This essay discusses the idea that Modernity is the triumph of reason or logos over mythos. It also highlights the fact that this “rampant’ Rationalisation of existence is destructive to the ontologico-metaphysical and epistemologico-legal paradigm of the conquered who is colonised by this Eurocentric view of reason as “better” than myth. European Rationality is regarded as a myth due to the fact that it is presented as the only true form of rationality whereas it is merely a Eurocentric ideological cloak under which Europe conceals its project of destruction, domination and control. Its treatment as a myth is not to suggest that it does not exist.
I will also show the logic of this myth of Rationality and its colonial relation to and effects in relation to law. I will demonstrate how this colonial project of Rationality results in the destruction of the “symbolic framework’ of the conquered and, thus, perpetuates colonial Injustice. The ontologico-metaphysical and epistemologico-legal paradigm of the conquered grounds the manner in which the conquered conceives of his or her being in the world (which is premised on the notion of knowledge as a symbolic process) and also as a legal subject through African jurisprudence which is colonised by constitutional supremacy following the epistemological triumph of the coloniser through the imposition of liberal-democratic constitutionalism premised on the rationalisation of the law.
This essay will also demonstrate how the colonisation of African jurisprudence made it possible for the coloniser to “legally gloss over” the urgent issue of the deprivation of land and the entrenchment of this deprivation legally through extinctive prescription and the constitution specifically, the ‘property clause ‘which I designate the “injustice clause”. The underlying thesis is that for Europeans the passage of time is capable of investing one with ownership because of their linear conception of time which contradicts that of the conquered who views time as circular and symbolic in nature thus incapable of endowing one with ownership based on historical injustice.
Eurocentric Rationality and Mythos
Eurocentric Rationality is here defined as the technicalisation of social life so that social problems are viewed as requiring what Hokheimer designates “instrumental reason” which is predicated only on the means-end pattern (neglects issues such as justice and fairness). This technicalisation of social life is driven by the passion for control which characterises European civilisation.
The idea of law as science is a typical manifestation of the technicalisation of social life and its attendant problems which are then entrusted on a bureaucratic legal machinery to resolve without looking at the cultural and historical dimensions of these social problems. The technicalisation of social life and its problems is the cloak under which European cultural imperialism hides as it embarks on genocidal destruction and epistemicide of the conquered’s epistemological foundation of “symbolic framework”. The underlying argument is that knowledge is symbolic in nature. I am not arguing that the conquered lacks reason, the conquered has reason which is the substance of humanity and dignity in general.
The conquered’s rationality is different, because it not driven by domination and control like the European Rationality I denounce in this essay. The main problem with the technicalisation of social life and its problems is that it is then argued that through this process of technicalisation social problems are removed from the cultural and historical matrix from which they emanated and are said to be amenable to objective or neutral resolution.
Mythos in this essay entails the acknowledgement of the symbolic nature of knowledge which takes seriously into consideration issues such as memories, cultural and historical context in conceptualising social life and its problems and is also most importantly averse to domination and control. My grave indictment against Eurocentric Rationality is that it is monolithic and monorational. By monorational I mean that it is dogmatic as it is not accommodative of the conquered’s ways of rationalisation which are not conducive to control and domination but seek harmony and solidarity of all humanity and nature. I now turn to discuss the logic of destruction inherent in Eurocentric Rationality.
The Myth of Rationality and its Logic of destruction
Due to the subliminal psychological colonisation by Eurocentric Modernity, most people tend to think that Modernity represents progress. However I posit that progress is the ideology of Modernity. Modernity doesn’t necessarily imply progress. Progress, in my opinion denotes an improvement of the essence and structure of historico-social and economico-political conditions for the benefit of the “elements” of social relations, it entails the harmonisation of existence through solidarity and the concretisation of the notion of cosmic interrelatedness. This type of progress is not probable within the Eurocentric view of Modernity.
