NTOABOMA— Sometimes we do the logical thing—whether we like it or not. Other times we do the illogical thing, because we like it. When a person indulges in the illogical, especially when he cannot expect to like the outcome, we say he is crazy. Not that this sort of cognitive blight is the only source of craziness. Certainly, the fountain of craziness gushes in many directions. But engaging the illogical when one cannot expect to like the result is a sure cause.

This brings me to the issue: what is logical? The difference between the logical and the illogical is difficult to formulate in precise terms, although its import seems, without question, clear from case to case. We tend to know what makes sense and what does not—altogether, common sense. This distinction intersects with what we like and what we do not like. We struggle with ourselves. We struggle with our minds. This feature of our existence is called The Will—the choice we have between what makes sense and what does not, and what we like and what we do not like.

This struggle is manifested in how we view water.

A human being has a brain. To speak of the logical mind is to relate and confer some sense of agency to this part of the human being. The idea of “thinking” appears to require a brain, or at the very least, some rudimentary form of a nervous system, or so says the biologist! Which means that more than one cell is required to form even the simplest network for thinking—for instance, in a Jellyfish.

All prokaryotes are unicellular organisms, and for that matter the biologist concludes that they do not have the basic network for thinking. Obviously by definition the biologist’s requirement of a network of cells for thinking leads him only to one conclusion: prokaryotes cannot think. But step outside this box for a moment. How are prokaryotes able to engage in the complex activities of producing heat, locomotion, nourishment, and procreation without thinking, without a set of tightly-knit protocols that direct some future order? Or yet, if the prokaryote was just a mere robot, wouldn’t that also imply that an intelligence created it? The biologist is caught between a rock and a hard place, but he insists on his craziness.

In a similar vein, the student of biology would maintain that water cannot think. If for instance we were to observe water for a long period of time and accept that it behaves according to a set of observable features, like always taking the path of least resistance, the biologist and his student will swear against the idea that water, after all, “thinks” through its obstacles.  Who is crazy—the one who refuses the logical thing and opts for the illogical although he knows the result of his “thinking” does not conform to his own observation, or the man who accepts the logical thing?

The story of an encounter between the Chief of Ntoaboma and Yankade’s grandaunt, the Queenmother, helps to make further sense of this idea and ascertain if it appeals to our consciousness to like or not, and if it makes logical sense or not.

 

Yankade and the Queenmother of Ntoaboma.

It is evening. The mighty Sun that watches over Ntoaboma is setting to rise again tomorrow. The light it casts over the Ntoaboma sky is a faint shade of red disappearing to the west in a burnt orange hue. Yankade’s day is over. It was a market day in Ntoaboma. Once every month, all the surrounding villages and cottages bring their goods and ornaments to Ntoaboma’s big market. Obviously, this is always a big day. A child can indulge an ice cream cone—thanks to the newly arriving folks from Accra (the Metha), who are now resettling in Ntoaboma with newfound appetites and disgusts.

Yankade is a business woman. She imports salt and charcoal and produces varying brands of salted fish (koobi and mormorney) for sale. She is as well known in Ntoaboma as the chief, the latter who from all indignant indications only sells land for his own upkeep. The chief has lost the respect of Ntoaboma and remains holed up in his tiny mansion, out of sight from the Queenmother—who is Yankade’s grandaunt—and who has vowed to remove the chief’s sandals and destool him. For good. Why? The chief of Ntoaboma has single-handedly sold ancestral land to the Chinese, including a formidable stream.

This stream is where many of our ancestors fished and fetched drinking water. This stream supplied a significant portion of Ntoaboma’s nourishment. By the stroke of a single chief, who was the custodian of Ntoaboma’s lands, the Chinese now have possession of the stream. The legal battle rages on in Accra—a distant city that has nothing but taxes to collect from Ntoaboma. It takes money, time and energy to fight off the stroke of a chief’s pen. The only way to resolve this issue quickly is to destool the chief and nullify all contracts signed in his name. But he remains in his mini mansion from this impending embarrassment.

