Monthly Archives: janvier 2019

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Article n°14- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

VON DER ARMUTSÖKONOMIE IN DEUTSCHLAND: DAS VERBORGENE GESICHT EINER WELTWEIT BLÜHENDEN WIRTSCHAFT IN SCHAMLAND VON STEFAN SELKE.

 

 

 Kouadio Denis SOUANGA

Université Alassane OUATTARA

 souangadenis@yahoo.fr

 

 

TELECHARGER VERSION PDF

 Abstract

Despite the undisputed prosperity of its economy, the Federal Republic of Germany still hides many weaknesses. The existence of too many poor people in the middle of their society, who assure their survival only through almsgiving at social institutions, gives rise to many outrages. In his work Schamland, the sociologist Stefan Selke exposes the sad reality of life as experienced by those victims of poverty. Despite its international reputation, Germany appears, according to Selke, as a country of shame in terms of its level of poverty along with its appalling consequences. The withdrawal of the state from its responsibility in favour of social organizations comes to worsen more and more the plight of the poor. Nevertheless, the Federal Republic of Germany is not an economically weak country. A good management of their social policy can sustainably solve the debunked crisis.

Keywords: Germany, poverty, social services, plight,  good leadership

 

Zusammenfassung

Trotz des unbestrittenen Wohlstands ihrer Wirtschaft verbirgt die Bundesrepublik Deutschland immer noch viele Schwächen. Die Existenz von zu vielen Armen in der Mitte ihrer Gesellschaft, die nur durch Almosen bei Sozialeinrichtungen ihr Überleben versichern, erweckt viele Empörungen. In seinem Werk Schamland entlarvt der Soziologe Stefan Selke die traurige Lebensrealität dieser Armutsbetroffenen. Trotz seines internationalen Rufs erscheint Deutschland, so Selke, hinsichtlich der Armut und deren traurigen Konsequenzen in diesem Land als ein Schamland. Der Verzicht des Staates auf seine Verantwortung zugunsten Sozialorganisationen vertieft immer mehr die Notlage der Armen. Trotzdem ist die Bundesrepublik Deutschland kein wirtschaftlich schwaches Land. Eine gute Führung ihrer Sozialpolitik kann nachhaltig die entlarvte Krise lösen.

Stichwörter: Deutschland, Armut,  Sozialeinrichtungen,  Notlage, gute Führung.

 

Résumé

Malgré la prospérité incontestée de son économie, la République Fédérale d’Allemagne cache encore beaucoup de faiblesses. L’existence de trop de pauvres au milieu de sa société, qui n’assurent leur survie que grâce à la charité reçue auprès des services sociaux, éveille beaucoup d’indignations.  Dans son ouvrage Schamland, le sociologue Stefan Selke expose la triste réalité de vie pour ces victimes de la pauvreté. Malgré sa réputation internationale, l’Allemagne apparaît, selon Selke, comme un pays honteux au regard de la pauvreté et de ses conséquences désastreuses dans ce pays. La démission de l’Etat de sa responsabilité au profit des services sociaux aggrave de plus en plus le sort des pauvres. Toutefois, la République fédérale d’Allemagne n’est pas un pays économiquement faible. Une bonne gestion de leur politique sociale peut résoudre durablement la crise décrite chez cet auteur.

Mots-clés: Allemagne, pauvreté,  services sociaux,  sort, bonne gestion.

 

Einführung

Die gute Gesundheit der deutschen Wirtschaft ist heute weltweit unumstritten. Deutschland gilt in international vergleichender Perspektive als Wohlstandsgigant[1]. Trotzdem verbirgt diese blühende Wirtschaft viele Schwächen, deren Entdeckung von manchen Beobachtern unter anderem dem Soziologen Stefan Selke Empörungen erweckt. In seinem Werk Schamland analysiert Selke die Lebensrealität der in Deutschland armutsbetroffenen Menschen im Rahmen der Einführung der Sozialpolitik. Er zeichnet das Leben dieser Menschen, die einst in der Mitte der Gesellschaft lebten und jetzt sich verzweifelt bemühen, ein Stück Normalität zu bewahren. Er schämt sich vor diesen empfindlichen Personen, die seit Jahren Almosen bei manchen Sozialeinrichtungen in Empfang nehmen.

Wie tritt diese Armut im Werk von Stefan Selke in Erscheinung? Wie greifen die Sozialeinrichtungen in die Lösung dieser Notlage ein? Wie reagieren die Bedürftigen auf diese Angebote? Drei Reflexionsrichtungen leiten unseren Lauf: Zuerst der Skandal der Armut in Deutschland, dann die Nützlichkeit der Sozialeinrichtungen in diesem Land und endlich die Reaktion der Bedürftigen auf die angebotenen Almosen der Sozialeinrichtungen. Die verwendete Methodik für die vorliegende Forschungsarbeit ist die Sozialgeschichte der Literatur.

 

  1. Vom Skandal der Armut in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

„Armut ist Teil von Lebenswelten, zu denen man gerne auf sicherer Distanz bleibt“, schreibt Stefan Selke im Prolog seines vorliegenden Werkes[2]. Im Vergleich mit der Doku-Fiktion Aufstand der Jungen entlarvt er den Mangel an der Solidarität in der deutschen Gesellschaft. Der erwähnte Film porträtiert allerdings eine Gesellschaft, deren Regelsystem brüchig geworden ist und in welcher Menschen für weniger als 2,50 Euro pro Stunde arbeiten. Obwohl immer mehr Bürger unter die Armutsgrenze rutschen und um ihr Überleben kämpfen, bleibt der Staat gleichgültig. Keinesfalls schreitet er ein, die armen Bürger zu schützen. Schon in seinem Werk Die Hebamme (1973) beschreibt Rolf Hochhuth dieselbe Gleichgültigkeit des deutschen Staates zu elenden Bewohnern eines Barackenlagers „Nordchicago“ bei der Stadt Wilhelmstahl. Angesichts der Verachtung der Herrscher, die die Existenz dieser untätigen Bevölkerungen zu ignorieren scheinen, können die letzten sich nur auf ihr Schicksal einstellen. Sie nehmen ihr Schicksal nichts anderes als etwas Unvermeidliches an[3]. In der Doku-Fiktion gelten die ersten Stadtteile der Gesellschaft als rechtsfreie Zonen, in denen diejenigen abtauchen, die sich „dem Würgegriff der Behörden und Gläubiger“ entziehen müssen[4].

Am Beispiel von dieser dargestellten Einbildungsrealität beschreibt Selke die Armut in Deutschland, einem reichen Land, und deren traurigen Konsequenzen auf die gefährdeten Bevölkerungsgruppen. In der Mitte der Stadt Berlin existiert, so der Autor, ein derartiger Stadtteil, den sogenannten „Höllenberg“[5]. Dort zahlt niemand Steuern. Die Polizei unternimmt nichts gegen Verbrechen. Wenn in dieser armseligen Behausung Krawalle losbrechen, spricht man von den schwersten sozialen Unruhen seit dem Bestehen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, macht Selke bekannt[6]. In der deutschen Gesellschaft scheinen die meisten Bürger, denen es noch besser geht, die durch die Armut und Ausgrenzung gekennzeichnete Parallelwelt zu akzeptieren.

