Nalyze and discuss the article a?The Case for Contaminationa? by Kwame Anthony Appiah (from a religious perspective)
Analyze and discuss the article a?The Case for Contaminationa? by Kwame Anthony Appiah(from a religious perspective)What roles do religions play in Appiahas analysis? How is your approach similar to or different from his?”
THE CASE FOR CONTAMINATION
Kwame Anthony Appiah | The New York Times January 1, 2006
Im seated, with my mother, on a palace veranda, cooled by a breeze from the royal garden. Before us, on a dais, is an empty throne, its arms and legs embossed with polished brass, the back and seat covered in black-and-gold silk. In front of the steps to the dais, there are two columns of people, mostly men, facing one another, seated on carved wooden stools, the cloths they wear wrapped around their chests, leaving their shoulders bare. There is a quiet buzz of conversation. Outside in the garden, peacocks screech. At last, the blowing of a rams horn announces the arrival of the king of Asante, its tones sounding his honorific, kotokohene, Porcupine chief.(Each quill of the porcupine, according to custom, signifies a warrior ready to kill and to die for the kingdom.) Everyone stands until the king has settled on the throne. Then, when we sit, a chorus sings songs in praise of him, which are interspersed with the playing of a flute. It is a Wednesday festival day in Kumasi, the town in Ghana where I grew up.
Unless youre one of a few million Ghanaians, this will probably seem a relatively unfamiliar world, perhaps even an exotic one. You might suppose that this Wednesday festival belongs quaintly to an African past. But before the king arrived, people were taking calls on cellphones, and among those passing the time in quiet conversation were a dozen men in suits, representatives of an insurance company. And the meetings in the office next to the veranda are about contemporary issues: H.I.V./AIDS, the educational needs of 21st-century children, the teaching of science and technology at the local university. When my turn comes to be formally presented, the king asks me about Princeton, where I teach. I ask him when hell next be in the States. In a few weeks, he says cheerfully. Hes got a meeting with the head of the World Bank.
Anywhere you travel in the world today as always you can find ceremonies like these, many of them rooted in centuries-old traditions. But you will also find everywhere and this is something new many intimate connections with places far away: Washington, Moscow, Mexico City, Beijing. Across the street from us, when we were growing up, there was a large house occupied by a number of families, among them a vast family of boys; one, about my age, was a good friend. He lives in London. His brother lives in Japan, where his wife is from. They have another brother who has been in Spain for a while and a couple more brothers who, last I heard, were in the United States. Some of them still live in Kumasi, one or two in Accra, Ghanas capital. Eddie, who lives in Japan, speaks his wifes language now. He has to. But he was never very comfortable in English, the language of our government and our schools. When he phones me from time to time, he prefers to speak Asante-Twi.
Over the years, the royal palace buildings in Kumasi have expanded. When I was a child, we used to visit the previous king, my greatuncle by marriage, in a small building that the British had allowed his predecessor to build when he returned from exile in the Seychelles to a restored but diminished Asante kingship. That building is now a museum, dwarfed by the enormous house next door built by his successor, my uncle by marriage where the current king lives. Next to it is the suite of offices abutting the veranda where we were sitting, recently finished by the present king, my uncles successor. The British, my mothers people, conquered Asante at the turn of the 20th century; now, at the turn of the 21st, the palace feels as it must have felt in the 19th century: a center of power. The president of Ghana comes from this world, too. He was born across the street from the palace to a member of the royal Oyoko clan. But he belongs to other worlds as well: he went to Oxford University; hes a member of one of the Inns of Court in London; hes a Catholic, with a picture of himself greeting the pope in his sitting room.
What are we to make of this? On Kumasis Wednesday festival day, Ive seen visitors from England and the United States wince at what they regard as the intrusion of modernity on timeless, traditional rituals more evidence, they think, of a pressure in the modern world toward uniformity. They react like the assistant on the film set whos supposed to check that the extras in a sword-and-sandals movie arent wearing wristwatches. And such purists are not alone. In the past couple of years, Unescos members have spent a great deal of time trying to hammer out a convention on the Protection and promotionof cultural diversity. (It was finally approved at the Unesco General Conference in October 2005.) The drafters worried that The processes of globalization. . .represent a challenge for cultural diversity, namely in view of risks of imbalances between rich and poor countries.The fear is that the values and images of Western mass culture, like some invasive weed, are threatening to choke out the worlds native flora.
The contradictions in this argument arent hard to find. This same Unesco document is careful to affirm the importance of the free flow of ideas, the freedom of thought and expression and human rights values that, we know, will become universal only if we make them so. Whats really important, then, cultures or people? In a world where Kumasi and New York and Cairo and Leeds and Istanbul are being drawn ever closer together, an ethics of globalization has proved elusive.
The right approach, I think, starts by taking individuals not nations, tribes or Peoplesas the proper object of moral concern. It doesnt much matter what we call such a creed, but in homage to Diogenes, the fourth-century Greek Cynic and the first philosopher to call himself a Citizen of the world,we could call it cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans take cultural difference seriously, because they take the choices individual people make seriously. But because cultural difference is not the only thing that concerns them, they suspect that many of globalizations cultural critics are aiming at the wrong targets.
Yes, globalization can produce homogeneity. But globalization is also a threat to homogeneity. You can see this as clearly in Kumasi as anywhere. One thing Kumasi isnt simply because its a city is homogeneous. English, German, Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese, Burkinabe, Ivorian,
Nigerian, Indian: I can find you families of each description. I can find you Asante people, whose ancestors have lived in this town for centuries, but also Hausa households that have been around for centuries, too. There are people there from every region of the country as well, speaking scores of languages. But if you travel just a little way outside Kumasi 20 miles, say, in the right direction and if you drive off the main road down one of the many potholed side roads of red laterite, you wont have difficulty finding villages that are fairly monocultural. The people have mostly been to Kumasi and seen the big, polyglot, diverse world of the city. Where they live, though, there is one everyday language (aside from the English in the government schools) and an agrarian way of life based on some old crops, like yams, and some newer ones, like cocoa, which arrived in the late 19th century as a product for export. They may or may not have electricity. (This close to Kumasi, they probably do.) When people talk of the homogeneity produced by globalization, what they are talking about is this: Even here, the villagers will have radios (though the language will be local); you will be able to get a discussion going about Ronaldo, Mike Tyson or Tupac; and you will probably be able to find a bottle of Guinness or Coca-Cola (as well