One of the most informed contemporary Marxists is Antonio Gramsci, to whom I strongly drew inspiration, not for him been radical, but for his prowess to dissect the actuality of intellectual circle, in his famous analysis of ‘The Intellectuals’.
Many different versions of cultural studies have emerged in the past decades. While during its dramatic period of global expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, cultural studies was often identified with the approach to culture and society developed by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, in Birmingham, England, their sociological, materialist, and political approaches to culture had predecessors in a number of currents of cultural Marxism. Many twentieth century Marxian theorists, ranging from Georg Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, and T. W. Adorno to Fredric Jameson and Terry Eagleton, employed the Marxian theory to analyse cultural forms in relation to their production, their imbrications with society and history, and their impact and influences on audiences and social life. Traditions of cultural Marxism are thus important to the trajectory of cultural studies and to understanding its various types and forms in the present age, including the proposed area of my analysis.
All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.
When one distinguishes between intellectuals and non-intellectuals, one is referring in reality only to the immediate social function of the professional category of the intellectuals, that is, one has in mind the direction in which their specific professional activity is weighted, whether towards intellectual elaboration or towards muscular-nervous effort. For Antonio Gramsci, although one can speak of intellectuals, one cannot speak of non-intellectuals, because non-intellectuals do not exist. This is what I strongly doubt, with the emerging antecedents in our midst, in a West African strategic location called ‘Northern Nigeria’.
Even the relationship between efforts of intellectual-cerebral elaboration and muscular-nervous effort is not always the same as there are varying degrees of specific intellectual activity. There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded: homo faber cannot be separated from homo sapiens. So as much, no matter what the effort of a person, he would not be able to divorce ‘intellectualism’ from religion. And no amount of stigma or label can stop the ‘intellectuals’ or ‘academics’ from the way and manner they view everyday life.
Every man, finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a “philosopher,” an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought. Being an intellectual should not be a yardstick to ascertain the morality, or religious affiliation of a person, such a subjective conclusion only occur in a ‘confused’ society, called the northern Nigeria.
We are in a society whose intellectuals are stratified by religious difference, ethnic difference, and other micro issues that are not in any way equal to our initial meeting point which is humanity. One may argue that the formation of ‘Northern Intellectuals’ is sharply influenced by the existing antagonism between various sects of affiliations. A staunch Salafi intellectual is always on the run to defend whatever ideology is from his school of thought, while on the other hand, the Sufi and Shi’ah intellectuals are defending their camp-based arguments.
As a student of sociology, I am worried with the method and strategy employed by our intellectuals as they had for long missed the route to emancipate northern Nigeria from ignorance and fastest growing social problems. Problems that if not checked, we would in the nearest future end up attacking one another. We are nothing but the enemies of ourselves, living on a time bomb with remote controls hidden arrogantly in our mosques, homes and social media.
Our intellectuals are people who celebrate death of people from a different sect, and applaud the killers of our regional brothers. The divorce rate of our community is everyday skyrocketing. Our intellectuals are excellent at character assassination of each other views, while the level of kidnapping, child hawking, prostitution and rape is increasing.
Northern Nigeria needs a collective action over the contemporary destructive social problems at hand, not camps of intellectuals that underrate the ability to change the religious views of another intellectual or to cleanse a particular sect from existence. Hate speeches, articles, and social media campaigns would only add salt to the wound and worsen it.
Mr Idris writes from Kaduna. He can be reached at [email protected]