Diese Teilung der deutschen Gesellschaft in ein Oben und ein Unten ist in manchen Sozialschichten spürbar, wie eine I-Euro-Jobberin es erwähnt: „Das ist inzwischen eine Parallelwelt. Wir sind schon zwei Gesellschaften. Der Unterschied zwischen arm und reich wird immer größer. Irgendwann gibt es dann nur noch die ganz Reichen und die ganz Armen[7].“ Immer mehr grenzen sich die Reichen von den Armen ab, welche kaum von Interessengruppen vertreten sind. Keine Kirche oder keine Gewerkschaft verteidigt ihre Interessen, so der Autor[8].Diese neue Form der Armut bedroht gänzlich neue Personenkreise, seien sie Arbeitslose, Alleinerziehende, Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund oder Kinder. Eine solche Armut inmitten vom Reichtum ist  ein Skandal, wie Selke es unterstreicht[9]. Sie untergräbt die Würde des deutschen Bürgers und widerspricht dem Grundgesetz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. In seinem Werk Spinnennetz der Macht erinnert Jürgen Roth an dieses Grundrecht, wie es im Artikel 1 des Grundgesetz vorgeschrieben ist: „ „Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.[10]“ „ Für Roth allerdings sollte das deutsche Grundgesetz ein Wertesystem bilden, das als verfassungsrechtliche Wertentscheidung für alle Bereiche im Verhältnis zwischen Staat und Bürger gilt. Die entlarvte Notlage bei Stefan Selke ist aber das Gegenteil der Fall. Die deutsche staatliche Macht gibt den nervigen Eindruck, ihre Bürger abzugeben. „Ohne soziale Gerechtigkeit wird es jedoch, das ist eigentlich eine Binsenweisheit, keine Legitimation des Staates geben“[11], unterstreicht auch Roth.

Deutschland geht es gut, aber vielen Deutschen geht es schlecht, behauptet auch Selke. Das klassische Bruttoinlandsprodukt eignet sich hervorragend dazu, Ranglisten zu erstellen. Gemäß des Internationalen Währungsfonds listet Deutschland unter rund 180 Ländern auf Platz 20, gleich nach Japan und Frankreich[12]. Trotzdem sind viele Menschen arm. Diese Notlage führt zu negativen Gefühlen, wie zum Beispiel zum Sozialneid, zur Steigerung der allgegenwärtigen Beschämung und zur Verachtung, aber auch zu subjektiven Gefühlen wie Vertrauensverlust, Verlassens ängste und Selbstabwertung. Die Diagnose eines der Gesprächspartner des Autors, der er nicht zitiert, verkündet ausdrücklich die vorliegenden Gefühle:

„Ich befinde mich am untersten Zipfel der gesamten Gesellschaft. Ich habe gearbeitet, habe Steuern bezahlt und bin auch in der Kirche geblieben, als ich arbeitslos wurde und weniger Geld hatte. Aber der Staat hat mich verlassen. Ich bin ein Ausgestoßener! Und es geht immer weiter. Ich sinke immer tiefer.“[13]

Diese subjektiven Armutslebenslagen versuchen manche Arbeitslosen zu überwinden. Die Ausdrücke eines anderen Gesprächspartners des Autors, arbeitslos und Familienvaters, der versucht, gegen den sozialen Abstieg und die Resignation anzukämpfen, ist ausdrucksvoll:

„Ich muss ständig an meinen Empfindungen arbeiten. Wie kann ich vernünftig haushalten? Wie kann ich einen vernünftigen Eindruck machen? Das Problem ist auch im Kopf, nicht nur im Portemonnaie. Das ist auch eine Einstellungssache, eine innere Sache. Die Frage, wie schlecht es einem geht.“[14]

Die Armut bringt allerdings mit sich die Einschränkungen der Freiheit. Die Lebensqualität ist zu einem guten Teil davon abhängig. In diesem Sinne behauptet Uerlings Hebert, was folgt: „Je niedriger das verfügbare Haushaltseinkommen ist, umso stärker ist der Verbrauch auf die Befriedigung des Grundbedarfs wie Wohnen, Essen, Kleidung konzentriert.“[15] Die Armut macht es auch verletzlich. Es reduziert die Lebensqualität. „Wer arm ist“, so der Autor, „ kauft bei Kik, einem Discounter oder einem Vortagsladen ein, der Brötchen von gestern zum halben Preis anbietet, oder geht zur Tafel und ähnlichen Einrichtungen, um sich kompensatorisch Spielräume zu verschaffen“[16]. Der Arme unterscheidet sich in Deutschland, dadurch dass er keine wertigen und langlebigen Dinge einkaufen kann. Er kann keinen eigenen Geschmack und Lebensstil entwickeln und seinen demonstrativen Konsum dazu nicht einsetzen, das soziale Prestige zu steigern. Laut der Bertels-Stiftung ist die relative Armut in Deutschland weit verbreitet. Im Jahre 2013 beträgt die Quote im Durchschnitt rund 15 Prozent der Bevölkerung. Viele Deutsche sind arm, obwohl sie arbeiten, so der Autor[17]. Diese Armut ist aber ungleich zwischen Ost und West.

Nach der Pressemitteilung des statistischen Bundesamts sind im Westen Deutschlands mehr Menschen bedroht als vor zehn Jahren. Im Osten ist die sogenannte Armutsgefährdungsquote dagegen gesunken – allerdings auf höherem Niveau und mit Ausnahme von Berlin. In den alten Bundesländern waren insgesamt 14,7 Prozent der Menschen von Armut und Ausgrenzung betroffen – das waren 1,5 Punkte mehr als 2005. In den neuen Bundesländern – mit Berlin – sank die Quote im gleichen Zeitraum um 0,7 Prozentpunkte auf 19,7 Prozent, traf also noch immer fast jeden Fünften. Von Armut bedroht gilt nach dieser Statistik, wer weniger als 60 Prozent des mittleren Einkommens im Bundesdurchschnitt zur Verfügung hat[18]. Deshalb zog am 9. Februar 2010 das Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe das „Grundrecht auf Gewährleistung eines menschenwürdigen Existenzminimums inklusive gesellschaftlicher, kultureller und politischer Teilhabe“ als zivilisatorisches Minimum fest[19].

Armut in einer reichen Gesellschaft am Beispiel von der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist aber kein Naturereignis. Sie ist politisch erzeugt. Ökonomisch ist sie nützlich. Sie ist ein gesellschaftliches Produkt. Die Einsetzung der Sozialeinrichtungen in der Bekämpfung dieser Plage beschreibt sich in diesem Sinne. Was motiviert konkret die Schaffung dieser Einrichtungen? Wozu sind sie nützlich in der Bekämpfung der Armut in Deutschland?

 

  1. Von der Nützlichkeit der Sozialeinrichtungen in Deutschland

Selkes Interesse für die Sozialeinrichtungen kommt von einer beispiellosen Erfahrung, die er mit seiner Freundin in Deutschland machte. Auf dem Weg durch die Stadt, die er nicht nennt, sah er zum ersten Mal einen Mann, der in einer Mülltonne nach Essbaren suchte[20]. Er wurde von diesem undenkbaren Geschehnis überrascht, aber auch empört, dass diese Realität der Dritten Welt unter seinen Augen in Deutschland stattfindet.

