Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Morality & Moral Relativism

It’s become shockingly easy these days for people to simply borrow from the moral codes of others, and toss their own aside. However, this phenomenon isn’t new. It’s been going on for a very long time.

For example, Moses was born in Egypt, and adopted by a member of the Egyptian royal family. No doubt, Moses would have considered himself to be a moral man. He would have observed all the Egyptian religious rituals, prayed to Ra, etc. Moses, however, was not an Egyptian. He was of the tribe of Israel. The Israelites had been living in Egypt for a few hundred years, and, by their own accounts, provided the labour that built the pyramids and other ancient landmarks of Egypt. When Moses discovered his true lineage, he immediately threw off the religion of his adopted family, and became what the world now calls a Jew. Moses proceeded to lead his people out of the slavery in Egypt, and into the Promised Land. Well, not exactly into the Promised Land, because he didn’t actually get there with them owing to some infraction he committed which led to him being informed that he would only see the Promised Land, but would not set foot upon it.

Along their incredible journey, Moses went up a certain mountain, and came down with the 10 Commandments. The Commandments were meant to provide his new nation with a set of laws meant to be strictly obeyed. Or else. Now, whilst living in Egypt, surely the Israelites were governed by some set of laws. I mean, there were no accounts of wide spread looting, thievery, cannibalism, etc. From all accounts, Egypt was the cradle of modern civilization. Heck, they exported it to Europe. So, Egypt was not a lawless, amoral, godless society. Some theories suggest that Moses simply copied what he knew of Egyptian law wholesale. The major addition being that for the first time in the history of written laws, a specific deity was designated for worship, and for the rest of Israel's history, every period of sustained suffering was deemed to be a direct punishment for straying from the correct (ordained) path.

Which brings me to Africa. European historians would have me believe that my ancestors were godless, amoral, and lawless. That we regularly fell upon our neighbours and devoured them, usually accompanied by a savoury soup, and washed down with some fresh palm wine. Well, if that were the case, surely when they arrived they would not have found thriving kingdoms, vast populations, etc. They would have found a collection of huts, belonging to the strongest men who were unable to devour each other.

We did have laws. For instance, and this is a personal favourite of mine, in Benin, any cock which crowed before dawn was subjected to a special punishment to ensure the offence was not repeated – it got eaten. The owner of the cock was also made to pay a small fine, in acknowledgement of the fact that while he couldn’t control his cock’s decision to let one rip, he was liable for the errant bastard’s actions. Vicarious liability, if you will. We also took our religious festivals very seriously. Unfortunately, and this proved to be our downfall, we didn’t pay much attention to science, leaving medicine in the hands of a few “witch doctors”. All of which meant that the Europeans discovered us to be easy prey for their guns, and duly colonised us, and shoved their religion down our throats.

I have a theory, and it says that even within a society of cannibals, they have law and order. One member of the society would not be allowed to kill and eat another member of that society. The priest who carries out human sacrifices definitely believes in the sanctity of human life, just not the lives of those who were not members of his own community, and therefore prisoners of war and other unfortunate strangers were fair game.

The only problem the black man had was that when the chips were down, his technology was inadequate to deal with that of the European aggressor. Unlike the Japanese, who remain the ultimate role model for European handling. The Europeans demonstrated some gun boat diplomacy, and then left rifles with the Japanese to demonstrate their superior technology. Upon their return in about a year, not only were they presented with a few copies of their own rifle, they were also presented with an improved version. As a result, the Europeans were unable to run riot through Japan as they had done in Africa. The result is that the Japanese retain their cultural identity to this day. They do not look askance at someone praying to Buddha, because no one ever had the chance to drum it into their heads that praying to Buddha was “pagan”. If anything, the Japanese absorbed western technology, especially western weaponry, and once they believed they were ready, took on the nearest European superpower in the shape of the Russians. Whom they proceeded to thoroughly thrash in a brief and bloody naval war, leaving the rest of Europe slack jawed in awe and horror.

After their defeat in World War II, it was thought that it would take several decades for Japan to rebuild its economy, during which time America would be free to have its way with her. The speed at which the Japanese rebuilt their nation stunned the world, and again, they owed their success to their ability to assimilate and then improve existing western technology. The fact that American auto makers have been swept aside by the Japanese invasion is proof of that ability.

In Nigeria, what do we do? We take western technology, then do our level best to preserve it in its original state, or simply let it rot. We do not make any attempt to absorb or improve what we’ve been given. Our laws reflect a world that passed at least 5 decades ago, our schools teach theories that have been long abandoned, our police force uses equipment that would have been state of the art in 1878. The list could go on and on.

The Japanese took the technology, and tossed the religion. Look at them now.


TRAE said...

i enjoyed this, preach brother preach. no mind me, wetin i sabi?

Anonymous said...

You forget that MANY Africans began producing local guns after their contact with Europeans.

The problem was that the concept of racial solidarity that informed the Japanese actions in replicating the guns etc was absent in Africa - and with good reason. The continent has over 2000 languages and an estimated 25,000 dialects for a start compared to the one or two languages in Japan. People saw themselves as members of their ethnic group, not as Africans - even till today, if truth must be told.

So the racial consciousness to repel the whites was largely absent.

In this situation, the whites were simply one faction in the cocktail that could be manipulated by a given ethnic group or tribe to suit its ends, not an entity seen collectively as an enemy by Africans.

The westerners simply played off one group against the other. Supply guns to one side, who would raid the other side and bring slaves for sale to the whites etc etc.

This is totally different from the Japanese situation and the comparison is invalid in my view.

Also, this idea of yours that 'blacks don't do technology' is supremely false as well, not to mention stunningly racist.

It is socio/economic confluences that determine the emergence of an industrial civilization, not race.

Humans have been living on earth for 20,000 years at least, and the industrial revolution in Europe only began 270 years ago.

So what were they doing all that time if indeed, industrialism is in their genes as you seem to be suggesting in your blog?

'ces said...

the only thing id like to know is if the author of this article totaly rejects western religions and has tried to get in touch with his/her african heritage.
in other words are u walking the walk as opposed to....

catwalq said...

Why have I never seen this blog. If u could, u would have heard the standing ovation that I am giving this post
@Anonymous: u r definitely right.
@Ces: I don't think the author was trying to say that we as true africans have to return to the worship of tradition. Alot of this has to do with an expansion of consciousness.

The Law said...

Anonymous, I never said blacks don't do technology. I said our technology was inadequate. And indeed, ask yourself what drove the technolgical craze in Europe - WAR! The whites gleefully murdered each other for hundreds of years until they realised there was far easier prey in Africa.

Africans, on the other hand, also went to war, but rather than having technology based wars, we had juju based wars. It was never a case of superior firepower, it was always a case of superior jazz. In southern Africa, Chaka revolutionised the fighting tactics of the Zulus, but didn't revolutionise the weaponry.

As for supplying guns to one tribe for the purpose of gaining slaves from another, at what time did the people with the guns decide to sit down and actually study the "thundersticks" that brought down enemies from long range? They didn't because they thought it was "White man's magic".

As for the Japanese, they so dominated Asia that they're still hated in some places today. Indeed, in Asia, they have the same ethnic issues. And when the Europeans found them impassable, they had to find another route for their economic inroads. All I did was single out one empire that took the Europeans' technology and turned it against them.

Was there any such empire, or tribe in Africa?

catwalq said...

Your last sentence was the most powerful for me...
took the words right out of my mouth

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