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WESTERN CULTURE AND YORUBA ETHICS: A PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS

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CHAPTER TWO

2.1     FAMILY LIFE

In dealing   with this topic, a topic of functionalism will be adopted for the elucidation of its major social facts. The key point of the functionalist perspective could be summarized by a comparison drawn from the working of the body system (homeostatis) to that of a family in a society. This we can achieve by examining the various parts such as brain, lungs, the heart, the liver e.t.c. However, if we examine simply analyze the parts in isolation from each other, we would be unable to explain how life is maintained. To do this we have to examine the parts in relation to each other since they work hand in hand to maintain the organism. In like manner, a family among the Yorubas is made up of the inter-connected toles of a nuclear family to an extended family; social relationship within the family and how they are structured in tams of a set of related norms and values. Having established the existence of this social structure, the next move is to consider how that structures function. This involves an examination of the structure and their relationship to the Yoruba society. For Yoruba people the family has a much wider circle of members than the one suggests among the westerners. In Yoruba traditional society, the traditional compound consists of a walled a walled square or a walled circle to one main gate –way and single –storey house all around. Members of each extended family lived together as much as possible in a compound called “Agbo-ile”. The family includes children, and other immediate relatives.

The family also includes the departed relatives which are thought to be still interested in the affairs of the family to house hold is the smallest unit of the family, consisting of the children, parents, and sometimes grand precuts, and they share only a room or two it is generally at night, that the household is really itself. Because, it is in the night that the parents are with their immediate children discuss private affairs of their household and the parents educate the children in matters pertaining to domestic relationships. The eldest man is the leader of the “ agbo- ile “ while the eldest wife is the head of the wives and their children. The individual owes his existence to other members of the family, including the living and the dead. An individual is simply part of the whole He can only realize himself in the family for it is the family that make, create and produce the individual; for every individual depends on the corporate group.  The respect given the aged among the yoruba extended family extends beyond the basic fact of their vast wealth of knowledge and life experiences it is primary based on the simple morality that they are the fore- bears of the society and the rushers and sponsors of the young members of the family to the world. For these reasons, morality among the extended family requires that they be given due respect, recognition, and appreciation of their role.

2.2 THE ALTRUISTIC NATURE OF THE YORUBA FAMILY LIFE.          

The attribution moral philosophy of total security of each member of the group and care for the aged embedded in the extended family system among the yorubas before their contact with the western culture, is now being eroded bit, rather piece by piece. The importance variante altruistic morality and humanism among the Yoruba extended family is shown in various ways. For example, to be old among the Yoruba is to be respected and taken care of. Every child in his socialization is thought to respect an elderly person or the person of the aged and old age itself. It is constantly reminded that for moral reasons, if he is going to old, as everyone hopes he will, he should not maltreat any old person so that he might not be molested when he becomes old. Other altruistic nature found among the Yoruba family system is, “communal system of land tenure” which is based on the idea of live and let live philosophy. These enables each member of the family to be his brothers keeper with each person having access to the means of production which of course is not alienated from the group corporate.

Among every extended family, the land is jointly held for the common benefit of all with the allocation to every able bodies member who may need it at a particular time and period. The philosophy is “what we have, we hold and share.” The opportunity for each member of the family to develop themselves and the fulfillment of individual and the fulfillment of individual talents and ambition is another altruistic nature of Yoruba extended family philosophy of live and let live. The individual develops his tolerance and mutual support. To live and allows others to live in the way they deemed fit was not only practiced but every member of the family was enjoined to follow it to the last letter. Heavy sanctions were levied on the violated and defaulter.

The notion of brothers being his brothers keepers which is strikingly common among the Yoruba is an important feature which is facing away under the current wind of change, as now experienced among the Yoruba. But this philosophy still holds, although in a very slightly modification or in a modified form. This is one of those values that one could boast of and even pray to last long and capable of withstanding the wide-spread evasion of Yoruba culture by the big onslaught of the so-called Western culture as it could be seen in the Yoruba traditional aspect of taking care of the sick among the extended family. In this case, all relatives have to see that everything is done right and essentially stay along at all time with the sick patient.

The ethics behind this is to give a fair scout and security which a patient could receive for it means a double assurance of being waited and cared for by the rest of the family. Today, a person gets sick not because anything is psychologically wrong with his body system but simply because the needs the attention and security from other people. Another factor which is worth mentioning is the altruistic nature of the Yoruba extended family is the economic native of their philosophy of being one’s brother’s keeper which has been adversely affected by their contact with western culture.  Point, which I intend to clear first, is, the belief which is erroneously held by the majority of people, both Yorubas and non-Yorubas alike. It is usually analogous to a Yoruba proverb or adage, which reads thus; “ Olowo Kan Iarrin eniyan mefa, talaka meje ni gbogbo won je” That is “a group of seven people which is made up of six poor persons and single rich person. Then we therefore conclude that, the particular group is constituted of seven poor person” the ethical interpretation of this adage is that by the time each person’s great demand is met by the single rich person, his wealth is already exhausted. This is analogous to the situation and condition experienced among the Yoruba extended family. It has been said also, that it is very difficult, if not curatively impossible to have among the Yoruba extended family a man of riches and capital, because by the time each one meets the demand of his extended family, he is left penniless.

On the surface, there seems to be no doubt about the veracity or tenacity of this statement. What we do question is the moral motive or hidden thought leading to the statement. This is so because to an average Yoruba man, the extended family is his obligation even if he is the only one, among twenty or more that is blessed and made rich or successful. To him, if he is rich, it is a collective richness and when the wealth is distributed and reached everyone leaving him with no “Kobo” all that he has left is collective poverty. It is against the Yoruba ethics to be in the midst of riches and stays allouf watching his family wallowing and gnashing teeth in object poverty of want and deprivation and yet, claim to be having peace of mid. The present Yoruba extended family is been influenced by the Western philosophy of individuality or individualism, and as opposed to the former Yoruba general philosophy of attiuism. Some Yoruba, particularly the Western education ones are now faced with the challenge and dilemma as to whether to be a Yoruba in thought and actions in these lines or be Westernized and be ethically dehumanized. But it is viewed for the sake of simple ethical universalism and Yoruba consent of philosophical attiuism in particular, and it is extremely morally indefensible for a Yoruba man to go all out to include in personnel, egoistic, self- gratification, while many of his relatives are dying of hunger around him.

The area of the economic obligation of the Western man does not extend beyond himself, his wife and children. Anything beyond this, he would not move an inch. Even this parents are no longer his business. This tells the relativistic nature of the two cultures. Presently, it is not a far fetched truism to locate among the Yoruba society especially, those Western education Yoruba elites who had spent many years in Western countries usually come home with the notion of carrying their culture back home to practice; while some, out of financial hardship in the course of their studentship married Western woman and brought them back home. The crucial point made here is that, the joy, which these people who usually indulge in these attitudes enjoy, is nothing more than a little joy. Their relatives would brand them as persons without a source, a base, persons culturally ejected out like the stool from flying birds.

2.3     MARRIAGE PRACTISE AMONG THE YORUBAS          

Marriage is an activity in which everyone in the society becomes an actor or actress and not just a spectator. Among the Yorubas, failure to get married means that, the person in particular has rejected the society and the society has rejected him also in return. Another important thing about marriage among the Yorubas is that marriage and procreation are a unity and without marriage procreation is not complete.

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