Anyhow, Yankade is no woman who sits idly by while the Chinese destroy the very stream upon which her livelihood and the livelihoods of several Ntoaboma fishermen and market women depend. Once, she had confronted the Chinese in dialogue. The second time, she took with her a battalion of machete wielding men, only to meet a small mercenary army brandishing AK47s and several American-made machine guns, well-funded by the Chinese. Common sense tells Yankade, the only way to resolve this issue in the twenty-first century without the pain of unnecessary funerals is through the handiwork of her grandaunt, the Queenmother.

So this very evening, after market day, after the effects of the absence of the stream on Ntoaboma’s markets was well-felt, Yankade led her grandaunt to the chief’s mini mansion in the middle of town. They met the Royal Guard—once a fearsome army; now a wiry group of palm wine drinking old men. Yankade shoved the first man away with a single swipe of her left arm, and the second guard, she lifted off the ground out of her way. The rest of the old battalion of palm wine drinkers stood aloof, stupefied by the presence of Yankade and the Queenmother. “Where is the chief?” the Queenmother asked.

“That way. In the central court,” one guard bellowed before Yankade reached for his throat with her sword. And there, through the royal hallway, down to the central court, the chief of Ntoaboma was busy alone at a dinner table with all manner of kinds of meat spread across the entire terrain of a plateau built of fufu and suspended in an ocean of pepper soup. The sight of a single man at the table was itself representative of the sordid character of this Ntoaboma man.

When the chief sensed the presence of the Queenmother, he had little time to “think” through how he might react. He pretended nothing was amiss. He attempted to engage the Queenmother and Yankade in the royal niceties as would be accorded a Queen. The chief stood up and bowed, and tried to slide away with the excuse of fetching a stool for the old lady. Yankade was not having it. No way the man was getting out of sight.

As was customary, the Queenmother had to recite the reasons and stipulate the laws under which she would exercise her authority to destool the chief. So she began without hesitation. At this moment, the royal guards, the chief’s wives, and the chief priest had been summoned by the royal bell to witness what was yet to transpire. Their attempts to admonish the Queenmother to find another method to resolve the issue fell on deaf ears. The Queenmother was resolute and proceeded with a patient pace, carefully and methodically dispatching her words directly to the chief (as he slumped unto his stool), and giving her reasons and her authority over destooling him.

When she was done, she advanced on the chief to remove his sandals. His hesitation was met with two double-edged Yankade swords, one at each side of his throat. “Why are you doing this to me? If you want the land just go and take it from the Chinese,” he retorted. “How? Use these swords against their AK47s?” Yankade inquired without a blink while she stared intently at him. “Well, yeah… maybe that’s what you need to do!” The chief retorted.

The Queenmother had already taken off his sandals at this point.  But when she overheard him, she snapped, “That’s why you cannot be chief of Ntoaboma. You don’t even understand the water in that stream you sold. You see, that water in that stream is the same water that flows through my veins. Yours too! That same water flowed through the veins of my ancestors. That water always, without fail, takes the path of least resistance to achieve its goal. That water is me. And you are my path of least resistance. Water is more intelligent than you. To hell with you. You are no longer chief of Ntoaboma.”

 

Observation versus Science.

The science remains that water cannot think because it lacks the biologist’s requirement for thinking—a network of cells. In the same way that prokaryotes cannot think. The Queenmother of Ntoaboma requires no such condition in order to fully understand and appreciate the astounding “mind” of water. Now, who is crazy: the biologist who refuses to step out of his own box, or the Queenmother who is inspired by the consciousness and intelligence of water? Traditional wisdom is a paradigm and so too is colonial science. One must choose, carefully.

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My name is Narmer Amenuti (Dances With Lions). I am first a Cultural Theorist and second an Educationalist. Both of which require that I remain an Investigative Historian. All of which lead me to my preferred profession: a Culture Critic, from the Sankoré School (of Critical Theory). I am East African by birth; South African by training; West African by choice – all of which make me, African by nature. I am also a student of Ancient African Rhythms and a passionate dilettante of Science.

~ Success Corrupts; Usefulness Exalts! ~ Narmer!

