Africa and The Morality Template
“We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge, and with good reason. We have never sought ourselves, how could it happen that we should ever find ourselves? It has rightly been said: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’; our treasure is where the beehives of our knowledge are.” — Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of morals.
As banded groups of hunter-gatherers scattered all over Africa. We had to devise various ways to come up with communities, beliefs, morality and values. What we devised served us well for a significant part of our history. And Africa’s history has shown how much what we believed and practised was driven by superstition, myth and it was never to be questioned. This could have been solved by interaction amongst the various communities, but geographical and developmental constraints held us back before the yoke of colonialism stunted this growth, giving us new templates to devise something akin to a new identity a new way to live and interact in the then colonial Africa. This is the time we got to understand that human behaviour is unbounded only limited by what others consider civilized. There are ideologies that posit the idea that human beings can be anything that you want to make them into, and this is the core ideology that gives rise to totalitarianism, in our case this was colonialism.
“… What if regressive trait lurked in the good man, likewise a danger a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, so that the present lived at the expense of the future? Perhaps in more comfort and less danger, but also in a smaller-minded, meaner manner? … So that morality itself were to blame if man never attained the highest power and splendor possible for the type man? So that morality itself was the danger of dangers?” — Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of morals.
Wanting to free people from prejudice, tyranny and other human ills is staking a claim that there is no fault in whatever happens while shaping humans in the image of your ideology. Such a claim is well documented in what happened in communist states, you wipe out the past, there is no real biological identity and then you mould the future into the image of your perfectionistic ideology. This was also the colonial attempt and much was wiped out, what we are yet to understand is what we were moulded into by that ideology.
Colonialism also gave us a glimpse through the second world war, that humans have the capacity for great evil. Leaving out the part that it’s not only manifested in the people you disagree with. For in a Darwinian sense one population can gang up on another population, and this has happened a number of times in human history. What was left out was how this process happens, and the importance of understanding it. This is a danger of ideology, and in the cold war, this ideology left dead bodies all over Africa in proxy wars and assassinations.
While we seem to be at peace with our past, there are re-emergent problems that have manifesting patterns that show us that our adopted template needs to be updated. For, some of the things we think we know require a deeper look, that which seems rational and obvious on the surface needs to be understood at it’s deeper meaning. At what point did man invent the value idea for good and evil and other forms of values? This is something that can be researched in the Western world, however, in Africa, we didn’t get the time to have these conversations, worsened by the fact that most of our cultures were oral. In as much as we were indoctrinated into the Western ideology, throughout this history we have only got a skim of the intellectual conversations that happened in a large part of the world at a time when we were considered a dark continent. While we can barely grasp the idea of proper food production systems, transportation and housing in a fast-growing population, we are now burdened with youth unemployment, high debts, taxations and a myriad of other problems that seem to be like wounds slowly festering, threatening the health of our states.
South Africa seems to be the most ailing. In the short time that it has enjoyed the breath of fresh air from the choke of its former rule. It was thrown into a world, a world where people do what they want and others feel morally superior because they don’t do what they want, therefore ready to call out for justice. A world where we are still grappling with the question; If all we ever choose is what increases our advantage, are we ever really free? A question that most Africans needed to ask themselves after independence, for independence meant ‘freedom’. And, freedom without moral guidelines and some for of value becomes greed, lust, an envy for money and power. Aren’t we still trying to fight corruption and hold our leaders accountable?
And this idea of freedom has led to a new master-slave morality. Looking at Africa you can get a sense of who is master and who is slave. Much of its problems are neglected, left to chance if not an awaited saviour to solve them. We do have problems, there is a lot of suffering from poverty, disease, the list is almost endless. I wonder, what would be the human history without being injected with the sufferings of the weak and powerless? I don’t know the answer, I wonder who does. For, trying to rationalize and make suffering an important part of human life is a radical statement not easily entertained. What I can stand for is, taking responsibility for that suffering and get your life together. In the times we live in this is the only safety one has. For its easy to prey on the emotions that accompany suffering. An example would be the criminality of men in a society with a huge inequality gap with few options for social mobility, crime and drug abuse becomes very attractive. This is not something that can be solved by money, it’s like pouring water in people’s hands. Also forgetting that the fundamental presuppositions of each citizen are matched by the behaviour of their co-citizens. If the structure in which these presuppositions are founded on is shaky or broken, then it has insurmountable consequences. It destabilizes people psychologically and much of the society these people are embedded in. We, therefore, need guidelines for navigating this, a way to find things we should value, taking the first step to finding meaning, to the responsibility of having a life worth living.
“The modern individual focuses too narrowly on his short lifespan…and wants to pluck the fruit himself from the tree he plants, and so no longer likes to plant those trees that demand a century of constant tending and are more intended to provide shade for long successions of generations.” - Nietzsche, Human All Too Human.
Something about values is that embedded in them is a promise. One of the fundamental traits that separates humans from other animals is our ability to make a promise. To say, I will… And much of what our societies are predicated upon is based on this, from credit systems, contracts and deeds. This is remembering to do something to act in a certain way in future, this is the basis of morality the origins of responsibility. An example would be the value proposition of leadership, in the promise of development. The tribe and community are galvanized by promises. This becomes the basis for social rules and politics as a whole, and we always have to be cautious of what it becomes over time.
There is much we value, and there is much that has been promised to us. This is something we overlook since most of our societies are not crumbling due to inequality. However, looking at South Africa, is to wonder what has taken over what they see as the softness of democracy? This is a question that cannot be easily answered without looking at the deep roots of intertwining psychology and culture. This is a question that the whole of Africa will need to answer, to understand our cultural dispositions to find a path forward. It starts with what we value and the promise it holds not only for us but for generations to come.
“What is the seal of liberation? Not to be ashamed in front of oneself.” — Nietzsche