By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, Aug. 16, 2019)
“Salon, you Greeks are infants to us. Our (Egyptian) civilisation is hoary with age.” — Taken from Plato’s Timaeus.
My column “Half Steppin’ to Emancipation” rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. None took more angst than the Euro-Centrist know-it-all, C. ben-David, a shadowy figure who has been all over the media advising and chastising government and private citizens alike about the rights and wrongs of Vincentian society and psyche.
ben-David accused me of racism and lambasted me for “peddling Fake Afro-Centric history”. However, he offered not a single piece of evidence for this wild claim, except to posit that “Ancient Egypt in northeastern Africa was truly rich in cultural achievements. It was also multiracial, though mainly Middle Eastern and Mediterranean rather than African from a genetic perspective.” No proof; just a bald statement! What utter nonsense!
Ancient Egypt was not Black? It was really comprised of Middle eastern and Mediterraneans? Who were first, when and how did the mix occur? ben-David is silent. Any foolish argument to rob Africans of their greatness and their inventions.
This project of denial is not new. It gained credence and currency during the enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th century, as Europeans tried to explain and rationalise the African Holocaust: Trans-Atlantic slave trade and Slavery. To do this, they had to obliterate everything of glory that Africans had created to claim it as their own.
The Enlightenment thinkers offered intellectual coverage for crimes against humanity. Philosopher Georg Fredrich Hegel, remarked that Africa “is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit”. Rene Descartes described North Africa as “European Africa”.
John Locke wrote a proviso to the slave constitution of Virginia “every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slave of what opinion or religion soever”.
Emanuel Kant said: “In the hot countries the human being matures earlier in all ways but does not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity exists in its greatest perfection in the white race. At the risk of arousing the resentment of my brothers of colour, I shall say that the Black is not a human”.
C. ben-David cautions us to “never allow bogus research driven by divisive racialised politics to replace the Enlightenment rational and objective search for scientific truth”. From the foregoing, which views are racist, the Afro-centrist or those enlightenment thinkers that ben-David places on a pedestal! Now you see why Amiri Baraka warned, “there is nothing that is objective”.
Now, if these enlightenment thinkers thought so “lowly” of Black people and Africa’s contribution to world history, small wonder ben-David concludes that many achievements of sub-Saharan “were based either on the independent invention or the ingenious application of what was learned from other lands in areas like astronomy, mathematics, education, medicine, metallurgy, agriculture, textiles, and the arts”. He never mentions what the “independent inventions” were! But according to ben-David nothing he listed was invented or created by Black Africans.
None of these “notable achievements” were home grown, “but from the ingenious application of what was learned from other lands”. Like from where? The Afrocentrists are attempting to steal what the Europeans created. Note well, Asians, Middle Easterners and those from the Mediterranean, except Europe, invented nothing of substance. Afro-Centrists were employing “Pseudo archaeology and fringe Science” to claim “[European] philosophy, mathematics and engineering”.
Well, well, well. Philosophy, mathematics and engineering are European! ben-David takes his fallacious thoughts even further and posits: “As one critic of Afrocentrism has argued, ‘If Eurocentric culture is so horrible, why would these fake historians want to claim it as their own? By coveting it, aren’t Afrocentrists providing the ultimate validation of Western Civilisation?”
Now, let’s flip a few words in that construction and posit the following: As one critic of Eurocentrism has argued, “If Afrocentric culture is so horrible, why would these fake European historians want to claim it as their own? By coveting it, aren’t Eurocentrists providing the ultimate validation of African Civilisation?”
Now let’s demonstrate the strength of our argument by pointing to what ancient Europeans said of African civilisation. Aristotle (384-322) ranked Egypt as “the most ancient archaeological reserve in the world and Egyptians as the most ancient of the human race”.
In the book Metaphysics, Aristotle wrote “the mathematical sciences first (proton) originated in Egypt. Egypt is the cradle of mathematics-that is, the country of origin for Greek mathematics”.
In the Prologue to Prodlus’s Commentaries on Euclid’s Elements, a disciple of Aristotle, named Eudemus, who lived in the 4th century B.C., confirms: “we shall say, following the general tradition, that the Egyptians were the first to have invented Geometry, (that) Thales, the first Greek to have been in Egypt, brought this theory thereof to Greece”.
Indeed, the Greek St. Clement of Alexandria said, “if you were to write a book of 1,000 pages, you would not be able to put down the names of all the Greeks who went to Kemet to be educated and even those who did not surreptitiously claim they went because it was prestigious”.
The following are established facts: Thales (624-547) was the first Greek student to receive training from Egyptian priests in the Nile Valley; Plato (428-347 B.C.) records that Thales was educated in Egypt; Proclus (420-485 A.D.) reports that Thales introduced science, philosophy and mathematics/geometry to Greece;
Greek intellectual life started with the Egyptian-trained student, Thales. He was the founder of the first Greek school of philosophy and science.
Thales strongly recommended that Pythagoras travel to Egypt to receive his basic education and to converse as often as possible with the priests of Memphis and Thekes.
In their book, A History of the Modern World (1984), R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton made this salient point: “Europeans were by no means the pioneers of human civilisation. Half of man’s recorded history had passed before anyone in Europe could read or write. The priests of Egypt began to keep written records between 4000 and 3000 B.C., but more than two thousand years later, the poems of Homer were still being circulated in the Greek city-states by word of mouth. Shortly after 3000 B.C., while the pharaohs were building the first pyramids, Europeans were creating nothing more distinguished than huge garbage heaps.” These are not the words of a racist Afrocentrist.
Now you see why Europeans try to tear North Africa away from the African continent? Why they argue vainly that Egypt was “mixed” and why C. ben-David claims mathematics, philosophy and engineering as European invention?
But the truth, like the phoenix, will rise. And so would Africa and its people.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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