The Research Centre for Inculturation and Development (CRID) continues to believe that faith penetrates, permeates and transforms a culture up to a point where faith becomes culture and culture becomes faith.
This long-term research started in 1992 with the theme of the family. However, the conditions in the sub-region did not allow for the continuation of this fundamental research. CRID had to give priority to the struggle for life and survival, so it proceeded in conducting research on the culture of peace. This line of research revealed another dimension to inculturation: when talking about faith, horizontal inculturation must preceed the vertical.
On the basis of experience which has matured over a long period, CRID has come to understand horizontal inculturation as the union of tradition and modernity where values alien to a culture may penetrate, permeate and transform it in a balanced and dynamic manner up to a point where there is a marriage between the traditional and the moderna union which allows the grafting of the new branch on to the old trunk. This particularconception brought forth research on the institution known as “Bashingantahe”, meaning the “Wise Men” the aim of this research is to propose to the country a viable framework for the culture of Peace.
Today, the continued research has given rise to a third concept: that of “inter-culturation”. As the local values and the new values confirmed by the international community undergo a process of contextualized fusion the fertilization and mutual transformation of both sets of values, a process that yields contemporary points of reference, in short the rocks arising from the water providing a foothold for others who wish to act to save them from drowning in the vortex created by a greedy, aggressive, and all-encompassing insatiable globalisation.
This article tackles that last point of view. It will address in depth the problem of globalisation in general, and the conceptual confusion in particular.. We will then address the centrifugal forces set in motion by all these factors, that produce the inter-culturation and the consequent re-humanization as tomorrow’s inevitable development.
I. Presenting the problem
In the face of the demands of globalisation, a global task of upgrading is indispensable. Wherever one looks throughout the world, one does not find the attitude equal to the demands of sustainable development that is open to the process of globalization. This is not just a problem of the masses, but also that of the leaders at different levels and in all regards. On the world dimension we are continually becoming like the animals taken ill with the plague in La Fontaine’s story. Not all of them died, but all were struck with the plague.
Some leaders, for example, while being aware of what the international community expects, play at democracy while having their own hidden “political agenda”, it consists of using their power to increase their possessions or to suit themselves and “their own”, while keeping the population quiet. This abuse of power is a type of psychophysical burden that weigh down the masses. It is really one of the major obstacles to a healthy globalisation. it causes the destruction of the spirit and the conceptual confusion which permeates the whole structure…
II. The issue of conceptual confusion
This taming of consciences passes through various stages: integralism at all levels, at times assuming a Manichean form which places all that is felt good on the part of “us” (an artistic fantasy), and whatever is classified as bad on the part of “you” (a still more artistic fantasy). No country is safe from such a temptation, which is fanned by the presence of world terrorism.
From this point it is only one step to the dismantling of structures and the destruction of human lives and property belonging to the “you” side, which may also go on to genocide. This happened in Rwanda and Burundi, where the situation developed into ethnic totalitarianism, and is still moving in that direction under the disguise of aspiring to democracy. A similar outbreak may easily develop elsewhere, unless sufficient caution is exercised. Their are Examples that stare you in the face always camouflaged in the most subtle conceptual confusion.
Group conflicts exist all over the world. When they are not in the open, one will find them latent. If there are no massacres, it is because a group has not yet decided to exterminate the other, or vice versa. Otherwise there would be a repetition of what happened in Rwanda and Burundi all over Africa and maybe elsewhere throughout the world. It is necessary to prevent this at all cost, Otherwise the wide-ranging negotiations, can create a greater confusion in the political scene, perverting minds and constructing labyrinths to paralyse systems and exterminate lives, in any place.
The Diasporas resulting from exiles of integralism may eventually create a rebounding integralism from returning exiles, thus giving rise to a cycle of unending wars. In traditional Burundian philosophy, for a man to act there must be unity in his inner life. Intelligence and feeling need to act in unison for the will to be set in motion.
