America’s bags of tricks and strategies

Okello Oculi

Okello Oculi is a leading African writer and the Director of Africa Vision 525 Initiative

Today President Donald Trump can go on twitter and make nasty comments about immigrants and what he loves to call shithole countries. However, in the past and for centuries Europeans including Trump’s own people boarded ships and fled their European homes for America to escape problems that made their European lives wretched. High on the list were

  • Greed of kings and aristocracies
  • Vengeance against political opponents
  • Violence against religious minorities
  • Widespread and persistent famine

In a masterly move of subterfuge, the early European immigrants adopted the name of an earlier Italian traveler, Amerigo Vespucci, they called the land of their immigration, America. They avoided taking a name from among the indigenous peoples they found living in that vast geographical expanse. They could now present themselves as the true owners of the land. Herein laid the trickery.

This was a mark of ingratitude to the local people who had saved them from starvation by giving them maize meal as well as maize seeds for planting, when they had nothing. Once the new immigrants survived they forgot the kindness of the local people. And remembered only what they suffered in Europe: the brutal land grab that rendered them destitute. And now they embarked on a land grab of their own, while inflicting genocide against the local population. They used biological warfare against native population, through deliberate distribution of blankets infected with smallpox and measles, new diseases to which the natives had no immunity.

Armed with modern weaponry the Europeans slaughtered millions of buffaloes and other wild life, wiping out the source of protein for native populations. For a people fleeing from oppression in Europe, this was cynical.

The immigrants justified their annexation of native land by importing names from their old ancestral lands in Europe. Those from Yorkshire in England created New York. Those from Jersey also in England created New Jersey. In the years I studied in America, my amiable host was the Mayor of a small town in the State of Illinois with the grand name of Paris.

At the time (1965) the African-American community in the small town of Palo Alto in the neighbourhood of Stanford University where I studied, mounted a vigorous campaign to have their town’s name changed to Nairobi in celebration of the Kenyan capital. They argued that if white folks could bring to America names from their European ancestry, they too should enjoy the national trick and bring to America, names from their African ancestry.

American trickery could at times get quite creative. We see this especially in the creative adaptation of sports from Europe. British football becomes American football, and game played mainly with hands, where only one player enjoys the privilege of kicking the ball to attempt scoring points by propelling the ball high in the air between two poles.

American tricksters changed the game of cricket played with a flat faced bat into baseball which uses round bats. Cricket itself was originally created by African natives of Australia and the British had borrowed the idea from them. The American tricksters award just one point if a hitter bangs the ball beyond the oval. In Cricket, such a hit earns six points. At each turn, the American trick is to get away from British culture domination. It is noteworthy that Americans have avoided letting Africans into this secret of resisting a colonial master and beating him to his game.

 In the area of mental decolonization, American universities joined German universities in rebelling against the use of Latin and Greek as the exclusive languages of research and scholarship. German universities adopted German. Americans universities adopted English. It is believed that Germans took the lead in most fields of learning, including: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and the Humanities because of their early use of mother-tongue for teaching from Primary Schools to Universities and Technical Colleges. The Japanese, Indians and Chinese have followed this wisdom. Americans and Germans have avoided the mention of this pedagogical trick to their African friends.

In Uganda, it was reported that when Traditional Rulers returned from a visit to England, early in the last century, they told people that English peoples are very clever, because even little children spoke English.