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Friday, 16 May 2008


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This piece has raised a very laudable question: intellectual death and dearth in Cameroon. As the names of those listed in this piece suggest, inttellectual discourse has not been the preserve of the university community. In fact, many of those listed have not been lecturers at the university. But it is not wrong to assume that scholars at the university should be debating crucial issues affecting the life of the country. It may well be that some university professors in Cameroon attempt to do so but the impression that they generally seem to be silent in face of dismal societal conditions should not be surprising.

First, when scholars work for the party in power instead of their society, as many scholars in Cameroon do (especially Victor Julius Ngoh), we should not be surprised when they are silent in face of societal distress. Most university professors in Cameroon care no damn about serving their society; society can go to hell if it means that they have to lose their jobs.

Second, many Cameroonian scholars hardly study about Camerooon. I was very surprised to learn that accounting students at the university of Buea are forced to do accounting using the British Pound rather than CFA frs. This may appear to be a minor item but it is devastating when it comes to taking your own country seriously. Even more, students of geography know more about fishing in Norway than than do about fishing in Cameroon. When scholars do not study about their own country, it is very difficult for them to contribute anything meaningful to it.

It is an indictment of the intellectual situation in Cameroon that many professors focus more on what is happening outside Cameroon than on what is happening in it. They try to toe the party line by saying only the kinds of things that will not jeopardize their jobs. They participate in the corruption of the country by exploiting their own students. How then can they effectively participate in fruitful intellectual discourse about their country?


" Indeed, these are trying times. But what are the men and women in our university and intellectual circles doing to conscientize, energize, create awareness, proffer solutions and chart a course of action? The answer is not far-fetched "

When we ask wrong questions, the answers and conclusion will naturally be wrong. In this instance perhaps the writer of this article is asking the wrong question and positing the problem from a boxed perspective.?

To find out why the situation is so at the moment, perhaps we may need to ask more questions and also approach the problem from different directions.?

For instance, if we were to ask of ourselves some fundamentally deep and disturbing questions, such as what are the ultimate aims in the collective sense of our existence as a people and as a culture..? what are the main goals, drive and direction of our culture and society.? What are the motives and meaning of our thinking, actions and endeavors in the pursuit of our existence in relation to environment, culture, time, history and eternity..?

Are we ever bothered by the fact that we may not even have the capacity to think..? or that as a people we may not even have original thoughts of our own..? that unfortunately we are lost on the vast terrains of life, only copying, following and imitating, obeying, worshipping and accepting without questioning what we have inherited from outside..?
The evidence and the facts of these are observable and verifiable in the movement of day to day existence within our communities.

If we were to ask such questions of ourselves, then the secondary problems of intellectual debate and inquiry would be irrelevant, as the intellect per se is only a part in the sum total of an individual's being.

Our present predicaments, the evil that is pervasive in our society and perhaps all over the African continent and also all the atrocities, sufferings, sorrow and burden that the African has carried over the last centuries would take on a different significance and meaning. Then the problem which we are facing would become a matter of life and death, we would be rigorous and determine in our resolution and quest for the right answers.

As it is, we are not asking such questions. We are but positing irrelevant questions that inconsequential in resolving the colossal problems facing the individual and society at large.
Off course if we were asking deep questions of ourselves all the time, naturally such profound questioning brings its own momentum and energy to investigate and go in the right direction.
Such questioning will ultimately lead us in the direction of education. It will prompt us immediately to ensure that, every single child, every single individual within our communities is educated in the right manner, we will endeavor to create the right environment for the individual and in the larger context for the whole of society, where learning, right thinking et cetera will blossom and be sustained.

We would see to it that even the adults are reeducated. We would not be satisfied with our present preoccupation with quick fixes and patch work that only perpetuates and keep our problems in continuity.
In such a situation, we would inquire deeply into the function and relationship of the individual within the structure of society, we will investigate the meaning of culture, the significance of beauty in relation to truth, right values, proportionate balance between all aspects of our human life. We will not emphasize meaningless values and cultivate what is non-essential to our happiness, freedom and peace. We will rigorously inquire and investigate the meaning of aesthetics, function, harmony and balance, in the context of the total values that constitutes an individual's being and therefore society at large. We will endeavor to find out the true functions, place and role of every aspect of human life, such that we are able to tap the total of an individual's latent and innate potentials.

In this way, we able to formulate and create for ourselves the right precepts and conditions conducive to the procurement and pursuit of the three most important things in life, which are happiness, total freedom and peace.
But as it is presently, we are not concerned with this approach. We are only concerned with the superficial examination of the effects and not the root causation.
We are at the moment programmed and conditioned in the conclusion that we are walking and navigating the right pathway of life. We are satisfied with the status quo and present orthodoxy even though we see that it is killing all of us in the short and long term. It is so for the simple reason that we do not know any other reality or alternative pathways to pursue and are unwillingly to face the facts as they are.

For instance, critical thought can not come into being when we are busy cultivating vainness, the pursuit of status, sensate values, sophistry and climbing societal ladder, which we presume and think are the ultimate purposes of our existence. We have concluded prematurely that the present orthodoxy and status quo is okay, we need only to change politicians, conform to the structure and all will be fine and well.

If we will want to have critical thought, then we must be willing to learn. To learn anything, we will not only be focused and emphasizing one route, we will also seek out new ideas and learn widely from every human culture on the planet, we will not only be fixated with the Western culture, it's belief systems, religion, philosophies et cetera as the only recourse and solution to all of man's problems.

If we were to observe closely and impartially all around the world, where ever the Western way of life has been exported, in its wake has come a million of insoluble problems. It is specifically an ego-centric pursuit of existence that seeks, promotes, sustains and perpetuates exclusivity and the culture of a selected few with the monopoly and authority to govern and rule life as it sees fit. There may be some occasional flashes of the good and sporadic benefits in some areas, but in the total it can not be a way of life and living which we can accept absolutely as having all the answers to life's challenges and hurdles.

We can read and write, but it is not education. We can memorize and repeat fluently but it is not intelligence at all. When we reproduce in the examination room what we have memorized, we are convinced absolutely that we are intelligent and entitled to more wealth, more status, more comfort, therefore also entitled to trample on our neighbors head. So another aspect of our problems, is the problem of the more.
We want more and more and are never satisfied nor contented with what we have. We must pursue and get more at the expense of our own growth, our communities and off course our own spirituality.

So, to find out the right solutions to our multiple problems, we must inquire into the nature of education.
Is education the mere reading and memorization of history, geography, economics, biology, maths et cetera..? or is education something entirely different which encompasses the totality of human life..?
In this sense, we are second class human beings living in the shadow of ourselves and never willing to delve deep into the well of our innate potentials and highest points of our beings and inherent capacities.
So ultimately it is always a matter of our inclinations, interests and the desire to break completely free from the prison yard which is our present society.
It is not really a question of where are our intellectuals or the death of critical thought, because we never had critical thought in the first place.


Canute you said it all. Those were the good old days wherein intellectual sword play was the order of the day.

Keep up

Agbor balla

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