Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Flipside of Universalism

Similar to Gabby, I found myself making connections between some of the defining qualities of post-colonialism in Ashcroft’s essay and the role of and actions taken by the “colonizers” in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.  In class we discussed the concept of “the moral.”  Things Fall Apart certainly raises some critical questions regarding the multi-definitional interpretations of what truly is moral.  An example of these different takes on morality occurs in chapter eighteen.  Upon noticing that the missionaries’ church accepts usual evils, like twins, the outcasts of Ibo believed they could find a place of refuge in the church.  The other villagers in the church are in utter dismay of their presence, but their complaints and protests are met with shocking words from Mr. Kiaga: “’Before God,’ he said, ‘there is no slave or free.  We are all children of God and we must receive these our brothers;” (156).  Since these outcasts are untouchables and thus have occupied low-level positions in society for many years, the other villagers challenge Mr. Kiaga’s words.  Their code of morals includes downcast individuals.  It is a fairly normal was of viewing some people.  Though it is “immoral” by Western standards, by Ibo standards the village’s system of social stratification is a way of life, an implicit moral measure.
            I immediately connected this example and many others, namely the discovery of the twins in the Evil Forest, as applicable to the last assigned page of Ashcroft’s essay on universalism or universality.  Generally, universalism is a term met with embrace, as it tends to connotes worldwide acceptance and non-discrimination, but in actuality, “its assumption (or assertion) of a common humanity—its failure to acknowledge or value different—underlies the promulgation of imperial discourse for the “advancement” or “improvement” of the colonized” (235).  This section of Ashcroft’s essay really speaks to the fact that colonization, particularly as exhibited by the insurgence of the Christian missionaries in Things Fall Apart, often imposes a dualistic worldview of equality and sameness.  Ashcroft, and arguably Achebe argue for an action plan that strives for equity but embraces separatism.  

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