Akan: The Moral Foundations Of An African Culture  

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The Moral Foundations Of An African Culture
CHAPTER IX

THE MORAL FOUNDATIONS

OF AN AFRICAN CULTURE

KWASI WIREDU

INTRODUCTION

Morality in the strictest sense is universal to human culture.(141) Indeed, it is essential to all human culture. Any society without a modicum of morality must collapse. But what is morality in this sense? It is simply the observance of rules for the harmonious adjustment of the interests of the individual to those of others in society. This, of course, is a minimal concept of morality. A richer concept of morality even more pertinent to human flourishing will have an essential reference to that special kind of motivation called the sense of duty. Morality in this sense involves not just the de facto conformity to the requirements of the harmony of interests, but also that conformity to those requirements which is inspired by an imaginative and sympathetic identification with the interests of others even at the cost of a possible abridgement of one's own interests. This is not a demand for a supererogatory altruism. But a certain minimum of altruism is absolutely essential to the moral motivation. In this sense too morality is probably universal to all human societies, though, most certainly, not to all known individuals.

The foregoing reflection still does not exclude the possibility of a legitimate basis for differentiating the morals of the various peoples of the world. This is so for at least three reasons. First of all, although morality in both of the senses just discriminated is the same wherever and whenever it is practiced, different peoples, groups and individuals have different understandings of it. The contrasting moral standpoints of humanism and supernaturalism, for example, illustrate this diversity. Secondly, the concrete cultural context in which a moral principle is applied may give it a distinctive coloring. Lastly, but most importantly, there is a broad concept of morals closely contiguous to the narrow one -- which is what the two concepts of morality noted earlier on together amount to -- in regard to which the contingencies of space, time and clime may play quite a constitutive role. This appertains to the domain that, speaking very broadly, may be called custom. In view here are such things as the prescriptions and proscriptions operative in a community regarding life and death, work and leisure, reward and retribution, aspirations and aversions, pleasure and pain, and the relationships between the sexes, the generations and other social categories and classes. The combined impact of such norms of life and thought in a society should give a distinctive impression of its morals.

AKAN HUMANISM

But let me start with the manner of conceiving morals. African conceptions of morals would seem generally to be of a humanistic orientation. Anthropological studies lend substantial support to this claim. Nevertheless, the accounts are not always philosophically inquisitive, and I prefer, in elaborating on this characterization, to rely on my own native knowledge of the life and thought of the Akans of Ghana.(142) On this basis, I can affirm the humanism in question more uninhibitedly. The commonest formulation of this outlook is in the saying, which almost any Akan adult or even young hopeful will proffer on the slightest provocation, that it is a human being that has value: Onipa na ohia. The English translation just given of the Akan saying, though pertinent, needs supplementation, for the crucial term here has a double connotation. The word "(o)hia" in this context means both that which is of value and that which is needed. Through the first meaning the message is imparted that all value derives from human interests and through the second that human fellowship is the most important of human needs. When this last thought is uppermost in consciousness an Akan would be likely to add to the maxim under discussion an elucidation to the effect that you might have all the gold in the world and the best stocked wardrobe, but if you were to appeal to these in the hour of need they would not respond; only a human being will. (Onipa ne asem: mefre sika a, sika nnye so; mefre ntama a, ntama nnye so; onipa ne asem.) Already beginning to emerge is the great stress on human sociality in Akan thought, but before pursuing this angle of the subject let me tarry a while on the significance of Akan humanism.

One important implication of the founding of value on human interests is the independence of morality from religion in the Akan outlook: What is good in general is what promotes human interests. Correspondingly, what is good in the more narrowly ethical sense is, by definition, what is conducive to the harmonization of those interests. Thus, the will of God, not to talk of that of any other extra-human being, is logically incapable of defining the good. On the Akan understanding of things, indeed, God is good in the highest; but his goodness is conceptually of a type with the goodness of a just and benevolent ancestor, only in his case quality and scale are assumed to be limitless. The prospect of punishment from God or some lesser being may concentrate the mind on the narrow path of virtue, but it is not this that creates the sense of moral obligation. Similarly, the probability of police intervention might conceivably give pause to a would-be safe breaker, though if he or she had any sense of morals at all it would not be thanks to the collective will of the police or even the state.

