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« Home for the Holidays: Uche Nworah gets Hitched | Main | Africans should Pay Reparations to African Americans, Part 2 »

August 15, 2005

Africans should Pay Reparations to African Americans, Part 1

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. --- (Seatle, Washington) Recently, there is talk of White Americans making reparations to African Americans. This talk has exercised the minds of the “talking heads”.

Reparation is based on past injustice and guilt. The demand for whites to pay reparation to blacks is premised on the ground that white folks used black folks as slaves to develop America. Africans were brought to the Americas, north and south, and their labor was used for free by whites to transform a virgin territory into what America is today, a developed corner of the world. It would seem to make sense for those whose labor was appropriated against their will to be compensated.

The whole chatter about white folks making reparation to black folks got me thinking. It occurred to me that it takes two to tango. True, whites bought African slaves and abused them in every way imaginable, but the other part of the equation is, who sold those slaves? There must be sellers for there to be buyers.

I am an African. I would like to believe that my ancestors did not sell their kin into slavery. In pursuit of such denial, I could come up with stories of how white men kidnapped black people and brought them to American slavery. I could come up with all sorts of creative ways to convince myself that my ancestors did not participate in selling their own people. If I can convince myself that my ancestors did not willingly participate in selling their own people, I would not feel ashamed of them and would not feel guilty from their acts. Indeed, I would feel self righteous in blaming white folks for the injustice that they did to my brothers and sisters in America.

I understand the functions of the ego defense mechanisms: repression, suppression, denial, projection, displacement, dissociation, rationalization, sublimation, reaction formation, intellectualization, minimization, avoidance, fantasy, avoidance etc. Human beings employ the various ego defenses to protect their egos, to protect their sense of I, me.

The ego is the sense of me, the separated self. Each of us has a self concept that tells him that he is separate and apart from other persons and from the world. That self concept and its self image (the self in mental image form) feels a need to defend itself.

The separated self sees the entire world arrayed against it and feels powerless and vulnerable. It feels that if it does not defend itself that it could be snuffed out of existence by the exigencies of being. Therefore, the self is perpetually defending itself.

At the physical level, the self defends itself with fear. We all see things about to harm or even destroy us and feel fearful. Fear response is characterized by increased heart pumping, rapid breathing, rapid movements in the nervous system, release of sugar and that sugar carried to the muscles to enable them do what one has to do to protect ones self, run or fight the source of threat. In fear response, the individual feels a powerful urge to fight or flee from whatever he perceives is threatening his physical and or psychological integrity. Fight-flight response to fear is meant to protect the biological organism when its life is threatened and is undertaken involuntarily.

The fight response of fear is anger; anger is the energy that fights back physically or verbally. The flight response is what most people call fear response. Technically, both anger and fear are the same affect hence the well known fact that an angry person is invariably a fearful person. The same neuro-chemicals are involved in anger and fear…adrenalin, neuropiniphrine etc.

Whereas, when the individual feels physically threatened he is most likely to employ fear/anger to respond to it, when he is threatened psychologically he tends to employ the various ego defenses to defend his sense of self. If the ego defenses defended against only attacks on the psychological self, life would be very simple. Life is complex because people employ ego defenses for a whole variety of reasons. One of the things we use the ego defenses to do is defend against guilt feeling.

As Kernberg and Pieget pointed out, human beings are moral animals. When a human being does something that his conscience tells him is wrong, he tends to feel guilty.

Guilt feeling is a negative affect. If the individual felt guilty most of the time, his life would be paralyzed. Therefore, the individual’s ego finds a way to protect him from guilt feeling.

In depression, the individual is immobilized by guilt feeling. Depression is also characterized by feelings of lack of interests in the activities of daily living, such as no desire to eat, play, engage in sports, socialize with other people, go to work, fatigue and a general desire to crawl into bed and stay there all day long. In clinical levels of depression, major depression, there is desire for death; the depressed person is so fed up with his life and living that he could commit suicide.

Nobody likes the noxious affect of depression and its allied guilt feeling.

According to some Psychoanalysts, one way to avoid depression is to deny responsibility for whatever makes one feel guilty.

On the other hand, God and morality denying, materialistic neuroscience tells us that depression is not caused by guilt feeling but by imbalance in the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Contemporary psychiatry treats depression by giving the depressed person serotonin reuptake blockers, such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft; these do have symptom relief effect but do not heal depression.

The fact that despite its ballyhoo, neuroscience and accompanying psycho pharmacotherapy does not heal depression, or any other mental disorder, means that the psychoanalytic view that guilt may be involved in the etiology of depression is still a valid causal proposition in depression; it seems that psychoanalytic perspectives are at least heuristic in our efforts to understand the cause of mental disorders.