Von diesem Stand der Dinge schockiert,  beschloss er  ein Jahr später, eine dieser boomenden Hilfsorganisationen aus der Innenperspektive zu erkunden. Von seinen Beobachtungen aus entdeckt er, dass diese Institutionen, die auf den ersten Blick als Hilfsstrukturen zugunsten ökonomisch schwacher Menschen erscheinen, in Wirklichkeit nichts anderes als politische Strukturen im Lohn der Staatsmachthaber sind. Sie bieten Lebensmitteltafeln, Suppenküchen und andere ähnliche Dienste an. Mehr als eine bloße soziale Struktur sind sie ein politisches System, das die Armuts-, Almosen- oder Hartz-IV-Ökonomie fördert[21]. Dieses System erscheint als der weltliche Arm des Reformprogramms des ehemaligen deutschen Bundeskanzlers Gerhardt Schröder. Allerdings, um die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der deutschen Wirtschaft wiederherzustellen, entscheidet sich Schröder für die Liberalisierung des Arbeitsmarkts, für niedrige Sozialleistungen und für die Rentenreform. Dieser Reform, bekannt als „Agenda 2010“, schreiben manche Wirtschaftler zum Teil die Erneuerung der deutschen Industrie und deren Exporterfolge zu.[22] Die gesellschaftlichen Konsequenzen dieser Reform sind in den zehn letzten Jahren beunruhigend, wie Stefan Selke im vorliegenden Werk beschreibt.Für Selke allerdings ist die neue Armut in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland politisch. Trotz der Regelung der Leistungsansprüche im Sozialgesetzbuch II, die die Würde des Arbeitsuchenden fördert und fordert, wollte man ihn durch den längeren Aufenthalt in Arbeitslosigkeit zwingen, schlechte Arbeit anzunehmen[23]. Die Sozialpolitik „Fördern und Fordern“ infolge der Agenda 2010 führt im Gegensatz zur Scham und zur Beschämung. Sie erleichtert systematische Beschämungsverhältnisse aus Arbeitsreformen, nämlich aus der Zunahme der Leiharbeit, der atypischen und befristeten Beschäftigungsverhältnisse. Hinzu kommen die Vergrößerung des Niedriglohnsektors sowie die Hartz-IV-Gesetze im Namen des ehemaligen Direktors der sozialen Beziehungen bei Volkwagen und Vorsitzender der Kommission verantwortlich für die Vorbereitung der Modernisierung der deutschen Industrie Peter Hartz. Das Elend der Arbeitslosen wurde durch die Einführung des Arbeitslosengelds II verschärft. Diese Maßnahme, das dritte Gesetz der Hartz-Reform nach den zwei ersten, nämlich dem, das die Arbeitslosen dazu zwingt, unabhängig vom Gehaltsniveau eine Arbeit anzunehmenund dem, das die « Mini-Jobs » zu weniger als 400 € monatlich schafft, grenzt für ein Jahr die Zahlung von Arbeitslosengeld für ältere Arbeitnehmer und härtet die Bedingungen der Zuschreibung – eine Stelle von einem Jahr in den letzten zwei Jahren.[24]Dadurch wurden Arbeitslose schneller unter der Armutswelle gedrückt.

Das Engagement der Hilfsorganisationen in die Freiwilligengesellschaft beschreibt sich in dieser Perspektive. Dieses Engagement zu Lasten von diesen Organisationen entlässt den Staat, Urheber der oben erwähnten Maßnahmen,  aus seiner Verantwortung. In diesem Sinne enthüllen sich diese neuen Organisationen als Lückenbüßer eines Systems, das sich von seinen zivilisatorischen Grundprinzipien, nämlich der Unparteilichkeit und der Neutralität verabschiedet[25]. Die meisten humanitären Hilfsorganisationen handeln allerdings auf diesen Grundregeln.

Bei Selke tauchen die Freiwilligen in vielen Varianten auf. Sie sind entweder Ehrenamtliche, bürgerschaftlich Engagierte, Bürgerarbeiter in Selbsthilfe oder Freiwilligendienste. Durch die Ausdehnung ihrer Handlungen in manchen Sozialsektoren geben diese Organisationen den Eindruck, den Staat in seiner Grundsicherung zu ersetzen. Ihr Ruf nach zivilgesellschaftlichem Engagement ist eine typische Gegenreaktion auf ökonomische, soziale und politische Krisen. In diesem Sinne schreibt Gisela Notz, was folgt:

„Soziale Versorgung wird großflächig reprivatisiert, staatlichen Kürzungen zum Opfer fallende soziale Einrichtungen werden der Wohlfahrt überantwortet bzw. der ehrenamtlichen Arbeit und Selbsthilfe übergeben – und all dies wird mit dem ideologischen Mäntelchen des Vorteils menschlicher Wärme … gnädig zugedeckt.“[26]

Allerdings, anstatt die Armut nachhaltig durch politisches Handeln zu bekämpfen, wird private Wohltätigkeit als kostengünstiger Ersatz instrumentalisiert und inszeniert. Diese Helfer handeln als Pannendienst innerhalb einer Armutsökonomie. Sie entlassen den Staat, wobei sie durch Almosen die Bürgerrechte beschädigen. Die Verantwortung für soziale Sicherung wurde von der Politik allmählich auf Freiwillige verlagert, ohne dass diese auf Dauer eine befriedigende Bewältigung dieser Aufgabe garantieren könnten.

Unter derartigen Umständen ist es schwer, diesen Helfern die Schuld im Falle einer Fehlleistung in ihrer Handlung zu geben, denn die Grundsicherung der Bevölkerung liegt den Leitbildern des Staates zugrunde. Der Staat ist im Rahmen seiner königlichen Macht verpflichtet, eine nachhaltige Entwicklung des Landes zu gewähren. „Ein „guter Staat“ ist“, so Selke, “ nach diesem Prinzip einer, der es schafft, Armut so weit wie möglich zu verhindern und damit die Menschenrechte zu achten[27].“ Sich von seiner Pflicht zugunsten der Hilfsorganisationen zu verabschieden, ist für den Bundesstaat ein Sprung nach vorne.

Allerdings wollen die meisten Nutznießer arbeiten. Sie sind fleißig und ehrgeizig. Sie sind dessen bewusst, dass, wer nicht arbeitet, auch nicht essen soll und wer isst, ohne gearbeitet zu haben, ein Dieb ist. Sie erwarten die Schaffung der Arbeitsbedingungen seitens der politischen Macht. Diese Erwartung dreht immer wieder um die Illusion, denn der Staat laut der vorliegenden Aussagen gibt den merkwürdigenden Eindruck, vor seiner Verantwortung zu fliehen. Selbst die Parteien packen dieses Thema nicht an, denn mit diesen unangenehm beschriebenen Dingen bei Selke will sich niemand abgeben. Dementsprechend scheint die Politik sehr ferne von der Realität der Armen zu stehen. Die Politiker geben den falschen Eindruck, keine Ahnung davon zu haben, wie ihr wahres Leben eigentlich vonstattengeht.

