Thursday, 27 October 2016

Local language protects the Communitry

The most efficient and durable means of colonial control happens via culture. Culture holds the keys to how a group sees itself and knows its place in the world. As Ngugi wa Thiong’o—Kenyan novelist, professor, and author of Decolonizing the Mind—has pointed out, ‘Economic and political control can never be complete or effective without mental control. To control a people’s culture is to control their tools of self-definition in relationship to others.’ 

When done right, the native comes to elevate and mimic his master’s ways, to see his own culture as inferior, and to look down on his past as ‘a wasteland of non-achievement’. He begins to defer to the colonizer’s ideas on fundamental things like beauty, art, and politics. In time, writes Ngugi, he begins to understand himself and his culture through the eyes of the colonizer—using the latter’s concepts, categories, and judgments. Before too long, he turns into a proxy for his master: colonialism with a native face.

How does the colonizer gain such control? The easiest method, explains Ngugi, is to actively spread his language among the natives, and to simultaneously denigrate the language of the natives as crude and unfit for proper education. It is amazing how much mileage this delivers. Simply make the colonizer’s language the lingua franca of imperial administration, accord prestige and upward mobility to those who learn it in colonial schools, and before too long, there is a feeding frenzy among a native minority. This has been the way of the great colonialists of history, such as the Arabs in the 7-8th centuries, the British and the French in the 19th, and the Russians with the Baltic States in the 20th.

Ngugi writes, For colonialism this involved two aspects of the same process: the destruction or the deliberate undervaluing of a people’s culture, their art, dances, religions, history, geography, education, orature, and literature, and the conscious elevation of the language of the colonizer. The domination of a people’s language by the language of the colonizing nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonized.

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