Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Civilization: Subordinating African Traditional Ideas
Africans are traditionally Democratic! They welcome visitors with open arms!
When Europeans went to Africa and interacted with local people, especially in the 18th century, they found Africans with organized social and political structures. African chiefs, kings or queens used cross examination of facts and people. Ideas were debated before decisions were made. There were religious rituals and organizations and the community knew who they were and their place in the society. This was something European learned.
The Europeans also learned that Africans were hospitable. They welcome Europeans even when they (Europeans) looked markedly different from Africans. There was no sense of 'they are different, we should kill them.' Hostility towards Europeans came later as a function of Europeans' treatment of the local people and plundering of their land. The local people had seen that the people they'd welcome with open arms, were not actually the people they thought they were.
The Europeans also realized they could reason with African leaders and arrive at some understanding. Agreements were made even at the expense of Africans. However, the European were able to iron out these agreements because they found a rational, civil and organized society with seasoned political structures.
However, the Africans would soon realize that Europeans didn't come to Africa to be rational and good guests. They came with an agenda and a different understanding of what it meant to be a civilized human being. To the Africans, civilization rested in the values, the social and political organization of the society and how people related to one another. With that understanding the African knew he was civilized, however, he didn't need to define it for his life was okay.
Then came the Europeans and the Arabs who had their own understanding of 'civilization.' Civilization to them wasn't in values, it was in material human beings develop: the houses you build, the clothes you make, the weapons you invent etc. Values and how people relate to one another weren't requirements in their civilization.
The Europeans and the Arabs also came from lands in which things are dicated without questions. The colonial Europeans and the Arabs came from lands of dogmatism. Their ideas were dictated by the monarch or the Bible or by the Koran in the case of the Arabs. Democratic ideals were not things they were used to.
To the Africans' chagrin, the Arabs and the Europeans started to show the colors of who they were. Slave raids and subordination of the Africans started in earnest. Africans, how they looked and what they thought were all vilified or ignored. The African, despite his rational and amicable welcoming of the foreigners, was regarded uncivilize because of the rudimentary nature of her material wealth. She didn't develop arts of writing and wasn't technologically advanced. Her human values were values of an uncivilized being.
To make the matter worse, the Arabs and the European didn't think feeling no emotions and killings Africans with bestial brutality and mindlessness was uncivilized. What civilized man doesn't feel any qualm in the process of killing someone? What civilized man had no compassion for the suffering of others? What civilized man would ignor the humane values that foster togetherness? The wild Arab and European was intoxicated by his parochial dogmatism not to see the good natured values of the African, who was living in a democratic society.
The Arab was doing Mohammed's work and the European the Jesus' work or the political wishes of the monarchy or economy! It would be years before the Europeans and the Arabs could adapt the African values of democracy. Now democracy is celebrated mindlessly not knowing it existed in Africa years before the Greek thought of it and before the Europeans applied it. The Arab is still struggling to adapt it and get used to it.
And by the time the Europeans left Africa, Africa was corrupted. Her values were compromised by power and alien values. Over the years the Arab and the European have seen that the values of the Africans are the only values that can save the world. The world has adopted some of these values with slight modification so as to claim some credit.
Forgiveness, compassion when people relate to one another are the only values that can save us now.
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TOLERANCE & INCLUSION
While it is possible for us to racially discriminate or judge people we know, the chances of judging people we know diminish significantly the more we know them. An easy example of the importance of understanding others is the attitude people develop when they want to harm others or when they want to deny them something valuable. Essentially, before you fight someone, you insult them. Insults are attempts at diminishing the value of people, an attempt at estranging them, as Toni Morrison argued in The Origin of Others. It is easy to discriminate against strangers or make others strangers or dehumanized in order to discriminate against them.