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Civilisation and morals

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Since humans reached the evolutionary stage called Homo sapiens, the wise person, they have been trying to overcome their physical environments. When they reach impassable rivers, they built bridges and canoes.

At first, humans lived very much as wild animals do. They moved from place to place in search of food and slept either in trees or caves. The wild animals they killed, they ate raw. Then they invented fire and began to roast the meat and when they learned to make earth pot, they cooked their meat.

The earliest weapons they used were stones. In history, that period is called Stone Age. From that stage, some societies moved upwards to making bronze tools. Their age is known as Bronze Age. From the Bronze Age, they moved on to the Iron Age.

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When Europeans started penetrating the African continent, they found most Africans at the Iron Age while they themselves had moved up to the Steel Age.

In his book titled Shire Highlands, John Buchanan, who arrived in this country in 1876 with the first Church of Scotland missionaries, depicts how the Mang’anja used to make iron. It is fascinating to read. Their ovens were known as ng’anjo. Up to about the 1940’s, these smelting ovens were dotted all over the country.

It is not difficult to say which people are more civilised than others if we compare the weapons or tools they use and size of their communities and their shelters. Civilised people live in bigger communities such as towns instead of villages. They dwell in more solid houses rather than wattle and daub huts.

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While people at the Iron Age hunt with bows and arrows and fight with spears, more advanced communities use guns and more destructive weapons.

In all societies, older generations instruct younger ones in the arts and literature. Among civilized, teaching is done within families. Those who practise as herbalist have been instructed by parents or grandparents. Knowledge is usually treated as secret.

In more civilised communities, education is given in schools, colleges and universities. Knowledge is available to anyone who can pay the teacher.

In terms of civilisation, the West continues to lead the world. There are more people from non-Western countries in Western educational institutions than Western people in non-Western educational institutions. For more than a century, Asia and Africa have been acquiring the devices of Western civilisation.

What the non-Western part of the world has not been fully impressed with its Western culture that is made of religion and morals. Most people of Asia have chosen to remain Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist and so on.

While civilisation has been growing throughout ages, morals have gone up and down in circles. What was considered sinful in Western countries about half a century ago is now being propagated upright and virtuous. Ancient people of the Middle East wrote the Bible in which they depicted the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as being destroyed by fire because they tolerated sinful activities including homosexual relationships.

At the end of the 19th century, an Irish novelist and playwright called Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in London because he was found guilty of homosexuality. Up to the 1990’s, both in the United States and Britain homosexual soldiers were suffering discrimination. In Britain, a leader of the Liberal Party who died recently lost his position in the party because a certain eccentric accused him of having had sexual relation with him.

Africans who readily borrow elements of Western civilization, education, inventions and Christianity have refused to follow Western people into defying the Bible on moral matters.

The clergy that burnt Jeannie d’ Arc the French girl patriot as a witch because she claimed to be in communication with the saints and the church which burnt John Huss for questioning church doctrine is now dead against capital punishment for mass murderers.

We Africans have still got a lot to learn from the West how to develop our civilisation. Strands in civilisation are the attributes of a few dedicated and persevering people. Isaac Newton was asked how he made his scientific discoveries. He said by standing on the shoulders of the giants who had preceded him and by keeping a problem constantly in his mind until it yielded results. Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richards Almanock God said let there be Isaac Newton and then there was light.

Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the electric lamp and the talking machine, was asked the secret of his genius. He replied “Genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration”.

Do we Africans want to be as well developed and wealthy as other people? Let us study the ways of the Western people.

They are all the time inquiring, exploring into the secrets of nature. They are not content with eating, going to sleep and then waking up again.

I mean the elite among them. Civilisation owes its birth and growth to visionary elites. May those in charge of public affairs in Africa make environments conducive to progress and inventiveness by nurturing people with talent.

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