History and Thought LO12980

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
22 Mar 97 12:27:52 EST

Replying to LO12954 --

Sb: History and Thought LO12954

MNR AT DeLange comments on African approaches to some things that
westerners at least treat as invisible, particularly the naming of things.

I have observed this in West Africa where I lived for some years, but it
took a slightly different form. People avoided the naming of things
except as a community, but the naming generally occurred in community
meetings, openly with everyone participating. It was also true that
people suspected of being witches were not invited to these meetings
precisely for the reasons AT cites -- by naming this thing, the witch
would release that thing's evil properties.

There are some other, perhaps less startling ways in which African thought
differs from at least American. I live in a college community, and I have
to laugh sometimes when political science professors cast African issues
and problems in terms of capitalism and socialism. The social mores about
wealth and sharing are so different that neither capitalism or socialism
as we know it in Europe or the US are relevant or applicable.

Perhaps more important is the African approach to kinship. The nuclear
family is less important than the extended family, and the consequence is
that nuclear relationships are not important. My friends were always a
bit amused at my wanting to know who was whose brother or sister same
mother-same father. "Brother" and "sister" have much broader meanings to
Africans, but no less important. In fact, in some ways more important.

Likewise medecine and sickness are approached very differently. These are
approached very differently in nearly every country in the world as near
as I can tell.

It will be fascinating to see how these things sort themselves out as
these cultures change. As AT points out, they will commute with all other
peoples and absorb some of those approaches. However, they will also
commute with their own past in an even richer way, and so while they will
be influenced by other cultures, their future will also be born of their
own culture, their own past, and so it will be different and new.

In west Africa they have a saying about their religion. They say, that
they are 50% Christian, 50% Muslim, and 100% Animist. This is an
expression of the uniqueness that they or any group brings to their


Rol Fessenden 76234.3636@compuserve.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>