32 COMMENTS

  1. There is a term in English called personification, which means to prescribe human characteristics to non-human forms. At first glance, one might think that to call water intelligent is to perform the act of personification. But Narmer Amenuti informs us through this essay that if we dismiss the notion that water can be intelligent in and of itself without connecting it to human actions, we are missing the beauty and essence of water. While we fail to grasp the consciousness and complex existence of water and other similar matter, we are also performing a grave error in logic.

    What better way to elucidate this point but to take you to the land of Ntoaboma and share a story about women navigating their terrain with wit, sass, and smarts? Narmer intertwines a deep knowledge of philosophy of science with sturdy roots in traditional African wisdom. Of course I must stop now, or else I will spoil it. Enjoy!

  2. If all Ghanaian socio-political and cultural terrain borrowed much from this Ntoaboma cultural topology, we may be on to something bigger and higher. The enervating colonial stronghold on the continent needs a counter current, a whirlpool, a gushing watery force of mind and will to resurrect and redirect our energies towards building upon our institutions of old. By giving such institutions like the Queenmother and the Chief judicious intellectual treatment, the way Narmer has done here, and in many such essays of his, we can first begin to accept that we hold the keys to our own intellectual realization, and perhaps become aware that such a consciousness can sink down to our hearts and invigorate our souls once more – the way that it once was on this continent; they way that this continent spurred on the ancient steps towards civilization. What a studious essay and an exciting introduction by Abena Maanu!

  3. What an intro.! Abena Maanu please spread this word about what temple you and Akosua went to oooh…. we need some of that education. Lol.

    That said, this remains a superb writeup: simple, elegant, logical and straight to point. I am beginning to fall for these Ntoaboma stories. Really. In any case, I think the conversation has opened up even more about the scientific paradigms – those arriving via colonialism and those we are now unearthing ala ancient African science. All evidence points to a teleological approach to science from Ancient Kemet to todays surviving traditional African scientists (herbalists) and the surprising bunch of the Dogon.

    More, we also need to take a careful look at how science is taught and presented to our children. There’s something deep within our genes that enables us to thrive more on the teleological approach to science than the simple mechanistic one. One seems to have preserved the Earth (Ma’at) and the other strange foreign concoction seems to be destroying Asase Yaa (destroying Ma’at)!

    • I went to a Robotics Conference recently and I saw man-made things roaming around. Some scientists referred to some of these robots as “intelligent”. So I brought up the case that water was more intelligent than any robot here. They fumbled.

      If you asked these people to build a robot that can exhibit this “characteristic” of water at all times, they will fail. But none was prepared to accept that water was more intelligent than any of the robots on display. It’s very interesting!

    • The whole idea is not sustainable. Water is not the only thing that has the formlessness you are referring to as intelligence. Robots do not have that property and that is what makes their ability to make decisions “intelligence”.

    • Who said “formlessness” was a given? Plus, in the strictest sense of “formlessness” water is not formless. But that is another discussion.

  4. Water takes its shape from the container it finds itself. Perhaps water is so forceful naturally that it believes any kind of exhibition or encounter that demands battle for it to wield its strength to will be defeated naturally. Water in this regard has no match. The battle will simply be

    • That’s came straight from my peak performance thesis although it leads to a slightly different direction. Esi Arhin I wouldn’t be so certain.

  5. Water is intelligent??? Dade Afre Akufu have we lost our brother Narmer Amenuti? LOL It must be the ‘Trump-iasis’ that has infected him

  6. He’s rehashing an age-old debate still ongoing about the meaning and primacy of mechanistic explanations vs teleological ones. It’s actually an exciting scientific debate. Lol.

  7. Water will always have it path. Simply because water have no time to waste on unnecessary things that comes it ways.

    • Thanks for asking Abena Maanu. Please let me attempt a simple and straightforward summary. Biologists are concerned with explanations about how an organ, or organelle, works in combination with others as part of a whole. For example, the function of the liver is to regulate and extract certain toxins from the body so as to maintain the total homeostasis of the human being. This kind of explanation lends to an end goal of the function of the liver. The liver then must be intelligent to understand its role in the human body so as to contribute meaningfully to it.