Der Staat zieht sich aus seiner Verantwortung. Für die Politiker sind Tafeln eine Entlassung. Mit Armenspeisungen verhindert man, dass soziale Unzufriedenheit überschwappt. Sie beruhigen viele Unzufriedene. Durch derartige Handlung begeht der Staat aber einen Irrtum. Er entzieht sich seiner Verantwortung. Ebenfalls münden die Angebote der Armutsökonomie in eine Parallelwirtschaft, einerseits die der Reichen und andererseits die der Armen.

Diese Ökonomie lindert aber die Armut, anstatt ihre Ursachen zu bekämpfen. Die Menschen spielen höchstens die Rolle von Konsumenten zweiter oder dritter Klasse. Sie nehmen nicht an der Erzeugung von Gütern und Diensten teil, welche zum Wachstum der Wirtschaft beitragen. Die öffentliche Hilfe zu ihnen, wie der Autor im vorliegenden Werk schildert, lindert ihre Armutslage. Sie verschärft aber langfristig das Ausgangsproblem. Die Nutznießer aber, die wegen ihrer Notlage auf die angebotenen Dienste nicht verzichten können, sind auf die Qualität dieser Dienste aufgeteilt.

 

  1. Von der Reaktion der Bedürftigen auf die angebotenen Almosen

Die in Schamland beschriebene Armut ist von den Opfern dieser Notlage schwer anzunehmen. Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist kein Entwicklungsland. Eine gute Führung ihrer Sozialpolitik kann nachhaltig die entlarvte Krise Lösen. Sie hat viele Zuständigkeiten dafür. Deshalb führt diese unannehmbare Notlage zu zahlreichen Anklagen und Verwahrungen. Seien sie Ausbildende, Handwerker, Unternehmer oder Beamte, sind sie viel die Opfer dieser Notlage. Die Aussagen einiger von ihnen sind sehr empfindsam. Nennenswert sind die Erfahrung eines studierenden Ehepaars und die eines kranken Handwerkers mit seiner Frau, die an Herzfehler leidet.

Nach dem Verlust ihres BAföGs, der gesetzlichen Regelung allerdings muss das studierende Ehepaar mit ihrem Kind, verbittert, verletzt und zornig zur Tafel gehen, um seine Familie zu ernähren. Außer dem ersten Kind ist die Frau noch Schwanger. Die Familienlage dieser Studierenden erschwert zweifellos ihre finanzielle Lage und stellt sie am Rand ihrer Gesellschaft.

Allerdings, anstatt die von den meisten Ehepaaren die vorliegende Reihenfolge – Studium, Heirat, Kinder – zu machen, entscheidet dieses Ehepaar sich für das Gegenteil der Fall, das heißt zuerst ihre Kinder zur Welt bringen, dann sich heiraten, bevor sie ihr Studium. Obwohl es sich nicht für arm erklären wollte, zwingt seine schwierige finanzielle Lage, es zur Tafel zu gehen. Sehr verlegen, von sich selbst zu sprechen, berichtet der Ehemann über ihre Lage mit einem unbestimmten Pronomen, wie folgt: „Und versteckt sich dabei hinter dem „man“, so als spräche er [der Ehemann] über andere und nicht über sich und seiner Frau“[28].

Ebenfalls äußern der kranke Handwerker, der auf einer Baustelle stürzte, und seine Frau, die an Herzfehler leidet, ihren Zorn ihrem neuen Leben gegenüber: „Wir waren ein Teil der Gesellschaft, aber Vater Staat hat uns dermaßen verlassen, er hat uns richtiggehend nach unten gearbeitet. Wir sind regelrecht ausgestoßen. Wenn das so weitergeht, sinken wir noch tiefer.“ [29] Über den Bundesstaat sehr empört, wünscht der Ehmann den Rückkehr Adolf Hitlers, um die Bevölkerung von dieser Krise zu retten. In diesem Sinne macht der Autor seine Stimme, wie folgt, bekannt: „Es musste noch mal einen kleinen Hitler geben. Ja, so ein kleiner Adolf. Dann gäbe es heute nicht so viele Arbeitslose, dann würde wieder was getan. Dann würden sich viele nicht mehr so überflüssig vorkommen“[30].

Die Armut hat in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Folgen, die weit über das bloß Materielle hinausgeht. Resignation und Hoffnungslosigkeit, Selbstaufgabe und Selbstanklage sind, unter anderem, Reaktionen, die sich in den Gesprächen des Autors mit Tafelnutzern in allen Schattierungen und Tonlagen wiederfinden. All das macht krank und kann zum frühen Tod führen. “Rund 30 Prozent der von Armut betroffenen Männer werden nicht mehr älter 65 Jahre[31]“, behauptet der Autor.

Die Arbeitslosen, die dazu entschließen, zur Tafeln zu gehen, verlieren den letzten Rest ihrer Selbstbestimmung. Sie fühlen sich doppelt entmündigt. Erst beim Amt, dann bei der Tafel. Plötzlich sind sie abhängig. Ihre Selbstachtung gewinnen sie nicht durch das Lächeln der Tafelhelfer zurück, sondern nur dann, wenn sie sich wieder selbst etwas kaufen können, wenn sie aufs Neue finanziell unabhängig werden.

Eigentlich muss der Staat mehr Verantwortung übernehmen, damit Tafeln nicht mehr so attraktiv wären. Aber je besser die Tafeln arbeiten, desto eher können sich Politiker zurückkehren. Am Ende verlassen sich Politiker und Bedürftige auf die Tafeln, den liebesgewonnenen Pannendienst der Gesellschaft. Aber, wenn diese Hilfeeinrichtungen wirtschaftliche und politische Rollen spielen, sind sie nicht die soziale Lösung.

Durch die Tafeln bekommt die Politik ein Alibi und kann behaupten, sie versorgt den Bürgern. Die Wahrheit aber ist anders. Die Tafeln sorgen um sich selbst. Die Bürger fühlen sich währenddessen im Stich gelassen, denn das Signal ist: „Ihr sollt uns so wenig wie möglich kosten. Die wirtschaftlich noch verwertbaren Individuen ziehen wir raus. Die anderen speisen wir ab[32].“

Die Tafeln haben nicht damit gerechnet, dass so viele Menschen kommen. Mit dem Zufall sind sie teilweise überfordert, sodass sie die Bürgerrechte wegnehmen. Trotzdem sind die Tafeln kein Schicksal, das von oben auf die Armen niederkommt. Es gibt Alternativen, daraus zu ziehen. Nichts ist in Stein gemeißelt. Durch die Tafeln fühlen die Armen sich ausrangiert und deplatziert. Noch wird der schöne Schein aufrechterhalten. Aber hinter den Kulissen brodelt es. Nur auf den ersten Eindruck hin ist das alles gut und schön. Bei näherem Hinsehen bricht alles auseinander.