People employ the ego defense of denial to convince themselves that they did not do what makes them feel guilty. Additionally, people employ the ego defense of projection to help them get rid of guilt feeling. In projection, the individual projects what he sees in himself that he does not like to other people? He externalizes what he thinks is in him, that he would like to get rid of, to the outer environment. For example, one has desire for sex; one could deny it and project it to others. White men tended to want to have sex with black women. Sex between the races, until recently, was forbidden. White men, therefore, deny their desire for sexual relation with black women and project it to black men. Subsequently, they imagine that all black men exist to do is desire sex with white women. You get the point on how projection works? We shall later argue that Africans feel guilty for their ancestors selling African Americans into slavery, deny it, and project it out by blaming white folks for slavery.

People displace inappropriate affects to other people. For example, when one is made angry by ones boss, and one knows that if one fought back that one could loose ones job, one swallows ones anger and goes home to displace it to ones spouse; ones spouse displaces her own anger to the children and the children displace their anger to the dog. We displace anger to those we perceive as weaker than us, those who cannot fight back and harm us.

People dissociate from their feelings. For example, if a woman is sexually violated, she could dissociate from this traumatic experience by inventing a different self and identify with that new, but false self. By identifying with the different self, she does not feel the pain inflicted on her real self. In dissociative disorder (so-called multiple personality disorder), a sexually traumatized woman, particularly if it took place in childhood, denies her real self and invents different selves, alters, and identify with them. When stress mounts in her life, she flips out from her usual real self and takes on the personality of an alter ego. She talks and behaves as if she is the alter ego she invented for herself. That way she is able to cope with stress.

In reaction formation, a person fights what he sees in himself. For example, if a man likes sex with prostitutes, he may fight prostitution. Similarly, if a man likes pornography, he may champion the banning of pornography. Somehow, he manages to get himself into a position where he sees pornography, so as to judge what is pornographic. In so doing, he sees more smut than the average person and satisfies his prurient interests.

In sublimation, the individual converts what he sees in himself into useful social activities? For example, the artist who likes to see nude women converts that forbidden desire to painting nudes.

In fantasy, the individual uses his imagination to invent ideal worlds and seem to live in them, rather than in the real world. A poor African, for example, could visualize himself as very rich. Many Nigerians, upon coming to America, feel pauperized and engage in silly lying about how their parents are kings and what not. That is, they engage in the ego defense of fantasy. Some of them actually think that their American audience buys the lies that their parents are kings, presidents and governors. If they were such rich folks how come 99% of Africans live in abject poverty, the knowing American smiles at their childish lies?

In rationalization, the individual tries to justify what he sees in himself that he does not like. Instead of owing up his mistakes, he comes up with elaborate justifications for them. If a chap smokes, for example, instead of accepting the fact that he is addicted to smoking, he tells himself that he would quit smoking tomorrow or that smoking does not harm any one.

In intellectualization, the individual uses his intellect to talk about his issues, without actually trying to solve them. For example, if he feels inferior, and compensates with superiority feeling, that is, is neurotic, he talks about it, and may even teach psychology, without making real efforts to overcome his sense of inferiority. (University professors tend to over utilize intellectualization and talk about issues but do nothing about them. Hence professors seldom make good leaders, for they are talkers and not doers. It takes a different type of energy to do something, and not just talk about it in a seminar. The greatest mistake any one could make is making a college professor the leader of a country. Nothing would be accomplished. Only idealistic abstractions would be dwelt on. See Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points to change the world; Congress rightly rejected them as the dreams of an unrealistic, neurotic ex-college president.)

In avoidance, the individual avoids what makes him feel small. For example, the shy child feels that, as he is, that he is not good enough. He feels that if other people get close to him that they would see that he is not good enough and, perhaps, reject him. To prevent being socially rejected, he avoids people or relates to them in a very detached and circumscribed manner. In social isolation he maintains a false sense of importance. Clinically, such persons are said to have avoidant personalities. Avoidant personality disorder tends to run concurrently with dependent personality and obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

