22 January 2014
The Melt Down
Throughout History there has been a desire for mainstream white culture to explore and expand to new areas with many different objectives in mind. Many were looking for new lands that had untold riches while others were spreading cultural or religious ways of thinking in an attempt to gain support for their beliefs. Sometimes this was a welcomed addiction to foreign societies having someone bring them new technologies and ideas to improve their life, but it was just as likely that these new additions to their culture and society would have a negative effect causing many peoples lives to be changed forever. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was a perfect example of what effect new ideas and technology can have on societies that have been so isolated for generations and have created a unique culture and society because of it. There were many changes that occurred when white explores came to Niger. Umuofia Mbantu and the other local clans have been living in an isolated society and culture for generations giving them plenty of time to adapted and live in there environment efficiently. They had developed many different religious beliefs that were different from the white Christian culture that settled the area. "You say that there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth," said Akunna on one of Mr. Brown's visits. " We also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods." (Achebe, 179). Even when trying to understand the Christian faith their religious beliefs are so ingrained that they create commonalities that are not really there. Akunna continues to talk about how the many gods they worship are helpers of Chukwu because he cannot do everything alone. But that is were the problem is. By creating these gods to help Chukwu they are creating false ideals to worship witch is against the christian faith because they strictly believe in one God. " There are no other gods," said Mr. Brown. " Chukwu is the only God and all others are false. You carve a piece of wood-like that one and you call it a god. But it is still a piece of wood." (Achebe 179). I find this conversation in the book to be very interesting and can show many differences in their culture. First Mr. Brown keeps trying to explain Akunna how their religion is wrong and not logical. But Akunna keeps trying to explain how even though they are different they have things in common. To me this shows how the white settlers felt that their religion is the right one and everyone else is wrong. I believe this is a big motive in the spread of the missionaries and white European culture. This is not only limited to religion but can be seen in white explores attitude towards foreign cultures and societies in general. There were many other parts of the local clans society that were also changed by white settlers. They created a court system and a government to keep order and enforce the laws. "But apart from the church, the white men had also brought a government. They had built a court where the District Commissioner judged cases..." (Achebe 174). The white explores are starting to take over. Now they can better control not only the people that do not believe in them but they people who do as well. The white settlers are doing what they can to create a culture that they feel is best for everyone. What they failed to see was that these African cultures and traditions is what’s best for them, unless of course the indigenous where open to change due to something not working well in there culture as it is. It is not fair to a society that has lived for generations with no problems, when he white explorers come and take it into their own hands to decide what is best for a people who already know what is good for them. I believe it is unfair to go to a distant place where you and your culture are a minority and tell the locals that they are living a life of sin and evil and if they do not change we will make you. These white colonialists are using the spread of their religion and culture in order to exploit an indigenous people for their people and resources. Not only do the explores have no right to tell the locals what is right and what is wrong, but to change their successful society just because it is different than theirs is an even worse. I cannot agree with a group that takes advantage of a society, tries to change it, and then say it’s for the good of the local people. "As soon as the six men were locked up, court messengers went into Umuofia to tell the people that their leaders would not be released unless they paid a fine of two hundred and fifty bags of cowries." (Achebe 195, 196). The white settlers, especially the missionaries, came to civilize the locals and spread their faith. But instead they force the locals to change their way of life and then threaten the indigenous’ lives if they do not obey. That does not sound like what most Christians preach. Okonkwo and the other leaders were trying to figure out a way to get their old culture and society back that had been changed ever since the white explores came. The local cultures and societies should not have been interfered with by white explores unless the locals wanted and accepted the change in their lives and in their own time. It seems like the explores did not go to the African continent with intentions to help the people, but instead to force their own culture and religion on the locals to help spread their way of life and gain more control over people who are not like them and in their eyes, lesser than them. " There was much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details. He had already chosen a title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger." (Achebe 209). This last line in the story reveals exactly what the Europeans came to do and the length they would go to be successful. The title of the book reveals the missionaries motive in settling this part of the world. He believes that the locals are not living life in a civilized way. The many clans in the Niger area had created a successful society and culture that helped them survive for generation after generation. The arrival of white explores changed their culture in a way that it could never recover. The locals could have continued living in their own successful manor for centuries without any negative effects on societies in other parts of the world. White explores however felt differently. They felt that these people needed their help or they would never advance their society and would all end up in hell. But the white explores never had a right to do this and were selfish in believing what they did. They come off as uneducated and conceded because of the way they try to change the local culture instead of learning from it. Yet we cannot also blame them too much because of their predated knowledge of the time. The locals could have been much more self-sufficient and kept to their traditional ways and still being a very successful society without the interference of white culture. People who have such narrow minded thoughts must not have been very bright, though in these times culture and religion where just the means of the way in which to colonize an “uncivilized” part of the world. People must seek to understand what makes a successful society and culture that is not their own in order to fully understood and appreciate what they do not know. What works in one part of the world does not always work in another. The first part of the last quote that talks about cutting out details, which reveals what lengths the missionaries, would go to be successful. There is a chance that Okonkwo did not commit suicide but was hung by a support of the explorers in an effort to prevent Okonkwo from starting a rebellion. The white settlers provided nothing for the locals and took everything not only causing old local tradition to fall apart, but also everything else.