Thursday, October 20, 2022
“Papa, you say I shouldn’t sweep that part of the compound in the night, why?” The answer shouldn’t be “Obey your elders when they speak.” Or “Our grandfathers told us that. We should obey them.” The answer should be that in the night, when there is darkness or when illumination is poor, you can sweep away something precious… Then the child may ask you again: “Papa, with the modern lights, this place is brighter than even during daytime…” At this point, you will realise that things may need to change.
“Mama, you say I shouldn’t sing or talk when I am taking my bath (or when I am eating). Why?” The answer shouldn’t be “Obey your elders when they speak.” Or “Our grandmothers told us that. We should obey them.” The answer should be: “You may choke on lather (or food), which can kill you…”
There are many such questions: Why shouldn’t we go fishing or farming on Tuesdays? Why shouldn’t I whistle at night…?
Instead of brushing these questions aside, we should find ways to explain to our children and the current generation why things were done in the past, and make room for changes to make society better when new technologies emerge, making the old positions we hold no longer reasonable. We should not try to give reasons that are absurd. That a ‘god’ will come to devour you if you sing when taking your bath. These reasons may instil fear and achieve some short term results, but they don’t develop societies.
The problem is that many of our ‘elders’ may not appreciate the reasons that went into adopting these ‘cultures’ we have so they make it look like they are cast in stone. Somebody cannot teach you what he himself does not know. And when people were not allowed to ask elders questions in the past, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in our current situation.
True education makes us question the status quo, and makes us adopt new methods to make society better. We have an opportunity to correct things. Let’s question the basis of our beliefs, and let’s encourage the current and next generations to ask questions. That is the recipe for progress in any society.