No one, I mean no one
should be entrusted
with that sole power
of deciding others’ fate.
Who gave the forefathers an idea of what to hold dear as customs and what not to? What is at the fountain of rituals that they must be upheld by those who knew not how it started? Why should a generation hold dear to the system of naming, manner of eating and the way of speaking handed down to them by their ancestors?
These and similar questions will draw puzzles in your mind if you’re inquisitive about the way things are done in your culture and the reasons for them.
But this generation.
Does it mean we’re trying to rid ourselves of those cultural ties that bind us to the past and glue us to the way of life our forebears experienced?
You can answer that yourself.
Some of the things we do today in the name of culture aren’t necessary. They have no relationship with our current lifestyles and the happenings in town. We only stick to them because our parents handed them down to us. Not because they benefit us in any way.
But why do we love to maintain the status quo? Is it so that outsiders won’t call us bastards?
The Breaking Point
Every culture has a breaking point, just as everyone does. The breaking point of a culture is the extent its people can go to maintain its traditions and norms.
When the people get to that stage where they can choose otherwise, then the culture evolves and the people are free. But that creates another problem. They are also free to create another set of traditions for their posterity, traditions that generations to come too mightn’t agree with.
Am I saying that culture should go and traditions be totally done away with? Am I saying that we shouldn’t maintain the status quo where we’re supposed to?
As I’ve implied so far in this piece, if it’s not beneficial to the current generation then it should be done away with.
But then that begs another question. Who determines what is beneficial to a generation and what is not?
Whatever the youngest generation of a culture isn’t questioning is still acceptable in that culture. As soon as they join hands together and start questioning a norm, with some of the elders on their side, then that tradition is of no benefit anymore and should be done away with.
Here’s the balance, though.
Just Imagine: A Radical Thought!
Imagine if no one came through parents, but through any other means that doesn’t involve familial origin. Just imagine that you find yourself on earth as every other, without an attachment to anyone or anything.
Here’s a world where everyone lands in a home of their own as infants, but needs no help from anyone to grow up.
What would it be like?
Instinctively, as you grow up and are able to walk around, you start going out and can choose whether you want to be friends with anyone or not. Of course, you’re not surprised when you see people outside. It’s also instinctive.
Now, you’re a teenager and you can make any choice you want. You’re aware that you need education and you choose where you want to go. You choose your teachers and friends. You choose whom to visit at home and who can visit you. You choose those you go out to eat with.
Let’s take it a bit further.
Imagine you’re now an adult and you can choose anyone to marry, without no one to influence or question your decision. Of course, you can have mentors and friends you can submit to, but you’re still the sole owner of your life, no parents breathing down your neck to do this or that.
If all these were to be the state of the world, how would you feel? Would you still be compelled to follow customs and norms that don’t benefit you in any way? Would anyone need to be feministic or racist? Would there be a need for a government?
Odd world, isn’t it?
You can picture how odd it looks already. And that’s the kind of world we’ll have without parenting, relationships and accountability.
The moment a generation starts questioning these fundamental principles, then they’re in for a change. I’m just certain I won’t be alive to witness any such thing.
But how does all this relate to poetry, or art, or writing? You may ask.
For now, I’ll do my best to tie things only to poetry.
Of Culture and Poetry
Poetry has its origin in oral tradition and was often sung or recited as religious creed or musical composition. Poetry has its root in culture and culture has a tie to poetry. But somehow, and unfortunately, advancement in the way of life pushed poetry to the backseat of human’s mind and brought prose to the fore.
All that is not enough to stop poetry from living anyway, it only diminished in influence, just as culture. But what the future holds for either, no one can tell.
With what we can see now, soon, customs and norms will start receiving slaps on the face, especially with the generation of youths taking over the world now. And poetry, if we’re not careful, may suffer a similar fate.
What we’ve forgotten, however, is that when we mix poetry and life together, we come back into the balance our forefathers enjoyed.
Poetry, if the right one is explored, can do what music can do for you, or even more. Poetry can soothe the soul and give saturation to a dying hope. Same as writing. Same as art.
Overtime, both culture and poetry have been able to adjust to the time in order to stay relevant. While culture has its downside in this struggle for recognition, poetry also has its own struggles.
But unlike culture, where poetry doesn’t have a say, it remains quiet. Culture won’t, though, it forces itself down people’s throat as a drug that must be taken in time of sickness.
Culture gives us relationships, people, dignity of human labour and trust. But it also imposes on us gender inequality, female genital mutilation, narrow-mindedness and the entitlement mentality that makes us believe we always have a say in how others live their life.
Here’s where we need wisdom: being able to maintain the right traditions and discard those that have no benefit to us.
But this is also difficult to achieve, just as it’s difficult to keep poetry on everyone’s lap.
If you say no, then you should hope that every time you disagree with a tradition and would like to end it, everyone representing your culture too agrees with you.
When you grow up and
are about to step into
the elders’ shoes, remember
you once walked barefoot.