Things fall apart, power and Krishnamurti

Eybers, Oscar Oliver (2005-12)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The following mini-thesis, Things Fall Apart, Power and Krishnamurti, is concerned with the nature by which power is possibly viewed, maintained and transferred by the characters of Chinua Achebe' s novel, Things Fall Apart. The intent of this analysis is to incorporate traditional literary approaches to issues of power in the novel via polarised conceptions, such as east versus west, black versus white or indigenous culture and traditions versus Christianity. Yet simultaneously, by incorporating the unique world-view of Krishnamurti, power, as possibly represented in Things Fall Apart, will be scrutinised as a selfperpetuating entity which chooses its own agents for its manifestation, outside and not necessarily as results of constructions of race, religion or economical design. Specifically, I am interested in Achebe's fictional construction of the indigenous- African maintenance of power and authority within the novel; before and after the arrival of the European colonialists. Did all African villagers, as represented in the fictitious Umuofia, accept the powers-that-be with non-critical minds, or, was power and authority embedded in the processes whereby the Umuofians became accustomed and socially conditioned by the cultural constructs of their particular society? Personally, I do not perceive either of these approaches to be sufficient in the process of holistically comprehending African adaptation to and adoption of 'western' modes of culture. Instead, I believe that though the encroachment of European mercantilism and Christianity upon the African mental and physical landscape was undeniably brutal, this very brutality was in and of itself not variant, compared to psychological and physical maintenance of power in the indigenous realm. This is a primary area of concern of this thesis. I perceive that the African elite, like the European missionaries, used religion and perceptions of tradition and identity to hold on to their elitist and prestigious positions in the indigenous social network. Secondly, this thesis is critical ofthe perception that the dominant emergence of western spiritual and political constructs, over indigenous structures, is a direct result of the acquiescence or absolute physical and mental defeat of African people. Rather, I perceive that African people - in the processes of becoming aware of a new way of life and in making conscious decisions to incorporate this new world-view into their own life-scheme - altered the manipulation and maintenance of power and authority in indigenous society, within the context of Things Fall Apart. In effect, the transfer of political power in Things Fall Apart is not simply a matter of the destruction of African culture by the Europeans. Instead, it is a result of Africans becoming aware of a new way of life, and adopting aspects of this lifestyle in the place of their traditional norms. Krishnamurti's ideas will be incorporated into the above analysis to present a particular world-view that deliberately strives to counteract the human tendency to cling to philosophies, political persuasions, theories or religious fervor. I have included Krishnamurti in the examination of the tension and psychological conversion of African people (as represented in Things Fall Apart) due to moments when they themselves, in the process of introspection, sought to let go of ancient customs and explore the new and foreign, as represented by Christianity. It is my position that in the moments when indigenous authority was questioned by the masses, so began a multifold process: this included the reconstruction of the African self and the readjustment of power relations within the African collective. Krishnamurti posed the following question: When you are told what to do, what to think, to obey, to follow, do you know what it does to you? Your mind becomes dull, it loses its initiative, its quickness. This external, outward imposition of discipline makes the mind stupid, it makes you conform, it makes you imitate (1974:29). I am aware that by juxtaposing the above idea next to African culture might appear blasphemous in the 'new' South Africa, given the great effort to revive 'African' culture. I do not object to this revival and consciousness of tradition and heritage. Yet, I strongly agree with Krishnamurti that the maintenance of power by a select group of elite Africans in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial dispensations is a result of the conformity and acceptance of the masses of African people of the social, spiritual and economic constructions of the elite. The very patterns whereby Africans think was, through centuries, developed by a select group of individuals, as reflected in Things Fall Apart. Culture and tradition have acted as standards whereby individuals measure the worth of their individuality. Hence, Krishnamurti views the struggle of freedom; the struggle of individuals to shake of cultural or traditional constraints, as crucial to the full development of the human self. "Freedom," he says, "liberty, the independence to express what one thinks, to do what one wants to do, is one of the most important things in life. To be really free ... within oneself, is one of the most difficult and dangerous things" (1974:30. As this thesis progresses, we will probe Krishnamurti's claim that the individual attempt to be free, as possibly represented in Achebe's Things Fall Apart, may be both difficult and dangerous.