Ikem's Political Philosophy (from Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah )

[Added by George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University]

The section of the Anthills of the Sahara narrated by Beatrice, which contains Ikem's statements about the role of women, also argues against revolutionary politics. Achebe seems to draw upon his experience of postcolonial Africa, particularly its history of military coups, failed promises, and internal conflicts like the Biafran War when he has Ikem argue that reform, rather than revolution, offers the only hope:

"The sweeping, majestic vision of people rising victorious like a tidal wave against their oppressors and transforming their world with theories and slogans into a new heaven and a new earth of brotherhood, justice, and freedom are at best grand illusions. The rising, conquering tide, yes; but the millennium afterwards, no! New oppressors will have been readying themselves secretly in the undertow long before the tidal wave really got going.

"Experience and intelligence warn us that man's progress in freedom will be piecemeal, slow and undramatic. Revolution may be necessary for taking a society out of an intractable stretch of quagmire but it does not confer freedom, and may indeed hinder it. . . .

"Reform may be a dirty word then but it begins to look more and more like the most promising route to success in the real world. . . . Society is an extension of the individual. The most we can hope to do with a problematic individual psyche is to reform it. No responsible psychoanalyst would aim to do more, for to do more, to overthrow the psyche itself, would be to unlease insanity. No. We can only hope to rearrange some details in the periphery of the human personality. . . . It has to be the same with society. You re-form it around what it is, its core of reality; not around an intellectual abstraction."

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