When the lie of the Big Man fails, dare you not say he was lying... 

Wednesday February 24 2021
Covid-19 test.

A health worker takes a swab for Covid-19 testing. PHOOT | FILE | NMG


I have been here before, but see no reason not to revisit, seeing as the need is becoming greater by the day to shed some light on what is refusing to lose its darkness.

It is about that word, obscurantism. Let me put it this way. Ignorance is the state of not knowing, which all of us suffer from in different aspects. For instance, I don’t know many people who know anything about virology, even as the world is reeling under some strange virus that refuses to go away a year after it made its ugly appearance amongst us.

I could even go further and state that even the most experienced experts in the matter in the world are still ignorant about many aspects of Covid-19 and how it chooses to behave in different circumstances.

So, with due respect to those extraordinarily empowered minds of science, we are forced to watch them scratch their brains on television even as they struggle to give some explanation to us. They are thinking on their hooves.

That is totally normal. A novel virus stole a march on the scientific community about a year ago and now, after that deer-in-the headlights moment, they are peeling the onion layers under our very watch to try and give us some insights into the phenomenon.

That is ignorance, even if it is being said of some the most knowledgeable people in the world; it is normal, as I said, and no one can be completely shielded from it.


Now, obscurantism is a different place altogether. Obscurantism is the state of mind wherein the sufferer aspires not only to not know but also to strive to ensure that no one knows what can remain unknown, and to invest all their energy in keeping knowledge at bay.

It is a fundamentalist attachment to ignorance which will make people take up arms and fight unto the death to keep any ray of knowledge and enlightenment at bay.

You have read about these individuals and the miserable societies they spawned down the annals of history, some in the world’s literature — such as my favourite obscurant, Doctor Pangloss — or in the history books about such characters as the Luddites (fighting against mechanical innovation), or the Roman Catholic cardinals persecuting, at different times, Copernicus, Galileo or Martin Luther.

They are not gone away from our midst; they still ply their trade with gusto every time they see an occasion to make a living by opposing knowledge. The status quo in every age and clime uses them as a prop for keeping people where they are, unable to move out of their backwardness, unwilling to break and cast away their shackles.

They can be eloquent, the obscurantists, such as Voltaire’s Pangloss, who strove to justify everything he saw as inevitability itself, basically to protect himself and those around him from the horror of thinking up anything new.

This could be from innocuous though sterile teachings about the unmatched beauty and grandeur of the castle built by his master; the unrivalled good looks of the damsel Cunégonde, or the unquestionable necessity of wearing spectacles because that is what the nose is for and wearing stockings because that’s what legs are made for.

That would have been alright if it stopped at such innocuous inanities, but once such things are set in motion there is no knowing how to rein them in any ore.

So Pangloss, even as he was being devastated by syphilis, found it in him to say the disease was brought back to Europe by those who went to the New World, and without the disease people would not have discovered the delights of chocolate.

You have heard them all over the place, the Squealers who will tell you all manner of idiocies as long as it goes hand in hand with two things: one, to pay blind allegiance to the status quo, however harmful; two to block any attempt at changing what we are experiencing and do not like.

Sometimes the attempts to stop dissent, equalise everyone and smooth out the differences takes on a more virulent, fascistic tone.

People are being told there is no disease amongst us when they can see their brothers and sisters are dying; they had rather say they are losing relatives to a breathing disorder than accept the term used by the rest of the world, simply because we have talked to God.

The problem with involving the Big Man in a lie such as this is that if it fails you dare not say he was lying. So we will waltz around the issue, exploring terminologies, speaking out of both sides of the mouth, just to avoid saying what the rest of the world is saying.

In the past week or so we have been hit with such acuity that even the most unthinking defenders of non-thinking are a bit quieter than usual.

Maybe we will begin to hear them say something coherent, sometime soon?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]