The discovery of the double helix, which encodes all human traits, features and prospective diseases, was a great breakthrough, long awaited by scientists who lived the quest to unveil the ambiguity surrounding the holy grail of biology, namely DNA. The pursuit of this enigma was a lengthy process through the obscurity of time to measure the bearer of the faculties and capabilities of each individual human being. The summit of that quest was first reached by two scientists, James Watson and Francis Crick, who shared the Noble Prize for their discovery, and both were raised to a pedestal before the world, with all the holiness, rituals and nobility which that entails. Nevertheless, some years ago, great controversy engulfed one of the two Nobel Laureates.
By Dr. Hazem El-Refaey:
Watson, in 2007, was quoted declaring his conviction that black people were less intelligent than white people, a declaration which evoked a storm of political condemnation aimed against him; though in reality, racism has long been a syndrome characterising the intellectual arena of the North, a long racist history which was, and is still, an antagonising factor necessary to perpetuate the continuity of war. The atrocities committed by humans in such circumstances cannot be justified by the killers unless they consider the victims less than human. Scientists and Orientalists have long played major roles in racism though history, contrary to their claim of being objective and unbiased.
It must be stated that Watson was not an exception in the history of scientists, scholars, philosophers and historians. Unmasked, this man who holds the esteemed Nobel prize, is a scholarly descendent of those scientists who worked in the laboratories of Europe, experimenting on people to ascertain whether or not the black man was even truly human, or whether he is an intermediate link between apes and humans; and not less in his opinion was Voltaire, the great liberty symbol of the Eighteenth Century, when he grouped black people in a lower rank. A long series of scientists, Orientalists and research centres promote the idea of the lower rank of ‘the other’ and justify the inevitability of the destruction of their societies.
In the heart of Europe, prior to and during the Industrial Revolution, fleets of war ships were built to invade the far continents of the world and to dredge their less fortunate peoples. That was how and when the slave trade was established in Africa. The ships never ceased to cross the oceans during what was known as ‘The Triangular Slave Trade’. From West Africa to Liverpool and then to the Caribbean Islands where the triangle becomes complete.
Thousands of ships carried nearly four million black people who were considered the most precious jewels of that era. Men, women, boys and girls were kidnapped from West Africa to become slaves as soon as they were separated from their families. The ships used to drop the slaves in Havana, the largest centre for slave grouping located at the edges of the two big continents, North America and South America, and after a few days, the ships would return to Britain’s shores, to the same Liverpool port, but this time loaded with cotton.
The operation was executed with an amazing efficiency that is characteristic of the capitalist industry’s regulation and organisational capabilities and aggressive bloody engineering so that profits would be tremendous. Slaves were important for the cotton plantations and for concurring America, and the cotton was essential for the industrial factories in Manchester, a canal was dug between Liverpool and Manchester in order to facilitate transportation – the Huddersfield Canal still exists to the present day.
The machine of maximizing the profits was running while the evading of exposure justified all means, for all procedures were organised in accordance with regulations, schedules and Monarchical and Parliamentary acts guarded by fleets of warships. Everything was operated in accordance with serious policies similar to those being implemented today in the oil trade or in confronting regional forces which may threaten the flow of trade. The slave trade constituted 70% of the British Crown’s tax returns in those days.
The owners of the ships and those capitalists who financed the journeys were guaranteed protection of their interests, and that is how the slave trade insurance industry was created – to compensate the ship owners against those slaves whom they dropped in the ocean to face their fate. Among those four million slaves were the grandparents of the child Cassius Clay who was born beautiful, tall, smart, witty, humorous and a poet by nature so that he could dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Fate was on his side in the boxing ring so that he could dance on the bodies of adversaries of all colours.
‘The other’ was haunting him along with all the black Americans, a siege around everything, siege on beliefs, siege on the language they speak; and that angels are white in colour, and that Christ was white and blond – doubt and uncertainty were their companions, in exactly the same way as they are our companions in the Arab Middle East today.
And so the high tide of millions of black Americans drifted away from the cruel heart of the capitalist world, its profits and its managerial genius. Socialist thought and national liberation fronts were travelling all around the world teaching the salvation of mankind. Cassius Clay had chosen to be part of black Africa’s heritage and traditions and he believed in the message of Islam with its conviction ‘there is no god but God’ as a symbol of liberty – the freedom roar of the human slave and his rebellion against the god of slavery.
The young Cassius Clay was quite extreme in his declaration that the white man was the devil himself, but that represented the voice of the black Americans suffering the pains of oppression. Later on, his beliefs became more moderate under the influence of the writings and thoughts of struggling black Americans of whom many symbolic leaders were assassinated during that great struggle in America, such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Crowned by his chosen name, ‘Muhammad Ali’, his transformational new birth like a metamorphosed butterfly began, rejecting the European name that was given to his ancestors by their owners. That was his triumphant moment, his sting to his adversaries like a bee, his refusal of the military draft and mobilisation for the war in Vietnam, his refusal to participate in any one of a series of continuous crimes committed by the gods of capitalism who cannot live without wars.
Muhammad Ali Clay has departed our world. He was a symbol of man’s long struggle against cruelty, oppression and shame that changes form, from the slave trade to Jewish Holocaust to the current crimes of deconstructing the cultures and societies of the Middle East – crimes against humanity, even though they have not been entitled to their quite true title just yet.
Translated by Julia A’isha and Ziad Khalifa