The first reason for this improbability is the fact that European cognitive pattern of binary opposition doesn’t allow for “harmonisation of existence through solidarity and the concretisation of the notion of cosmic interrelatedness. The second reason is that, due to the fact that European cognitive pattern is predicated on binary opposition, it fosters destruction, because of its obsession with power and control as Ani Marimba has demonstrated (Marimba 1994).
Thus, in accordance with above-mentioned reasons, I posit that Modernity is premised on disharmony which is concretised through genocidal destruction of the epistemologico-metaphysical paradigm of the conquered. This obsession with Rationality tends to universalise the European particular and propagate the myth that this European particular is the founder and bearer of Modern History and that the marginalised conquered with his/her mythico-epietemology has to “participate” in this myth of Modern Rationality.
The European cognitive pattern of binary-opposition makes it plausible for the Rationalising European to arrogate Reason to himself and to dismiss the modes of knowledge of the conquered as mythological, implying that they are “primitive”. The premise on which, the European dismisses the modes of knowledge of the conquered as primitive is informed by the idea that Modernity is predicated on the ideology of progress. This ideology of progress emanates from the European linear modality. Here, time is viewed as reflecting linear progression, moving from one point to another point on a straight line which symbolises the notion of time as the European sees it.
Thus, “armed” with the ideology of progress, the European regards himself as the “end” of history, by the “end’ of history, I mean the telos of universal history as Hegel posited. The European can regard himself as the subject which is constitutive of History. This, the European derives from the idea that he is the only subject of reason and thus, the only “constituting” subject of Modernity as a movement away from primitive modes of knowledge. As the “constituting “subject of Modern, the European endows himself with a right to impose Rationality and destroy the mythico-epistemological modes of the conquered who is the subject of Modernity.
The Rationalising European is the subject as such, because through his constitution of Modernity as a “new epoch of history as such, he is in a superior position to interpellate individuals who still operate within the mythico-epistemological paradigm into rational subjects of Modernity. Thus, as a result of this “rational interpellation” the Rationalising European subject can regard himself as a proto-subject and view the “rationally interpellated subjects” are derivative subjects, implying that their subjectivity is derived from the “European interpellating subject“ as such.
Through this delusional pathological project of interpellating individuals who still operate within the mythico-epistemological paradigm, the European subject as such attempts to eradicate the “symbolic framework” of the conquered who derives his/her subjectivity from this “symbolic framework”, which, according to the Rationalising European subject as such, is mythological and thus primitive.
The “destructively” Rationalising European subject as such relegates the “symbolic framework” of the conquered to the past and puts his myth of Rationality present and future on a pedestal. In this pathological arrogance, the European subject fails to recognise the conquered’s different conceptualisation of time which differs from his. The conquered’s different conceptualisation of time entails the fact of regarding time as circular as opposed to linear as the Rationalising European subject as such would have us believe.
The conquered’s circular modality is permeated with symbols, it is embedded in the “symbolic framework which the Rationalising European subject dismisses and destroys in his delusional and destructive project of Modernity. I posit that the destruction of the conquered’s “symbolic framework” entails the annihilation of the memories, histories and dignity of the conquered with which the “symbolic framework” of the conquered is suffused.
Modernity as a project of the Rationalisation of existence at all levels attempts to legitimate the colonial Imagination’s project and to impose it on the conquered at the conquered’s expense, as the conquered is in the process destroyed both physically and psychically by this inhuman project. This project entails a very destructive and pathological erasure of the memories, histories and dignity of the conquered and this results in the colonial Imagination’s exercise of power over the conquered through imposition of new names and identities, and thus the conquered is “coerced into” participating in the myth of Rationality.
Thus, the myth of Rationality in the form of Modernity is a capitalistic white supremacy ideology which by rationalising existence attempts to extirpate the symbols which inform and constitute the fundament of the social relations of the conquered, which pre-existed the destructive myth of Rationality. Thus, Rationality as the substance of Modernity is an ideological justification of colonialism rather than an objective and value-free fact.
