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Intelligence, Education, Universal Knowledge and How to Get It

By Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey's words continue to inspire future generations of our people to live up to their full potential. (Photo: Dawit Haile)

Y

ou must never stop learning. The world's greatest men and women were people who educated themselves outside of the University with all the knowledge that the University gives, and you have the opportunity of doing the same thing the University student does - read and study.

One must never stop reading. Read everything that you can that is of standard knowledge. Don't waste time reading trashy literature. That is to say, don't pay attention to the ten cent novels, wild west stories and cheap sentimental books, but where there is a good plot and a good story in the form of a novel, read it. It is necessary to read it for the purpose of getting information on human nature. The idea is that personal experience is not enough for a human to get all the useful knowledge of life, because the individual life is too short, so we must feed on the experience of others.

The literature we read should include the biography and autobiography of men and women who have accomplished greatness in their particular line. Whenever you can buy these books and own them, whilst you are reading them make pencil or pen notes of the striking sentences and paragraphs that you should like to remember, so that when you have to refer to the book for any thought that you would like to refresh your mind on, you will not have to read over the whole book.

You should also read the best poetry for inspiration. The standard poets have always been the most inspirational creators. From a good line of poetry, you may get the inspiration for the career of a lifetime. Many a great man and woman was first inspired by some attractive line or verse of poetry. There are good poets and bad poets just like there are good novels and bad novels. Always select the best poets for your inspirational urge.

Make the Best Out of Life

Read history incessantly until you master it. This means your own national history, the history of the world - social history, industrial history, and the history of the different sciences; but primarily the history of man. If you do not know what went on before you came here and what is happening at the time you live, but away from you, you will not know the world and will be ignorant of the world and mankind.

You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left their records behind.

A Leader Who is to Teach

To be able to read intelligently, you must first be able to master the language of your country. To do this, you must be well acquainted with its grammar and the science of it. Every six months you should read over again the science of the language that you speak, so as not to forget its rules. People judge you by your writing and by your speech. If you write badly and incorrectly they become prejudiced toward your intelligence, and if you speak badly and incorrectly those who hear you become disgusted and will not pay much attention to you but in their hearts will laugh after you. A leader who is to teach men and present any fact of truth to man must first be learned in his subject.

Never write or speak on a subject you know nothing about, for there is always somebody who knows that particular subject to laugh at you or to ask you embarrassing questions that may make others laugh at you. You can know about any subject under the sun by reading about it. If you cannot buy the books outright and own them, go to your public libraries and read them there or borrow them, or join some circulating library in your district or town so as to get the use of these books. You should do that as you may refer to them for information.

The Best Companionship You Can Have

You should read at least four hours a day. The best time to read is in the evening after you have retired from your work and after you have rested and before sleeping hours. But do so before morning, so that during your sleeping hours what you have read may become subconscious, that is to say, planted in your memory. Never go to bed without doing some reading.

Never keep the constant company of anybody who doesn't know as much as you or isn't as educated as you, and from whom you cannot learn something or reciprocate your learning. Especially if that person is illiterate or ignorant, because constant association with such a person will unconsciously cause you to drift into the peculiar culture or ignorance of that person. Always try to associate with people from whom you can learn something. Contact with cultured persons and with books is the best companionship you can have and keep.

By reading good books you keep the company of the authors of the book or the subjects of the book when otherwise you could not meet them in the social contact of life. Never go down in intelligence to those who are below you, but if possible help to lift them up to you. And always try to ascend to those who are above you and be their equal, with the hope of being their master.

You Can Reach the Objective if Others Have

Continue always in the application of the thing you desire educationally, culturally or otherwise, and never give up until you reach the objective - and you can reach the objective if others have done so before you, proving by their doing it that it is possible.

In your desire to accomplish greatness, you must first decide in your own mind in what direction you desire to seek that greatness, and when you have so decided in your own mind, work unceasingly toward it. The particular thing that you may want should be before you all the time, and whatsoever it takes to get it or make it possible should be undertaken. Use your faculties and persuasion to achieve all you set your mind on.

Possess As Much Universal Knowledge As Possible

Try never to repeat yourself in any one discourse in saying the same thing over and over except you are making new points, because repetition is tiresome and it annoys those who hear the repetition. Therefore, try to possess as much universal knowledge as possible through reading so as to be able to be free of repetition in trying to drive home a point.

No one is ever too old to learn. Therefore, you should take advantage of every educational facility. If you should hear of a great man or woman who is to lecture or speak in your town on any given subject and the person is an authority on the subject, always make time to go and hear him. This is what is meant by learning from others. You should learn the two sides to every story, so as to be able to properly debate a question and hold your grounds with the side that you support. If you only know one side of a story, you cannot argue intelligently nor effectively. As for instance, to combat communism, you must know about it, otherwise people will take advantage of you and win a victory over your ignorance.

Anything that you are going to challenge, you must first know about it, so as to be able to defeat it. The moment you are ignorant about anything the person who has the intelligence of that thing will defeat you. Therefore, get knowledge, get it quickly, get it studiously, but get it anyway.

All the Knowledge You Want is in the World

Knowledge is power. When you know a thing and can hold your ground in that thing and win over your opponents on that thing, those who hear you learn to have confidence in you and will trust your ability. Never, therefore, attempt anything without being able to protect yourself on it, for every time you are defeated it takes away from your prestige and you are not as respected as before.

All the knowledge you want is in the world, and all that you have to do is to go seeking it and never stop until you have found it. You can find knowledge or the information about it in the public libraries, if it is not on your own bookshelf. Try to have a book and own it on every bit of knowledge you want. You may generally get these books at second hand book stores for sometimes one-fifth of the original value.

Always have a well equipped shelf of books. Nearly all information about mankind is to be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is an expensive set of books, but try to get them. Buy a complete edition for yourself, and keep it at your home, and whenever you are in doubt about anything go to it and you will find it there.

The value of knowledge is to use it. It is not humanly possible that a person can retain all knowledge of the world, but if a person knows how to search for all the knowledge of the world, he will find it when he wants it.

A doctor or a lawyer, although he passed his examination in college, does not know all the laws and does not know all the techniques of medicine, but he has the fundamental knowledge. When he wants a particular kind of knowledge, he goes to the medical books or law books and refers to the particular law or how to use the recipe of medicine. You must, therefore, know where to find your facts and use them as you want them. No one will know where you got them, but you will have the facts and by using them correctly they will think you a wonderful person, a great genius and a trusted leader.

Search to Find Out the Latest Facts

In reading it is not necessary or compulsory that you agree with everything you read. You must always use or apply your own reasoning to what you have read based upon what you already know as touching the facts on what you have read. Pass judgment on what you read based upon these facts. When I say facts I mean things which cannot be disputed. You may read thoughts that are old, and opinions that are old and have changed since they were written. You must always search to find out the latest facts on that particular subject and only when these facts are consistently maintained in what you read should you agree with them, otherwise you are entitled to your own opinion.

Always have up-to-date knowledge. You can gather this from the latest books and the latest periodicals, journals and newspapers. Read your daily newspaper every day. Read a standard monthly journal every month, a standard weekly magazine every week, a standard quarterly magazine every quarter, and by this you will find the new knowledge of the whole year in addition to the books you read, whose facts have not been altered in that year. Don't keep old ideas, bury them as new ones come.

Marcus Garvey,
Lessons from the School
of African Philosophy
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