This conceptual separation of morals from religion is, most likely, responsible in some measure for the remarkable fact that there is no such thing as an institutional religion in Akan culture. The procedures associated with the belief in sundry extra-human beings of varying powers and inclinations, so often given pride of place in accounts of African religions, are in fact practical utilitarian programs for tapping the resources of this world. The idea, in a nutshell, is that God invested the Cosmos with all sorts of potentialities, physical and quasi-physical, personal and quasi-personal, which human beings may bend to their purposes, if they learn how. Naturally, in dealing with beings and powers believed to be of a quasi-personal character, certain aspects of behavior patterns will manifest important analogies to the canons of ordinary human interactions. For example, if you wanted something from a being of superhuman repute who is open to persuasion mixed with praise, pragmatic common sense alone would recommend an attitude of demonstrative respect and circumspection and a language of laudatory circumlocution reminiscent of worship, but the calculative and utilitarian purpose would belie any attribution of a specifically religious motivation. In fact, the Akans are known to be sharply contemptuous of "gods" who fail to deliver; continued respect is conditional on a high percentage of scoring by the Akan reckoning.

In total contrast to the foregoing is the Akan attitude to the Supreme Being, which is one of unconditional reverence and absolute trust. Absent here is any notion that so perfect a being requires or welcomes institutions for singing or reciting his praises. Nor, relatedly, are any such institutions felt to he necessary for the dissemination of moral education or the reinforcement of the will to virtue. The theater of moral upbringing is the home, at parents' feet and within range of kinsmen's inputs. The mechanism is precept, example and correction. The temporal span of the process is life-long, for, although upbringing belongs to the beginning of our earthly careers, the need for correction is an unending contingency in the lives of mortals. At adulthood, of course, as opposed to earlier stages in life, moral correction involves discourses of a higher level and may entail, besides the imposition of compensatory obligations (of which more later); but, at all stages, verbal lessons in morality are grounded in conceptual and empirical considerations about human well-being. All this is why the term "humanistic" is so very apt as a characterization of Akan moral thinking. At least in part, this is why it is correct to describe that ethic as non-supernaturalistic in spite of the sincere belief in a Supreme Being.

In so far, then, as the concept of religion is applicable to the Akan outlook on life and reality, it can refer only to the belief and trust in the Supreme Being. In this respect, Akan religion is purely intellectual. In this respect too it is purely personal, being just a tenet of an individual's voluntary metaphysic, devoid of social entanglements. In truth, most Akans espouse that metaphysic as a matter of course. Akan conventional wisdom actually holds that the existence of God is so obvious that it does not need to be taught even to a child. (Obi nkyere akwadaa Nyame.) Nevertheless, skeptics are not unknown in Akan society, and a time-honored policy of peaceful laissez faire extends to them as to all others in matters of private persuasion.

DEFINING MORALITY

Morality too is intellectual, by Akan lights. Concrete moral situations in real life are frequently highly composite tangles of imponderables, and perceiving them in their true lineaments is a cognitive accomplishment in itself. So too is the sure grasping of first principles and their judicious application to the particulars of conduct. Morality is also personal, for in the last analysis the individual must take responsibility for his or her own actions. But surely morality is neither purely intellectual, for it has an irreducible passional ingredient, nor purely personal, for it is quintessentially social.

All these insights are encapsulated in various Akan maxims and turns of phrase. Recognition of the intellectual dimension of right conduct is evidenced in the Akan description of a person of ethical maturity as an obadwenma. This word means one possessed of high thinking powers. Literally, it says "child, thinking child", in other words, a thinking child of the species. The Akans are no less emphatic in their articulation of their sense of individual responsibility. According to a very popular proverb, it is because God dislikes injustice that he gave everyone their own name (thereby forestalling any misattribution of responsibility). Along with this clear sense of individual responsibility went an equally strong sense of the social reverberations of an individual's conduct. The primary responsibility for an action, positive or negative, rests with the doer, but a non-trivial secondary responsibility extends to the individual's family and, in some cases, to the environing community. This brings us to the social orientation of the Akan concept of a person. We will not be able to elaborate it fully in the present discussion, but a crucial consideration will be adduced here. It is that, for the Akans, a person is social not only because he or she lives in a community, which is the only context in which full development, or indeed any sort of human development is possible, but also because, by his original constitution, a human being is part of a social whole.

