Talk Africa: “The Things We Cling To”
Tradition, according to Webster’s dictionary is defined as: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior. Or in the alternative, tradition is: a belief, or story, or body of beliefs, or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable. Conservative on the other hand is: tending, or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.
In the African continent, we often see these two words used interchangeably; especially where ideas seen as western are being proposed or held up as progressive. More and more Africans elect to be conservative because they believe being conservative is the only way to maintain tradition. In a previous discussion about FGM, female genital mutilation, here on Rise Africa, a reader commented that Africans are against FGM now because the western nations believe it is wrong. The reader went on to say that perhaps there is a good reason to continue FGM and we shouldn’t allow foreign cultures to dictate our African mentality.
I remember being troubled by that comment for two reasons. First, I saw conservatism being confused for tradition. Tradition, in this example is the practice of FGM. It is important to notice that FGM is tradition only because it is a custom that has been handed down from generation to generation; evaluation of that custom is not part of the inherited knowledge. Maybe, at one time, there was a reason to do things the way we did them, but the fact that a custom is passed down blindly does not guarantee that it is right.