” In distant days, in those days, after destinies had been decreed, after An and Enlil had set up the regulations for Heaven and Earth, Enki, the exalted knowing God …by the rules for heaven and earth, the fixed rules, he set up cities.” – The Creation of the World ( according to Mesopotamian mythology)
“What a country and developmental strategies really require are policies that foreground culture – value and belief systems, social mores, traditions that inform behavior and interpersonal relationships, self and group identities etc. – and the manner in which these could impact adversely on, or help to facilitate developmental goals.” – Mike Van Graan, in Locating the Revised White Paper in the context of Development ( his critique of the Revised White Paper, the 4th Draft of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage)
It can be reasonably argued that modernity has ushered in various progressive ideas about human development. From scientific invention in every conceivable field, to the way we interact with each other and nature, our understanding of the issues of our existence has significantly improved from our collective primitive beginnings.
Yet it can also be sufficiently argued that much of humanity’s progress has been deleterious or regressive. We can read or hear about civilizations that were much more sophisticated and culturally impressive than us, out of every continent.
Perhaps we can return to the question we have explored before, regarding what constitutes a successful civilization, by what or whose standards can it be measured?
Much of what we know about these great civilizations which had risen and fallen through the sands of time, we have learned from stories passed along from generation to generations. Many of the stories are subjective, or are told from the perspective of the outwardly powerful, so we really never get to know exactly how the ordinary folk lived and whether they felt liberated or oppressed.
While our knowledge of history is not perfect, we can at least be assured of multiple faculties of reasoning and methods of measuring or ascertaining whether some stories are purely fantasy/ flights of fanciful storytelling or they are actual recollections of what indeed took place in the past. The past is relative, but what does that tell us about what we deem to be reality today? Additionally, how can our perception of todays reality help us to create futures that are more just and healthier than our present state?
Different civilizations approach their respective pasts in various ways, while some place more value on the exploits of heroes and nation builders ( strong and cunning men and strong and beguiling women), some civilizations placed more value on subtler stuff, such as medicine, arts, cultural motifs, religion. Other cultures have a well developed or sophisticated and detailed appreciation of all facets of their history and this is evidenced in the way they choose to tell their stories.
The question of equality and equity between the various classes of society has been one of the most insidious subjects. The 21st century began with a massive re-evaluation of what freedom, human rights, ecology and justice really should be about. In addition to the subject of climate change, the entire question of the wellbeing of the earths sentient beings has been in the forefront of many debates and inventions.
We have been questioning the efficacy or the pros and cons of nationhood, race, theories of economics as well as what technology means to us in the age of mass media, artificial intelligence and population explosion … While it may appear as if nothing is sacred anymore – there has been a healthy integrative communication happening between metaphysics and the ordinary science, between spirituality, religion and physics. This robust interrogation of the meaning of life and our responsibility in it is actually a real return to the sacred – not as religious fundamentalism but a philosophy of knowing better and choosing to do better for the greater good.
As much as cultures undergo contextual transformations, so too does science. Once science is static it no longer serves it primary purpose, which is to inquire into the inner workings of physical life. These days this quest for the how and what of life has become so much more intermingled with spiritual exploration that in some disciplines, it is difficult to separate the two. Some of those disciplines include holistic health, music and sports. We shall return to each of those subjects in a more in-depth essay.
- The Pan African Pantheon – prophets, poets and philosophers; edited by Adekeye Adebajo
- Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy
- African Philosophy: Myth and Reality by Hountondji by Henry Odera Oruka
- Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists ( The Myth of Spontaneous Philosophy) by Louis Althusser
- Paulin j. Hountondji: Africa’s Quest for Authentic Knowledge