The underlying doctrine is this. A person consists of three elements. One of these comes directly from God and is, in fact, a speck of the divine substance. This is the life principle. In virtue of this constituent all human beings are one; they are all members of the universal family of humankind whose head and spring is God. Nipa nyinaa ye Nyame mma: obiara nnye asaase ba. Literally: all human beings are the children of God; none is the child of the earth. The two remaining elements are more mundane in origin. There is what might be called the blood principle which derives from the mother and, somewhat more stipulatively, there is what might be called the charisma principle which comes from the father. The blood from the mother is what principally gives rise to a person's body. The biological input from the father is responsible for the degree of personal presence that each individual develops at the appropriate stage. (This is what I would like the license to call the individual's degree of charisma.) The ontological classification of these elements is not exactly straightforward. Suffice it to warn that the physical/spiritual dichotomy is unlikely to be a source of light in this connection. In any case, our interest here is in the social significance of those components.

Both the maternal and paternal contributions to the make-up of a person are the bases of membership in specific social units. The Akans being a matrilineal group, it is the blood principle that situates a person in the most important kinship unit, namely, the lineage or, more extensively, the clan. Through the charisma principle one is a member of a grouping on the father's side which, although largely ceremonial, is nevertheless the framework of a lot of goodwill.

The point now is that, on this Akan showing, a person has a well-structured social identity even before birth. Thus, when an Akan maxim points out that when a human being descends from on high he or she alights in a town (se onipa siane fi soro a obesi kuro mu) the idea is that one comes into a community in which one already has well defined social affiliations. But society presupposes rules, and moral rules are the most essential of these. Since all rules have their rationale, a question that challenges the ethical imagination, especially one thoroughly impregnated with visions of the ineluctable sociality of human existence, is: What is the rationale of moral rules? Among the Akans some of the most profound philosophic conceptions are expressed by way of art motifs, and a celebrated answer to this question is offered in one such construct of fine art: a crocodile with one stomach and two heads locked in combat. Lessons: (1) Although human beings have a core of common interests, they also have conflicting interests that precipitate real struggles. (2) The aim of morality, as also derivatively of statesmanship, is to harmonize those warring interests through systematic adjustment and adaptation. The one stomach symbolizes not only the commonality of interests, but also a natural basis for the possibility of a solution to the existential antinomy.

Two levels of solution are distinguishable, corresponding to a distinction foreshadowed in our opening paragraph. There is the level of prudence or enlightened self-interest and there is that of pure moral motivation. Both species of thought and intention may be equally adapted to securing the social good, the first through cool and calm ratiocination, the second through both rational reflection and human sympathy. But they evoke different appraisals from people of goodwill. There will always he something unlovable about correctness of conduct bereft of passion. A Ghanaian comedian puts it even more strongly. Speaking with a deliberately unidiomatic bombast, he opines: "Ability without sentimentality is nothing short of barbarity." Nevertheless, it appears that teachers of morals everywhere have tended to find prudential considerations more psychologically efficacious in moral persuasion than abstract appeals to goodwill. Certainly, Akan ethical reflection does not stay immobile at this level of ethics, but Akan discourse abounds in prudential maxims. Here are a few.

1. If you do not allow your neighbor to reach nine you will never reach ten. (Woamma wo yonko antwa nkrong a worentwa edu.)

2. Somebody's troubles have arrived; those of another are on the way. (Obi de aba; obi de nam kwan so.)

3. It is a fool that says, "My neighbor is the butt of the attack not me." (Kwasea na ose, "Ye de meyonko, yenne me.")

4. The stick that was used to beat Takyi is the same that will be used to beat Nyankomago. (Abaa a yede boo Takyi no aa na ye de bebo Nyankomago.)

