous, but they are also external. You can’t understand one without the other. The tendency is to leave out one of the elements in the equation. But an equation without all its elements is no longer an equation.” Ngugi further emphasizes on the need to challenge and transform the system because of the terrible moral decay. He adds, “An individual can go, but the system continues.”

To bring change, we need a new song, but to sing a new song, we need to decolonize our minds. If not, we will only be singing the songs written and taught to us by others. Yes, while writing the new song, we may incorporate ideas, thoughts and practices introduced by others, but it is essential that we make the song ours, one that corresponds to the values and realities of our lives and aspirations. Hence, to bring out genuine transformation in our lives and in our land, we must engage in a process of decolonizing our minds. For us to liberate our consciousness, we need to decolonize our minds!