(The dependent person feels powerless and wants other people to help and rescue him; he tends to please other people with the hope that they would help him. The obsessive compulsive person tends to obsesses a lot, think as if ideas are intruded into his mind and he must think them through and feels powerless to stop thinking; sometimes he acts compulsively, such as check and recheck his door to make sure that it is locked, his stove, to make sure that it is turned off etc. There are other personality disorders, such as paranoid, schizotypal, schizoid, antisocial, histrionic, narcissistic, borderline, and passive aggressive. Briefly, the paranoid personality is suspicious and feels that other people are always demeaning and humiliating him. The schizoid person does not care much for social company. The schizotypal person is odd and eccentric and believes in what most people in his world do not, such as UFOs. The narcissistic person feels special and, as a result, expects other people to admire him; he tends to exploit other people, use them to get what he wants and then discards them. The antisocial person has no social conscience and does not feel guilty or remorseful upon transgressing other people’s rights. The histrionic personality is overly dramatic and seeks attention as the drama queen and, in general, has shallow affect for other people; think of the woman who marries men for the attention they shower on her but quickly leaves them for other men who give her more attention, loving none of them. The borderline person is dysfunctional in just about every aspect of her functioning and expects to be loved but lacks love for others; when she feels about to be abandoned, she may cut on her self and threaten suicide and hopes to instill guilt in people, and out of guilt they take care of her. The passive aggressive person is unassertive and permits other people to walk all over him and indirectly shows his anger by defeating their goals. Persons with personality disorders essentially live lies about who they are. They want to be who they are not and want other people to collude with them and validate their false, ideal selves as their real selves. Because they are prone to lying about their true identity, they also tend to steal rather easily. Both the narcissist and the paranoid personality have no conscience, are self centered and easily exploit other people and engage in other criminal behaviors. A paranoid member of this forum presents himself as all knowing and wants folks to affirm that false, ideal self of his; he is self centered and lacking in conscience and morality and is probably a thief, too.)

We shall not be able to review all the known ego defense mechanisms. I have reviewed those that are germane to this essay. If interested in these matters, the reader should see American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, forth edition.

When the individual feels guilty, denies and projects it out, he tends to develop paranoia. Every human being has paranoid traits but some have more of it than others. In paranoia, the individual feels like other people are out to harm and or kill him. He is filled with hostility towards others and projects it to other people and sees them as hostile towards him. He tends not to trust other people and is generally suspicious. He anticipates threat from other people. He is almost always guarded and cautious in relating to other people. He scans his world expecting danger and defends himself. Physiologically, he tends to be uptight; emotionally, he tends to be rigid and inflexible. He tends to be argumentative and wants to win all arguments and have others loose. He wants to be right and others wrong. Being right satisfies his desire to be perfect and important, whereas being seen as wrong makes him feel unimportant and weak. Psychoanalytically, the paranoid person feels weak, powerless, inadequate and restitutes with desire for their opposite. He wants to be seen as a very important and powerful person. If you did anything that made him feel inadequate, he feels angry at you. He forever fears being demeaned by other people.

Paranoia does not affect the intellect in a global manner. The individual can be paranoid and still be an outstanding medical doctor, scientist, president of his country and so on. In fact, many of our well known politicians were paranoid personalities, such as President Nixon, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha etc.

The paranoid personality is a neurotic hence within the normalcy spectrum. Indeed, he seems suited for certain professions, those where being suspicious is an asset. Police Officers, Custom Officers, Immigration Officers, District Attorneys, Judges Etc are some of the professions where a bit of paranoia is required. However, there are disordered levels of paranoia, such as delusional disorder and schizophrenia, paranoid type.

In delusional disorder, the individual believes what is not true as true. He has systematic delusion in one area and not in all areas of his life. I had a Nigerian woman client who had the delusion that she was married to Jesus Christ, yet she was a nurse. (Analytically, the racist conditions of America made her lose self worth and she felt like she was worthless and compensated with psychotic self worth. In Christendom, Jesus is the most important man. If she is married to Jesus, it follows that she is the most important and beautiful woman on earth. Thus, her delusional beliefs serve a function for her: give her imaginary worth. She, therefore, finds it difficult to give up that delusion and her other religious ideas of reference. To give up seeing herself as the bride of Christ is to revisit her racism induced sense of worthlessness, and that self concept is intolerable to her ego. Racism sees all black women as not beautiful and the average black woman’s primary narcissism is attacked and she is angry. She is angry at black men for permitting white men to devalue her. There is tension between black men and women, for black men did not protect their women from white folks’ marginalization of them, hence, as it were, are not real men, if men are those who defend and protect their womenfolk. It is the rare black woman that respects black men. When African women come to America, their hitherto belief that they were beautiful hence sexually desirable to men is attacked by racism. In America, black women are not considered sexually desirable and are merely tolerated. Indeed, neurotic black men often prefer white women to black women, a slap on the faces of black women. The cumulative effect is that African women in America doubt their self worth and develop neurosis, that is, self hatred, with compensatory imaginary ideal self worth. In racist America, all black men are presumed to be inferior, unintelligent and to be nothing, really. They, therefore, feel inferior and restitute with imaginary self worth. See Kardiner and Oversay, The Mark of Oppression; Thomas Pittigrew, A Profile of the Negro American; Karon, The Negro Personality; Franklin Frazier, The Negro Middle Class, Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask; and Kenneth Clark’s studies showing that black children prefer white dolls to black ones, explaining why Michael Jackson’s real problem is that he is ashamed of his blackness and that he wants to be white, that Nigerians’ real problem is that they hate their African-ness and want to be white, hence they ignore developing their black country, and cart its money to the West, to develop the West, their ideal self and ideal home…though they are ashamed to own up this psychopathology in their souls. Every psychologist could easily appreciate Africans self hatred.)