5. One person's path will intersect with another's before too long. (Obi Kwan nkye na asi obi de mu.)

That Akan ethics transcends this level of moral understanding is evident from other parts of their corpus of moral sayings. I will comment here on one particularly instructive form of moral expostulation. To a person whose conduct betrays obliviousness to the interests of others it is said, "Sticking into your neighbor's flesh, it might just as well be sticking into a piece of wood" (Etua woyonko ho a etua dua mu), than which there can scarcely be a lower rating for a person's moral stature. On this reading of morals, the ultimate moral inadequacy consists in that lack of feeling which is the root of all selfishness. The implied imperative is: "In all inter-personal situations put yourself into the skin of the other and see if you can contemplate the consequences of your proposed action with equanimity." If we call the recommended frame of mind sympathetic impartiality, we may elicit from the Akan maxim under discussion the view that sympathetic impartiality is the first principle of all morals. This principle is the logical basis of the golden rule, or the obverse of it that is frequently heard in Akan ethical talk, namely, "Do not do onto others what you would not that they do onto you." (Nea wo yonko de ye wo a erenye wo de no mfa nye no. More literally: What you would not find acceptable if it were done to you by another, do not do to him or her.) To be sure, this does not sound, even in our vernacular, as epigrammatic as the normal run of Akan apothegms, but it provides, nonetheless, a solid foundation for the definition of moral worth in its most edifying sense.

ETHICS AND PRACTICE

The foregoing account of the Akan perspective on moral first principles, however brief, must form the basis of our next question, which is: "In what basic ways do the Akans endeavor to translate their ethical understanding into practical fact?" In this regard the single most important consideration concerns the depth of the Akan sense of what we have called the sociality of human existence. Morality is, of course, necessarily social. Hence any group of humans that can be credited with any sense of morals at all -- surely, a most minimal species credential -- will have some sense of human sociality. But in the consciousness of moral humankind there is a finely graduated continuum of the intensity of this feeling which ranges, in an ascending order, from the austerely delimited social sympathies of rigorous individualism to the pervasive commitment to social involvement characteristic of communalism. It is a commonplace of anthropological wisdom that African social organization manifests the last type of outlook. Akan society is eminently true to this typology.

What this means, more amply, is that Akan society is of a type in which the greatest value is attached to communal belonging. And the way in which a sense of communal belonging is fostered in the individual is through the concentrated stress on kinship identity already adumbrated in our earlier allusions to the Akan concept of a person. Not only is there what might perhaps be called an ontological basis for this identity in terms of the constituents of personhood, but there is also a distinct normative layer of a profound social significance in that concept. Thus conceived, a human person is essentially the center of a thick set of concentric circles of obligations and responsibilities matched by rights and privileges revolving round levels of relationships irradiating from the consanguinity of household kith and kin, through the "blood" ties of lineage and clan, to the wider circumference of human familihood based on the common possession of the divine spark.

In consequence of this character of the Akan concept of a person, habitual default in duties and responsibilities could lead to a diminution in one's status as a person in the eyes of the community. Not, of course, that becoming less and less of a person implies being thought more and more unworthy of human rights. On the contrary, there is a strong sense of the irreducibility of human dignity in Akan thought. However socially inept an individual may be, he or she still remains a being begotten of a direct gift of God incarnated through the intimacy of man and woman. He or she remains, in other words, a human being and as such is deserving of a certain basic respect and sympathy. Indeed, as soon as confirmed social futility begins to look pathologically chronic, animadversion quickly turns into solicitude, and any previous efforts in hortatory correction or in the application of more concrete sanctions are redirected towards rehabilitation, usually with the aid of indigenous specialists in bodily and mental health.

Nevertheless, any Akan steeped in the culture or even just sensitive to surrounding social norms constantly watches and prays lest he or she be overtaken by the specter of loss of personhood (in any degree). More positively and also more optimistically, every cultivated Akan (Okaniba) sees life as a scenario of continual striving after personhood in ever increasing dimensions. The details of this life mission, so to speak, will also be the details of the Akan vision of the ethical life. We must here content ourselves with only broad outlines. But before going on let us note that since two paragraphs ago our focus has been on ethics or morals in the sense in which morality is a matter of mores rather than of the categorical imperative or even of the less hallowed canons of prudence.

What, then, in its social bearings, is the Akan ideal of personhood? It is the conception of an individual who through mature reflection and steady motivation is able to carve out a reasonably ample livelihood for self, "family" and a potentially wide group of kin dependents, besides making substantial contributions to the well-being of society at large. The communalistic orientation of the society in question means that an individual's image will depend rather crucially upon the extent to which his or her actions benefit others than himself, not, of course, by accident or coincidence but by design. The implied counsel, though, is not one of unrelieved self-denial, for the Akans are well aware that charity further afield must start at home. More pertinently, they are apt to point out that one cannot blow a horn on an empty stomach. (Yede ayaase na ehyen aben. Still an individual who remained content with self-regarding successes would be viewed as so circumscribed in outlook as not to merit the title of a real person.

