Why history is written in flesh

Aiste Lei ©

I believe in the sixth sense, not in a ‘seeing dead people’ way, but the sense of shift, that feels the brewing zeitgeist of future generations. The things that they will understand, that our generation can not. This is what activism and creativity alike ought to explore.
Can one set of people understand what the previous didn’t but not that which they did?

There can never be lasting fundamental change, it is in our collective DNA to forget, remember, forget, remember.
It is more interesting to strive to understand this pattern, and to discover that we have been here before; and that we will return. This cadence of human history is quite wild; meaning it isn’t convenient nor effortlessly understood.

There was a time when precolonial history was contemporary Africa. This is the Africa I strive to understand, but the closest I will get will not be through intellect but through emotion. My emotions drive me to know the stories that are omitted from history, the daily reality that had no agenda but that of living. Let me be clear about this one: What I’m saying is that the precolonial written history of Africa is predominantly written by male historians about male Africans. Ironically, this implies in many ways that the potent insight into African history is in its ‘herstory’. It is less polluted and convoluted by battles of power between genders and races. What was the context of women’s lives in Africa, in trading, in agriculture, in arts, spirituality. Who were the women that sought to emancipate their husbands? That saw fertility as power? What can they tell us about Africa that male-dominant history is uninterested to know?

I (accidentally) met a shaman recently, he told me that I am ahead of my time, which of course was a generous idea for him to embed in my consciousness. Yet he was mistaken. I’m behind my time. Whilst others are talking about postracism, postfeminism, postmodernism post this and post that, I’m decades and even centuries behind, trying to understand the beginnings of human confusion. If I reach any ‘post’ state it will be from traversing backwards around the circle.
This does not intend to be an inward rumination into the mind, by the way, because nothing bores me more than the overdose of thought that Descartes and his ‘age of enlightenment/reason’ peers introduced into the world. Thought that is absent of emotion is unbelievable dense, it’s academic in the truest meaning of the word.

But, if there is a sixth sense, and if it is about feeling rather than thinking, can we feel that Africans have never been passive participants in the making of the modern world? Did you read my post about African witchcraft and western psychology? Do you think it was possible for our European brothers and sisters to arrive in Africa and not be impressed by our knowledge, or that of other non-Europeans? When the global south was rich (c 1500 backwards) the west was poor. Today, the roles are reversed. In the future too, they will be. The ‘reversal of fortune’ theory is present throughout the mythology of humanity. History cannot be understood in fragments. If all we look at is dysfunctional modernity we will not understand how to get out of it.

It is more rewarding to understand life through emotion than intellect. Each and all speaks the language of joy, love, sorrow. When your lover hurts you, does he or she own hurt? If you can feel (and not think) the answer to this, then you no longer will be afraid of being hurt. When someone serves you happiness, be grateful, let it lift your spirits by all means, and then kindly decline. Brew your own happiness, only then can you decline another person’s serving of pain. We are co-dependent, you and I, marvellously so, but the only destiny is within you. You are history, present day and future.

  • Mbeng Ngassa

    I always though we humans, especially as Africans have very short memories. While this has it’s advantage i.e. enables the person to forgive easily and move on it seems to have us repeating the same mistakes our ancestors made.

    I feel at one time women where held up high by men and since history has a way of repeating itself they will one day regain their place.

    In many ways I think life can only be understood through feelings and emotion. It becomes obvious to me when you try to describe a feeling or emotion and find there are no words for it.

    I heard somewhere that while our memories might fail us, our emotional intelligence never does and I suspect becomes the basis for our instincts.

    We possibly got lost when we put our trust in our intellect/matter than our emotions and when we began to think the material world was more real than our minds.


    • http://www.nakedfashion.com.au/ Maarten Gubbens

      I agree with you…

  • http://54interviews.wordpress.com 54interviews

    I’ve re-read this post so many times, and I’m clueless as to what you are inferencing. Could you please or anybody else “undeepen” it for me….thanks!!

    • MsAfropolitan

      LOL perhaps best I don’t attempt…

  • http://none raymond joseph carpenter jr

    race love people color it all the same if you love someone you love someone what differents do`s it make i`m a black man 46 years old i`ve dated all kinds i`ve dated models actress rapper black women white women dark skinned light skinned this 2011 racism is over if we keep talking about it we not go away just forget it and live your lives

  • Bert

    Dear Ms Afropolitan,
    I started reading your blog a few months ago, to know more about Africans all over the world and mixed race issues. My fiancee is Nigerian, one day I will be the papa of a mixed race child. Anyway, I like your blog !

    As a last year (Flemish/Belgian) medical student I have a little bit experience with treating patients. I’ve seen that psychosomatics is a big part of medicine, and the new generation of physicians is more open to that than the older physicians. We are going back I believe to a more general human way of life, I mean a less reductionist/rationalist/materialist perspective than the one typical for the ‘modern way of life’.

    Last year I had a conversation with a Flemish man who traveled a lot to Asian countries, he is a fireman but in his free time also a shiatsu-therapist. He talked about the modern western way of medicine as ‘the traditional western medicine system’ – very confronting and enlightening for me to call it that way :p

    I believe our health system should restrict the trend towards hyperspecialisation, because there is an economic law ‘the more specialized the field, the more funds the specialists need’ and instead focus on family medicine. Strenghtening first line medicine, with an openness to spirituality issues (meditation and mindfulness already is recommended by some physicians) will help better to heal patients than still focusing on improving specialists’ knowledge. Patients should be helped more with understanding their medical condition and how everything in their life is related to that (bad habits like smoking, bad education for their children). Patients should be better supported to change those bad habits. A specialist who always talks as if he is teaching medical students can not motivate people to change their life. A physician who for instance prays together with his patient, is more likely to do that.

