Saturday, January 30, 2010

Culture and Tradition

It is common to hear some people talk about their cultural tradition. Some people believe that a person without a distinct cultural tradition is lost. Thus we may infer that it is culture and tradition that distinguishes and defines humanity into racial, ethnic and tribal boundaries.

When Europeans came to Africa they did not outrightly pacify African cultural and traditional ways of life. It was the Christian missionaries who used the word of God to indoctrinate the natives to forego some of their ‘disgusting’ customary beliefs and practices. It is Christian and Islamic traditions that keep on to undermine African cultural and traditional ways of life.

Political ideology may also help to lessen racial ethnic and secular animosities. We saw the process at work in countries ruled by Communist regimes where religious and ethnic allegiances were banned.

Indeed culture and tradition conceived under complex capitalist societies may colour eccentric bourgeois intellectual and political pasttimes—because the fundamental social and economic development of every country comes to epitomise the cultural traditions of the capitalist class.

In fact economic production conceived under wage labour promotes cultural and traditional integration. Culture and tradition exist but it is alarming to note that certain cultures and traditions are deemed to be primitive.

Thus African cultural and traditional ways of life come to be defined as ‘backward’ in the sense that European civilisation has come to supplant ethnic and tribal exclusiveness. The very word ‘civilisation’ brings to mind the feeling that races and tribes are more superior to others in terms of their cultural and traditional accomplishments.

Thus the term ‘primitive’ is a political and racial derivative that tends to emphasise the attributes of social and political hegemony. Africa has a rich cultural heritage and this can be read in the people’s accents, art and folk music.

In Zambia during the UNIP-led government of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s traditional and cultural ways of life were rigidly enforced. Music and art were censored in order to promote what was called ‘indigenisation’.

But what transpired was something unforeseen—a Bemba tradition and linguistic presence came to impose itself upon the country. Indeed the Ichibemba language is now a national lingua franca and second to English.

It may seem, that in today’s complex capitalist society, culture and tradition do not define an individual’s social identity in abstract terms. A person’s cultural and traditional identity comes to be determined by the degree of his economic and financial incentives. Social or political freedom without economic and financial privileges is a hoax. Poverty conceived under wage slavery may easily give rise to xenophobia. Socialism will give rise to a change to cultural and traditional ethnics—based upon the primitive accumulation and distribution of wealth.

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