Die Armen wünschen sich mehr soziale Gerechtigkeit. Sie haben nichts gegen Belastungen. Nur die ungerechte Verteilung der Belastungen kritisieren sie, denn die Entwicklung ihres Landes in vielen Bereichen unsozial. Deshalb wäre es besser, die deutschen Sozialsysteme zu verstärken, anstatt die Tafeln immer weiter auszubauen, Arbeitsplätze regelmäßig zu schaffen, anständige Löhne zu bezahlen, damit die deutsche Bevölkerung würdig leben könnte. Sozial wäre es, so der Autor, wenn die Tafeln sich selbst überflüssig machen würden, anstatt nur davon zu reden[33], denn sie  machen den Armen keinen Spaß. Das erklärt die Notwendigkeit, aus der Mühle zu ziehen, die dreiste Erniedrigung wegfallen zu lassen.

Schlussfolgerung

Die Thematisierung der Armut in manchen Sozialschichten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland erweist sich als eine Scham angesichts des großen wirtschaftlichen Potenzials dieses Landes und des internationalen Prestiges, mit dem es sich anschließt. Deutschland braucht nicht die Lösung seiner Probleme mit privaten Unternehmen abzuziehen. Es muss seine Verantwortung übernehmen, um die Grundsicherung seiner Bevölkerung zu versichern.

Dem Autor des vorliegenden Skandals erscheint ein Perspektivwechsel dringend notwendig. Für ihn ist es Zeit, dass über den weniger bekannten Teil der Gesellschaft gesprochen wird. Es geht um die Gedankenwelt und Lebenswirklichkeit derjenigen Menschen, die inmitten des gemeinsamen Wohlstands arm sind. Deshalb, anstatt in depressiver Empörung zu verfallen, wäre es besser, den Aufbruch in eine bessere Zukunft  diesen Schwächsten vorzubereiten.

 

Bibliographie

HOCHHUTH Rolf, 1973, Die Hebamme, Komödie, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Rowohlt Verlag GmbH.

ROTH Jürgen, 2013, Spinnennetz der Macht, Wie die politische und wirtschaftliche Elite unser Land zerstört, Berlin, Econ.

SELKE Stefan, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Berlin, Econ.

URL:https://www.welt.de/newsticker/dpa_nt/infoline_nt/brennpunkte_nt/article158311803/Armut-trifft-in-Westdeutschland-immer-mehr-Menschen.htmln, (21/04/2018).

URL: http://www.slate.fr/story/49535/Allemagne-comment-gerhard-schroeder-redressement (21/04/2018).

[1]Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Berlin, Econ., S. 21.

[2] Vgl. Idem, S. 12.

[3] Vgl. Rolf Hochhuth : Die Hebamme, Komödie, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, 1973, P.12.

[4] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Berlin, Econ.,Op. Cit., S. 19.

[5] Idem.

[6] Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Berlin, Econ.,Op. Cit., S. 19-20.

[7] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, in, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op., Cit., 27.

[8] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit, S. 29.

[9] Vgl. Idem, S. 20.

[10] Zitiert nach Jürgen Roth, 2013, Spinnennetz der Macht, Wie die politische und wirtschaftliche Elite unser Land zerstört, Berlin, Econ, S. 10.

[11] Jürgen Roth, 2013, Spinnennetz der Macht, Wie die politische und wirtschaftliche Elite unser Land zerstört, Op. Cit., S. 9.

[12] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit, S. 21.

[13] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit, S. 22.

[14] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit, S. 22.

[15] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 24-25.

[16] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 25.

[17] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 25.

[18] Pressemitteilung Statistisches Bundesamt, in, Welt, „Armut trifft in Westdeutschland immer mehr Menschen“, in,https://www.welt.de/newsticker/dpa_nt/infoline_nt/brennpunkte_nt/ article158311803/Armut-trifft-in-Westdeutschland-immer-mehr-Menschen.htmln, (21/04/2018).

[19] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 25.

[20] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 9.

[21] Vgl. Idem.

[22] Daniel Vernet: « Comment Gerhardt Schröder a rassuré la compétitivité allemande », in : slate, in : http://www.slate.fr/story/49535/Allemagne-comment-gerhard-schroeder-redressement (21/04/2018).

[23] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 31.

[24] Daniel Vernet: « Comment Gerhardt Schröder a rassuré la compétitivité allemande », in : slate, in : http://www.slate.fr/story/49535/Allemagne-comment-gerhard-schroeder-redressement (21/04/2018).

[25] Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 215.

[26] Zitiert nach  Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 215.

[27] Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 197.

[28] Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 55.

[29] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 61-62.

[30] Zitiert nach Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 62.

[31] Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 172.

[32]Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 164-165.

[33]Vgl. Stefan Selke, 2013, Schamland, die Armut mitten unter uns, Op. Cit., S. 166.

Article n°13- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

HABITUDES ALIMENTAIRES AU PETIT DEJEUNER DES ECOLIERS ET ELEVES DANS LA MUNICIPALITE DE PARAKOU

 

Julien Chambi ATCHADE

julienatchade@yahoo.fr

Alabi AWE,  

Jules SOSSA,

                                                                                                      Université de Parakou

 

TELECHARGER VERSION PDF

 

Abstract

This study aims at determining the factors guiding food choice for breakfast purposes among the Parakou pupils and students. The methodology adopted to guide this research work has considered a desk review consolidated by a field survey using a mixed research paradigm. The findings have showed that the dietary habits displayed during breakfast by the pupils and students are determined by the amount of their pocket money and the influence of their social environment.

Key words: Food habit, breakfast, Parakou

 

Résumé

La présente étude s’est donnée pour objectif de déterminer les facteurs du choix alimentaire au petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves de Parakou. Du point de vue méthodologique, nous avons procédé à une revue documentaire et une enquête de terrain selon une approche mixte. Les résultats ont montré que les habitudes alimentaires au petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves sont déterminées par le montant dont ils disposent et l’influence de l’environnement social.

Mots clés: Habitude alimentaire; petit déjeuner;  Parakou

 

 

Introduction

Le point de départ de la présente recherche est la déclaration d’un enseignant  qui se plaignait de ce que beaucoup de ses élèves ne suivent pas correctement les cours comme il se doit à certains moments de la journée. A l’éducateur d’ajouter que cela serait dû au repas lourd que beaucoup d’entre eux prennent le matin avant de se rendre en classe. Cette déclaration n’a pas été sans nous rappeler la question cruciale qui prévaut aujourd’hui, dans un contexte où l’alimentation est devenue un sujet d’inquiétude, « que manger, quand manger, comment manger?». De nos jours, l’enjeu est en effet le choix des aliments (Fischler, 2001), dans un environnement normatif où les discours alimentaires foisonnent et entrent en contradiction (Godin, 2010). A partir de ces préoccupations, la question de recherche suivante a été posée : quels sont les déterminants du choix alimentaire au petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves de la Municipalité de Parakou ?

La quête de réponse à cette question a conduit à faire de la recherche documentaire et aussi à faire des enquêtes de terrain. De l’analyses des données collectées sur le terrain, il ressort que plusieurs facteurs influencent le choix alimentaire des écoliers et élèves de Parakou.Notre étude vise de façon globale à analyser les habitudes alimentaires au petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves et de façon spécifiques à établir la diversité des aliments consommés au petit déjeuner par les écoliers et élèves et enfin à comprendre les causes de la diversité des habitudes alimentaires des écoliers et élèves. Le présent article s’articule autour de dix (10) points.

