According to western definition, civilization is a form of human culture where a lot of people live in urban centers having mastered the skills of metal smelting as well as developed art of writing and reading Spielvogel, 2010. Most of this form of civilization began in the big cities that were more populated and more complex in social, economic and political dimensions Campbell-Dunn, 2008. The ability to conceptualize civilization will help in grasping the western civilization. It is a totality of the history of the people, the expectations of the people and their way of life, their frustrations, and aspirations and desires Frieder Ludwig, 2004. It describes particular levels of improvement and on a similar continuum; it is closely related to culture as a form of art, habits, values, beliefs, and material appreciation that defines how people live their lives. The definition of civilization before the coming of the Europeans to Africa dwelt in their lifestyle. Culture was closely related to civilization in the African set up, culture on the other side is perceived to be comprising of a way of life of a people and the philosophy that people hold, the ideas that are shared, and the general attitude of the people. This paper will be elucidating that African had civilization before the coming of the European to the African continent with the lost kingdoms as illustrations. Hence, the notion that civilization was brought to African by the Europeans does not hold water.
Before the coming of western power, Africa used to be civilized in its own form. For instance, the concept of decentralization of power was deduced from the African kingdoms that have since vanished Campbell-Dunn, 2008. Some of these kingdoms have been wiped out with despotic kingdom being an example among many more. The king was responsible for controlling both the internal and external matters that affected communities. Kingdoms such as Ruanda, Kongo, Soga, and Nkore, of around 17th century were led with such leadership style Campbell-Dunn, 2008. The king also came from a particular kinship and federations were seen in such kingdoms like Ashanti, where the external issues were controlled by the council of elders, whose head was a king. The aristocratic kingdoms were such like the Kuba, Ngonde, Mlanje, Ha,Chagga and Zinza kingdoms. The famous Nabongo kingdoms in Kenya and all the above kingdoms vanished, due to the western civilization.
Through the domination and subjugation of the Africans by the Europeans, the western cultural practices and the European method of civilization began to outgrow the African heritage and cultural developments. Notably, traditional African cultures gave way for the foreign way of organization and the Africans were becoming westernized by the day Spielvogel, 2010. Currently, most people and the young generations in particular know only of western culture as a front line of civilization. The way African used to do their things has become primitive to the eyes of the people, they are considered archaic, unacceptable and regrettable in the eyes of the African people. Besides the diminishing of certain aspects of cultural materials in the colonies, destruction of the colonial societies were actualized in terms of losing sense and power of continuity in cultural diversity.
The purported civilization of the European colony only brought about the social destruction and devastation of the cultures that were so much held close. The new cultures of destruction and violence were created. The traditional methods that Africans used to resolve conflicts were degraded and were replaced by absolute nothing Rodney, 2012. Though the democratic processes were seemingly rudimentary, it had great potential as it was accompanied by the human institutions. A seemingly new crop of elites were being created, one that was nurtured and weaned on the basis and pillars of violence and armed with modern structures and state of art in order to continue in advancing the art of subjugation of big masses of people in the service of the European colonialism. In essence, it has to be noted that the assertions given above only shows that the western world was imported into Africa with a hidden notion of materialistic interest and modernization Ogbar, 2005. The European civilization was just another name of dominion, the imposition of new culture in place of traditional valuable traits and cultures. It has to be also noted that it was not only destructive for the different cultural heritages for which Africa was famous and worked well for them, but also retrogressive as Africans were robbed of the many decades of opportunities of self-development, self-government and self-motivated technologies, in actualizing developmental pace.
Generally the effect of western civilization in Africa leading to the fading of the African Kingdoms can be investigated in three broad spectrums, the social effects, political effects, and the economic effects. The concepts that drove the European civilization in Africa include globalization, neoliberalism, liberal democracy, and individualism and family values. Western civilization is a concept that was based on the commitment to liberalism, neoliberalism, Christianity and consumerism. Liberalism and colonialism are put under the effects of politics, whereas, neoliberalism is put under the economic effects, the social effects include missionary and they all in a big way contribute to the fading of the African civilization Marvin Perry, 2008.