Opportunities for other-regarding exertions in Akan society were legion in the past and remain so even now. By the very nature of the traditional economy, which was predominantly agricultural and based on individual self-employment, public works had, as a rule, to be done by voluntary communal labor. Habitual absences or malingering or half-hearted participation marked an individual down as a useless person (onipa hunu) or, by an easily deduced Akan equation, a non-person (onye onipa). In contemporary Ghana (and Ivory Coast), where the Akans live, much of the public works are financed out of mandatory taxes and carried out by professionals with hired labor. Nevertheless, in the villages and small towns a significant portion of such work is still done by way of voluntary communal labor and a good proportion also through voluntary contributions of money and materials.

SOME CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS

Here comes a contemporary complication: with the growth of commerce and industry, including the industry of modern politics, a non-negligible number of Akans have become very rich. In the Akan manner, they make voluntary contributions of unprecedented magnitudes to their communities; and the communities, for their part, reciprocate in fine eulogistic style and lionize them in other ways too, as is traditional. So far so good, except for the following circumstance. Some of these rich people are known to have come by their assets through debatable techniques of acquisition. The unfortunate effects of this situation on the ideals of the young constitute some of the more intractable problems generated by the impact of industrialization on the Akan traditional ethic.

Another aspect of Akan communalism imperiled by modern conditions, through atrophy rather than adulteration, is the practice of neighborhood mutual aid. This practice had its foundation deep in the Akan conception of values. It is relevant here to recall the Akan adage: Onipa na ohyia quoted early in this discussion. It was interpreted as affirming, through the semantic fecundity of the word hyia, both that human interest is the basis of all value and that human fellowship is the most important of human needs. The concept of Hyia in the context of that adage is, in fact, a veritable mine of ethical meanings. In that context it also bears the seeds of another fundamental thought in the Akan philosophy of life, which is made explicit in the maxim: Onipa hia moa, meaning, by way of first approximation, "a human being needs help". The intent of the maxim, however, is not just to observe a fact, but also to prescribe a line of conduct. The imperative here is carried by the word 'hia', which in this context also has a connotation of entitlement: A human being deserves, ought, to be helped.

This imperative is born of an acute sense of the essential dependency of the human condition. The idea of dependency may even be taken as a component of the Akan conception of a person. "A human being" says a noted Akan proverb, "is not a palm tree so as to be self-sufficient": Onipa nye abe na ne ho ahyia ne ho. Indeed, at birth, a human being is not only not self-sufficient but also radically self-insufficient, if one may be permitted the expression: he or she is totally dependent on others. In due course, through growth and acculturation, acquired skills and abilities will reduce this dependency but will never eliminate it completely. Self-reliance is, of course, understood and recommended by the Akans, but its very possibility is predicated upon this ineliminable residue of human dependency. Human beings, therefore, at all times, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, need the help of their kind.

One very standard situation in Akan life in which this truth was continually illustrated was in traditional agriculture. As hinted earlier, this was generally based on small holdings worked by individual farmers and their households. In such a mode of production recurrent stages were easily foreseeable at which the resources of any one farmer would be insufficient to accomplish with the required dispatch a necessary task--be it the initial clearing of the ground or the scooping out of, say, cocoa beans from great heaps of pods. In such moments all that was necessary was for one to send word to one's neighbors indicating the time, place and the nature of help needed. Very much as day follows night, the people would assemble at the right time at the indicated place with their own implements of work and together help get the job done speedily and almost with festive enthusiasm, in full and warranted conviction that when their turn came the same gesture would be returned in exactly the same spirit. Anybody who availed himself of the benefits of this system and yet dragged his feet when the call came from others was liable to be convicted, at the bar of public opinion, of such fathomless degeneracy as to be branded a social outcast. The type of mutual aid here discussed probably occurs in varying intensities in rural communities all over the world, but in traditional Akan society it was so much and so palpably a part of working experience that the Akans actually came to think of life (obra) as one continuous drama of mutual aid (nnoboa). Obra ye nnoboa: Life is mutual aid, according to an Akan saying.