 

  1. Cadre de l’étude

Capitale régionale du Nord-Bénin, la Municipalité de Parakou (chef-lieu de la commune de Parakou) est au centre de la République du Bénin à 407 km de Cotonou. Elle constitue un important carrefour des axes routiers. La commune de Parakou se trouve à 9°21’ de latitude Nord, à 2°36’ de longitude Est à une altitude moyenne de 350 m et présente un relief assez modeste. Parakou est une commune à statut particulier constituée de trois arrondissements et 41 quartiers de ville. La commune est administrée par un conseil municipal de 25 membres ayant à sa tête, un Maire. Parakou est le chef-lieu du département du Borgou et, en cette qualité, abrite des directions départementales et beaucoup d’agences régionales. Selon le RGPH4 de 2013, la population de la commune de Parakou est estimée à 255 478 habitants dont 127 328 personnes de sexe masculin et 128 150 personnes de sexe féminin. Le nombre total des ménages est estimé à  16 142 dont 5 189 ménages ruraux, soit 32,14%. La taille moyenne des ménages est de 6,4 personnes alors que la taille des ménages ruraux est de 8,6 personnes.

 

  1. Méthodologie

La sociologie de l’alimentation présente quelques méthodes de collecte spécifiques pour les pratiques alimentaires (Poulain, 2012 : 526-528) ; il s’agit notamment de :

  • L’observation participante. Elle a consisté en effet à observer directement et attentivement les pratiques et les comportements des élèves et écoliers face aux vendeuses de nourriture. L’observation donne lieu parfois à des questions de précisions telles que si c’est toujours le même repas qu’ils achètent ou s’il leur arrive de changer. Si oui, quelles sont les raisons du changement, etc.
  • L’intégration au sein d’un groupe. De façon spécifique, on parlera plutôt de l’observation « armée » ; observation au sein d’un groupe ; armé d’une grille de lecture permettant de saisir les faits lorsqu’ils se produisent.
  • Le questionnaire ; permet de collecter de grandes quantités de données (représentations, opinions, comportements…..) et d’activer de multiples variables.
  • L’entretien en face-à-face ; semi ou non directif, individuel ou en groupe (focus group).

Au total, cent (100) écoliers et élèves ont été soumis au questionnaire et 30 vendeuses interviewées grâce au guide d’entretien.

La sociologie de l’alimentation présente quelques méthodes de collecte spécifiques pour les pratiques alimentaires (Poulain, 2012 : 526-528) ; il s’agit notamment de :

  • L’observation participante. Elle a consisté en effet à observer directement et attentivement les pratiques et les comportements des élèves et écoliers face aux vendeuses de nourriture. L’observation donne lieu parfois à des questions de précisions telles que si c’est toujours le même repas qu’ils achètent ou s’il leur arrive de changer. Si oui, quelles sont les raisons du changement, etc.
  • L’intégration au sein d’un groupe. De façon spécifique, on parlera plutôt de l’observation « armée » ; observation au sein d’un groupe ; armé d’une grille de lecture permettant de saisir les faits lorsqu’ils se produisent.
  • Le questionnaire ; permet de collecter de grandes quantités de données (représentations, opinions, comportements…..) et d’activer de multiples variables.
  • L’entretien en face-à-face ; semi ou non directif, individuel ou en groupe (focus group).

Au total, cent (100) écoliers et élèves ont été soumis au questionnaire et 30 vendeuses interviewées grâce au guide d’entretien.

 

  1. Déterminants du choix du petit déjeuner

« Les choix alimentaires sont le produit d’une décision répondant à un certain nombre d’influences de l’environnement ». L’objectif du présent article est de déterminer les facteurs qui déterminent le choix alimentaire au petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves de Parakou. Il convient de distinguer les écoliers et élèves qui prennent le petit déjeuner dans une cantine et ceux qui le prennent en dehors de la cantine. Notre travail n’a pris en compte que ceux de la seconde catégorie qui prennent leur à l’endroit où bon leur semble en raison de leurs propres critères. Au nombre de ces critères, nous pouvons énumérer :

 

  • Le montant alloué par les parents

Les premières personnes à être interpellées ici sont les parents. Il existe une variété de repas à la disposition des clients mais ces repas en fonction de leur qualité ne se vendent pas aux mêmes prix.  Le choix porté sur ces repas sera déterminé par le montant dont disposent les écoliers et élèves. Pour le cas de Parakou, l’argent du petit déjeuner donné aux écoliers et élèves en fonction du niveau de vie des parents varie de 25 F à 250 F CFA. Voir infra. Un enfant à qui l’on donne 25 F par exemple aura bien voulu s’acheter du pain + de l’avocat  au petit déjeuner mais il ne le pourra pas parce que ce repas est largement au dessus de sa bourse. Il devra se résoudre à aller vers des repas de moindre « prestige ».

 

  • Les habitudes alimentaires

Les habitudes alimentaires sont souvent à rechercher depuis l’enfance des écoliers et élèves parce qu’il n’est pas rare d’entendre comme réponse  « c’est un mets que je mange depuis que je suis tout petit » à la question  qu’est vous attire vers un tel repas. On laisse deviner derrière cette réponse que rien de particulier n’attire vers ce type de repas si ce n’est l’habitude qui apparait alors ici comme un déterminant dans le choix du petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves de la Municipalité de Parakou.

 

  • L’environnement social

Parakou est une ville cosmopolite où on rencontre beaucoup de communautés venues d’horizons divers. Les descendants de ces communautés sont influencés par les habitudes alimentaires locales qu’ils partagent entièrement. Lisons à ce sujet le verbatim suivant : « je ne mangeais pas du watché (mélange de riz et du niébé) avant de venir à Parakou, mais aujourd’hui, je ne peux m’en passer puisque c’est cela que la plupart de mes amis mangent, moi-même je les suis et je suis devenu un champion du watché ».

 

  • La disponibilité

Le riz est généralement prisé par les écoliers et les jeunes. Il est disponible à tous les coins de rue. Il coûte par ailleurs moins cher. Ce qui fait qu’une bonne proportion des enquêtés en consomme tous les matins en se rendant à l’école.

 

  1. Caractéristiques sociodémographiques des écoliers et élèves

Dans la zone d’étude, les principaux groupes socio-culturels rencontrés sont les Dendi (32%), les Bariba (26%), Nagot (19%), les Fon et ses apparentés (12%), les Peulh (5%), les Bètammaribè (3%), et 3% parlent autres langues (Idatcha, Lokpa et Biali). La forte proportion des Dendi et Bariba s’explique par le fait que Parakou est une aire socio-culturelle Dendi et Bariba.

Nos résultats nous révèlent que 15% des enquêtés ont un âge compris entre 8 et 12 ans, 62% ont entre 13 et 17 ans et 13% ont plus de 17 ans. Les 62% des interviewés représentent les tranches d’âge des adolescents.

Les filles (55%) s’adonnent plus au petit déjeuner que les garçons (45%). Ceci s’expliquerait par le fait que l’activité métabolique de la femme dépasse celle de l’homme. Les femmes s’alimentent plus en périodes de menstruation pour compenser les nutriments éliminés pendant cette période. De plus 85% des enquêtés ont un niveau d’étude secondaire tandis que 15% ont un niveau primaire. Ceci s’explique par le fait que les adolescents sont les plus observés au secondaire.