My client has Erotomania. (I have had male black clients who claimed to be Jesus, God, or Zeus…grandiose type of delusion… compensatory self concepts and self images; masks over their racism induced sense of inferiority.)

There are other types of delusions, such as persecutory, grandiose, jealous and somatic. This is not a paper for clinicians; therefore, I will not describe these nosological categories.

In schizophrenia, paranoid type, the individual, in addition to being deluded, has hallucinations. Hallucination may occur in any one of the five senses…olfactory, tactile, visual, and auditory and so on.

In mania there are delusions, such as grandiosity. The manic may claim to be the most important man in his world, or the richest man around, such as tell people that he is Napoleon or Bill Gates; if a woman she may claim to be the most beautiful woman on earth, Cleopatra; is euphoric, and lacks good judgment.

Schizophrenia, delusional disorder and mania are the quintessential mental disorders. They are considered functional mental disorders, for despite the posturing of neuroscience no one has yet demonstrated their biological causation. However, there are instances where injuries and traumas to the brain cause these mental disorders. An accident could cause the individual to behave as if he is schizophrenic, manic or deluded, hence organic mental disorders and or organic personality disorders.

Generally speaking, Africans tend to exhibit more paranoia than depression. This has led some observers to conclude that it is because they tend to over utilize the ego defense mechanisms of denial and projection. As it were, when they see something in them that they do not like, they deny and project it out. When they do something wrong, feel guilty, and since guilt is a noxious affect, they deny and project it out (to whites). In denying and projecting guilt out, they are able to seem happy, hence Nigerians are said to be among the world’s happiest people.

(One wonders why they are happy. Their economy is in shambles, their leaders are mostly rogues. One would think that they ought to be sad. Apparently, they are employing the ego defenses of denial and projection to seem happy, to avoid awareness of their underlying unhappiness.)

Some psychoanalysts believe that those who tend to over employ the defenses of denial and projection tend to be less emotionally developed than those who employ them less. They argue that the depressed person is developmentally more mature than the paranoid person. (For such an argument see William Meissner, The Paranoid Process and also his Psychotherapy and the Paranoid Process. For a pure descriptive approach to paranoia, see David Swanson et al, The Paranoid. For a somewhat psychoanalytic view of paranoia, see David Shapiro, Autonomy and the Rigid Character, also see his Neurotic Styles. If you are really interested in the subject, see Sigmund Freud’s analysis of Judge Shreber’s autobiography. In it, Freud argued that the paranoid person has underlying homosexuality, denies and projects it out.)

Because Africans tend to over utilize the defenses of denial and projection, they are said to be underdeveloped Vis a Vis Caucasians. They are said to be more childlike than adult like.

It should also be noted that Africans tend to over utilize shame than guilt.

In shame, the overriding desire is to avoid social embarrassment. The individual does not avoid doing something because it is in itself wrong, but because he does not want to be shamed by society; he does not want to be rejected by other people. Social approval is his primary goal. On the other hand, in guilt, the individual has a well developed sense of right and wrong, and feels guilty upon doing wrong, irrespective of whether other people are around to disapprove of him or not.

In as much as guilt is predicated on moral principles, and shame on desire to avoid social rejection, those who feel guilty a lot are said to be developmentally adult, whereas those who only feel shame, but not guilt, are said to be more like children.

One should add that anthropologists have mitigated the earlier perception that Africans are childlike persons because they do not feel guilty but shame by reminding us that shame is a learned social variable, that traditional societies, in general, use shame to control people, whereas guilt is a function of acceptance of higher religions, such as Christianity.