In recent times, however, amidst the exigencies of urbanization and the increasing--if not as yet preponderant--commercialization of agriculture, the ideology of mutual aid is losing some of its hold; and the spirit of neighborhood solidarity, though by no means extinguished, is finding fewer sweeping avenues of expression. It has not escaped some leaders of opinion that the traditional ethos of mutual aid might profitably be channelled into a strong movement of modern cooperatives, but as yet organized effort in this direction is halting in momentum and paltry in results.

Nevertheless, in countless small ways the sense of human solidarity continues to manifest itself quite pervasively in the daily life of the Akans and of the peoples of Ghana generally, of whom these moral characterizations remain true, if not to the letter, then at least to the syllable. Happily too, the threat of individualism posed by urbanization has not as yet proved unduly deleterious to this national trait. Thus, even now a Ghanaian on the countryside or in a large city, coming upon another human being, Ghanaian or foreigner, in some difficulty, will go well out of his way to help. As far as he or she is concerned, the bad person is exactly the one who would walk off on the excuse of some pressing business. Of course, if urbanization and other apparent concomitants of modernization are not controlled with conscious and rational planning based on the humane sensitivities of the communalistic ethic, then this fund of automatic good will dry up and African life will experience increasingly the Hobbesian rigors of a single-minded commercialism.

KINSHIP AND MORALITY

The allusion to foreigners in the last paragraph prompts a further observation. The sense of human solidarity which we have been discussing works particularly to the advantage of foreigners, who, in the deeply felt opinion of the Akans, are doubly deserving of sympathy; on grounds, first, of their common humanity and, second, of their vulnerability as individuals cut off for the time being, at any rate, from the emotional and material supports of their kinship environment. Accordingly, when some time ago an Akan guitarist and lyricist, Kwabena Onyina, sang Akwantu mu sem: Akwantufo ye mmobo (Think of the woes of travel: the plight of a traveller is rueful) he struck a sympathetic cord at the deepest reaches of the Akan consciousness. Gratified visitors to Ghana have often been quick to acknowledge the benefits accruing.

Again, to pursue an allusion in the preceding paragraph: the notion of kinship support just mentioned is of the highest importance in the Akan communal set-up, for it is the basis of the sense of belonging which gives the individual much of his psychological stability. (This, incidentally, is why a traveller bereft of it struck the Akan so much as a hardship case). It was also, conversely, the basis of a good proportion of the obligations in terms of which his moral standing was assessed. The smallest and the most intimate Akan kinship unit is the matrilineal household. This includes a person's mother and his mother's children, his mother's sisters and brothers, the children of the mother's sisters and, at the top, the grandmother. It is instructive to observe that the English words "aunt" and "cousin" fail to capture the depth of kinship feelings corresponding to the relations of mother's sister and mother's sister's children respectively, in spite of their mechanical correctness as translations. In the Akan language the words for mother and mother's children are the same as for mother's sisters and mother's sister's children. Since the relationships noted already comprehend quite a sizable community, especially if the grandmother concerned has been even averagely fertile, this guarantees that in the traditional setting an Akan child begins life with quite a large sense of belonging and a broad sweep of sympathies.

The next extension of the circle of the kinship relations just described brings us to the level of the lineage. Here the basic unit consists of a person's grandmother and her children and grandchildren together with the grandmother's brothers and sisters and the children and grandchildren of her sisters. This unit quickly swells up with the culturally legitimate addition of grandmother's maternal `cousins' and their descendants. From the point of view of a person's civic existence, this is the most significant circle of relations, for it was through the head of the lineage that, in traditional times, a person had his political representation. The lineage, as can easily be imagined, is a quite considerable group of people, but it is small in comparison with the maximal limit of kinship grouping, which is the set of all the people descending from one woman. The latter is the clan. For a quick idea of magnitude, consider that the Akans, now numbering in the region of seven million, trace their collective ancestry to seven women. Patently, individual Akans will never know all their relatives, but they can rest assured that they have a million of them.

For many practical purposes, however, it is the household and (basic) lineage circles of relations that have the most significance in terms of informal rights and obligations. Two illustrations must suffice here. Adult members of the lineage may be called upon each to make financial contributions to rescue one of the fold fallen on hard times, say, threatening insolvency. In view of the powers of arithmetic, this did not necessarily take a heavy toll of individual pockets. Moreover, it was not lost upon the reflective individual that he or she might conceivably have been the beneficiary.