De plus le tableau ci-dessous nous montre que le watché est plus consommé par les Dendi tandis que la bouillie accompagnée au pâté, le pain, le toubani et le riz sont respectivement plus consommés au petit déjeuner par les Bariba et Nagot, fon et ses apparentés, Dendi, les Fon et ses apparentés.

Ces résultats montrent que les habitudes de consommation des aliments au petit déjeuner varient d’un groupe socioculturel à un autre. En effet, des résultats similaires ont été rapportés par Sossa-Vihotogbé et al. (2012) qui ont montré une forte consommation C. sésamoïdes, un légume-feuille traditionnel par les Tchabé, les Mahi, et les Kotokoli.

Les pourcentages ci-dessous, comme le montre le graphe ci-après, reflètent les habitudes alimentaires de base des différents groupes sociolinguistiques de la population enquêtée.

Figure 1: repartition des aliments consommes au petit dejeuner par groupe socioculturel

Source : enquête de terrain, septembre 2017

  1. Responsabilités des parents vis-à-vis des enquêtés

La majorité (39%) écoliers et élèves vivent avec leurs parents (père et mère) et sont également pris en charge par ces derniers tandis que 20% des enquêtés sont sous le toit de leurs mères et pris en charge par ces dernières. Par ailleurs, une particularité s’observe où six (6%) des enquêtés vivent sous le toit du père et pris en charge par le père. D’autres (14%) sont sous le toit de leur oncle ou tante mais ce sont les parents biologiques  qui en ont la prise en charge enfin d’autres (21%) ont précisé qu’ils sont chez leurs « grands-mères » qui assurent la prise en charge des petits fils. Des résultats similaires ont été rapportés par Mitchikpè (1998) qui a montré que les personnesprenant en charge ou contribuant aux dépenses alimentaires sont, selon le cas, le chef de ménage seul, la ménagère seule, le chef de ménage et son épouse ou encore d’autres personnes (enfants ou parents alliés).

Le fort taux de 20% des enquêtés qui vivent chez leurs mères et pris en charge par ces dernières s’explique par le fait que les mères assurent mieux l’éducation des enfants que les pères et les autres groupes (Tante, oncle et autres)

 

  1. Les aliments de base au petit déjeuner

Le « watché » est plus consommé par les écoliers et élèves parmi les aliments de petit déjeuner. Ensuite viennent respectivement la bouillie, pâté, pain, toubani et le riz. Il convient de dire que le « watché » est le plus mangé les matins par cette population (écoliers et élèves). La forte consommation de watché par la population s’explique par les connaissances endogènes qu’elles ont vis-à-vis du plat. Ceci rejoint les résultats de Vodouhéet al. (2012b) où ils montraient que le plat de grande morelle est plus consommé par rapport aux plats de basilic africain et amarante au Sud-Bénin.

L’analyse du tableau 2 montre également que le céréale est l’aliment de base des plats de petit déjeuner. Le riz est un produit de base le plus consommé au petit déjeuner, viennent respectivement le maïs, le sorgho puis les tubercules (ignames). Ceci s’explique par le fait que divers plats sont issus de la transformation des céréales, légumineuse, tubercules et racines. Mitchikpè et al (1998) stipulent que le maïs est le produit le plus consommé au petit déjeuner au Bénin puis l’igname occupe la deuxième place à Parakou, le riz au Sud-Bénin (Abomey-Bohicon et à Lokossa). La principale forme de consommation de maïs est la bouillie simple (bouillie de farine fermentée) ou aklui(bouillie de farine fermentée granulée). En ville, la consommation du riz est accompagnée généralement d’une sauce dont la composition varie : sauce rouge à base de tomate, blanche constituée d’oignons généralement, riz au gras, yassa, thiéboudieuneetc (Alou, 2012). Selon Alou (2012), le petit déjeuner a conservé sa structure d’après la colonisation : produits laitiers, boisson chaude, produits céréaliers (pain, viennoiserie ou reste du repas du soir)

 

Tableau 2: Recapitulatif Des Principaux Repas Journaliers

Aliment de base

 

Principaux repas

du petit déjeuner

Non réponse maïs Sorgho Manioc Igname Riz Total
2 2 0 0 0 0 4
Bouillie 0 26 0 0 2 8 36
Watché 0 12 0 0 4 50 66
Toubani 0 4 0 0 0 4 8
Yovo-doko 0 6 0 0 0 0 6
Pâté 4 14 2 0 0 6 26
Pain 6 0 0 0 0 4 10
Come 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Pâte 0 4 0 0 0 2 6
Riz 0 2 0 0 0 6 8
Thé/café/pain 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Spaghetti 0 2 0 0 0 0 2
Akassa 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Total 12 72 2 0 6 6 178

Source : enquête de terrain, septembre 2017

 

Le mets « Watché » est fait à base de différentes variétés de riz et niébé vendu par les bonnes dames au marché arzèkè ou auprès des boutiquiers qui se trouvent au bord des rues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 1: Niébés et Riz                                    Photo 2: Niébés

 

                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 3: watché

 

  1. Variation des aliments de base

Les 51% des élèves et écoliers de la municipalité de Parakou varient leurs aliments une fois par jour et les 39% deux fois tandis que 4% et 6% des interviewés varient respectivement leurs aliments de base deux fois et quatre fois par jour. Cette forte proportion de 39% et de 51% s’explique par l’accessibilité, la disponibilité et la capacité du repas à calmer la faim pendant un long moment et le goût.

 

  1. Le pouvoir d’achat des écoliers et élèves

Les parents donnent des quibus aux écoliers et élèves pour le petit déjeuner. A cet effet, les 30% des élèves/écoliers prennent 150 fcfa comme petit déjeuner, les 17% prennent 100 fcfa, 200 fcfa pour 27%, d’autres prennent plus que 250 fcfa et les 13% ne prennent rien comme petit déjeuner. Les 2% et 5% prennent respectivement 75 fcfa et 50 fcfa comme quibus de petit de déjeuner. Il ressort de ces résultats que les enfants vont à l’école avec une somme d’argent considérable pour le petit déjeuner. Ils sont ainsi contraints au choix des aliments à base de riz et niébé, maïs et de blé. Ceci s’explique par la capacité financière des parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: répartition des enquetes par montant du petit déjeuner

Source : enquête de terrain, septembre 2017

 

 

 

  1. Raison de consommation des aliments de préférences

La pâte (40%) est le repas habituellement le plus consommé en famille par les écoliers et élèves puis viennent respectivement watché (22%) et le riz (18%). Cela prouve donc l’amour qu’on a envers nos cultures. Le plus souvent cette pâte est faite à base de céréales ou à base des tubercules et racines (cossette d’igname ou de manioc). En ce qui concerne la composition des repas, les compilations proposées tournent autour d’un plat principal à base de céréales ou de légumineuses ou tubercule (Bichiri, 2008).

