Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rest vs. West

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a Xulu woman from church.

She was telling me how she wanted to find some children’s books in Xulu for her one year old son, but after searching all around Johannesburg (a major metropolitan city of approximately seven million people) found only one store that had five books. She was devastated! So many people here are and speak Xulu, but it is dying. The cultural traditions, the language, the community are all being infiltrated by westernization. This was not the surprising issue at hand to me, but rather, her comment that the government is forced to adapt and abandon certain cultural norms, traditions, and schools of thought in order to “fit in” with Western governments. That is what stunned me. It had never occurred to me that a government would feel the pressure to conform to western standards and abandon its own cultural heritage for the sake of progress, growth, or just friendly government relations.

The question is then: how do the governments of developing nations or of non-western nations, grow in their status on the world stage and in strong ties with the major world powers, yet maintain their cultural identities and historic values? Additionally, how can western governments and the governments of the dominating countries of the world, conduct their affairs in a manner that allows for the growth and acceptance of developing countries and non-Western nations, all while preserving those countries’ heritages?

I don’t have a complete answer to that question…I’m still pondering it. But one thing is, western governments need to not see western economies, traditions, schools of thought, or lifestyles as the complete and total norm. They are just one option in the choices of global governance.  

This is a short entry; I want to hear more of your thoughts and ideas. =)


  1. I disagree with what the zulu women told you. I think it is a question of what the demands in the market are. That is how the market works. If there is a demand for Zulu books, or for that matter any other language, then there will be supply. To my knowledge, even well-known African writers publish their books in English, because of the demand. The question may be, how many Zulu books would be sold, if they were available? In my opinion, Africa and South Africa is caught up in 2 different worlds. First world and Third world. And the goverment exploits both of these 'world' to their advantage; and to the disadvantage of the communities they serve. They call on the keeping of traditions and cultural values when it comes to keeping them in power, but indulge in the luxury that the western world has to offer, even when squatters are still squatting, 15 years later. There is no concern for culture or traditional values, except when it suits their agenda.

  2. Elizabeth,
    This is one of the core issues in the developing world and many people in the younger generation find themselves having to straddle 2 worlds. It is something called the CocaCola culture.
    I'm glad to see how you're developing a more Afro-centric view of the world.


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