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die volgende mini thesis, "Things Fall Apart, Power and Krishnamurti" is besorg op die manier hoe mag anskou, behou en oorgedra work binne karakters van Chinua Achebe se novel, "Things Fall Apart". Die doel van hierdie analise is om bewus te raak van die tradisionele liturere benadering tot konsepte soos mag gesien vanuit ft polografiese oogpunt, soos bv. oos teenoor wes, swart teenoor wit of inheemse kuluur en tradisie teenoor Christenskap. Inteendeel, deur die unieke sienswyse van Krishnmurti in te sluit, sal mag soos vervat in "Things Fall Apart", in totaliteit gekritiseer word deur sy eie manifesteringe en nie noodwendig vanuit ft oogpunt van ras, geloof of ekonomie nie. Ek is spesifiek geinteriseerd in Achebe se fiktioneie konstruksie van die Inheemse Afrikaanse behouing van magsbeheer in hierdie novel. Beide voor en nadat Europese kolonisme hier gearriveer het, het Afrikaner inwoners, soos voorgehou in die fiktiese "Umofia" magsbeheer in hulle gedagtes aanvaar? Of was magsbeheer onvoorwaardelik in hulle ingeplant deur die sosiale en kulturele aspekte van hul spesifieke gemeenskap. My persoonlike sienswyse is dat hierdie banadering ft oordeelkundige benadering is om gevolglik die Afrikaner aanvaring en uitoefening van westerse kulturele modes te verstaan. Inteendeel argumenteer ek dat die indringing van Europese merkantalisme en Christendom bo-op die Afrikaner geestelike en natuurkundige landskappe onerkenbaar geweldadig was en dat hierdie geweldadigheid in en vanself nie veranderlik was nie, invergelyking met die sielkundige en fisiese behouing van mag soos voorbehou in die Inheemse koningkryk. Die elite wie die opperpriester van prekoloniale Afrikaner gemeenskap saamgestel het, wie aangedring het op ft vorm van getrouheid tot kulturele en politieke konstruksies soos deur hulle bepaal, het ook die psige krag van die plaaslike dorpsbewoners misbruik. Dit is my primere punt van fokus in hierdie thesis. My argument is dat die Afrikaanse elite, soos Europese sendelinge, geloof en persepsies van tradisie en identitiet gebruik het om vas te kleef aan hul eie elite en invloedryke posisies binne die Inheemse en sosiale netwerk. Tweedens, hierdie thesis is krities van die persepsie dat die verskyning van Westerse spiruturele en politieke konstruksies oor inheemse strukture, ft direkte gevolg was van die instemming tot absolute psise en geestelike omverwerping van Afrikaner mense. Ek sal beweer dat Afrikaner mense, in die proses van gewoont raak aan ft nuwe lewenstyl, doelbewuste keuses gemaak het om hierdie nuwe wereld sienswyse in hul eie lewenstyl te inkorpireer. In hierdie proses is die magsbeheer soos voorbehou in die Inheemse gemeenskap gemanupileer binne die konteks van "Things Fall Apart". Gevolglik, die direkte oordrag van politieke mag in "Things Fall Apart" was nie net eenvoudig ft vernietiging van Afrikaner kultuur deur Europese nie. Inteendeel, dit was ft direkte gevolg van Afrikaners wat bewus geraak het van ft nuwe lewenstyl, en in die proses het Afrikaners hierdie lewesstyl as hul eie aanvaar. Krishnamurti se sienswyse sal geinkorpireer word in die boostaande analise wie se wereldwye sienswyse doelbewus stry teen die mens se geneighheid om aan te kleef aan filosofiese en politieke oortuigende gedagtes van theorie en geestelike opgewondenheid. Ek het spesifiek Krishnamurti se sienswyse ingekorpireer om die konflik en filosofiese veranderinge in Afrikaner mense te ondersoek (soos voorbehou in "Things Fall Apart") as gevolg van oomblikke waarin die Afrikaners hulself introspeksie doen en in dié proses, van hul eie eeue oue tradisies en gewoontes afstand gedoen het om die nuwe forum soos voorbehou deur Christenskap aan te kleef. Dit is my sienswyse dat gedurende hierdie tydperk magsbeheer bevraagteken was deur die magdom van mense. Dis hoe die rekonstruksie van die Afrikaner "Ek" en die herskedulering van magsbeheer verhoudinge binne die Afrikaner kollektief plaasgevind het. Krishnamurti stel die volgende vraag: Wanneer ft mens gesê word wat om te doen, wat om te dink, wat om te gehoorsaam, wat om te volg, weet jy wat dit aan n mens doen? Nmens se brein raak traag en die brein verloor sy inisiatief en sy fluksheid. Die uitwendige, die buitewerking van discipline maak jou brein dom, dit laat jou naaboots. (1974:29). Ek is bewus dat deur bogenoemde idea en Afrikaner kultuur naas mekaar te stel mag as godslasterend voorkom binne die konteks van die "nuwe" Suid Afrika, gegewe die groot inspanning om "Afrikaner" kultuur te hernu. Ek maak nie beswaar teen die heruwing en bewussyn van tradisie en erfenis nie. Ek stem saam met Krishnamurti dat deur die beheer van mag van fi selektiewe groep van elite Afrikaners in die prekoloniale, koloniale en post-koloniale dipensasies te gee, is as gevolg van die aanmeerning en aanvaarding deur die magdom van die Afrikaner gemeenskappe van sosiale, spirituele en ekonomiese konstruksies soos dié van dié elite. Die denks wyse waarlangs Afrikaners dink, was vir eeue lank, uitgebrei deur fi selektiewe groep mense, soos voorgehou in "Things Fall Apart". Kultuur en tradisie het fi standard geword waarby fi mens hom kan mee verlyk om sy waarde as individu te kan bepaal. Om hierdie rede, sien Krishnamurti die geveg vir vryheid as die geveg vir individue om kulturele en tradisionele beperkige af te skud en dis inderdaad belangrik vir die uitbreiding van die mens se eie identiteit. "Vryheid", sê hy, "liberalisme, die onafhanklikheid om uit te spreek wat fi mens dink, te doen wat fi mens wil doen, is een van dié mees belangrikste dinge in die lewe. Om innerlik vry te wees ... is een van die moeilikste en gevaarlikste dinge in die lewe" (1974:30). Soos hierdie thesis voortgaan, sal ek Krishnamurti se beweering dat die individu se poging om vry te wees, soos moontlik voorgestel in Achebe se " Things Fall Apart" dalk beide moeilik en gevaarlik mag wees.

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