Restoring and holding on to beauty : the role of aesthetic relational values in sustainable development

Swartz, Moshe E. Ncilashe (2010-12)

Thesis (PhD (Public Management and Planning))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Unless Africans and their leaders make a concerted effort to rid themselves of the harmful legacy of colonial spirituality by adopting new motives for living, entering into new relationships with themselves on the plane of beneficial values, Africa will not be able to escape the social, environmental, political and economic afflictions that currently beset her. The colonial forces that burst into Africa with violence from minds bent on foreign conquest were primarily driven by an ethos of covetousness that has come to characterize the existing international order. Stealing, not only of natural resources has continued side by side with the denuding of the very souls of people – as has happened so successfully in Africa – of their humanity. There is evidence that human existence has been beleaguered and governed by an unviable microphysical framework (mindset and spirituality). In the midst of what appears to be a bewilderingly dynamic, turbulent and complex world, this spirituality looms large, gaining a stronghold resulting in disconnectedness among self-worshipping humans and their environment. We now live in a world governed by a distructive innate iniquity that produces overwhelming inequity among humans and unprecedented damage in the natural environment that sustains us. This study draws from and connects the evidence provided by ancient history with current macro-physical endeavours to demonstrate that this micro-physicality still holds sway, albeit under various manifestations. Having been in a state of war with itself and its living environment, humanity has reached what observers have acknowledged as a crossroads. In the violence that has engulfed all humans since time immemorial, as evidenced in the co-existence of poverty and affluence, pandemics driven by a wide variety of illnesses, huge disparities in wealth within and between national economies, energy and environmental depletion and degradation that have earned us the unprecedented crisis of global warming, this crossroads has made itself very present. A particular kind of mentality and spirituality has taken us to this point. It is a spirituality that is obviously devoid and incapable of producing beauty of harmony and communion among us irrespective of our diversity, whether in race, culture, knowledge discipline or geographic space. The macro-physical condition we are experiencing cannot be viewed in isolation from the spirituality that produced it. We are now in an unsustainable world that must have been the fruit of an unsustainable spirituality. The answers to our global dilemma must fundamentally be sought not in any new technologies that emanate from the same mindset, but in a renewed mind and in a different pattern of spirituality. This study probes the dominant world mindest that directed the globally pervasive Western civilization and reviews some major historical and cultural trends that, it argues, have brought humanity to the zenith of its “world-hunt”-culture. This is a “world- hunt” of self-mutilation that manifested itself in Europe, the near-east, Asia and Africa over more than four millennia ago. The deforestation, land degradation, oppression of the poor, hunger, hatred that drives terrorist attacks, climate changes that drive natural disasters and the loss of species, are all the unmistakable bitter fruit of such a culture. It is a culture characterized and propelled by the absence of what this study coins as “aesthetic relational values”. This dominant mindset has strewn all over our globe various rule-based governance institutions characterized by an ethos of central control, manipulating people’s lives for self-centred gain. Though many of these institutions come in various garbs of apparent benevolence, faith-based, trade-based, knowledge/science-based and political governance bodies, all are adherents of the same worldview that is firmly grounded in a merciless and destructive pantheistic, and nature-worship belief system traceable to ancient Egypt. Many of these institutions, today, publicly claim to be proponents of sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and peace among the nations of the world, yet they are still clinging, esoterically, to a cosmological perspective of nature-worship that glorifies self-worship and disregards the well-being of others. The study contrasts this dominant spirituality with the Afrocentric one based on a knowledge system that propounds a belief in a compassionate and merciful Creator-God who is the