The next illustration has to do with a lugubrious subject matter. Bereavement is one of the severest trials of the human psyche; unfortunately, it is recurrent. By both precept and practice Akan traditional culture engages itself, pre-eminently, one might even say, with finding ways to soothe lacerated emotions in such crises. The lineage system incorporates in its arrangements just such a mechanism. In full operation everyone in the lineage is expected to play his part by word, song, dance and material resource. Nor does the culture leave this to the lineage alone. Friends, neighbors and even indirect acquaintances can always be counted upon to help in various ways to lighten the burden of sorrows. The framework for all this is the quite elaborate system of the Akan funeral. In spite of the excesses to which this institution has become subject through the rising tide of commercialism and egotistical exhibitionism, it remains an avenue for the expression of human solidarity at its most heartfelt depth. Proper participation thereto is, in Akan eyes, contributory proof of real personhood.

CONCLUSION

It is clear from the foregoing that socialization in the broad context of the lineage can be a veritable school for morality in its Akan acceptation. It is through the kinship channels of the lineage set-up that the Akan sense of the sociality of human beings finds its most natural expression. Moral life in the wider community is only an extension of a pattern of conduct inculcated at the lineage level. The fundamental values, some of which we have already outlined above, are the same on the two planes, and may be briefly summarized. A communalistic orientation will naturally prize social harmony. A characteristic Akan, and, as it seems, African way of pursuing this ideal is through decision-making by consensus rather than by majority opinion. In politics--traditional African politics, not the modern travesties rampant on the continent--this leads to a form of democracy very different from the Western variety.

A thoroughgoing consensual approach to social issues can be expected to lead to corresponding procedures in other areas of social life too. A particularly interesting case relates to the Akan reaction to wrong doing. Though the retributive spirit is not totally absent from reactions, especially at the state level, to some forms of wrong doing, the predominant tendency is to seek compensation or reconciliation or, in cases where extra-human forces are thought to be estranged, purification. I abstain from using the word "punishment" in this context advisedly, for given this last remark it may well be that there is no unproblematic rendition of this notion in the Akan conceptual framework. I cannot, however, pursue this question here.

A well-known feature of Akan morals is respect for age. This is intelligible not only from the fact that we are dealing with a society strongly based on kinship relations, which are naturally patterned into hierarchies based on age, but also because in traditional societies, which in part Akan society still remains, age is associated with knowledge, experience and wisdom.

Akan moral thinking in regard to sex and marriage also deserves special mention. Here the humanistic and the communalistic aspects of the Akan outlook come into play with interesting results. Because only empirical considerations bearing on human interests are admitted in moral evaluation, such unconditional proscriptions of pre-marital sex as are found in Christian teaching are absent from the moral rules of the Akans. From their point of view, it would be irrational to stop a prospective couple from seeking full knowledge of each other, moral, psychological, sexual and so on. There is, of course, no sexual free-for-all; but, still, a non-furtive relationship between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman need not be restricted to hugging. The only proviso is that it should be above board. On the other hand, the high value placed on reproductive fertility in a communalistic society based on single-family-unit agriculture will predictably lead to the greatest emphasis being placed on the desirability of marriage and procreation. So much is this the case that being married with children well raised is part of the necessary conditions for personhood in the normative sense. A non-marrying, non-procreative person, however normal otherwise--not to talk of a Casanova equivalent--can permanently forget any prospect of this type of recognition in traditional Akan society. The only conceivable exceptions will be ones based on the noblest of alternative life commitments.

To understand all these facts about the Akan conception of morals is not necessarily to understand the culture in its entirety, but it is to have some sense of its foundations.

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: info@abibitumi.com Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: www.paypal.me/akali Abibifahodie Family of Websites:
www.obadelekambon.com | www.abibitumikasa.com | www.abibifahodie.com | www.abibifahodie.org www.sankofajourney.com | www.letsbuyblack.com | www.asaseheals.com www.kamaukambon.org | www.amakambon.com | www.bennucenter.com www.nubusinesssolutions.com | www.onipa.com | www.lastblackman.com
 

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Posted : 08/28/2006 1:51 am
(@Oluwole)
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What work is this from?