A corollary immediately follows. Globalisation should give first priority to a programme of training in values. This would have as its foundation a culture based on human rights: a feeling for human dignity, democracy, the promotion of freedom, tolerance, active non-violence, self-development, and self-sufficiency in the natural means of life.
Such a programme should include studies and publications on the cultural riches of peoples, subjects of research in concord, and the peaceful prevention of conflict. This should not exclude a study on the healing of feelings and memories in places already struck by devastation. It was as a reaction to the chaos created by the Second World War that the philosophy of human rights was formalised, and introduced on a world scale. A similar step should now follow the end of the Cold War. In any case, in the developing countries it would appear that conceptual confusion is the result of a badly assimilated transition from from a world influenced by two Major Powers to one with only a single Major Power. Unfortunately this change has given rise to a flagrant clientelism in relations with the Major Powers.
It is a long-term issue. In Africa, for example, contacts between cultures occured in a context of acculturation by substitution this resulted in an unprecedent example of deculturation. This in practice results in an amoral situation leading to the production of crime: hence the remote and underlying cause of unending crises. It is for this reason that the current remedy, which only treats political symptoms, can be compared to the treatment of AIDS, without direct treatment of the immune system.
From the ethical point of view, the immune system has foundered more or less all over the planet. Just think of the unsettled families in the Western Countries, with divorce in all its phases and the mental confusion brought about on children, who can no longer find where to look for help, when they reach adolescence tey turn to gangs and drugs . What can one expect of a mass of youngsters who have no social points of reference? And what would happen if all this, in certain phases, were to spread over the whole planet?
Hence the heart of the world problem, whether one looks to the right or to the left, is not mainly political or economic. It is first of all axiological, which signifies that it is tied up to a system of values which results in man being man. Man is demoralised. The current radical elimination of cultures has produced an “axiological vacuum” in many natural environments of life.
To a greater or lesser extent, throughout the world, we have become like swimmers in great difficulty, seeking desperately for something to hold on to. So far, we have been blindly attached to the “White Man”, but without becoming his partner. “African Reputation” attributes the following words to Houphouet Boigny: “God is great. But White Man is also great”. In other words, whether we like it or not, the “Black Men” who think this way are numerous. They keenly seek to hold on to “White Man” to save themselves from drowning in an anthropological vacuum. Whether we like it or not, this mentality has already taken root.
This vacuum has its origins in the conceptual violence which characterised the beginning of colonisation. This same violence keeps growing nowadays through audiovisual communication – practically a one-way process – which keeps producing the citizen who is foreign to his own environment. Following both colonial and post-colonial conditioning, he sees his world through borrowed eyeglass. He seeks to understand himself through what is said about him. He has lost all hope of making his own discovery. He has lost all points of anchorage. He has become a sort of puppet, or soft wax ready to be moulded into any shape.
III. The Consequence: development of “total defence” forces spreading all over Africa
The average African has lost his spark. It has to be found in some foreign land. This explains why he goes through the troubles of escaping into the unknown, some other unkown place. He knows the risks of this other place, but he must go.
In this connection I have seen a film with surprising scenes which have much bearing on the situation. One day, some preachers advise their mission to immigrate to Europe. Soon columns of migrants started moving all over the place. Their orders are: “Europe has taken all our resources, both material and human. Let us go and share them with the Europeans!” The columns started marching towards the Straits of Gibraltar where the portico gave way. Continuing their march in Spain, they aimed at the Capital of Europe: Bruxelles.
Meanwhile the Parliament of Europe held a meeting. No attempt was made to fire on the “unarmed” invaders. The semicircular hall was divided into two blocks: one favoured a powerful reaction, and the other a real process of development for these people who had come over. The latter finally prevailed and a “Marshall” type plan was approved…
This is the drama of the African drift in several places. How can one help a continent which has been annihilated both with regard to its nature and to its values? A continent in which one finds only bodies since the heart is elsewhere? When the rural environment, which has become obscure to its members, does not expect light except from the city and when the city itself looks for light from a decisively and irreparably unknown elsewhere, globalization becomes a gentle bulldozer the outcome of whose action is unpredictable.