source of all nature, including the human family, as illustrated in the daily lives of amaMbo peoples whose geographic origins are traced to ancient Ethiopia. As the former continues to make a nonentity of the Creator-God, Africans, realizing the spiritual bankruptcy of a self-glorification ethic that has polarised the people and ravaged their continent through rule-based institutions, are returning, in large numbers, to this knowledge system of their ancient fathers on which their social institutions of shared and consensus-based decision-making and governance, from the basic social unit as the family, to national political relations, were founded. In several encounters these patterns of spiritualities have produced unsavoury outcomes. In the Cape’s more-than-a-century long, bitter and protracted encounter between a branch of amaMbo called amaXhosa, that began with the seventeenth century arrival of the Western “world-hunt” culture through the Calvinist Dutch East India Company traders, Africa and the entire world have been provided, simultaneously, with indisputable evidence of the destructiveness of self-indulgent living on the one hand and the efficacy, on the other, of a relational aesthetic as a viable alternative out of the humanitarian and environmental crises that confront our globe. Views and principles regarding the harmonious living of life on earth have been advocated by many a great leader since antiquity. They have been vindicated in the lives of ancient Israelite patriarchs such as Abraham and Moses, who led his kinsmen out of the Egyptian bondage that lasted over four centuries; in the life of Tolstoy, who chose to be excommunicated from a society that regarded these principles with disdain; to that of Gandhi, on whom Tolstoy was a tremendous influence, and effectively applied them to unshackle a whole nation from British subjugation; and Dostoevsky, Tolstoy’s compatriot, who first referred to these as “aesthetic views”. These relational principles were embedded in the lifestyle of ancient Israel, lived and advocated later by the Jewish Rabbi called Jesus, whose very own people chose to shamefully murder Him rather that accept His teachings. These principles were taught, practised and handed down to His followers to influence humanity as never before. In their ancient setting these principles clashed with those of the pagan lifestyle of Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, which culturally shaped the Western civilization that pervades our globe. The results were centuries of enslavements, dispossessions and persecutions. In the course of history pagan beliefs crept in and mingled with orthodox Jewish rites and worship, producing an adulterated Christianity and a plethora of what are known today as nature-based religions, which still uphold and advocate the individual gods to whom honour and worship is due rather than the Creator in the Hebrew and Afrocentric cosmologies. This study traces the effect of the absence of these relational values on the quality of the life of nations and their leaders. A remarkable trend and pattern characterized by self-mutilative living emerged among all such nations and people. Their efficacy and mutual beneficence, on the other hand, was unmistakable in societies such as that of amaXhosa, in their pre-colonial state in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. As all of nature “groans” under the human self-mutilation caused by the impoverished spirituality in aesthetic relational values, this study argues that salvation lies in ibuyambo, the recalling of these under-appreciated relational values, and in ensuring the re-education of ourselves and our future leaders in them. The focus of the study is what these values are, the effect of their absence, how different they are to what are known as “social capital”, how they have been manifested and preserved in ancient African institutions such as the weekly memorial day of rest – the Sabbath in the creation narrative – in the lives of some individuals and people on our planet, particularly Africans and amaMbo, and the benefits they derived from respecting them. A vital observation in this study is that social systems that are driven by the motive of individual, corporate or national self-exaltation are invariably rooted in strife and discention. The conclusion is drawn that these under-appreciated relational values, aesthetic relational values, are not only a vital ingredient to the quest for and in all known facets of sustainability in development efforts, they hold the key to unlock the door to the mystery of “harmony” that has proven so elusive to individuals, families, communities, societies, nations and their governance systems. The study concludes, with Dostoevsky, that aesthetic relational values contain “a guarantee of tranquility” for all humanity and the natural environment that sustains them. The restoration, not only by all of Africa, of the lost spirituality of aesthetic relational values cherished by their ancient forebears, is key to the renewal of our world.