The Titulocracy and Challenges of Decoloniality

Ollantay Itzamná authorities. Cusco.

All civilizations generated and managed their knowledge and technologies seeking to improve their living conditions and increase their power. In the western world, during the Middle Ages, Scholasticism arose which gave rise to what we now know as universities, and from there the accredited knowledge was qualified and measured in terms of degrees. Degrees that in turn were more socio-culturally important to their holders than the noble titles of Duke, Marquis, Count, Viscount, Baron.

In modern civilization, universities became the new “temples” of scientific knowledge, based on the truths believed by some men in northern Europe. They called this enlightenment (and the rest of knowledge they called ignorance). At that time, being a “university student” was like being a “scholastic chosen by God” in the Middle Ages.

Centuries later, it became Fordism (20th century) which consisted of specializing, training, university students to design products for the market, to generate more economic profits, and thus accumulate more wealth for the elites. And we arrive at the neoliberal free market… where there are more universities than supply markets… where university degrees are bought and sold like any other product… where it is easier and cheaper to get a university degree than to buy a mule or a piece of land to cultivate!

In this planet transformed into a market, the problem is not to buy or sell academic titles (noble titles were also bought and sold in the Middle Ages). The issue is that those who hold such academic titles have a false consciousness of being “superior beings to the rest of the non-degree holders”. They maintain a belief and exercise power, although without any cultural authority, by using the university degree to seek their own means of living.

Aymara authorities.

Moreover, this false consciousness of the holder of the university degree is to some extent legitimized by the “social expectation” of the family, community or society that believes that “university degrees are automatic vehicles for personal and family socioeconomic advancement”. And there is no greater self-deception than this in a free market of titles with closed labor markets!

One more detail. Just as a college degree doesn’t make its holder more learned or more capable of surviving on a crisis-ridden planet, it doesn’t make him or her more honest or ethical than the rest. Graduates aren’t better rulers/authorities, better public administrators, or better caretakers of Mother Earth, just because they carry a degree! Let’s look at the current dire political stories of Abya Yala.

What are the challenges of decoloniality from academics?

Child farmer.

De-script. Great are the theoretical efforts made by academics on processes of coloniality and decoloniality. However, as long as they continue to use the “written word” as the only source/depository of qualified knowledge, the condition of coloniality will continue to be consolidated.

Neither books nor papers now determine the dynamics of the real world. What is more, the written word, as a depository and vehicle, has succumbed to the omnipresence of the audiovisual. Today’s world is guided/moved by truths that are outside of written texts. Decoloniality must drink from other sources, use other channels.

Dissolve yourself. During the scholastic period and recent modernity, the truths expressed by their authors had authority and value to the extent that they accredited academic titles. This is how the “Suaretian tradition” was born, which consists of naming/presenting the many titles of the academic speaker before he or she speaks with his or her few truths.

The decolonial tradition, when faced with evidence of the disappearance of the authority of academic titles, is called upon to “omit” to present itself with the support of its titles. Not only because that presentation or support in his academic titles strengthens the condition of “ontological coloniality” of his audience (which feels nothing in his being and knowing before the PHD or Lic.) but because the higher the degree or years in the westernized universities the greater and deeper the processes of colonization in them.

With the degrees of the westernized universities it is impossible to de-westernize or decolonize the world. The curricular contents and the westernized accreditation are made to make the domination of humanity and the demolition of Mother Earth sustainable.

Return to Earth. Another of the myths that installed the Western Academy was and is: “The more degrees and professional you are, the further you must be from contact with the earth”. In other words, the academy was and is essentially the decamping of humanity. Let’s take Cuba, for example.

Of course, you get academic degrees to generate better and faster economic income without greater physical effort. This is a socially shared illusion. The farmer usually instills in his son: “So that you are not like me, study so that you can be someone in life”. But does that guarantee us fulfillment? And why is the fear of death a companion that brings us back to Earth, our origin and destiny?

The COVID19 pandemic came and confirmed the deadly error of the western and westernized academy: the peasant families survived the planetary confinement without major anxiety and suffering! If we are not able to grow our own food, no matter how many titles or how much money we possess, we will die trapped in the fear of encountering the virus in the other who provides us with food.

Making community. Just as it is contradictory to try to decolonize or decolonize ourselves by reciting only “author’s writings”, reiterating or sheltering ourselves in our academic titles, or distancing ourselves from our Earth identity, so it is and will be difficult to decolonize from methodological individualism.