Week 3: On The Extinction of African Cultures (Dyson 10-14)

Hello again,

This weeks journey has been fascinating. There is so much that could be discussed, but in all of it I find little that I can really relate to. Sure, I like to discuss the consequences of terrorism and means of prevention, but I really have no experience with it. Similarly, colonization of the solar system is very intriguing, but unless you call being an avid science fiction reader experience, I can't claim to have any there. So I was thinking back over the journey, to the discussions with Dr. N, Dyson, and even Oppenheimer or Rothman and Sudarshan (which was a very short conversation, really just a taste of the depths that these men are able to take one in thought). And in my search of these conversations with these great men I remembered part of what Dr. N was talking about last Monday, about the Neiz Peirce, and how their culture was radically changed with the forced adoption of technology.

The Neiz Perice reminded me of Africa and of the many tribes across the continent. Just like the Native Americans two centuries ago, the many tribes of Africa are being forced to adopt new ways of technology. I must for a second amend my statements, I've only mentioned forced adoption, however, that is not always the case, some of it is willing adoption, but nevertheless it wouldn't have come about if their lands had not been colonized. What is the adoption of technology doing that is worthy of spending time thinking about? It driving cultures to extinction, that is what is worth being aware of. The cultures of the many tribes of Native Americans have changed significantly since the entrance of the "pale face" with our new fangled technology and disregard for others way of life. Parts of their culture is now extinct. It was never recorded in history books and many of the younger generations sought to embrace the ways of technology and shrugged of the story-telling of the grandparents which would pass the history along, keeping their culture alive.

So what makes this personal, what experience do I have with it? Well, as far as Native Americans go, none, but to the tribes of Africa, much. As you might remember my parents were missionaries to Africa for 15 years, 12 of which were spent in Beira, Mozambique in Southern Africa. So I saw first hand some the encroaching of technology on other cultures, but really, my experience comes mainly from my father. He was really out in it, sometimes the first white person a village had ever seen. You might think that if he was the first westerner, then their culture must be safe, with so little contact. No, because my father will not be the last. Others will come, bringing with them technology and a new way of life, and it won't necessarily be westerners, others from even their own tribe might come, riding in on a bicycle with a radio blaring, strapped to the carrying rack with rubber inner-tube. Africa is the most linguistically diverse continent in the world. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Africa has some 2,000 languages. Many of the languages will be extinct in the next 50 years. As the continent is urbanized languages and cultures will die out, they will be forced into extinction by the expansion of man.

Now, am I bashing technology? No, of course not, technology has brought with it amazing things. But I am cautioning blind expansion and disregard for existing cultures. We must wipe them to extinction, but instead find some way to preserve them, at least in the annals of history books, if not in living breathing human beings. In 2001 the African Union created the sub-organization African Academy of Languages, whose job it is to preserve the myriad of languages in Africa from extinction. The AAL declared 2006 as the Year of African Languages in hopes to raise awareness of the threat on the life of African languages. But, if I only found out about the AAL today, in a quick google search to check some of my facts, then how many other westerners live unawares of the issue? I leave you with that to mull over in your mind, Regards, Nathaniel Troutman