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: under-appreciated relational values, and in ensuring the re-education of ourselves and our future leaders in them. The focus of the study is what these values are, the effect of their absence, how different they are to what are known as “social capital”, how they have been manifested and preserved in ancient African institutions such as the weekly memorial day of rest – the Sabbath in the creation narrative – in the lives of some individuals and people on our planet, particularly Africans and amaMbo, and the benefits they derived from respecting them. A vital observation in this study is that social systems that are driven by the motive of individual, corporate or national self-exaltation are invariably rooted in strife and discention. The conclusion is drawn that these under-appreciated relational values, aesthetic relational values, are not only a vital ingredient to the quest for and in all known facets of sustainability in development efforts, they hold the key to unlock the door to the mystery of “harmony” that has proven so elusive to individuals, families, communities, societies, nations and their governance systems. The study concludes, with Dostoevsky, that aesthetic relational values contain “a guarantee of tranquility” for all humanity and the natural environment that sustains them. The restoration, not only by all of Africa, of the lost spirituality of aesthetic relational values cherished by their ancient forebears, is key to the renewal of our world. op ons globale dilemma moet fundamenteel nie in enige nuwe tegnologieë gesoek word wat uit hierdie selfde geestesingesteldheid voortvloei nie, maar in ’n hernude sienswyse en in ’n ander spiritualiteitspatroon. Hierdie studie ondersoek die dominante wêreldingesteldheid wat die globaal omvattende Westerse beskawing gerig het en hersien ’n aantal belangrike historiese en kulturele neigings wat, volgens die argument, die mensdom tot by die toppunt van sy “wêreld-jag”-kultuur gebring het. Dit is ’n “wêreld-jag” van selfverminking wat sigself meer as vier millennia gelede in Europa, die Nabye Ooste, Asië en Afrika gemanifesteer het. Die ontbossing, grondagteruitgang, onderdrukking van die armes, hongersnood, haat wat terroriste-aanvalle aangedryf het en klimaatsveranderings, wat natuurrampe en die verlies van spesies laat toeneem het, is almal die onmiskenbare bitter vrugte van so ’n kultuur. Dit is ’n kultuur wat gekenmerk en voortgestu is deur die afwesigheid van wat hierdie studie “estetiese relasionele waardes” noem. Hierdie dominante ingesteldheid het verskeie reëlgebaseerde regeringsinstellings wat gekenmerk word deur ’n etos van sentrale beheer en die manipulering van mense se lewens vir selfgesentreerde gewin oor ons hele wêreld versprei. Hoewel baie van hierdie instellings in verskeie gewade van skynbare welwillendheid - geloofgebaseerde, handelsgebaseerde, kennis/wetenskapgebaseerde en politieke bestuursliggame - voordoen, is almal aanhangers van dieselfde wêreldbeskouing wat stewig in ’n genadelose en destruktiewe panteïstiese en natuuraanbidding-geloofstelsel gevestig is wat na antieke Egipte terugvoerbaar is. Baie van hierdie instellings maak vandag in die openbaar daarop aanspraak om voorstanders van volhoubare ontwikkeling, die uitwissing van armoede en vrede onder die nasies van die wêreld te wees, terwyl hulle nog, esoteries, vasklou aan ’n kosmologiese perspektief van natuuraanbidding wat selfverheerliking aanprys en die welsyn van ander verontagsaam. Die studie kontrasteer hierdie dominante spiritualiteit met die Afrosentriese siening wat op ’n kennissisteem gebaseer is, wat ’n geloof in ’n barmhartige en genadige Skeppergod voorstel wat die bron van alle natuur, met inbegrip van die menseras, is, soos blyk uit die daaglikse lewens van amaMbo-mense wie se geografiese oorsprong na antieke Ethiopië teruggevoer kan word. Terwyl die eersvdermelde steeds die niebestaan van die Skeppergod voorstaan, keer Afrikane – met die besef van die spirituele bankrotskap van ’n selfverheerlikende etiek wat mense gepolariseer het en hulle kontinent deur reëlgebaseerde instellings verniel het - in groot getalle terug na hierdie kennissisteem van hul voorvaders waarop hul sosiale instellings van gedeelde en konsensusgebaseerde besluitneming en regering, vanaf die basiese sosiale eenheid as die familie tot by nasionale politieke verhoudings¸ gevestig