Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 27 July 2014

How pursuit of good life dominates ethical conscience in Africa


By Francis Ayul Yuar

July 26, 2014 - Looking at the African Continent, my country in particular within this critical time of post independence political and ethnic’s violence, one’s mind wondered with mixture of confusions, dismayed and embarrassments. The magnitude of betrayals by our leaders after giving them all the trust in the Golden Plate has prompted an impulsive euphoria to consult experts in cultural anthropology, social ethics and African traditional world view studies. This is in order to understand the etiological genesis of this social political eternal ambiguity country has fallen into.

This search is done with an effort to gain clear perspective of what might have morally gone wrong with leaders we had once praised and adored in South Sudan?. In light of the above etymological quests, questions are therefore asked of why we cannot manage our own resources like any other nations? After some consideration in this discourse, it has become apparent that African political and moral apostasy is problem of cultural and moral corruption among the elites. Justification to this empirical conclusion was argued that African traditional religion is anthropocentric in nature, making man the centre of everything in this organic cosmos. The religious beliefs, practices, rituals and philosophy are all done in order to bring good life and security to man. His dealings with the spirit world are not for their sakes, but for his own goodness and protections.

As man’s will dominates this religious philosophy in Africa, he seeks to manipulate things to his advantage. If man indeed is a centre of traditional religion in Africa and South Sudan in particular, then that raises many moral and theological questions that need to be exegetically addressed. It has been observed that an impulse of pursuing good life in South Sudan is a very strong moral principle for either individuals or groups- community (tribe). This phenomenon is also true across Africa, acknowledged by Professor Magesa (1997). The scholar discussed important ethical concepts of pursue of good life, stating its political, cultural and social implications in most Africa’s governments and institutions. African moral tradition is imbedded in this one ethical principle in general, the centrality of “life force,” the imperative for good life. In societies where poverty reigns, resources are plenty but enjoyed by few handful privileges in the continent, deprivation or hardships has faltered all corners of Africa’s society, leaving little to be desired for what we calls home. As observed early in this discourse, people promulgate to pursue good life at the expense of good moral behavior or ethics in Africa and South Sudan in particular.
Research confirmed that most politicians or the elites in African nation-states act unethically or irresponsibly in order to pursue good life or in other words, to secure their life. Most treasuries of African countries, companies or institutions get emptied or depleted in pursuit of personal good life at the expense of community or a nation building. In an insecure environment like the one of South Sudan, such ethical behavior takes the nation hostage and denied it from many blessings. When such an ethical scenario rises thereafter, mistrust among different ethnic groups developed into new form of confused ethical practices, attitude, behavior that is neither of traditional African, nor Western, or Christian. The adopted confused moral is expressed through lack for the love of the country. Research carried out in Sub-Sarah Africa confirmed that an African leader would steal billions of dollars from a poor nation and lodge that in a Western Bank to secure his or her “good life” as first priority in his or her national services. Traditional African kinship values cannot sanction such unethical acts; neither the Western morality nor Christian morals. This is a result of a broken spiritual relationship and alienation the continent has experience in the hands of different successive Colonials. Those individuals are alienated from their traditional society and ethical moral values that governed tribes and also from the modern values of a nation-state.

As a pragmatist society therefore, the African uses their modern African context to formulate a new value that is neither African nor Western, newly enshrined in a morality and world view to make decisions that benefits individuals or groups. The modern African context therefore gives opportunity to new social formations and character development in the individual. The pursuit of security or good life in volatile and unstable African nation-states is the driving force behind the rise of unprecedented corruption and moral decadence and indiscipline that is rampant across Africa. Some Africans pursue the good life at the expense of the poor and their kinship community and blood-group.