Oriental societies, for example, use shame to control people. The Japanese is so afraid of loosing social face that he may commit suicide if he were to loose face in his society. If he is unemployed and is unable to support his family, since in his society, to be seen as a man, one must support ones family, the Japanese who is unable to support his family looses social face and my commit suicide. Suicide is not frowned on in Japanese society; it is often considered an honorable way out. A Japanese soldier would rather commit suicide, Hara Kari, than allow himself to be captured by enemy soldiers. To be captured is to loose face and that is worse than death. By the same token, Japanese soldiers do not think that prisoner of war soldiers deserve respect for, in their view; they ought to have preferred death to capture. They, therefore, tend to maltreat prisoners of war, even starve and work them to death, for they are seen as lesser breed of human beings.

My personal experience teaches me that those who are prone to depression tend to be more emotionally mature than paranoid persons who are seldom depressed. (Paranoia…Greek for being who one is not, taking on a different personality, a mask, persona, is defense against depression. If the paranoid person stopped pretending to be perfect and important he would grasp his existential lot, our meaningless, purposeless and worthless existence and become depressed.)

The depressed person takes responsibility for his actions and the paranoid person does not. The depressed person accepts ownership for doing what makes him feel guilty.

Experience shows that the individual is more likely to change his antisocial behavior, if he takes responsibility for it and feels guilty.

On the other hand, if the individual does not take personal responsibility for his actions and feel guilt, he is not likely to change his untoward social behavior.

I will cite a personal example. I came to America at a very young age. I saw the plight of African Americans. I saw how they were abused by white people. I saw how they were relegated to the worst parts of town, the ghetto. I saw how they were always the last hired and the first fired from their jobs. I saw them trying to do whatever they could to reduce their psychological pains, such as take recourse to alcohol and drugs. Then I began thinking about my ancestor’s contribution to these people’s plight. I did not tell myself lies. I know that our people sold these people into slavery. In as much as we sold them, it occurred to me that we are 50% responsible for the oppressions and abuses they received in America. I became depressed (dysthymic disorder). For years, I was ashamed of myself and my people. I could not respect any African around me, for he reminded me of a slave seller.

Africans tell white folks lies regarding how slaves were kidnapped and sold into slavery by white slave traders. I will tell you the truth. We Africans sold our brothers into slavery. We are responsible for selling our people. We do not need to say that other people made us do it, did it, and that we are innocent.

I am an Igbo, so let me tell you how we did it. (If you are into denial and projection, please do not read any further.)

A segment of the Igbos, the Aros, situated on the borderland between Efiks and Igbos, apparently, entered into treaty with the Efiks to supply them with Igbo slaves. The Efiks at Calaba were at the Atlantic Ocean coast and Portuguese slave traders had established slaving quarters there in the early 1500s. The Aro formed an unholy alliance with the Abam and Abriba…mercenary soldiers… and those roamed Alaigbo, kidnapping slaves and selling them to the Aro, who, in turn, sold them to the Efik, who, in turn, sold them to white men.

The Aro, Abam, Abriba etc were all over Igbo land instigating inter-village wars and losers taken as slaves and sold to the Efiks. These people roamed around and kidnapped little children and sold them into slavery. (See The Interesting Autobiography of Gustavo Olauda Aquiano, an Igbo boy’s account of how he was kidnapped at age twelve, in the 1700s, and sold into slavery.)

Worse, the Aro bastardized religion. They established so-called priest- judges in most Igbo villages. When villagers had problems to solve, they were encouraged to bring them to Aro priests-judges. The judge ruled and the loser was sent to prison, prison alright. The Aro handed him to the Abam, who took him to the Efik, who gave him to, first, the Portuguese, and later, to the Spanish, then the Dutch and later the English.

More important cases, such as disputes over land, required most adult members of the village to troop to Arochukwu, the Aro hometown. Here, the Aro organized their long juju. They dug a long tunnel and whoever was judged to loose a case was put into the tunnel and was said to have been taken by the gods. In actual fact, at the other end of the tunnel were Efik slavers who took him to Calaba and sold him to the Europeans.

When the British stopped slave trading in 1807 and used their war ships to patrol the Guinea coast to prevent slave traders from the Americas from buying slaves from West Africa, the Igbos redirected their slaving business from external to internal. They sold slaves to each other. It got to a point where when important persons died several slaves were buried alive with him. Early Christian missionaries left accounts of how they stopped Onitsha chiefs from being buried with live slaves. That was how degenerate our society became.

When the British decided to take Nigeria over, as a protectorate, they resolved to put a stop to Igbo internal slave trade, and, in 1902, Frederick Lugard and his Hausa solders (West African Frontier Army) stormed Aro long juju and scattered the little cowards who called themselves priests and sold their brothers into slavery. Subsequent to that attack, Lugard marched to Owerri, my home. He pacified them, that is, made them amenable for Christianization.