is. Hierdie patrone van spiritualiteite het in verskeie gevalle tot onaangename uitkomste gelei. In die Kaap se meer as ’n eeu lange, bittere en langdurige botsing tussen ’n tak van amaMbo bekend as amaXhosa, wat met die 17de-eeuse aankoms van die Westerse “wêreld-jag”-kultuur deur die Calvinistiese Nederlandse Oos-Indiese Kompanjie-handelaars begin het, is Afrika en die hele wêreld terselfdertyd voorsien van onbetwisbare bewys van die vernielsug van gemaksugtige lewe aan die een kant en, aan die ander kant, die doeltreffendheid van relasionele estetika as ’n lewensvatbare alternatief uit die humanitêre en omgewingskrisisse wat ons wêreld in die gesig staar. Sienswyses en beginsels omtrent ’n harmonieuse lewenswyse op aarde is al sedert die vroegste tyd deur vele groot leiers bepleit. Dit is gehandhaaf in die lewens van antieke Israelitiese patriage soos Abraham en Moses, wat sy stamverwante uit die Egiptiese slawerny van meer as vier eeue gelei het; in die lewe van Tolstoi, wat verkies het om verban te word uit ’n gemeenskap wat hierdie beginsels met minagting bejeën het; in dié van Gandhi, op wie Tolstoi ’n geweldige invloed gehad het, wat hierdie beginsels effektief toegepas het om ’n hele nasie van Britse onderwerping te bevry; en Dostojewski, Tolstoi se landgenoot, wat die eerste keer daarna as “estetiese sienswyses” verwys het. Hierdie relasionele beginsels is vasgelê in die lewenstyl van antieke Israel, en later uitgeleef en verkondig deur die Joodse Rabbi genaamd Jesus, wie se eie mense verkies het om Hom skandelik te vermoor eerder as om sy leringe te aanvaar. Hierdie beginsels is onderrig, beoefen en aan Sy volgelinge oorgedra om die mensdom te beïnvloed soos nog nooit tevore nie. Hierdie beginsels het in hulle antieke opset gebots met dié van die heidense lewenstyl van Egipte, Babilon, Medo-Persië, Griekeland en Rome, wat die Westerse beskawing wat oor die wêreld versprei is kultureel gevorm het. Die resultate was eeue van slawerny, onteienings en vervolgings. Met verloop van die geskiedenis het heidense gelowe ingesypel en met die Joodse rites en aanbidding vermeng, wat gelei het tot ’n verknoeide Christendom en ’n oorvloed van wat vandag as natuurgebaseerde gelowe bekend staan, wat steeds die individuele gode aanhang en verkondig aan wie eer en aanbidding toekom, eerder as die Skepper in die Hebreeuse en Afrosentriese kosmologieë. Hierdie studie belig die afwesigheid van hierdie relasionele waardes in die gehalte van die lewe van nasies en hulle leiers. ’n Merkwaardige verloop en patroon wat gekenmerk word deur ’n selfverminkende lewenswyse het by al hierdie nasies en mense te voorskyn getree. Hulle doeltreffendheid en wedersydse liefdadigheid is, aan die ander kant, onmiskenbaar in gemeenskappe soos dié van die amaXhosa, in hul voorkoloniale staat in die Oos-Kaapse streek van Suid-Afrika. Terwyl die hele natuur “kreun” onder die menslike selfverminking wat deur die verarmde spiritualiteit in estetiese relasionele waardes veroorsaak word, argumenteer hierdie studie dat die redding lê in ibuyambo, die herroeping van hierdie onderwaardeerde relasionele waardes, en deur seker te maak dat ons onsself en ons toekomstige leiers daarin heropvoed. Die studie konsentreer op wat hierdie waardes is, die uitwerking van die afwesigheid daarvan, hoe dit verskil van wat as “sosiale kapitaal” bekend staan, hoe dit in antieke Afrika-instellings soos die weeklikse gedenkdag van rus – die Sabbat in die skeppingsverhaal - gemanifesteer en bewaar is in die lewens van party individue en mense op ons planeet, veral Afrikane en amaMbo, en die voordele wat hulle trek uit die nakoming daarvan. ’n Belangrike waarneming in hierdie studie is dat sosiale stelsels wat deur die motief van individuele, korporatiewe of nasionale selfverheffing aangedryf word, sonder uitsondering aan onenigheid en verdeeldheid gekoppel is. Die gevolgtrekking word gemaak dat hierdie onderwaardeerde relasionele waardes, estetiese relasionele waardes, nie slegs ’n noodsaaklike onderdeel in die soeke na en in alle bekende fasette van volhoubaarheid in ontwikkelingspogings is nie, maar dat hulle die sleutel is tot die ontsluiting van die misterie van “harmonie” wat so ontwykend vir individue, families, gemeenskappe, samelewings, nasies en hul regeringstelsels geblyk het. Die studie kom, saam met Dostojewski, tot die gevolgtrekking dat estetiese relasionele waardes ’n “waarborg van kalmte” bevat vir die hele mensdom en die natuurlike omgewing wat ons onderhou. Die herstel deur meer as net die hele Afrika van die verlore spiritualiteit van estetiese relasionele waardes wat deur hulle antieke voorgeslagte gekoester is, is die sleutel tot die vernuwing van ons wêreld.

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