Having thus lost their points of reference, the African masses have got used to obey without understanding, provided that the order comes from above, from the leaders of the blessed “we”, even if it is a call for murder.
This is the result of the cultural exile which, in the course of the last century, has produced shattered and disillusioned citizens, who are interested only in personal security and immediate profit. Such is the effect of a creative genius which has dried up, and which has given place to inactivity and weariness, thus creating a void which somehow or other waits to be filled: a confusion contrived in the mind which dulls the heart.
There is a risk that this confusion might deepen with the present all-encompassing means of information, operating as it does in many ways in the midst of a void with regard to values. For example a heated way of speaking, full of strong emotions, is developing. The firmness and constancy behind the words always allow for the possibility of a physical and emotional reaction to the messages. This void with regard to values easily leads to sensorial logic. In this way, man is fragmented, in other words broken up.
Thus, the discussions in certain fora resemble hives teeming with insects, where everyone, instead of reasoning, echoes the vibrations of the messages. This reveals a collective adolescence, in which firm concentration on a particular concept becomes very tiresome. This plays into the hands of a certain intellectual spirit of adventure, creating a noise pollution, which is really deafening. Popular wisdom certainly had good reason to come out with the proverb: “empty vessels make most noise”. This gives place to a general disintegration which in its turn leads to a certain hypnosis of the faculty of reasoning and arouses the passions. In other words, an excessive externalization of the human person, leads to a stupor in interior life. This in turn cannot but lead to estrangement. It signifies that men become alien to themselves and are lead by an external remote control. These are in fact the effects of a one way globalization, which is very much like a gentle bulldozer. In any way, if one looks at numbers, this phenomenon is alarming unless serious precautions are taken.
IV. Inter-culturation as tomorrow’s remedy
As a remedy for the chaos already treated above one must aim at providing ‘rocks’ which the masses can hold on to in the prevailing confusion, axes around which better developments may evolve. Persons who do not lend themselves to bribery, young people who sincerely wish to prepare a better future for all, without depending on adults who are themselves in a crisis. In other words one must build up a resource of persons, local leaders capable of being looked up to and sought by the masses, as witnesses of values existing in real life: people who resolutely seek a planned journey of existence, a project for indigenous society.
It follows that there can be no success for globalisation unless people have been conditioned to reason in the following manner: “If I do not obey the dictates of my conscience, without regard for personalities and frontiers, I shall be killing myself. If I do not fill in the existing void in matters of values, in the midst of the chaotic ideas surrounding me, I shall be killing myself. If I do not follow inter-culturation, as understood locally and in its proper context, I shall be killing myself. Hence the importance of the triad: re-culturation, inculturation and inter-culturation in order that globalisation may be successful.
Re-culturation in its proper context signifies re-establishing the traditional indigenous values in a particular environment in such a way that behaviour is always conditioned by feeling and conscience, following interior impulses but at the same time open to other exterior personalities. In this way a proper identity is established in the meeting of nations. As regards inculturation, as described above, this is appropriate when external influences penetrate and enrich local culture, transforming it internally but only up to a point where it is possible to graft the new branch on to the old trunk.
In this particular case, the values must first of all be such as are already accepted by the international community for the purpose of creating a society which is acceptable and approachable in the meeting of nations. In this connection, one must underscore the point that values such as human rights, democracy, good governance, tolerance and non-violence are all tied up with globalisation, but need to be inculturated locally in order to have a permanent influence on consciences.
Still, these values should not fall on a void, as is the case at present. It is therefore necessary that re-culturation should come before inculturation. As already explained, this implies taking back one’s own culture in order to use it as a key to development, to use UNESCO’s own expression. By culture, we intend to convey, in the very first place, the level of values i.e. that which makes man a human being.
