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"The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart." - Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Ch. 20.
The book Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe has many quotations that have different interpretations with several meaning depending on the context. The quotations are used to symbolize events and things that were taking place at that period. Moreover, some of the quotations can still be used to give meanings to what is happening in the current world. In addition, the quotations are used to explain the cultural beliefs and systems that are in the society, the setting taking place during the colonization period and the effects the period has on the traditional cultures.
The quotation above gives the description of how the traditional cultures of Africans have changed. This is due to the allowing of the Western values that were imposed on them by the whites. And this is what led to things falling apart for the Africans. Both psychological and social disorientation of African values has taken place. The book depicts in the quote how Africans allowed the whites or European people to come to their territories. They naively accepted the Europeans advances through religion to settle in their lands. The oral tradition, taboos, guardian spirits, and rituals were all changed by the arrival of Europeans.
The religion brought by the Europeans led to the disintegration of the African’s unity. The so called civilization that was brought by the Europeans has in effect led to leaving of some African values. People renounced their traditional ways to embrace Christianity, and education was introduced to make the African people get civilized. In addition, new forms of punishments were introduced and prisons were built for law offenders. The arrivals also led to changes of names, as people adopted European names instead of the African names. Moreover, the clothing and language of the Africans has been influenced by the arrival of the Europeans. The changes came with a lot of costs. This is so as many Africans suffered pains of brutality from the Europeans who were intolerant of African traditions and customs and, to some extent, used force to entrench the civilization.
Africans believed in traditional spirits as a form of religion before the coming of Europeans. This worked well for them for a long time, until the Europeans arrived. The arrival of the European changed all this, and another form of religion was introduced. Many Africans embraced this form of religion by the name Christianity, but others still practice their traditional form of religion. The Africans believed in spirits and had sanctuaries that were kept holy for the same purpose. The sanctuaries included famous mountains, rivers, and forests among others. These places were considered holy and hence were kept and maintained. Sacrifices were offered to the gods at these sanctuaries. This was in the form of burning animals or plants. All these traditional religious practices brought togetherness and unity of purpose to the people. This gradually changed with the embracing of Christianity. Churches were brought up with different denominations to the African settings. People started cutting down trees and giving land of the sanctuaries to build churches. The environment that was preserved and was regarded as holy was now overlooked, and the gods started to be down graded by the introduction of Christianity. The different churches and denominations also led to Africans disintegrating and falling apart. The unity that brought them together was interfered with by the coming of the European religion.
There was this rich life of the Africans people before the coming of the Europeans, according to Chinua Achebe. The Africans believed in traditional foods and medicine. The foods made the Africans strong, stout, and healthy. In addition, the use of traditional medicine for the various ailments that were there made them lives longer and healthy. These cultural and social practices were going and doing well for the Africans until the arrival of the Europeans. The arrival led to the introduction of new species of food. Moreover, new types of medicine were also introduced. The Africans in turn, embraced these new food and medicine. This new change altered their way of life in one way or the other. They started planting and consuming new plants that were introduced, which made them leave the wild fruits and plants that they were used to before the coming of white people. The introduction of chemically prepared medicine made the Africans also leave the wild plants that they used as medicine. Their way of life changed dramatically.
Leaders in Africa were respected and valued at high esteem. They had powers and controlled their subjects with full authority without questioning. The leaders commanded and led in battles and wars. The arrival of Europeans changed the scenario. The civilization brought change to this form of governance. The Africans stated to emulate the western culture of democratic governance. This has brought much turmoil in African countries, civil coups, wars, and uprising among other forms of resistance to this governance that they were not used to before the arrival of the Europeans. Many African countries did not practice any forms of governance but were ruled in a hierarchical manner. This form of governance is still in existence in a number of countries.
It can be shown from the quotation that the arrival and coming of the Europeans to the African nations brought many changes. The changes are in the form of cultural, spiritual, political, and social aspects. The traditional values, cultural, and social practices that brought people together have been forgotten. In this regard, the embracing of the western cultures has brought disintegration of the African people, hence falling apart.