Home Philosophy Integral polity, integrating nature, СЃulture, society and economy
II. NATURAL AND COMMUNAL ORIENTATION: SOUTHERN POLITY
NATURAL GROUNDING, CONSTITUTING AFRICA
Among the Blacks, democratic institutions evolved and functioned in a socioeconomic and political system which Western writers call "stateless societies". Far from being just a descriptive term for backward peoples, "primitive" in this context means "first", and "original", for us original "grounding". The amazing thing is and was, for Williams, the uniformity of this Black approach, continentwide. All might live in the same community, but they were often scattered far and wide. It involved then a network of kinsman, all of whom descended from the same ancestor or related ancestors. The ancestor from whom they claimed descent was always "great", because of some outstanding accomplishments. Each generation of poets and storytellers magnified the ancestor's image. Their nation, as such, became one big brotherhood.
Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization
INTRODUCTION TO BLACK CIVILIZATION
STARTING OUT WITH AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE
We have now introduced you to the origins of political order, from Fukuyama's historical perspective, and from the Samatars' taxonomic one. We now begin our integral journey both within, and around our four worlds – South, East, North and West – as well as the Middle East. In each of these cases we shall seek to ground (origination), emerge through (foundation), navigate (emancipation) and effect (transformation) integral polity, that is in Africa and Asia, Europe and America, ending up in the Middle East, lodged in the Centre. In other words, and to some extent at least, we see all worlds in one, and one world in all. As such, nature and community has a "Southern" edge to it, cultural and spirituality an "Eastern" one, society and technology a "Northern" ring, and economics and enterprise a "Western" one, with the role of the "centre" being that of integrating them all, potentially if not actually. Moreover, and as such, each world, to integrally evolve, needs to embrace all, while honouring each starting point in turn.
Starting out, then, with an African "Southern" perspective, we turn to Chancellor Williams, who was born in 1893 in South Carolina, the son of a former slave and a mother who was a domestic. By 1950, having taught American, European and Arabic history, Williams considered himself prepared for intense research on African beginnings, and over the next several years conducted field studies in 25 different African countries, in 105 different languages. The first fruits of such was the publication, in 1971, of The Destruction of Black Civilization (1), spanning the years 4500bc to 2000ad. Having spent 16 years undertaking research for the book, and having mortgaged his home to fund such, his intention to produce a three-volume work was foreshortened by the onset of blindness. Thereafter though The Rebirth of African Civilization (2) was published. Williams died in 1992, though his books contain his ongoing legacy.
CIVILIZATION AT THE CROSSROADS
The Lopsided Course of Civilization
Unlike other civilizations, Williams maintains, Western civilization is unique in its universal impact and influence. Under the attractive slogans of freedom, democracy and Christianity, and with all the trappings of material progress, as unquestionable evidence of its superiority, it seemed to have the great promise of a better world, and it therefore inspired great hope for world-wide wellbeing. Yet Europe today, having built its own great house upon the sinking sands of materialism, sees it slowly but certainly falling, according to Williams, and turns farther West (what we rather term "Northwest") to its offspring, the United States, for succour and leadership out of the never- ending crises. But while the child has built far more grandly than its parents, it has built in precisely the same way, and upon the same shallow foundations. It has plenty of sand to offer – billions in money, billions in armaments, millions of soldiers, surplus food, technical “knowhow" and the like – but, for Williams, it has none of the spiritual rocks so urgently needed to shore up the shaky edifice.
The voice that said "man shall not live by bread alone" has become too faint to be heard in the West (our North-west), the values it spoke for, once prominent in the Western faith, has been submerged, with only empty forms remaining. The African peoples meanwhile, seeking a re-birth of their own civilizations or, where none ever existed, a new creation, must now look in vain for positive leadership from that part of the world. And there may be confusion, Williams adds, for somewhere back down the line of the years this civilization took a wrong turn. Did not the more comprehensive view of man and the universe, Newtonian based, give the "West" the right to believe that mankind had at last reached the stage from which, aided by the tools of science and reason, progress could be made indefinitely in the improvement not only of things but of man himself. What happened then? They themselves appeared not to have assumed, as the generations that followed have, that man's intellectual development necessarily included his moral development.
Christianity Fails Western Man
Centuries before the rise of modern capitalism and the industrialization of society, the Christian Church had abandoned its mission, according to Williams, and had itself become more economic and political than spiritual. What spread across the world as Christianity was merely its shadow. From the 4th century of the Christian Emperor Constantine to the 18th century of the no more Christian Louis XIV, Christianity grew more and more amazingly powerful as an "institution" and weaker and weaker as a moral force in the world. So when Christianity became such a hollow form, it left open a vacuum for materialistic interpretations of history and the growth of economic man. Capitalism then entered the vacuum first, to be followed by Marxism.
Communism in fact rose and spread precisely because it had a positive promise of salvation for the masses of mankind – in the here and now which neither capitalism nor the churches offered. That its premises may be false was beside the point, which is that the Christian religion had become so weak that communism could boldly disavow it and at the same time take over the very spiritual appeal and methods of evangelism that had made Christianity a universal religion.
Indeed the churches were as competitive and individualistic as capitalism, and as totalitarian as communism. Narrow and authoritarian, for Williams, they presented to mankind the amazing spectacle of not only supporting murderous wars but also of battling among themselves over non-essential religious details which make up their respective creeds. What the kingdom of God went forth to then build was the power structure of the particular denominations. The poor missionaries! Spiritually impoverished themselves, they were sent out to carry religion to lands more religious than their own, and to peoples whose religion was generally an actual way of life and who, therefore, could never understand a religion the doctrines of which were so foreign to the Christians' lives!
The Spiritual-Moral Base for a New Civilization
The great energies of the Church were exhausted then in battling to build up its political power, not its spiritual power. In the latter area, its rightful own, it was never challenged. The secular state won. And the secular Church, having lost its spiritual foundation, had by that fact lost the one truly civilizing influence in the world. Indeed to make this spiritual-moral order at once the centre of man's life and the major goal of his strivings should have been the undeviating mission of every truly great religion. It should have been the core of every school curriculum, around which and for which other studies were developed. The highest level of the university would have been devoted to the science and research concerned with progressively discovering what things are of most worth, how to improve man himself and his attitudes and relations with his fellows of whatever race or religion. Education and religion would be the twin vehicle of the spiritual-moral forces that advance humankind.
The crisis of our time, for Williams, stems from the failure of education that stems in turn from the failure of religion in which it was born and nurtured. The most vital need in this age of encircling gloom is precisely the spiritual-moral force that Western society, he says, does not have. The best hope for this world lies in the possibility that some of the newly emerging nations which already have a more spiritual culture will, instead of embracing everything Western, strike out along a new line of education in the direction of the kind of civilization that truly civilizes. The one great hope, as Williams sees it, lies in what the Africans themselves think and in what direction they want to go.
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