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October 29, 2017

THE INFLUENCE OF EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION ON AFRICANS By Silas Modiri Molema, 1919

Filed under: race — ABRAXAS @ 5:14 pm

The tribal collectivism of the Bantu, with its beliefs, its superstitions, customs, and traditions, was a safeguard to the morals of the people. Partial civilisation means dislocation, the dawn of individualism, and a shattering of ancient beliefs and superstitions. They are shattered but not replaced by any new beliefs. Customs and traditions are despised and rejected, but no new customs and traditions are acquired, or can be acquired. The new individual is a spiritual and moral void.

Outwardly, indeed, he may don a civilised appearance—European clothing, European language, European ideas, European manners, and live in European houses. Nay,some even sink their native names and adopt European names, and some, without knowing European languages, forget, or pretend to forget, their mother tongue—that last index of identity.

They lose all trace of national pride, and are cut clean adrift from tribal moorings. And what is the reason for all this ? The metamorphosing Bantu themselves don’t know and don’t care. Hardly on the threshold of civilisation, they consider themselves already changed beings—and changed indeed they are, but only for the worse. Copying form for fact, and substituting shadow for substance, understanding nothing,but mimicking all the time, such people are an utter void, and they sufier for it—both morally and physically—for neglecting their tribal lore, with its beneficial influences and its drawbacks.

But what is more, the loitering on the outskirts of civilisation does not act deleteriously only in the passive or negative way of unlearning the national lore. It also acts actively or positively. Civilisation comes with its vices—drink and immoralities, with their long train of suffering.

It seems it should be the business of the more advanced Bantu to study, uphold, and propagate their national customs and institutions, only modifying or abolishing such as are pernicious, and seem calculated to clash with the best in civilisation, and to arrest progress ; smoothing those that are jagged, recasting and refining such as are rough and uncouth.

It should be their concern to learn first to look upon life through their own national spectacles and then, but not till then, through foreign spectacles, to inculcate into their less advanced brethren the respect and esteem of Bantu usages while emphasizing only the laudable practices in the new civilisation.

Then, perhaps, there will be fewer in that hopeless sect, who, wandering far from home and coming under changed environment, purposely forget their nationality, its ethics and its usages, without the possibility of their becoming of another nationality, nor of thoroughly appreciating foreign ethics and usages ; who with no more than a nodding acquaintance with foreign—to wit, European—languages, pretend not to know their mother tongue, who, imagining themselves educated, scorn and despise their national traditions, imbibe a dangerous scepticism and materialism easily found in commercial and industrial centres, absorb all the shortcomings of civilisation and miss all the good in it, and are, at the end, infinitely worse than they were in their raw, uncivilised state—a floating mass of humanity, without identity, without creed, and without character.

The raw, untouched, unsophisticated, purely uncivilised, but none the less observant, self-respecting, often virtuous, and always healthier and happier Bantu, seeing their half-civilised and demi-semi-oivilised brethren get drunk, get into trouble, get into prison, and get even to the gallows, and generally deteriorating, these raw, totally uncivilised tribal Bantu look down upon their half-civilised and detribalised fellow-countrymen, and deploring their degeneracy, also despise that strange force which has so unmanned them. They call them Ama-Kumsha or MaKgomocha ; that is, litterally—speakers of European languages, a word which, however, in the mind of a tribal Muntu, is always associated with something of deceit, and is almost synonymous with that meaning turn-coat, cheat, or trickster.

BANTU – PAST & PRESENT: By Silas Modiri Molema, 1919

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