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Virtues Of African Society

by Ras Benjamine
Friday, 27 June 2003

Though InI may sojourn in the West, or in the land of the Americas, my resolve as an African still remains as strong as ever. Each time I sit down and reflect on Africa and African culture, I feel an affectionate reassurance in its originality and authenticity. A sort of rejuvenation that goes to the root of my being. It is hard to express in words, except to simply say that I hold my culture and tradition close to my heart. I remain proud of Africans as a people and proud of the culture as a concept.

In an age when civilization has been redefined to accommodate the norms of the West, it is easy to forget the virtues that have sustained and continue to sustain most Africans and African societies. Many of us (Africans) appreciate the developments of technology and the discoveries that have made life seemingly easy today, yet we have not forgotten the virtues of our traditional African societies.

An Ibo proverb says - the chicken does not forget the person that helped to trim her feathers during the rainy season. I may be back in New York, which is touted to be the capital of the world. I may be enjoying the gains of the city's technological advancement, while basking in all its glare and glamour, but nostalgically, I still reminisce about sweet home Africa.

The faces of our relatives smiling with us, playing with us, and exchanging vernacular conversations, sayings, proverbs, and idioms that we find familiar and easy to relate with. The look of strength on the faces of our very elderly ones, which makes one envy their old age, yet assuring us that we need not settle for the Elderly People's Home if we use our youth well enough. The confidence we have in the future when we see our very young ones imitating the elders in doing home chores without being forced or compelled to do so. An environment where the society is involved in the raising of children, which in turn reduces the need for institutions such as the Administration of Children Services, and/or babysitter nightmares.

The sight of women jumping in and out of commercial buses (molue and danfo) with children firmly strapped to their backs. It is hard to convince these mothers that it is dangerous to engage in jumping in and out of buses with children strapped to their backs. It is the survival of the fittest, where the lazy ones have the shameful option of becoming beggars. Of course, there is no established welfare structure that would encourage some people to waste away at home depending on welfare programs while others work their hearts out.

The pleasure of watching our people float in those cultural regalia as they revel in the exchange of jokes and laughter while they gladly share meat, drinks, and food at traditional ceremonies. A reminder of the cultural person we are, even as we imbibe the culture of the foreign land in which we now reside or have naturalized.

The unique taste of those traditional African dishes so rare to find or prepare abroad. The love and joy with which our parents and/or relatives prepare special dishes for us though they may have little to spare. That special aroma that comes from traditional dishes prepared with firewood or stoves made from putting three large stones together. The African traditional stove eliminates the danger of gas explosion, or the requirement of fuel consumption.

In our gladness and gratitude, we would not care if the food smelt of smoke coming from the naked fire. We would devour the food and we made sure we gave thanks to God and to every other older person around. I remember when I was young; I always wondered why I was required to thank every older person around before and after eating my meal even if they were not the ones who gave me the meal. Somehow, I came to learn that in a world where brute used to rule, and survival was of the fittest, Africans still remember the tough days of human hostility and symbolically showed their gratitude by thanking any older person around who allowed them the peace of mind and convenience of enjoying the meal. The older ones could have pounced on the younger or weaker ones and deprived them of the meal as in the early days, but instead they exercised restraint, and for that concession, the younger or weaker one always showed gratitude by giving thanks before and after eating.

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