      Consequently, the higher goal of function begs the question: Do all things work together to maintain a certain order? This was the key to Ancient Egyptian Science—to find the underlying parts and function of the universe that contribute to the whole to ensure Ma’at (Balance). Further, this required Kemet’s scientists to invoke the existence of God. Truly, religion emerged from this need to explain the function of parts of the anatomy, and then parts of the universe, as contributing to a higher purpose, or end, prescribed or ordained by God, perhaps!

      Thus teleological explanations invoked God. Later, European scientists, who were new to this paradigm, sought rather to break away distinctly from this philosophy and they looked down on the science they had inherited from Kemet through Greece. They would rather use a mechanistic method to define the function of any part of the universe. This was done to break away from assigning a purpose to all things, living and nonliving and in this regard, assign no purpose to functions in the universe. Although it seems odd that they still do assign their anthropocentric purposes (mainly white supremacist purposes) to their science and methods. Of course these breakaways were in concert with the onset of the industrial revolution and the development of capitalist ideology.

      So for instance: they will not say “Water “takes” the path of least resistance (this for them was teleological).” They would rather say: “the flow of water is such that the forces that act within and about the molecules of water force it into paths of least resistance.” This way they can independently define the forces (gravitation, friction, viscosity, etc.).

      Now one might think the difference in philosophy is insignificant. But it is not. In the teleological, one can assign some agency to the water and in the mechanistic, the water is merely an inanimate object obeying the laws of the forces that act on it and within it.

      Although a careful look reveals the main ideology: in the mechanistic, we would rather assign extra-contemporaneous forces rather than allow the water to have some sense of agency (this latter idea might just force us to treat water a little more like it is human—like our Ancestors in Kemet did). But this direction was unacceptable if one wanted to expand on capitalist ideology. There’s more to this debate but this is the gist. I hope it made any sense.

  8. The funny relationship between humans and water. Humans are so intelligent they haven’t figured out how to survive without water. Water on the other hand is so unintelligent that it needs no humans to exist.

  9. Dade Afre Akufu. Your explanation is interesting in that it outlines an ideology not just for science and the material world but for how the west relates to others–human and non human. They attempt to “break away from assigning a purpose to all things, living and nonliving.” Their cries for “law and order” for example fall into this idea that they should govern us humans who they wish not to assign behaviors like thinking for themselves, and so their “laws” should govern us. Much the same way that they would like to assign laws to water’s decisions, as if it is not water but some outside force (which they have seemingly defined) acting upon it.

    Water is intelligent but rather than concede that point, they would rather describe water’s “rebellion” in a defiance of their laws and order. Such as labeling it a tsunami or a hurricane or a whirlpool, as if water is acting out of its designated character. But all these things are just water being water the way it knows how. Much the same way they label agency in human behavior as rioting or protesting or something else that is in defiance of some law and order ordained by them, but of course these are mechanistic explanations, right? Thank you, teacher.

  10. Like Solomon Azumah-Gomez said, is it matter that is intelligent or water? If you look at atoms, how do they know which atoms to combine with and in what order? It is the union of two or more atoms in a PARTICULAR order that gives rise to all the elements we have including water.

  11. I think that all matter have intelligence. Water has a unique intelligence, unique in special ways than say the intelligence of hydrogen in much the same way as the intelligence of an advanced kind of matter (human) has a unique intelligence that is different from another kind (a tree). The combinations and recombinations of the basic blocks of life reach out into unique levels (pure quantum states) of intelligence. But there’s no doubt that some intelligence (states) are higher than others.

  12. I have never read an essay from this autor. This is the first one l’ve come across. Thanks to the autor for demonstrating writing skills not only intellectually but also with a sense of African traditional consciousness for the protection of nature and ancestoral belief which most of us are ignorantly allowing others from far away to destroy. This reminds me of the African novel “Things Falls Apart“ wherein the the elders where discussing the issues about land, our cultures and the problems of strangers cultures. Special thanks also to all conscious commentators and Mawuena Hormeku from whom within this short time of fb friendship l’ve gained so much. May the God of our ancestors guides us all.

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