Fr George ADIMIKE
Investing in culture to grow its capital base in order to liquidate its bankruptcy requires serious and adequate cultivation. Such cultivation will positively impact individuals, turning cultural resources into cultural capital, and thus promoting the common good. Without a conscious effort to introduce humans to the truth of life in order to experience true freedom, they degenerate because cultivation is a prerequisite for culture’s health. As often the case, things become worse when abandoned. Culture grows or degenerates, progresses or deteriorates. Many cultural apologists devote themselves to the revival of external cultural expressions, often anachronistic renaissance of the old praxes without interrogating the fundamentals. They recharge cultural batteries without the attendant personal cultural melioration that makes them true representatives of the culture. Rather, they prioritize cultural revival without appreciating its indication for progress in a free and virtuous society. Thus, they promote cultural devotion without prioritising discipline resulting in cultural piety lacking in virtues. The cumulative effect is that the current cultural upheaval leads them into suffocating in the heat of change instead of seeing with its light.
Indeed, the discourse on culture involves the totality of the human person in his reasoning, feeling and operating project. It is an all-inclusive exercise that impacts human existence, involving a wide range of perspectives. By implication, culture is a sequel to the ramification of human life. It grows and can also degenerate. As it progresses, it sheds off and borrows for its further enrichment. This dynamism entails that cultures are valuable to the degree of their transformation to suit the telos of human existence. No culture is perfect, and none is without limitation. Pond of waters deteriorates without reception of freshwaters and without going out of old water. In this regard, cultures need to open themselves up for transformation, but the reality indicates otherwise; not all cultures are equally open to growth. Without engaging in the existential journey with man in all his hopes and disappointments, gains and pains, cultures fail in the task of purification and development. Such cultures, likely, become inimical to the holistic meaning of man’s life or response to his existential vocation. They lead to settling for less, indeed, settling for a reductionist vision of life.
Cultivation makes the difference and determines whether a culture advances towards a funeral or feast. It parses cultures and supervises their waxing or waning. Without adequate cultivation, the unhealed ego and untamed id unleash loads of negatives on society. These unhealthy acts lead to the dissolution of culture or waning of its influence on people. But through proper cultivation, humans harness the positive elements and prune the trees of culture to bear good fruits. The tragedy will be when culture is celebrated with its Pandora box of the good, the bad and the ugly. No society can overemphasise the need for cultural affirmation and celebration because it accentuates their identity and mission. However, it should not be lost that the actual celebration of culture entails developing it to represent its best version. Some persons who are unwilling to do the necessary behavioural, surgical engagement through attitudinal change vote culture as a warrant in many towns and villages. They tether their bad behaviours to culture, and as such, vote it as an alibi. Hence, culture serves as a warrant for bad behaviour, stubbornness and persistence in evil.
No culture that is worth its weight in gold will close itself to illumination for purification. Since individual family is society’s writ large, cultural renewal and aggiornamento begin with individual persons in the families. It is yet unstated that culture is dynamic and changes as the circumstances of their space and time. Culture is a power-imbued narrative that constitutes imperatives for the life of the people in a community. Any cultural element or practice that loses the behavioural suasion and its orientating imperative relative to the people fails the cultural test. Some champions of cultural revival display both ignorance and arrogance, pontificating with experiments and campaigns filled with fury. Justified anger against the dysfunctional system is often mischannelled and wrongly directed, leading to a selective cultural clash. Christianity gets an unfair share of the repercussions. The fury leads to a general combatant and belligerent disposition towards other cultures. Sometimes, it is fuelled by a phobic, misguided or misinformed appreciation of patriotism.
In this regard, Africa is a case in point. She has suffered many setbacks, largely due to the cumulative impact of the imperfections of her culture, among other reasons. Ignorantly, some consider African culture the innocent victim of the dominating and imperialistic forces of the West. As a result, they live in denial of the faults of her cultures and primitive religions. And in addition, they nurture nostalgic and romantic efforts at the renaissance of the past. Such persons blame all misdeeds and dysfunctions of the system on the new religions and politics of Africa (Christianity and Islam), forgetting that culture substantially modifies the actual practice of politics and religion. Cultural attitudes and political consciousness of a people make or mar the development of their societies.
Religion in this context works with culture because it is part of the holistic worldview of a people. As such, for there to be development, the interaction of the old beliefs and new practices, which align as enablers or inhibitors, speaks to the proper development of Africa. There is intercourse between faith, culture and politics such that culture being the foundation affects the development of the others. The ramification of such intercourse entails that culture conditions both religion and politics. At the same time, faith informs culture and politics shapes it.
Faith suffers, as well, in the era of the bankruptcy of culture but has so much to contribute to offset the bankruptcy. Cultivation of culture applies the ethos of grace in the construction of society in an anthropological context. A purified culture binds people together, thus tethering faith and culture with an adequate political economy of grace that promotes the true good of society.
Fr George ADIMIKE