The Ancient Aryan Concept of Freedom

In Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies, Jacob H. Carruthers wrote, “The Greek concept of freedom which is also characteristic of the Aryan way, is drawn from the concept of the Chief God (Zeus or Wodin) who is completely free to do as he wants, e.g. to rape any goddess or woman, to exploit or destroy any god or man according to his whim.”

Though some may not see the relevance, this is what we see all around us in the west deployed as a form of absolute freedom or hyperrelativism–a contemporary discourse with ancient roots. It is a freedom from all constraints. A freedom to pursue infinite hedonism or depravity.

In the our day, such a notion of freedom has been hailed as radical or revolutionary but it is neither, at least from an African worldview. This acknowledgment begs the question of how freedom might be conceptualized with human well-being and communal flourishing as central concerns.

Ideational vectors

Ideas do not emerge out of the ether, but are indelibly shaped by the milieu of their conception. This is true of all constructs whether they purport to be ideologies, identities, theories, and so on. This is an urgent matter for people struggling for cultural reclamation and sovereignty.

My understanding of the social and political bases of knowledge, in addition to my commitment to decolonization of African consciousness, re-Africanization, and sovereignty informs my discernment regarding such matters.

Impermanence

This world presents to us an illusion of permanence. Such is also evident in various discourses, often fundamentalist, which ascribe (or express a desire for) a quality of unchanging within our terrestrial reality. I think that such notions are also buoyed by the sometimes painful dislocations of a phenomenal world that constantly reminds us (despite our resistance) of the incessant nature of change, as well as the insubstantial nature of all things, or what is sometimes called sunyatta in Buddhist philosophy.

I do not believe that denial of change’s constancy is an idle matter. I think that it has profound consequences, both personally and collectively.

Three paths, one destination

To my thinking there are three paths to the African warrior tradition. The first path is characterized by both the practice of the African combat arts, as well as the internalization of the highest ethics and discipline of the culture. Herein, one is not simply employing technical principles, but also seeks to reflect African cultural ideals in various ways.

The second path is where one incorporates select principles and techniques of the African combat arts into whatever warrior discipline one practices. This may entail using one or more kicks from Capoeira, or several blocks from 52 Blocks. Here one also draws on the philosophical principles of these arts and of African culture more generally.

The third path consists of the incorporation of the philosophy of the African warrior tradition into one’s practice of non-African martial arts. For years when I did Kung Fu, before I started learning Capoeira, various African proverbs informed my thinking about what it meant to be a martial artist. Whether it was the Odu which states, “It is at home that the war is lost before even reaching the battlefield” or another that states “The constant soldier is never unready, even once”, these statements greatly informed my thinking about these arts and the type of consciousness that must accompany their practice. They gave me a way of conceiving what warriorhood meant in the African milieu and how such principles are vital to the present context.

Hence, even absent the African fighting arts, the African warrior tradition remains a vital area of personal and community development that ultimately should inform our work.

Those seeking further insight into the aforementioned topic should consider the following texts:

Carruthers, Jacob H. 1985. The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution. Chicago: The Kemetic Institute.

Desch-Obi, T. J. 2008. Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Green, Thomas A. 2003. “Freeing the Afrikan Mind: The Role of Martial Arts in Contemporary African American Cultural Nationalism.” In Martial Arts in the Modern World: Transition, Change and Adaptation, edited by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, 229-248. New York: Praeger.

Green, Thomas A. 2003. “Surviving the Middle Passage: Traditional African Martial Arts in the Americas.” In Martial Arts in the Modern World: Transition, Change and Adaptation, edited by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, 129-148. New York: Praeger.

Green, Thomas A. 2004. “African Roots in the Martial Arts: An Interview with Kilindi Iyi.”  In Yo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives (Nov 2004).

Karenga, Maulana. 1999. Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.

Maasi, Shaha Mfundishi. 2008. Essential Warrior: Living Beyond Doubt and Fear. Baltimore, MD: MD&H Publications, LLC.

Maasi, Shaha Mfundishi, and Nganga Tolo-Naa. “The Liberation of Consciousness Through African-Descended Martial Culture in the Americas: The Truth About Kupigana-Ngumi.” accessed December 10, 2015. http://www.kupiganangumi.com/kupiganangumi/History.html.

Powe, Edward L. 2011. Black Martial Arts VIII: The ABC & “Bay-ah-Bah” of Capoeira de Angola. Madison, WI: Dan Aiki Publications.

Price, Richard. 1996. Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Information and wisdom

This society’s emphasis on information places value on the ephemeral, as information constantly changes. This is why there is a new study every other week debunking some previous study that debunked everything that you thought you knew.

Our ancestors, on the other hand, emphasized wisdom and its cultivation. For them also, information changed, but wisdom was an anchor from which these changes could be discerned and evaluated. Long held traditions were resistant to change, not only because of cultural inertia, but also because people had the wisdom to understand the utility, the practicality of their traditions. In this way, wisdom sought to nullify the nihilism of a potentially presentistic and information-obsessed culture.

Reflecting on Dr. Carr’s lecture at CCICS on 01-31-2020

Dr. Greg Carr’s lecture at the Carruthers Center was excellent. He raised a number of relevant points for thinking Africans who are determined to be free and not those looking to sneak back onto the planation.

He reminds us of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s unwillingness to allow the work of reconstructing African history to be controlled by Whites through the instrument of finance. Fortunately for us, Woodson realized that too many Negroes forget their integrity when the gaudy baubles of white legitimization are waived before them.

We learned that although academically trained, Woodson would not be held down or held back by academic institutions–whether they were under the control of Whites or nominally controlled by (Eurocentric) Africans. Dr. Carr suggests that Woodson’s best works may have never come to fruition if he were forced to labor under the aegis of an academy whose myopia is only exceeded by its hubris and opportunism.

We also learned that Woodson’s method consisted of grassroots fundraising, as well as soliciting for resources from the masses of African people. Dr. Woodson, unlike many Black scholars who merely write about Black people, was one who wrote and learned from the masses of Black people.

Woodson sought to give African people a mirror, Dr. Carr would say, so that we could see ourselves and know at last who we are, and empowered by this knowledge could move into the future capable of deeds far beyond the narrow prescriptions of enemies.

Again, it was a dynamic lecture attended by many notable scholars, theologians, activist, educators, students, and so on. Asante sana to Dr. Conrad Worrill, the Black United Fund of Illinois, and the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies of NEIU for bringing us all together. Axé.