I should say, with primitive pride, that my great, great grand father, Njoku, led his people in the war to stop Lugard from conquering his people and when it became apparent that Maxim, gun, was superior to their flintlocks, guns, and that the British would conquer them, he, like Achebe’s Okonkwo, in Things fall Apart, took his own life. Njoku died rather than live under British rule. He was the last of the true Africans. The rest of us, through his son, Osuji, are bastards, for on the heels of Lugard’s army were Christian missionaries who built their church and school in our village in 1910, and subsequently our people became Christians and took to going to Western schools.

The point is that it is us, Africans that sold our brothers into slavery. I am an African. I take personal ownership for the sins of my fathers. Therefore, I felt like I personally sold African Americans into slavery. I felt guilty. I became existentially depressed, and for years hated all Africans (myself, that is,) for what we did.

While I was existentially depressed, I looked around me and all I saw were laughing Nigerians. I used to ask them: what are you so happy about? Are you not ashamed that our fathers sold these suffering African Americans? Don’t you feel like hiding your god dammed, hideous face in shame, for what our folks did to this people? They would ask me: what are you talking about? They were totally oblivious to the type of guilt that wracked my young mind. It was at that point that I decided to study psychology, even though my natural bent is biology and I had planned to study medicine. I wanted to understand why Africans sold their brothers and do not feel like they did something wrong, why they smiled when they ought to be crying with shame and guilt.

I believe that the psychoanalytic hypothesis that guilt is denied and projected out, so that a person who did something wrong sees himself as innocent, is a worthwhile hypothesis. I believe that Africans are human beings and, as such, do feel guilty for their wrong behaviors. If they did not feel guilty for their wrong behaviors, they would, indeed, be subhuman beings. I think that they employ denial and projection to seem to get rid of their guilt from selling their people. In so doing, they manage to retain some semblance of self acceptance and a sense of innocence. As it were, they feel innocent, when, in fact, they are guilty. Scratch their surface happiness and you find a clinically depressed people.

I believe that at some point, in the future, that Africans will feel their existential guilt and at that time begin to commit suicide at a higher rate. At present, they seldom commit suicide because, like the paranoid personality, they seldom feel guilty and depressed. Paranoids blame others for their problems hence do not feel devastated by guilt and seldom commit suicide.

It is a well known clinical fact that in psychotherapy the paranoid person must undergo depression if he is to heal. The paranoid person blames other people for all his problems. He points two fingers at other people, not seeing the three that point right back at him, reminding him that he is more responsible for his fate than other people are. In a General Systems environment, all people affect all people. No body is apart from other people. We are all connected to each other and to everything in the universe. Whatever other people do, whatever happens in any part of the universe affects us and we affect them. We are all reacting and adjusting to each other’s behaviors. There is no such thing as absolute independence. We are all interdependent. In this light, other people contribute to our problems, but we contribute more to them than others do.

The paranoid person always blames other people for his problems. In blaming others, and in seeing others as responsible for his failures in life, the paranoid manages to retain a semblance of positive self esteem. He retains imaginary sense of perfection by seeing himself as not responsible for his problems.

In psychotherapy, when the paranoid person is helped to take responsibility for his problems and for his wrong behaviors, he tends to feel guilty and depressed. At this point, he might be overwhelmed by guilt and might even entertain suicidal thoughts. (You must be an experienced therapist before you set out to decompensate the paranoid’s rigid ego compensations, for if you succeed, and do not help him recompensate with a healthier self concept, he might commit suicide. It is probably best if you left him to live in his defenses, even though those make him seem child like in his affect and behaviors, rather than risk suicide in your hands. To deconstruct the human ego and reconstruct it with healthier ego structures should be left to experienced psychotherapists.)

Nevertheless, the paranoid person must undergo depression if he is to heal. He must accept responsibility for his behaviors; take ownership for his mistakes, stop blaming other people for his problems, and feel some guilt. It is only when one feels remorseful for ones bad behaviors that one can change them. As long as one feels not responsible for ones bad behaviors one cannot change them.

With the exception of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, African leaders are essentially thieves. We do not need to quibble or equivocate on this subject.

Question: Do these antisocial African leaders feel guilty for redirecting their people’s money into their personal pockets? Of course not. Why not? Because like paranoid persons they over employ the ego defenses of denial and projection and blame other people for their behaviors. Thus Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria, robs his country clean and has the guts to call for white men to pay him reparation for enslaving Africans. Apparently, in his mind, whites are guilty and Africans are innocent. Suppose he was to accept responsibility for Africans behaviors, he would realize that, in as much as, he is the president of Nigeria, if corruption exists in his government, he is personally responsible for it. If he is responsible for it, he would feel guilty. Feeling remorseful, he would go about doing something to eradicate the ridiculous level of corruption that exists in Nigeria.

