By Henry Kanyanta Sosala
Genesis of Cultural Genocide
Sociologists explain the underlying role of culture, family, history etc. Actually to be a member of a tribe means to be involved in a complex set of social relations which centre on the social personalities of the chief, hereditary councilors, village headmen, elders etc. In addition, it means, at least that a man’s behavior will tend to conform to certain type-patterns which are prescribed by the custom and norms of the tribe. These provide a mechanism whereby young people cannot be brought up in a higgledy-piggledy manner. And these norms provide the basis of mutual expectations which are necessary to social intercourse.
On the other hand, I have seen that today’s parents are terrified by their children. They dwell uncomfortably and self-consciously in the all-too-powerful shadows of the adolescent ethos of the new culture with the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom. This has increased parental sensitivity to the short-term emotional suffering of their children like securing examination leakages for their children, while heightening their fear of damaging their children to a painful and counterproductive degree. However, there are catastrophes lurking at the extremes of every moral continuum. And therefore our society faces the increasing call to deconstruct its stabilizing traditions
In 1927 shafts of mines were sunk on the copper-belt and which marked the beginning of great industrial expansion in this country. And between 1927- 1929, 22,341 Africans from all over the country were employed. In these work situations, people of various tribes were brought together in common tasks and through the wage-economy, they were linked with whites who employed them. They were also bound together with their fellow-workers of various tribes by their common interest in the joint productive tasks in which they were involved and consequently personal friendships developed between people of different tribes. In that new scenario various tribesmen could no longer live and work together on the basis of kinship and affinity as they did in their rural villages and so many of the customs and features of the tribal system fell into desuetude.
The logic of the colonial government rested upon the common assumption that the social ties, the norms and the values which had served to regulate behavior in the tribal societies from which all the new urban dwellers had come, could continue to operate in the different conditions of the industrial community. Implicit in the employment of Tribal Elders and importing of urban court justices from villages, was the view that the dominant ties between Africans in towns were still the ties of the village and the tribe. And against this, Zambian rural culture in the colonial era was seen as the only tool to deal with this cultural genocide that occurred in urban Zambia.
In order to have a clear understanding of this article, I have divided generations in age categories: 1920- 1940, the Pioneer generation; 1944- 1970, the Independence generation; 1980 to-date, the New generation. I have also dubbed the Pioneer generation as the generation of Freedom Fighters. This is the generation which introduced great social changes and which fought for our independence from the British. The youngsters of this generation were brought up when the prospectors began to sink shafts on the mines, later known as copper-belt and this marked the beginning of great mobility of the local population.
However, the then Secretary for African Affairs, R.S. Hudson, had distressingly noted as early as 1930s that ‘’When an African settled in town, he ultimately ceased to belong to a tribe and no longer fitted into the native authority system.’’ In 1932, Orde-Brown sadly wrote: ‘’A disquieting feature of compounds of all kinds is the large juvenile population without occupation or control. Children and adolescents of all ages throng the vicinity, finding amusements as they can and devoid of training or teaching. In native villages this would not be the case, since almost all the tribes have very definite arrangements for training the young people according to their ideas.’’
The World War II broke out and many Zambians were recruited and served overseas. On the all, it was the exposure of these ancients which changed the lives of their kids of the Independence generation and which made an opening to the interactions of various tribes and with peoples of other lands as being witnesses today.
The Pioneer generation gave birth to the Independence generation and it is in this generation where MMD leaders belonged. The traditional tribal cultural package code was previously handed over to each succeeding generation as a pattern of behavior to which all tribesmen adhered to without question. And just in the same way that in a relay race, the outcome depends at the very points that each runner hands over the baton to the other. So the package of traditional norms which the Pioneer generation handed to the Independence generation was a mixture of cultures. The normal pattern is for the preceding generation to chart a clear cultural moral conduct for the next incoming generation.