It is necessary that the existing values, already referred to as a desired possibility, may have a chance of blending into existing ideas both local and international. This will lead to the ability of forming a firm judgement in the midst of all the surrounding confusion, ability for discernment in the face of the current turbulence in communications and memories. It is exactly in these circumstances that healing of memories should accompany the healing of persons and groups.
Without this task of reviving values, globalisation might produce some potential clients, but they would be unreliable partners, without any sense of direction, firm principle or point of reference. At present one is like a ship finding its way on the open sea which would be the internet! Thanks to globalisation, one might find ‘partners’, but in the present context of upheaval in values, the result cannot be otherwise than a market of victims.
Nevertheless, it is not enough to have re-culturation and inculturation alone. In a closed circle, they would lead to ‘defective manufacture’ arising from the fact that one departs from foreign elements to arrive at a local culture. On the other hand, one can complement this situation through inter-culturation. This would involve starting by re-culturation, i.e. reviving that which is essential in values so that every person would have a specific culture, and subsequently linking with universally accepted values. Such linking must be reasonable and compatible with the different sources involved, thus arriving at a society where human and interpersonal relations can exist without frontiers, where the local and the global are firmly united.
When I speak of humanizing anew, I do not feel I am exaggerating. If one just casts a glance on the violence which nowadays erupts in football stadiums, it is enough to realise that the creation of a mass mentality leads to ‘reification’, i.e. the reduction of human persons into objects. There is also the ever growing eagerness to appropriate the property of the weakest members of society, by taming them culturally and weakening their sense of value. And finally, we must open our eyes to that anger which leads to murder, accompanied by suicide if necessary, which is spreading all over the world like a mass of inflammable material released into the sea by ships in the hands of obstinate and angered individuals.
In any case, if inter-culturation is to be of any use in globalisation, particular attention must be given to the spiritual dimension of the human person in a community: once these ideals are absorbed into globalisation, they can serve as an antidote to a globalisation organised on the basis of a common individualism which can only help the more powerful to absorb the weakest. This would lead to the unfortunate ones losing their bearings, and seeking shelter among the strongest. As already indicated, would not such a situation lead to an increase in clandestine migration, even if it is at a risk?
V. Inter-culturation can only bear good fruit if it leads to the re-establishment of human values
Considering all the above, if globalisation is to have any success, it has to be grounded, before all else, on the human person, the whole human person, and primarily, on all that is sacred in the human person. It should not be based solely on the exchange of material goods, as is unfortunately the case nowadays in the rules of world trade. This semantic devaluation, carried to the extreme, inevitably results in persons being reduced to the status of objects, with all the attendant consequences of violence conceptual, verbal and physical.
If, on the other hand, the human person is given the importance it deserves in the matter of globalisation, the cultures of all peoples, even the least influential, will be taken into account. This is a point I wish to emphasize: the cultures of the least influential peoples! And while taking all factors into account, culture must have the first place. To be precise, culture is that which makes man truly human. If it is not given first priority, if for example the culture of the weakest nations is not considered in world commerce, economic globalisation can only burst out into a massacre of the innocents. It would be a monster sapping at the very life of the poor, a ruthless bulldozer destroying peoples at their very roots.
Such a situation, as already indicated above, would turn the poor into ‘men of straw’ who would consider any contract or agreement as just a scrap of paper doing the rounds of world commerce ethics. De-culturation is no joke. On the other hand, only inter-culturation in its proper context, as has been defined above can be the proper foundation for globalisation. Such foundation requires a firm resolution that man cannot become man except through culture, and that the culture of the weakest peoples be promoted on a world-wide basis, where all cultures converge and complement one another. Economic globalisation can only succeed through placing itself at the service of man and his cultures, the latter being recognised as the only source through which he is really human. In this way, international citizenship will have a point of departure and, through inter-culturation in its proper context, will pass on to future generations.