Pursuit of a personal good life or tribal good life at the expense of others is an invitation to disaster, conflict, crisis and violence by those that have been denied the shared of national privileges. Where emphasis is placed upon personal or group benefits, the society suffers polarized negative perceptions toward each other. When such morality and Ethics arises among key civil servants that are holding public offices, the focus is not on building a good nation, such as putting infrastructure, standard health facilities, good schools, electricity and clean water to the citizens, but parochial. Many modern African, educated in Western arts and sciences have no concept of society or community (Turaki 2002:59). They have misplaced values in that with the wealth of their education, they do not know how to organize good and better environment where they can stay and live at peace in the community. They do not know how to fix water system at homes, electricity, roads, farms, health, economy, etc. The African Traditional ultimate personal good is rooted in creating a good, viable and peaceful Society not Individual. African elites suffer terribly colonial mentality (Turaki 2002:89). They are neither Western nor traditional. The modern African stands in need of serious re-orientation towards the renewal and transformation of (1) African personality and character; and (2) African society and nation-state. Both the African man and African society and nation-state stand in need of serious rehabilitation, reconstruction and transformation. Those who loot the government with impunity, companies, churches or institutions for the benefit of their communities, themselves or tribes think of themselves as having done heroic acts for their own people.
For this reason, they are not ashamed of it but proud of it as having done a commendable act. Communities or tribes dispense honorific titles and recognition for their sons and daughters who have helped their communities or tribes through such dubious and relativistic ethics and means. Outsiders may scoff at such but hailed by the insiders. Such morality encourages corruption and dominance of one group over others. These communal and social sins are rampant across Africa. Research confirmed that, human nature and culture influence the development of character traits, attitudes, behavior and social practices of any human on earth. Human nature is inherited and universal and this gives to humanity its common nature and heritage in general. Human beings develop culture through the process of learning, enculturation and socialization. Culture thus learnt by human beings becomes specific and peculiar to a group of people (Tribe).

The differentiating mark between people groups is their learnt culture. Culture produces a variety of groups of people who do not behave, practice and believe in the same way such as in South Sudan. Human personality that behaves practices and believes is first of all human by nature and which is common to all human beings regardless of tribe or Race, and then this human being learns a specific culture which turns him/her into a specific individual human being. Thus, a human being has both inherited human nature and a learnt specific culture. A human being has (1) inherited human nature, which is universal; (2) culture, which is learnt and specific; and (3) personality; which are forged within context. Human beings can be classified as; (1) universal in nature; (2) specific groups (people or culture group); and (3) specific individuals). An individual has a personality that reflects a learnt culture. A people group exhibits the characteristics of its learnt culture and personality, if this matrix is understood in Africa; we can tolerate to forge unity of diversity in South Sudan. From the foregoing, we can understand how individuals or groups have a specific hidden programme, which is learnt through its culture and as a result it impacts behavior, practice and beliefs. Ethnic groups or individuals behave differently as a result of their learnt culture.

When human beings interact with each other, they do so based upon their character traits as individuals or as specific people groups, in case of South Sudan. Individuals and people groups behave, practice and believe in the way they were raised culturally. And this is very difficult to change for those who think they can change others to their cultural fitting. When we look at South Sudanese in general, we see him/her as ones who have been raised culturally in their cultural and ethical foundations. They now bring into the society or nations or Government’s institutions their own (1) way of seeing, (2) way of understanding, (3) way of interpreting and (4) way of application. These ethical and cultural realities if not observed may bring conflict, misunderstanding and problems in a country of diverse cultures. What are at stake are not their cultural and ethical backgrounds, but issues rose at the level of practice and behavior whenever people who differ in culture or beliefs come together in a country such as South Sudan. Practice and behavior do conflict as a result of their different cultural and ethical backgrounds enshrined in their way of life.

But these cultural and ethical differences can be moderated and resolved when there is a good will among the stakeholders. Every country on earth undergo some cultural and ethical clashes when forming its national identity for the first time, South Sudan is no exception. The objective of this article therefore is to enlighten the public that what we are going through is not a congenital disease that cannot be fixed, understanding is first step in findings the moderate, harmonize and integrate our ethical behavior. The intolerance is an attitude that refuses to recognize differences in an individual’s personality or cultural differences among people groups. Given the current state of South Sudan’s states of affairs, we need desperately to address this very important ethical concept to education the society and bridged cultural gap between communities. It has been observed that human culture and religion are fallen and sinful, hence they generate spirit-power that lead to communal and social sins. Humanity without God developed its culture, religion, ethics and morality in brokenness and alienation. Whenever humanity comes together, it is ridden with anxiety and fear of other people. And so they responded in anxiety and fear of each other, hence conflict is inevitable in South Sudan.

The author can be reached at francisayul@gmail.com

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