Regaining Our Full Humanity
Junious Ricardo Stanton
“Thus, to the fundamental existential question ‘What is a human being?’ Africans respond: Bumuntu. This notion conveys the fundamental African understanding of genuine personhood or authentic humanity. It is indeed the Bumuntu that defines personal virtue, sacredness, or gentlemanness. The distinctive characteristic of Bumuntu is the feeling of humanity toward our fellow human beings. As John Mbiti pointed out so eloquently, a genuine human being does not define her or his humanity merely in the Cartesian ‘Cogito ergo sum’ terms. Rather, he or she focuses on those thoughts of goodness and compassion toward others. Thus, the Bumuntu is defined in terms of hospitality and solidarity: ‘I am because we are, and because we are therefore I am.’” Encyclopedia of African Religion Edited by Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama page 147
Last week I shared how we are being deliberately desensitized via the mass media. I cited studies that show an overwhelming percentage of media programming is gratuitous violence. In the United States children consume on average about five hours television which does not include the time they spend watching films, playing video games and watching streaming services. During this time they are exposing themselves to hours and hours of violence. Once of the side effects of this media consumption is they’ve become desensitized to violence in real life and less empathetic and compassionate. “A 2010 review by psychologist Craig A. Anderson and others concluded that ‘the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.’ Anderson’s earlier research showed that playing violent video games can increase a person’s aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior both in laboratory settings and in daily life. ‘One major conclusion from this and other research on violent entertainment media is that content matters,’ says Anderson.” Violence in the media: Psychologists study potential harmful effects https://www.apa.org/topics/video-games/violence-harmful-effects
Humans are emotional creatures we are extremely social by nature, we form bonds and relationships to help ourselves survive. We have been like this since homo sapiens emerged. In aboriginal socialites good character, cooperation, harmony and mutual obligation/responsibility were cultivated for practical reasons, it benefited the whole tribe and clan. The West takes a different approach they focus on individualism as opposed to a collectivist approach meaning the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The West’s approach is more self centered and ego driven.
The last three years have resulted in massively induced trauma from the fear mongering around COVID, the forced social distancing and isolation and anxiety as society devolved socially and economically. Now at a time we need more togetherness, connection, concern and compassion to get through the health and financial crises and the counter culture wars, we’re experiencing rampant polarization and factionalism and the government deliberately shut us off from family and friends.
When you layer the escalating violence on top of an evolving dystopian situation, we see a rise in maladaptive behaviors. The long term solution to this problem is not more government programs, money or police officers; the solution requires us to regain our humanity, reestablish our sense of family, connectedness, humanity, harmony and balance.
The solution is what I call the Sankofa Initiative. Sankofa is an Adinkra word from the Akan people of Ghana West Africa which means to return to retrieve that which is valuable and important. To heal ourselves from the dis-ease, disequilibrium and dysfunction tearing us apart, we have to recover our humanity, regain our sense of Ubuntu and reintegrate our spiritual and material selves. This means rejecting the predominant values of the West: egoism, materialism, selfishness and conflict.
Ubuntu means interconnection, interdependence and mutual obligation and responsibility. “In the cultures of African people sociality is considered basic to human nature and most adequately expressed in the community life. The community is regarded as a framework for realizing the potential of every individual. Emphasis is therefore placed on such communal values as solidarity, cooperation, mutual helpfulness, interdependency and reciprocal obligations. At the same time however due recognition is given to the claims of individuality-individual initiative and responsibility.” African Cultural Values An Introduction Kwame Gyekye page51
There is nothing wrong with technology, ancient Africans formed the basis for much modern technology and culture shaping tools that are still used in various forms thousands of years later. The prime focus of our ancient ancestors was the cultivation and blending of their spiritual and physical nature to maximize the benefits to both the individual and the collective!
The Sankofa Initiative will not be easy because it means purposefully and intentionally exiting the Matrix which is a constant and long term process. It will entail trial and error because we are not living in close proximity to our families, we are separated from our families by space and sadly by our indoctrination into an Eurocentric mindset. We have to be willing to reject the Matrix’ vales, we have to become determined to change and heal ourselves.
In the short term start scaling back on the consumption of electronic and digital media, become more discerning and discriminating about the media you watch and allow into your personal space! Be especially firm limiting the media, gizmos and gadgets you expose your children to, they are Trojan Horses and you need to be aware of what our children are ingesting and watching. Media is a major culture apparatus it promotes values, shapes lifestyles, behaviors and worldviews, which all too often we do not share or agree with. Take control of the media before we are literally desensitized and lobotomized.