It is through the destructive myth of Rationality that the exploiting European attempts to strip the conquered of his/her originary mode of being and relation to reality as a whole and thus, subliminally and destructively, “coerce” the conquered into this capitalistic and inhumane Modernity. Once, the myth of Rationality has destroyed the ‘symbolic framework’ of the conquered, the conquered will “by himself or herself” participate in the system of Modernity which operates at his/her expense, because the “symbolic framework” which once grounded his social relations is eradicated. In the next section of this essay, I will discuss the European linear modality of temporality and contrast with the conquered’s circular modality which grounds the conquered’s conception of justice.
Time and the notion of Justice and Law
This section will contend that the conqueror’s idea of time is the basis on which the conqueror conceives of the idea of justice. The conqueror’s notion of time is one predicated on linear modality as Ani Marimba has demonstrated (Marimba 1994). What this means is that the conqueror views time as a process of progression from one point to another point. This is the conqueror’s idea of time which is abstract and “rational’. The abstractness and the ‘rationality ‘of linear modality is devoid of the idea of symbolic connection between the past and the present as what the conqueror observes is a teleological and successive motion towards an unknown future. The basis of this linear temporality is the conqueror’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm which differs from that of the conquered.
The conqueror’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm is one predicated on binary-opposition. This binary-opposition is not complementary. It is through this binary-opposition that the conqueror is able to fragment time and construct the ideology of progress on which the myth of Rationality is predicated. For the conqueror there is no relationship between the natural and the supernatural. This leads the conqueror to construct a form of knowledge through which the conqueror can control and dominate nature and that which is regarded by the conqueror as still part of nature (the conquered).
The relationship between the natural and the supernatural can only be conceived on the basis of complementary binary-opposition which characterises the conquered’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm which seeks harmony with all humanity and nature. The conqueror’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm prohibits the inclusion and connection with supernatural, it regards the connection thereof as ‘irrational’ and primitive and not conducive to the passion for control and domination which characterise the conqueror’s civilisation in general.
This is the substratum on which the idea of abstract and ‘rational’ time is constructed and endowed with the ideology of progress. Progress here, for the conqueror implies a movement away from the ‘irrational’ and the primitive, which ultimately leads to the severing of the connection between the natural and the supernatural. In a nutshell, the conqueror’s notion of time is predicated on the conqueror’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm which rejects the connection between the natural and the supernatural, by regarding it as ‘irrational” and primitive and thus endeavour to construct a linear temporality which the conqueror deems as progress-driven and therefore rational. This means that, that which is regarded as still inhabiting and operating through the opposite of the conqueror’s linear temporality, which is abstract and rational, is subjected to violence and destruction unleashed by conqueror’s Rationality which seeks to transform everything into its own image.
The conquered on the other hand conceives of time very differently from how the conqueror conceives of his. The conquered’s notion of time is circular and symbolic in nature. The symbolic and the circular time of the conqueror is predicated on the conquered’s metaphysico-epistemological paradigm which is premised on binary-complementarity. The metaphysics on which the conquered derives his or her notion of time is holistic in nature. What this means is that for the conquered there is a cosmic connection between the natural and the supernatural. Thus the conquered’s notion of time is informed by this cosmic connection between the natural and the supernatural. The symbolic nature of the conquered’s notion of time entails a constant communication and relationship between the natural and supernatural, that is the living conquered and ancestors of the conquered who were also subjected to the immoral conquest, violence destruction, control and domination.
The symbolic nature of time of the conquered is based on the “ontology of invisible beings” which implies the connection and acknowledgement of the influence of the supernatural entities such as ancestors, spirits and Gods of the conquered. Thus, the connection between the ancestors of the conquered and the living conquered is always maintained. This is precisely how the conquered conceives of justice. For the living conquered justice invokes the memories of the historical injustice the conquered’s ancestors suffered at the hands of the conqueror.
