Differing cultures in a globalised reality
By Freddy Macha
Last week out columnist dwelt on the issue of culture as a lifestyle which also has a particular interpretation. While on one hand different cultures may help someone to fit in a different society and live happily, on the other there is a negative side of culture which may result into violent conflicts. Today he looks at culture in its totality and not merely as related to marriage fixing and traditional dances. Read on.
Let us finish this vast and endless subject. We cannot cover culture in a couple of articles; this is just a curtain raiser, a stimulant, a cup of tea, a whisper: tip of a sizzling volcano.We have seen so far that culture is not just traditional drumming (ngoma) but a total sum of all values and manners of a society.
Culture defines human behaviour but is controlled and dictated by politics and economics. Why discuss culture? Why did I bring this theme on the pages of our weekly column?
I was reading a blog by Tanzanian writer, Nkwazi Mhango, based in Canada who was saying the economic changes going on in Tanzania are letting in a confused mindset.He said while Kenyans are comfortable with being in a capitalist business type of mind set; we who used to ridicule them are now doing exactly what they were doing thirty years ago.In other words, the capitalist invasion (which has come in free market economy form) is disrupting and changing our identity.
But that is only one way of looking at it. Africans, world wide, have been struggling with their identity for a long time since slavery started five hundred years ago, when societies were uprooted and people taken by force to distant lands.Then colonialism followed, communities trashed, new values introduced. Henceforth, major shifts began. I was listening to Barbados musician speaking on a 2005 film called 500 Years Later (by Owen Alik Shahadah).Mighty Gabby asks in the documentary which won numerous awards: How do you demolish an identity of a people? You take away their religion, language and music, he explained.
Since the Berlin Conference of 1884 (where the continent was balkanised and divided ruthlessly like a cake) Africans have been forced to adapt to all sorts of changes: new languages, economics and new forms of administration.In mid twentieth century, political independence arrived, flags were raised, new national anthems sang and national identities proclaimed. However, economies continued to be guided from outside.This is because Africa carries on being the source of global wealth, with some of the most important natural resources including minerals and oil being sucked out of her rich soil, daily, as we speak.
Hollywood film, Blood Diamonds, (2006), shows how these precious jewels caused civil wars in West Africa. Carrying on the theme further, a television documentary by London's Channel Five (three weeks gone) showed the dual side of the situation.On one hand diamonds are a romantic symbol for marriage, romance and love; on the other they have brought bloodshed and untold misery to African people in Sierra Leone and Angola.
A large section of the population in these countries has amputated limbs due to civil war, mines and bombs. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana who was toppled by the CIA in 1966 and died in exile called our era, neo-colonialism. It means, he wrote forty years age almost, a country has a local leader, government and an image but the whole system is still dependant (and dominated) from outside. Most of today's African civil wars are a result of neo colonialism, indirectly or directly.
The capitalist economy and capitalist culture rules the world. Everyone today craves (and depends) on money; societies that were once outside the capitalist world also want MacDonald's restaurants and big business to be built.You cannot live in isolation, is the cultural realism. Globalisation is the name of the game.Today everything can be heard and spread through the media, internet, and consequently, instant communication. Young people are fed with constant capitalist advertising which walks in all manners.
Take the music business.The multi million dollar industry pounds hip hop and dance hall music that project most rappers showing off luxurious cars, jewellery, half naked ladies, booze and the notion of what is known as Bling Bling. This image is jutted constantly on television throughout the internet, mobile phone and is teaching the young how to be idiots; trousers hanging down, hands in genitals, wishful thinking that you can easily have that glory : Bling Bling.
It is not bad to want to own good material things, after all using a car is better than going barefoot.The problem is the majority of our people are poor and need to be taught that without good education and hard work one can never achieve this so called Bling Bling. At the same time, you may work very hard but if a few people control the economy inside Africa and the international capitalist economy, the majority can never achieve that instant champagne, diamonds, bedroom bliss and Bling Bling.
As a result of globalisation, we are all living a lie and killing each other.Kids are growing too fast in wealthy nations and in poor countries desperation has zoomed in. Check the gun violence in South Africa. The senseless murder of Lucky Dube.
Now how does all this relate to culture? Think. Look around you. How many are abandoning the Kiswahili language and speaking a strange broken English with neither head nor foot? We are in this transitional period where material things are needed and our poverty is confusedly searching for answers.However, the confusion is in the danger of us forgetting who we are and thinking having a car or drugs is the end of the story.
The journey begins first by knowing who you are, before proceeding to the shop.Not the other way round. Not going to the shop and buying something you don't even know well. Bob Marley said There Are So Much Things To Say.The struggle for survival is also a cultural struggle. It defines who we are; where we are going. Having a clear goal guarantees what Mwalimu Nyerere called freedom and development. Without an identity we cannot develop properly.
Culled from Mwanchi
Source : The Guardian