The political effects are essential to understanding the impact and the process of European civilization in Africa. The change of the hitherto well organized societies in Africa in all the life’s spheres have pointed to the effectiveness and the depth of colonialism in the effort of making Africa a western world, and to change their cultures. The political effects included: distortion of the boundaries that had been placed naturally by the African societies without even reference to the institutions and the involved cultural diversities. Dismantling of the indigenous institutions, and in the place planting foreign rule, the traditional institutions were regarded before the colonial era as the custodians of cultures and the political authorities Campbell-Dunn, 2008. The placing of Westminster form of democracy, this did not work in Africa, it still cannot work, not because Africa did not have a functional form and pattern of democracy before this form of democracy, but due to the fact that it had been submerged by westernization. Most people have argued that it is the correct path as it offers most people with the opportunity of participating in political affairs, and that it could result to development Spielvogel, 2010. For instance in Nigeria, the country used the open-secret ballot in 1993 which was since claimed to be more successful compared to the rest that have been introduced by the western nations Rodney, 2012. Further, looking at the constitutions of the national assembly, it is evident that most of these people have not concept of philosophy, despite the fact that they have been entrusted with the work of making laws
Economically, there has been a major effect on the European colonialism, especially the integration of Africa into the capitalist system of economy, where Africa was primarily the sole source of raw materials for industrial production in European countries, and the introduction of land taxation that resulted into wage labor Ogbar, 2005. The economy by the traditional Africans also resulted into the agricultural sectors being diverted towards the primary production of cash crops like cocoa, groundnuts, sisal and so on. A sudden deviation of production resulted, from shift of food crops to cash crops; this resulted to huge destructions that continue to be experienced in Africa today, the problem of hunger and starvation that is evident in the horn of Africa Marvin Perry, 2008. The farmers in Africa started concentrating in production of what they needed less, and concentrated less in what they need most. It changed to be the sole producer of raw materials, and thus a creation of unequal exchange of these valuable products. The development of the enterprises and the industries in the colonies, in what is now termed as privatization, resulted to expropriating natural resources that belonged to Africa to the different parts of western countries and Europe in particular.
The social effects that include the family relations resulted to change of the extended family to nuclear families. The African families that valued the standards of the family broke down so rapidly, the use of the extended families was used in so many instances and was a social pillar, the use of the extended families in such cases like the social security, and verve gave way to the nuclear family, there is no more respect between the people of different ages with respect to the elders Campbell-Dunn, 2008. Individualism has now become the root of each child, a phenomenon only previously associated with the western cultures. Building patterns changed, the peculiarity and unique identity in the building standards have now been degraded, urbanization has now been the major development and have resulted to increased crime among the citizens, and corruption has been a red devil that have resulted in the destruction of most institutions in Africa.
In conclusion, it may seem a lot of development has taken place and the western civilization has been instrumental in actualizing this change. It has to be noted that with it came a lot of destruction of African values as well as their virtues that were attached to being civilized. The true definition of civilization was not evident as shown in the arguments given in this paper; it goes without saying that the European civilization did not bring any positive change to the development of African cultures. The trends of western cultures have been very prevalent and have taken precedence over the values of Africans and their cultures regarding it inferior at the end. The impact of European civilization in Africa resulted in a discontinuity in the different forms of life. The cultural dualism resulted and has been a big dilemma in the real life situation. The experience of Africans in modernity has been caught with frail of tension, at the levels of social and communal settings.
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Frieder Ludwig, A. U. (2004). European Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa. Capetown: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
Marvin Perry, M. C. (2008). Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, from 1600. New York: Cengage Learning.
Ogbar, J. O. (2005). Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. NewYork: JHU Press.
Rodney, W. (2012). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Indianna: Fahamu/Pambazuka.
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