The possibility of the invocation of the memories of the conquered’s ancestors, in the conceptualisation of justice, is predicated on the symbolic nature of the conquered’s notion of time. Thus, for the living conquered, the ideology of the progress is a colonial strategy employed by the conqueror to extirpate the memories of historical injustice and thus sever the connection between the living conquered and the conquered’s ancestors. The invocation of the memories of the historical injustice suffered by the conquered’s ancestors is not probable in the abstract and rational linear temporality which grounds the conqueror’s notion of law. In this abstract and rational linear temporality there is preoccupation with progress which leads to the legal insignificance of what happened to the conquered’s ancestors as the conqueror’s time marches forward to an unknown future.
This is the basis on which the conqueror can conceive of the passage of time as capable of endowing the conqueror with ownership of the land immorally taken away from the conquered’s ancestors during unjust conquest. For the conqueror, the passage of time can “bring into extinction “the legal right of the conquered to the land of their ancestors. This is the substance of the conqueror’s rational jurisprudence which is markedly dissimilar to the conquered’s African jurisprudence which is premised on Ubuntu as Ramose has demonstrated (Ramose 1999). The conquered, in this case specifically the Bantu people who were deprived of their land, hold that molato ga o bole. This Ubuntu aphorism in a nutshell posits in this context, that time cannot endow the conqueror with a legal right over the land which was taken away from its rightful owners, namely, the conquered’s ancestors. This aphorism also captures the argument that memories inform the conquered’s notion of justice. This means that despite the passage of time since the deprivation of land from the conquered’s ancestors, the living conquered will not forget that a historical injustice was committed against the conquered’s ancestors, notwithstanding attempts on the part of the conqueror to make the living conquered sever their symbolic connection and communication between them and their ancestors. The attempts at the severance of the symbolic connection and communication between the living conquered and their ancestors through the rationalisation of the law id futile. The conquered will always maintain the symbolic connection and communication between them and their ancestors, and they do this on the basis of what Ramose designates “triadic ontology”. This, according to Ramose, is composed of the living, the living dead and the yet-to-be-born and the accompanying communication between them. Thus, the search for justice is premised on this “triadic structure“, as Ramose calls it.
The constitution upon which the so-called post-apartheid “new” South Africa is based is another attempt at severing the symbolic connection and communication between the living conquered and their ancestors, through the “property clause” which is found in section 25 of the 1996 constitution. This clause, in a nutshell, demands that the restoration of land to the living conquered must be accompanied by compensation. The present writer rejects this interpretation of the clause as contradicting the Ubuntu aphorism of molato ga o bole, which is the basis on which extinctive prescription is refuted.
Thus, because molato ga o bole, the move to the “new” South Africa is not an authority on which the conqueror can argue that acquisition of the legal right to the land is attained “constitutionally”. What this means is that at this stage section 25 is an “injustice clause” as it is a colonial legal mechanism through which historical injustice of land deprivation is “constitutionalised”. This very section which contradicts the Ubuntu aphorism of molato ga o bole is a colonial legal impediment which obstructs the transition to a post-conquest epoch in which the rightful owners of land, namely, the living conquered are re-endowed with their legal right to the land of their ancestors. The pecuniary demands of this ‘injustice clause” are unreasonable and immoral as they defeat the very objective of the upliftment of the conquered who are currently highly underprivileged because of among others the deprivation of their very indispensable resource, namely the land. The living conquered cannot without self-contradiction be expected to pay for their property.
The fiction of the transition to the post-apartheid “new’ South Africa, is premised on the ideology of progress which, in this case, implies that the movement from the point of apartheid to the point of democracy, as per the linear temporality of the conquered, signifies improvement. However, this has been demonstrated to be a fallacy by writers like Sampie Tereblanche in Lost in Transformation. The urgent, substantive and structural socio-economic transformation which will uplift the living conquered is probable through the extirpation of the ‘injustice clause” and the restoration of the land to current rightful owners, namely the living conquered.
By Masilo Lepuru