Tuesday, July 21, 2009

African Intellectuals: Proof of Intellect Not Required

Picture: I selected pictures from Google at random, and it seemed that the same suit kept making an appearance. So I put together a small collage. What is with that?

Expressing an opinion on a blog is like an a-hole, we all have one. But in many respects opinions need to be shaped by knowledge, which they rarely are. Many of us are experts in our respective fields, and that enlivens and keeps a debate focussed. In many instances expertise comes about as a result of an experience, as opposed to academically acquired.

So academic credentials are not an end in itself. Quite the contrary, it is the beginning. Any published academic will tell you that it matters little where or what you studied; what matters is the quality of your research and where it was published.

So where am I going with this? If you are going to debate a topic, or denounce the findings of a published expert, then you better have material to back up your claims; and that material should be of an equivalent standing as the material you are denouncing. Now, it is possible that mainstream academic thought is proven wrong; academics are comfortable with this. You just need to provide high quality research, and in volumes.

Much of the problem with many self-proclaimed experts, is that they have the academic credentials, which they use as a hammer, but they have no original thoughts or published material. I think Mangcu falls into this category, and it seems I am not alone.

I have been following Sipho Seepe and Xolela Mangcu’s public spat with Solani Ngobeni with a lot of interest. Ngobeni made an interesting point that our so-called public intellectual’s are just bench commentators in wrong fields.

Mangcu has made himself an African National Congress-Jacob Zuma mouthpiece, while Seepe claims that he personally challenged former president Thabo Mbeki
for his myopic ideas that undermined medical expertise on the AIDS issue. Now where did Mangcu and Seepe study their medicine and politics? I suppose the “the University of MyOwn”.

I scrutinised Mangcu’s CV and asked myself how he managed to land anywhere near Wits University. His personal attacks on Prof Loyiso Nongxa and Ngobeni won’t help his lousy profile. Ngobeni is a young, dynamic and experienced publisher.

As for Mangcu I would like to see some of his scholarly work, including books, solid researched journals and his teachings — his contribution to reproduction of knowledge in general.

Mangcu and Seepe still continue peddling personal vendettas instead of disproving allegations through their work. If intellectual work involves putting silly ideas into the public sphere then anyone is an intellectual. (BC, take note)

What causes further dismay is that the two so-called “public intellectuals have a claim to some international universities”. Brothers, that does not make you better than anyone else and it also does not justify mediocrity.

The time has come for you both to wake up and smell the coffee. The time has come for you to stop being columnists and start being real public intellectuals. Research and reproduce.

1 Opinion(s):

Doberman said...

Very astute commentary VI.