And in this respect, A.P. Epstein, an anthropologist who carried out a research in Luanshya in the 1950s wrote in ‘’Politics in an Urban African Community’’: ‘’Over the years there has developed amongst Africans on the mine an increasingly complex pattern of social differentiation which is based on such factors as differences in their productive roles, their standards of living, their education and relative degree of sophistication. In general, the process of differentiation has been marked by the emergence of new social groupings and associations which express the nature of the divisions operating within the social system of the mine’’
In this case the Independence generation has handed over absolutely nothing to the Now generation. This generation is being taught contradictory ideas about morality. These contradictions have left them disoriented, confused, uncertain, without guidance and more tragically, deprived of riches they don’t know even exist. And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was once called aptly ‘’practical wisdom,’’ which had guided previous generations.
In this respect, David Punabantu wrote: ‘’In other words, children were being born in towns without any knowledge or concept of village life. These children produced other children ______ compound kids and their concept of development at that time was to follow the white man into shops. Thus it is not surprising that Dr. Kaunda entered a chemist with a group of school children who were learning ‘shopping values.’……these compound kids then, became compound adults and ended up, as street vendors, while others became street adults and kids as seen today.’’ (The Post [supplement] 24th November 2004)
The Moral Landscape
Aristotle stated that though specific rules, laws and customs differed from place to place, what does not differ is that in all places human beings, by their nature, have a proclivity to make rules, laws and customs. He concluded that all human beings, by some kind of biological endowment, so ineradicably concerned with morality that they create a structure of laws and rules wherever they are. Aristotle concluded that: ’’That human life can be free of moral concerns is a fantasy.’’
Puberty is a stage in a person’s life when they develop from a child into an adult because of changes in their body that make them able to have children. However, in a woman that stage which is known as ‘’virginity’’ is critical and my research especially among the traditionalists and was also confirmed by a Congolese social scientist, it is a deciding factor in a woman’s life. Whatever sex relations may have been allowed during adolescence, the intercourse that takes place after puberty is regarded in a different light. It is said that the way a young girl loses her virginity determines the course of her moral life since virginity is where womanhood hinges. And if she loses her virginity at a disco means she will never be intact again, unless she works very hard at changing her life-style.
One of the greatest strategic functions of every tribe is to prepare girls for womanhood and marriage. In general, all indigenous learning and training in this respect do not greatly differ from each other among the tribes of Zambia. In traditional culture, puberty is a time when a girl enters her first menstrual cycle and she is taken in confinement for a specific period to be taught on cultural aspects of a woman’s life. The main aim is character building with emphasis on the cultivation of a high degree of discipline in the girl. The majority of girls who have undergone this form of training have turned out to be good wives and mothers. Boys as well attend confinement procedures in some Zambian tribes.
Sex drive is very strong in teenagers and sex is something very difficult to be reasonable about. And even the apostle Paul had to warn Timothy, ‘’……. avoid the passions of youth and strive for righteousness (purity)’’ (2 Timothy 2: 22). Every problem has a lost key. In this respect, Reverend James Earl Massey wrote: ‘’There is something to be said for human groupings. There are strengths in common tradition and a common culture, which make a people one culture. Each group has ‘intelligible actions’ which grow out of its own tradition and those meanings have an inner significance from which strength for life can be derived. Each human grouping has had distinctives not available elsewhere in just the same way. All human groupings have distinctives that they should preserve, distinctives which give meaning to the group as its members review their ‘story’ in the drama of life.’’ (Concerning Christian Unity p. 55). (Emphasis mine).
Our ancestors were very much aware of it and hence they made sure that a boy and a girl should never be at close contact with each other and especially in isolation and hence the saying, ‘’Cikwi tapalamana na mulilo’’ i.e., ‘’Don’t put a petrol-soaked cloth near the flames of fire.’’ And to the contrary, in this liberated sexual scenario, we see teenagers publicly kissing each other and they even go out to dances, cinema shows and other entertainments and bring back the girl later in the night and that is now accepted by the girls’ ‘’modern, educated and civilized’’ parents, since this is within the context of Children’s Rights in accordance with the Human Rights Charter. However, there is the problem of peer pressure within the liberated sex scenario because if a boy takes a girl out for three or four nights without any attempt whatsoever to have ‘’ a go,’’ since other ‘’couples’’ are doing it, then the girl might begin to think her partner ‘’is not man enough,’’ and could eventually if it continues be declared impotent.
To Be continued