(Corruption has gotten to such a state in Nigeria that one would be a fool to trust Nigerians. A few years ago, I was attempting to hire a comptroller to manage my agency’s finances, an accountant, and interviewed several qualified applicants. One was a Nigerian. I agonized whether I should give a fox access to the chicken coop? Caution told me not to hire him and I did not hire him. I could not take risks with my agency’s money by hiring a remorseless Nigerian. He could cook the books and abscond with the agency’s money. Nigerians’ ingenuity lies in figuring out a way to cheat, not to help solve problems. Still, I felt bad for discriminating against him. To make up for it, I searched for Nigerians to hire in other capacities, where they were less likely to do the agency harm, and hired them. I must observe that there was a time that I was ashamed to see myself as a Nigerian. In fact, I hid my Nigerian identity. I did not want to be associated with 419 criminals. All Nigerians, in my eyes, seemed criminals, and I denied my Nigerian-ness. Since I spoke English like African Americans, I “passed” as one. Of course, I had to give that neurosis up. It is neurotic to deny who one is and pretend to be somebody else. A normal person accepts his real self, despite its imperfections. As the Igbos say, one does not deny ones mother just because she is a thief. One works to make her not a thief. And that was exactly what I undertook to do: seek ways to make Nigerians less prone to thievery.)

Psychoanalysis is not the only methodological approach to understanding human behavior. There are other approaches, such as social psychology and biological psychology. This means that there are those who would reject my methodological approach to knowledge; the tools of my analysis hence reject the conclusions based on them. That is to say that if your methodological approach to phenomena is different from mine, that you might dismiss this essay as hogwash. Please go ahead and do so. But I would like to see how you approach the problem I am grappling with. Write it down and do not just talk about it. It is time we Africans developed a body of literature on every subject.

In our time, most human behaviors are reduced to biological causation. Are you schizophrenic (hear voices, is deluded)? If so, you have too much of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, so, here, take the various neuroleoptic medications (such as zyprexa, resperdol, seraqual, millaril, Thorazine, Haldol, Prolixine etc). Are you manic? If so, you have too much of the neurotransmitter neuropiniphrine, so, here is Lithium, Depakote and Tegritol to reduce it. Are you depressed? If so, here are anti depressants to increase your low serotonin. Are you anxious? If so, you have low GABA, so, here, take the various anxioleptics (Valium, Librium, Xanax, and Ativan etc) to boost it up. Are you personality disordered? Here, take psychotropic medications. If you are a child, and have Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ODD, Conduct Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, Reactive-Attachment Disorder, Asperser’s Disorder, Autism and childhood Anxiety Disorders. Here are the various psycho-stimulants (Ritalin etc) for ADHD. In America, some African children experience anxiety/stress…particularly separation anxiety; their parents should watch out lest white mental health professionals stick them up with unnecessary anti anxiety medications; those medications are addictive and have adverse side effects, effects similar to those of alcohol and heroine.

Briefly, in ODD, the child, usually between age 9 and 18, rebels against authority figures and does not want to listen to them. He is in constant power struggle with adults: his parents and does not want them to tell him or her what to do, and teachers and often drops out of school, so as not to be told what to do by them. In Conduct Disorder, the child is like the antisocial personality and has underdeveloped conscience and easily engages in criminal behaviors. He starts drinking and doing drugs at an early age. He is on his way to stealing and is likely going to wound up in Juvenile Detention Center; later as adult, in jail. He is part of the 2% of the population that recycles through jails…has high rate of recidivism. In ADHD, the child is unable to concentrate and has short attention span. In Asperser’s disorder, the child is unable to attach to other people and is emotionally detached from people. In Autism, the child is emotionally closed off to the world and lives in his own world. Again, this is not a paper for professionals and, as such, I will not go into details explaining these states. See Psychiatric nomenclature for explanation.

Make no mistake about them, psychopharmacotherapy tends to be useful, at least in symptoms reduction; however, they have no track record of permanently healing mental disorders.

