By Prof Yang Ganfu
THE world revolution refers to those happenings in Europe and North America during the 18th through 20th centuries in the fields of science, technology, education, economy, politics and communications.
The world revolution did bring changes in Africa, both positive and negative.
The negative changes have produced far reaching impacts on African society, politics, religions, and economy, from which Africans are still suffering today.
Africa suffered more than they benefited (if any) from the Western colonial policy and its physical expansion to Africa.
The European conquest of Africa reached its climax with the Berlin Conference of 1885 at which the major powers of Europe politically shared out the whole of Africa apart from Ethiopia and Liberia.
Every radical revolution in human history costs human blood and suffering. This is also true of Africa. Africa has paid heavily for the changes which were forced upon her.
The family is the most severely affected part of African life. Family values have been changed. In Africa, the value of the family cannot be overemphasized.
It is the primary unit of the social life of the community. Its cohesion is the unity of the community. As fundamental as the family is, it has social and moral values. Traditionally, family is the nucleus of both individual and corporate existence in Africa.
The world revolution and the Western occupation of Africa however have led to Africans’ embracement of individualism. The African traditional solidarity is constantly being smashed, undermined and in some respects destroyed.
Emphasis is shifting from the “we” of traditional corporate life to the “I” of modern individualism.
Schools, churches and economic completion … are working to produce an orientation towards individualism and away from corporateness as world known African scholar Mbiti has pointed out.
Individualism has played a part in the social, economic and scientific development in Western worlds back in histories and has to certain extent created positive influence on the African’s life.
Yet, the side-effects individualism has produced in Africa are far more than what the Africans have benefited from this Western cultural value. People became more self-centered, self-orientated, more emphasis on self-sufficiency and control, the pursuit of individual goals.
In an individualistic environment, people are motivated by self-interest and are hesitant to contribute to collective action unless their own efforts are recognized, preferring instead to benefit from the efforts of others.
This individualism has today incurred great blame for the problematic Western socio-economic development.
Many scholars agree that discussions of the causes and consequences of the 2008 and 2009 crisis conspicuously omit the issue of national culture.
The 2008 and 2009 financial crisis, the current continuous economic slumping, the upheaval and unrest of the European and American worlds (anti-corporate greed movements) fairly expose the disadvantages and side-effects of this cultural value of individualism.
Also, individualist cultural value is the main contributor to today’s African problems, like social, economic, institutional, governmental, political, developmental, moral, family, etc.
However the Western worlds have realized the problems individualism has brought to them.
That is why they started studying China, esp. Chinese culture of collectivism which as I have always claimed contributes to the fast socio-economic developments in China.
The successful mass mobilization for the 2008 Olympic Games, 2010 Shanghai Expo, the quick response and rescue to the Wenchuan earthquake, fruitful nationwide poverty alleviation, unmanned spacecraft docking and China’s foreign policies and its resolutions of some international issues, among others, are just a few examples demonstrating the strength of the Chinese collectivist culture and its prevailing advantages over individualism.
On the political level, Africa also has gone through a great upheaval. Political value is linked with chieftaincy title in Africa. The political structure could be complex on the African continent.
However, in spite of the various political structures, leadership value was essential to Africans, highly religious and morally demanding. The political leader was required to possess some traits that could engender respect, unity and progress of the community. If he did not avail himself of the required standard, in some cultures, he was removed. Also, the political head works in concerted efforts with the members of council to bring about development and progress in his domain.
He does not work in isolation. He is to be responsible and responsive to his people as Khapoya, and Gyekye claim.
However, these features of values in African cultural heritage have been vitiated by colonialism. The colonial powers either destroyed, suppressed or modified the traditional political institutions.
Just as Mbiti put it twenty years ago, the political situation in which African people find themselves today is just as dangerous, difficult and foreign as the situation under colonial rule.
Decades later, however, the situation remains unchanged in Africa. What about the Western political system African peoples have adopted and embraced brought to Africa? Have the African people achieved what they have desired, demanded and dreamed of through the Western democracy?
The inner fighting of political parties, Africans’ killing of their own brothers and sisters, nitpicking and mudslinging among politicians, personal attack and abusing of country leaders in the media, unrealistic blue plans from the governments, Africans’ continuous complaints about their respective governments, etc. are good answers and direct results of this system.
Furthermore, the Western democracy has distracted the African leaders from focusing more on the socio-economical development of their countries. Election, election campaigns, fundraising, voting, voters, ruling parties, opposition parties, supporters … are just the subjects which preoccupy the African leaders and politicians who could have joined hands together to make good use of their energy, time, efforts, election money and brainstorming to improve the wellbeing of the people.
A good suitable democracy should be the one that ensures the people’s role as masters of a country, which promotes a nation’s socio-economic development, stability and social harmony and improvement of people’s wellbeing.
Another serious problem African people suffer from the Western revolution is its national disunity. African nations are composed of many cultures, histories, languages and traditions.
Sometimes the points of unity on the national level weigh less heavily than points of disunity.
South African Jinda Mutasa Chikanga points out (in NewAfrica) that African history informs us that after the colonialists lost countless battles for the control of Africa, they resorted to the policy of divide and rule, conferring minority tribes with more power in order to provoke the majority tribes.
This culminated in bloodshed such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Tribalism is the enemy of African communalism and national unity.
Today an African national solidarity is still of paramount importance especially in the current age where external interference in domestic African affairs under the pretext of humanitarianism, democracy and human rights have fuelled tensions.
Facing and suffering from the negative changes the world revolution has brought to Africa, many African leaders, scholars, philosophers started thinking of Africanism/identity emphasizing the importance of reviving Africans’ own cultural values which include sense of community, sense of good human relations, sense of respect for authority and elders and others.
The cultural nationalists were forerunners of the poets of the negritude movement in their attempt to define the African personality. The African cultural nationalists believe that Africans were not backward or inferior to whites.
It is time for Africans to reinvent, revive and reinstate the traditional philosophy as the appropriate philosophy for Africa since cultural values and practices of traditional Africa can be considered positive features of culture and can be accommodated in the scheme of African modernity esp. in the face of worsening economic, political and social problems out of the individualist cultures of Europe and America.