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No civilization will forever endure the forces of change; unless it adopts and assimilates into its culture elements of the new agents of change. In the Near East,
In putting this into the context of the Igbo society in pre-colonial
This notwithstanding, however, it should never be taken that the subdued cultures are inferior to the domineering one. Within the Ibo society, there existed value systems which functioned in fulfilling their role of holding society together. Society recognized the kinship ties which guided social relations. Social groupings were determined by blood lineages and as a result, communities were made up of small villages comprising of extended families (Ndukaihe, 207). This afforded a convenient and effective way of coexistence that avoided the conflicts of inter-clan confrontations. In Things Fall Apart, the community was divided into nine villages, among them Umuofia, the clan of Okonkwo, the novel’s main character. This afforded democracy as each clan was led by an elder with decentralized powers.
The Ibo system of governance encouraged political dialogue in dispute resolution (Onwuegeogwu, 6). This is evidenced when upon the murder of a woman from Umuofia by an Mbaino clansman, elders from the two clans negotiated for a peaceful settlement that averted a possible war confrontation. Community members also displayed their generosity to fellow kinsmen of less fortune. This was in terms of lending yams to those who sought help. In the novel, Okonkwo’s father is reputed for going into his grave with unpaid debts, which he borrowed from his clansmen. Okonkwo himself benefited from Nwakibie, who lent him 800 yam seeds to plant. When one was visited, he always welcomed his visitors with wine and kola nuts. The fear of the gods was very instrumental in upholding social norms and morality. So then, the Ibo community was not less vigorous as it had its institutions of governance. Such cultures should be protected as they were effective in holding societies together and keep communities at peace with each other.
Nevertheless, extreme cultural beliefs and societal ideologies were harmful to some sections of the society. Of particular concern are patriarchal tendencies, which placed female members at a disadvantage. The Ibo community encouraged a show of masculinity as a sign of authority. For these reasons, Okonkwo beat his wives frequently just to prove that he was the head of the family. Also harmful to society were rooted beliefs like the throwing away of twins for supposedly being symbols of evil. Sacrifices offered to the gods often resulted to the death of sacrificial victims. This was the fate of Ikemefuna, who was sacrificed to avoid a calamity of locusts. Regardless, these are not justifications for the total overhaul of a community’s culture, since even the colonial system had its downside. For instance, the elders were deceived and jailed when they had been promised a dialogue with the colonial government It does not warranty “a belligerent culture or civilization, out of sheer arrogance and ethnocentrism, to take it upon itself to invade another culture, another civilization” (Emenyonu, 84). Therefore, practices that serve society in a positive way should be preserved.
The European missionaries undermined the Ibo culture by challenging and condemning held superstitions. In the judgment of disputes, people trusted Egwuggu, the masked spirit. However, Enoch, a Christian convert, dared the gods and unmasked ‘the spirit’ during a hearing, which turned out to be a human being. This discredited the reverence that people had for this superstitious figure. The said Enoch also killed the worshipped python, marking the end of the traditional rituals that defined Ibo religion. The introduction of medicine for ailments previously without cures shifted people’s beliefs from the myth that one’s ‘chi’- guardian angel and Chukwu (God) exposed people to harm for their evil deeds. In addition, when the missionaries asked for land to build a church, the elders offered them the evil forest. They believed that the spirits will come to haunt those who trespassed into their territory. However, to their astonishment, the spirits seemed to give way to the missionaries. When the latter accepted banished members into the church, the community’s beliefs and practices became irrelevant and got discarded. The final blow was the introduction of formal education which changed people’s perception that many wives and Ozo titles were the yardsticks of measuring success. It particularly appealed to the youths, for instance Okonkwo’s son Nwoye, who abandoned tradition for Christianity and formal learning. By targeting the younger generation, the missionaries effectively severed the link of transmission of the Ibo culture.
The Ibo culture proved to be fragile rather than adoptive. Instead of assimilating into its system compatible Christian elements, or overpowering the latter, it fell apart (the title ‘things fall apart’ is suggestive) and gave way to Christianity. This is best portrayed by the death of the figures that symbolized tradition: Edeuze the village elder, the worshipped snake and Okonkwo, its adherent and defendant. Their fate was symbolic of the death of the Ibo traditions.
Contemporary societies are portrayed by the culture systems of the ibo. It had value systems, norms and taboos, just like many other communities. Every society has rules that determine punishment of abominations like blood-letting which Okonkwo committed and effectively got banished fro the community for seven years. Equally, there are diplomatic relations between nations, which define the negotiation of disputes. And lastly, every society has got its unique superstitious and religious beliefs.
In conclusion, the Ibo society represents the universal path of human civilization. It reflects the ways and cultures that various societies at different times gave up as the values they embodied became irrelevant. From its fate, the larger human society learns that every culture has got its positive and negative implications, and societies should learn to adjust and adapt to changing settings in order to survive.