Before the age of biological psychiatry we had behaviorism. Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, Bandura, Milgram, Zimbado, Seligman and others ran around telling folks that all behavior was learned. Every behavior is due to classical and operant conditioning. In graduate school, I learned behaviorism. Skinner boasted that his behavior technology could modify, change any behavior, hence that we did not have to take recourse to psychoanalysis. Of course, experience has shown that behaviorism is as vacuous as psychoanalysis. In time, neuroscience, our present god, will be shown to be an emperor without his clothes on. In mental health, we tend to have fads and one must patiently wait for the present fad of biological psychology to exhaust itself and fade away. This, too, must come to pass. Change is the only thing that is permanent in our existence on earth.

The salient point is that one is aware that there are those who vehemently disagree with psychoanalytic methodological approach to understanding human behavior. I respect those people. I myself reject some aspects of Freudian Psychology. Freud’s over emphasis on sex as etiological in Neurosis seems odious to me. I do not buy the notion that our behavior is motivated by sex and aggression (and Thanatos), and that in our heads are warring psyche forces: Id, Ego and Superego, and that the best we can do is struggle to balance them and become normal neurotics and never healthy.

Briefly, Sigmund Freud posited that in our heads are three forces, id, ego and superego. The id comprises of instincts of sex and aggression. These are involuntary. On the other hand, man lives in society. Society cannot permit the free exercise of instinctual desires or there would be chaos.

As Freud sees it, all of us desire to have sex with all of us. He believes that we are polymorphously sexually perverse. Even children are said to desire to have sex with parents of the opposite gender (Oedipal Complex). Society gives us a set of rules that forbid our doing what our natural instinct dispose us to do. Those rules of society are internalized by us as we are growing up. If we fail to behave as society approves for us to behave, it punishes us; it does so for its own good.

In general, the properly socialized adult is said to have introjected his society’s norms and uses them to check his id desires. The interiorized norms are called the superego. The superego checks the id.

But the id insists on having some outlet. As Freud sees it, we developed a third part to our psyche, the ego. The ego is sort of like a referee and balances the demands of the id and strictures of the superego. For example, the Christian ego insists that one have sex only in heterosexual marriage.

In the normal person, Freud believes that the instincts are repressed and driven into what he called the unconscious mind. The desire for sex and aggression are still there, but they are driven out of the conscious mind and hidden in the unconscious mind. From the unconscious mind, they still affect our behaviors. Hence we sometimes behave irrationally despite our best intentions.

Despite the individual’s Christian upbringing that represses extramarital sexuality, every once in a while, he engages in such sex, that is, sex without love attached to it, for the id does not attach love to sex. Only religion does so. By the same token, every once in a while, our aggressive instinct breaks out, and we act out, strike at other people or go to war, for we apparently have instinct for aggression.

Freud believes that the best we can do is redirect our aggression, such as channel it to competitive activities at school, sports and work, but not entirely eliminate it.

Where socialization fails, the individual develops neurosis. In neurosis, the individual’s superego may be too punitive (as in hysterical women, conversion reaction, who over internalized the social stricture against sex and swoon very easily), or there is failure in internalizing social norms. For example, the child may still yearn to have sex with the parent of the opposite sex.

Freud recommends that the neurotic come to him and his disciples for psychoanalysis, lay on his couch, and free associate, say whatever comes to his mind, so as to cathete, get what is in his unconscious to the conscious mind and have Freud analyze it. The individual engages in transference relationship with his analyst and the later helps him resolve his unresolved psyche conflicts. (See Freud, Pleasure Principle; also see Civilization and its Discontents.)

I tend to accept Adler’s views on the origin of neurosis. Adler sees us all as made to feel inferior by the exigencies of being and compensate with superiority, and that the best we can do is redirect our striving for power towards social interests. (See Alfred Adler’s The Neurotic Constitution. Also see Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth, and Carl Rogers, Client Centered Therapy.)

Let us just say that one is aware that many folks out there would disagree with ones causal analysis. That is fine. We must engage in intellectual discourse, for who knows where the truth lies? Knowledge improves through intellectual dialogue.

Dr. Osuji can be reached at
600 First Avenue, Suite 325, Seattle, Washington, USA 98104 ( Phone 206-464-9004)

Posted by Administrator at August 15, 2005 02:44 AM


As one with no need, belief nor trust in psychotherapy, I find your logic that Africans should pay reparations to African-Americans to far off the deep end for me to endorse.
Your lengthy dialogue, though boring, offered an insight into the real you.
Your self-hatred is amplified through your prose and it is only your personal problem.
Why would you not offer your educated self to Africa instead of America? Are you here to earn lots of money instead of gaining knowledge to help your people? Is it all about YOU?
The only thing Africans owe us is the opportunity
to provide them with honest, true leadership.

Posted by: Larry Edwards at August 15, 2005 11:54 AM

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