On the other hand, if the human being is reduced to just an individual i.e. matter which can be quantified (materia signata quantitate), he cannot be a citizen of the world with the rights and duties – both understood and assumed – that go with such a status. He will be just a thing (res), just one more object to be sold and bought: an object in the service of other things set up as idols, with one sole thought as a base. The goods of the earth will not belong to man, but he will belong to them, with all the subjection they demand, ending up in complete slavery.
Thus globalisation can also become a vehicle for post-modern slavery, with man being sold and re-sold: a monster with endless tentacles giving rise to comparable forms of violence which would paralyse exchanges between the nations of the world. One cannot tone down the meaning of all this without suffering the consequences, particularly since such an attitude would eliminate all that is essential from the point of view of human nature and its values.
Still, one cannot save the world except by saving man. And man cannot be saved without saving his culture. Moreover, one cannot trade safely on a world-wide basis unless through an extension of the mind and heart, thus enabling the setting up of bases for a family without frontiers: precisely through inculturation in its proper context.
For this purpose a new agreement would be required. After the Second World War, an agreement was made. This led to the current pressure for a civilisation based on human rights to be established. In our days this agreement is being nullified by those who should have put it into practice.
In any case, at this point in time we need a new agreement which will underscore man’s obligations, requiring him to keep together, at all times, spirituality, solidarity and shared responsibility both on a local and on a world scale, such as is required in any organic body which wants to be taken seriously.
The ethics of combined and global responsibility should therefore control globalisation, by means of inter-culturation in its proper context, especially where values are concerned. In fact, the West has not so far cared to understand the values which form the basis of African customs: they are still in the dark on the subject. This lead to a grave misunderstanding: the confusion of concepts described above.
Unless inter-culturation in its proper context aims at understanding values in the first place, any exchanges in the field of expression and cultural tools would just be “folklore”, providing entertainment for people who are already well fed, and increasing the misery of the hungry.
Similarly, unless the expected inculturation reaches the proper level of values, the weaker peoples will have no option but to let themselves be humiliated, like one who allows himself to be divested, with a smile on his face and surrounded by applause and blowing of trumpets.
It will take time for all this to materialise. It is the least one can do. In any case, time destroys whatever is done without enough of it being allowed. One should rather imagine the countries of Africa in comparison with the allegory of the frogs which had fallen into an enormous bowl of milk. They did not drown or even lose heart, but paddled with all their might, and in doing so, beat up the milk.
Now, when milk is beaten in this way, it starts turning into butter. And that is what happened: a considerable mass of butter was formed, and the frogs, having climbed on it, proudly came out of the bowl, stronger than ever. This is the task of re-culturation, defined above as a necessary process leading to inter-culturation. And it cannot be reached except through paddling more vigorously than ever in the proverbial “milk”.
To be precise, the greater number of African countries has not fallen into acid, but into milk. The have their own values which unfortunately, for the time being, are being jealously guarded under the ashes, so as not to be buried under the coconuts. One must dig them out and reinforce them. This is the work of re-culturation and rehabilitation of values: its importance can never be sufficiently emphasised.
Moreover the frontiers are already open for inter-culturation. The peoples concerned have to be guided towards the proper choices so as to find their way and reach a safe end to their journey, in a climate of inculturation and inter-culturation in its proper context.
This is the work undertaken by the Research Centre for Inculturation and Development (CRID), which the author of this article has had the pleasure of starting and directing. Much has already been published on the subject. However, the ground is full of hidden dangers. The CRID would therefore be very happy if other services and organisations having the same aim would collaborate with them, thus arriving together at results which are tangible and practical.
In any case, the future is in the hands of such as search with endeavour in the field of values on a world-wide scale, starting with the creation of “élites” for the purpose.
Speaking of “élites”, I do not mean dignitaries, but resourceful persons, poles of reference, and living points of orientation, whatever the social position to which they belong.
II African Continental Meeting
YOU WILL BE MY WITNESS IN AFRICA. Reality and prospects for the laypeople’s formation. The contribution of Catholic Action/2 – Bujumbura, August 21st/25th 2002
- Rev. Adrien NTABONA