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Posted : 12/25/2009 4:07 am
(@obadelekambon)
Most BlackNificent Afrikan! Admin
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"Moral Foundations of an African Culture." In Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies, edited by Kwasi Wiredu and Kwame Gyekye. Vol. 1.

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: info@abibitumi.com Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: www.paypal.me/akali Abibifahodie Family of Websites:
www.obadelekambon.com | www.abibitumikasa.com | www.abibifahodie.com | www.abibifahodie.org www.sankofajourney.com | www.letsbuyblack.com | www.asaseheals.com www.kamaukambon.org | www.amakambon.com | www.bennucenter.com www.nubusinesssolutions.com | www.onipa.com | www.lastblackman.com
 

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Posted : 12/25/2009 7:48 pm
(@Oluwole)
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Yoo, I almost bought that book a couple weeks ago.

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Posted : 12/27/2009 5:26 am
(@obadelekambon)
Most BlackNificent Afrikan! Admin
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Nwoma pa ara nie! That book is the joint! EwO sE wotO.

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: info@abibitumi.com Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: www.paypal.me/akali Abibifahodie Family of Websites:
www.obadelekambon.com | www.abibitumikasa.com | www.abibifahodie.com | www.abibifahodie.org www.sankofajourney.com | www.letsbuyblack.com | www.asaseheals.com www.kamaukambon.org | www.amakambon.com | www.bennucenter.com www.nubusinesssolutions.com | www.onipa.com | www.lastblackman.com
 

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Posted : 12/27/2009 5:58 am
(@Oluwole)
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AdEn nti. I thought I was going to buy it but when I saw the $157.00 price tag, I woke up!!!! [the cheapest price I found too]

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Posted : 12/27/2009 6:50 am
(@obadelekambon)
Most BlackNificent Afrikan! Admin
Abibifahodie Wura!
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Yeah it's tough to get...I borrowed my aunt's copy Black in the day and took notes of all the Twi in it...still got those notes to this day...

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: info@abibitumi.com Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: www.paypal.me/akali Abibifahodie Family of Websites:
www.obadelekambon.com | www.abibitumikasa.com | www.abibifahodie.com | www.abibifahodie.org www.sankofajourney.com | www.letsbuyblack.com | www.asaseheals.com www.kamaukambon.org | www.amakambon.com | www.bennucenter.com www.nubusinesssolutions.com | www.onipa.com | www.lastblackman.com
 

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Posted : 12/27/2009 6:54 am
(@Oluwole)
BlackDerful Afrikan Registered
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Ampa! very tough!
Having finished Afrikan Spirituality a couple weeks ago its about time for me to take on my next Akan reading/studying... I might buy it in a month or so... information on anything Akan is few and far between

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Posted : 12/27/2009 7:18 am
(@obadelekambon)
Most BlackNificent Afrikan! Admin
Abibifahodie Wura!
Abibisika (Black Gold):8648

Check the new site of my brotha from anotha motha, Kwasi Konadu. You'll be pleasantly surprised: History and Culture in (Diasporic) Africa

Ma ku Mbôngi, ka matômbulawanga za ko. "The community's political institution does not borrow foreign dialects to discuss its political matters or to educate its' members" – Kikôngo proverb “The history of Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians connect it with the history of Egypt [...] The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest or objective, nor unruffled, he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic.” – Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality "African champions must break the chain that links African ideas to European ones and listen to the voice of the ancestors without European interpreters." – Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr
Ọbádélé Kambon, PhD Email: info@abibitumi.com Skype: obadele.kambon Paypal: www.paypal.me/akali Abibifahodie Family of Websites:
www.obadelekambon.com | www.abibitumikasa.com | www.abibifahodie.com | www.abibifahodie.org www.sankofajourney.com | www.letsbuyblack.com | www.asaseheals.com www.kamaukambon.org | www.amakambon.com | www.bennucenter.com www.nubusinesssolutions.com | www.onipa.com | www.lastblackman.com
 

Ọbádélé Kambon's Personal app for Android
Abibitumi Kasa Social Education Network App for Android
Abibitumi Chat App for Android
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Posted : 12/27/2009 2:35 pm
(@Oluwole)
BlackDerful Afrikan Registered
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me wo twEn kakra ma no nwoma

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Posted : 12/27/2009 3:48 pm

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