    • MsAfropolitan

      How on earth did I miss such a juicy comment until now! Thank you and apologies for that.

      • Bert

        Better late than never ! Thanks for the reply :)

        By now, I’m the proud papa of a NigerioBelgian little prince and still thinking about how to change my own behaviour as a medical doctor to better fit the needs of today and especially tomorrow. I’m sure reading your blog will support me a little bit to do that.

        • MsAfropolitan

          I was glad to hear from a practitioner that psychosomatic approaches are being increasingly adopted in medicine, it seems logical. I just finished a book by Levi Strauss ‘Myth and Meaning’ which touches on this. Stay in touch and share links/info of these sites which you think may be of interest

          • Bert

            Thanks for adding another book to my already long list :)

            Sites of interest:

            1. http://bernardlown.wordpress.com/

            Dr Bernard Lown has a very interesting blog. His pieces are very long (as he is retired, supposingly having lots of time). Sometimes I feel like giving up reading a blog of him in the middle of it – but then I continue, because his language and his messages are really worth it ! He is a retired American cardiologist who fougt together with Russian physicians to end nuclear madness – he is proud of his actions in this respect. A very special personality!

            Your original blog this message is a reaction to, is about I think the same thing as what happens here: dr Bernard Lown wants to promote an “oldie days value” which is patientcenteredness and we youngsters are taking this message up with new eyes, and so ‘rebelling’ against the medical mainstream of the generation just before us. At my university, there is a lady who recently wrote a PhD about patient-centeredness in medical students, how the actual medical working place is not stimulating this patientcentredness and how to overcome this ‘reality-check’ with a realistic patientcentredness and not – as happens sometimes – with lost ideals. An abstract of one of her articles is this http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03627.x/abstract

            2. Probably you’ve once seen the feelgoodmovie ‘Patch Adams’. I tell you, maybe you knew already, this man is real ! And he has a website: http://www.patchadams.org

            Not to miss here is the bubbling up of ideas for a ‘compassion curriculum’ (http://www.patchadams.org/compassion-curriculum), ideas for a real primary care holistisc clinic making use of LETSsystems in Philadelphia (http://www.patchadams.org/philadelphia-clinic) and the content of the Patch Adams medical elective ‘towards a more human model of medicine’ http://www.patchadams.org/medical-elective

            This REAL things make me dream even more :) I am dreaming of attending the medical elective one day and/or to work together with the Philly’s clinic to start a similar one in Antwerp (Belgium), where I live.

            3. http://www.dhamma.org/ is the website of an organisation started by guru S.N. Goenka. They are already present worldwide. I met the Flemish fireman/shiatsu-therapist I talked about in my first reaction at a ten days lasting Vipassana meditation training session in Dilsem-Stokkem (Belgium). I was told by some of my mates of medical school how it opened their eyes. You see, medical students are not only reading books and drinking beers :) I met “special people” over there, of whom I believe the world would be a better place if there were more of them. Now I have lost the habit of meditation but I know some mechanisms and also tricks now to use in medical practice – related to the power of your own breath. You can really write poetry and prose only about TO BREATHE – cfr the etymology of ‘inspiration’.

            4. http://www.oliversacks.com/books/anthropologist-on-mars/

            I’m a fan of Dr Oliver Sacks since I read his ‘Anthropologist on Mars’. In that book he describes holistically, with enough medical details but not too many for lay people, the story of seven neurological patients. He wrote this with a method that is not common in medical litterature: the narrative way. A patient story is for us mostly the medical highlights of a patients life, in a lesser extent the consequences for daily life and mostly not at all what it MEANS to have a medical condition like ‘not seeing colours as before’, especially if you are a painter (one of the patient stories).

            As a medical doctor I want to have a grasp of that last aspect of the patient’s story also, because it seems to me so LIFE-SAVING if you can respect it, but in a conventional ‘time is money’ way (interpreted as that you have more money and respect if you see more patients per day; other interpretations of that could be life-saving in te approach of chronic and psychosomatic conditions) this is very difficult knowing that most of the ‘deeper stories’ only come up after 20 minutes of a sensitive anamnesis and physical examination.

            I’m now trying to come to the quintessence of the consultation faster, by asking questions that we learnt in medical communication classes like ‘which ideas did you have about your disease before you came to me’, ‘which concerns do you have now/is there something you are afraid of’ and ‘which expectations do you have of me today’, adding to that metacommunication like ‘I think you are a little bit nervous today, is that so? Why?’ It is not easy to combine the medical and the humanistic perspective in one consultation, but I am trying to learn as much I can to come to that. Luckily I have good supervisors to guide me.

            That is enough for today :)

          • MsAfropolitan

            Ooh, looks like many goodies in here. Thanks a mill for the links and your thoughts, I look forward to perusing these with enough time on my hands.

  • Potolo

    late response but I don’t think that shaman was mistaken. nor do I think you are mistaken. You both saying the same exact thing just using different words to describe it. what i mean is that what he really should have said is you’re ahead period. and this is where the first confusion begins bc what does it mean to be ahead anyway? where does did concept come/derive from? how did it find itself in the english language? if you look at the yoruba religion you will see the same concept under divinities. remember the english language came afterwards and mostly attempting to convey african ideas through the european consciousness. the yoruba preserved this concept even from an older african civilization. now, when he said a head of your ‘time’ that’s even deeper. anyhow, I see exactly where you’re thoughts are heading

    • MsAfropolitan

      Read this a few times and not sure I get it, but I like it. Like that it made me think of language and the origins of concepts… Thanks for the comment