La consommation de certains aliments chez presque tous les groupes socioculturels enquêtés est introduite dans leurs habitudes alimentaires depuis le bas âge. Ce qui correspond à un fait de l’héritage (Batawilaet al., 2007). Les connaissances endogènes sont conservées et transmises de génération en génération sur tous les plans et même celui alimentaire (Codjiaet al., 2009).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Répartition des enquêtés selon le repas habituel pris

Source : enquête de terrain, septembre 2017

 

Les interviewés, 35% et 29%  aiment respectivement l’igname-pilée et le watché plus que les autres aliments du fait de leur goût, disponibilité, l’accessibilité financière et la qualité nutritionnelle. Les interviewés ont évoqué comme raison de consommation d’igname pilée, le goût (15%) et la disponibilité (14%) tandis que 6% et 4% consomment respectivement le watché à raison de leurs capacités financière et à la qualité nutritionnelle de l’aliment. 65% et 71% des interviewés ont évoquérespectivement la sieste et la constipation comme raison de non consommation de l’igname pilée. La forte proportion de préférence d’igname pilée s’explique par le fait que l’igname est généralement disponible dans le Nord-Bénin comparativement au riz exporté. Mitchikpe et al (1998) ont montré qu’à Parakou, la consommation de l’igname dont la forme la plus répandue est l’igname pilée, domine largement celle des zones centre et sud du Bénin. Les enfants mangent tous les groupes alimentaires à des fréquences très variables selon l’appétit, la vie sociale et la disponibilité des aliments (Bichiri, 2008). Des résultats similaires ont été rapportés par Batawilaet al. (2007) au Togo et au Bénin (Dansi et al., 2008; Sossa-Vihotogbé et al., 2012; Chadaré et al., 2008) par rapport aux raisons de consommation et de non consommation des aliments.

L’igname pilée que la population cible aime est faite à base de l’igname. Après être préparée, elle est pilée par ceux qui veulent la consommer ou les bonnes dames afin de la vendre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           Photo 4: Igname                  Photo 5: Igname pilée       Photo 6: Plat d’igname pilée

 

  1. Les principaux repas journaliers, leurs importances et le lieu de prise du petit déjeuner

Le déjeuner (85%) est le plus important parmi les principaux repas puis ensuite le petit déjeuner (83%) et enfin le dîner (75%). Donc le goûter (35%) n’est pas une nécessité pour les élèves et écoliers. Bechiri (2009) montre à travers une étude sur l’alimentation des enfants de 6 à 12 ans en Algérie que le petit déjeuner occupe une place importante parmi les principaux repas de la journée et le déjeuner est le moins sauté pendant la journée chez 1.78 p. cent des enfants.

Par ailleurs, la majorité (65%) prend les trois principaux repas quotidiennement recommandés au cours de la journée, il s’agit des trois (03) repas traditionnels, petit déjeuner, déjeuner et le diner. 17% des enquêtés ne prennent pas le petit déjeuner. Cela serait dû au manque de moyen financier, d’appétit et au problème de santé nutritionnelle (obésité). Quelques études (WOLF et coll., 1994, ORTEGA et coll., 1996) ont souligné que la suppression du petit déjeuner est plus fréquente chez les individus obèses que ceux qui ont un poids normal et que 10.42 p. cent sautent parfois ce repas. Bio nigan et al (2008) ont montré que le petit déjeuner n’a pas contribué à augmenter de façon significative la distance parcourue pendant 10 min, mais il n’a pas non plus infléchi la performance à cette épreuve sportive chez les écoliers de la ville de Porto Novo.

Nos résultats révèlent que 31% prennent leur petit déjeuner en famille tandis que 52%, hors de famille (au réfectoire scolaire et dans les rues). Les interviewés s’intéressent plus aux plats de rue au petit déjeuner qu’aux plats familiaux. Cela s’explique par le fait que les parents laissent leurs enfants (écoliers et élèves) à leur propre charge en préférence matinale alimentaire en leur offrant un montant journalier. Les écoliers béninois qui reçoivent de l’argent le matin, s’alimentent presque tous à l’école auprès de restauratrices qui ont rempli les conditions de santé et d’hygiène requises par l’administration scolaire. Les autres consomment un petit déjeuner fait du reste du dîner de la veille ou de la bouillie de farine de maïs fermentée, avant de quitter la maison (Bio nigan et al, 2008).

 

Conclusion

Il ressort de la présente étude que les déterminants du choix du petit déjeuner des écoliers et élèves de la Municipalité de Parakou sont variés. Au nombre de ces déterminants, on peut citer le montant alloué par les parents aux enfants, l’environnement social, les habitudes alimentaires, la disponibilité des repas, etc. L’étude nous a permis aussi de faire une esquisse des habitudes alimentaires selon les différents groupes sociolinguistiques des apprenants sans oublier la détermination des repas de base de ces jeunes.Il ressort de notre étude aussi que  selon Thibaut de Saint Pol (2002) l’acte alimentaire se déroule selon des protocoles imposés par la société. La définition de ce qu’est un repas, les plats qui le composent, la forme de la journée alimentaire (nombre de prises, horaires…), les modalités (lieu, contexte des prises alimentaires…), mais aussi les manières de manger varient énormément d’une culture à l’autre, et entre groupes sociaux au sein d’une même culture (Fischler, 1990 ; Poulain, 2002a).

Les différences de pratiques alimentaires entre milieux sociaux  sont aussi tributaires des différences de revenus ;  elles traduisent également d’autres dimensions de nature  sociale tels quel’âge, le niveau d’éducation, les habitudes familiales, ou encore l’influence de l’entourage (Nestle et coll., 1998).Les pratiques alimentaires offrent une incroyable occasion de décrypter une société.

 

Références Bibliographiques

Batawila K., S. Akpavi, K. Wala, M. Kanda, R. Vodouhe, et K. Akpagana. 2007. diversite et gestion des legumes de cueillette au Togo diversity and management of gathered vegetables in togo. African journal of food agriculture nutrition and development. 7(3):1-16

Bio N., Gouthon p., Falola J.-M., Quenum M.A., Lawani M.M., Petit déjeuner et performance à la course de 10 minutes chez des écoliers de la ville de Porto-Novo au Bénin. Rev. CAMES – Série A, Vol. 06,2008

Dansi A., A. Adjatin, H. Adoukonou-Sagbadja, V. Faladé, H. Yedomonhan, D. Odou, B. Dossou. 2008a. Traditional leafy vegetables and their use in the Benin Republic.Genetic resource and crop evolution. 55: 1239-1256.

Fischler C. L’Homnivore. Odile Jacob, Paris, 1990a, 2011b.

Mitchikpe E., E. Atègbo, J. Fannou, M. Nago. 1998. Consommation alimentaire des ménages urbains au Bénin. CERNA, CIRAD. 1-48

Nestle M, Wing R, Birch L, Disogra L, Drewnowski A, et coll. Behavioral and social influences on food choice. NutrRev1998, 56 : S50-S64

Poulain JP. Sociologies de l’alimentation, les mangeurs et l’espace social alimentaire, , 2002, Presses universitaires de France, Paris.-

de Saint Pol T.  Le dîner des français : un synchronisme alimentaire qui se maintient. Économie et Statistique 2007a, 2008b, 2009c.

Sossa-Vihotogbé C.N.A., N.H. Akissoe, V. Anihouvi, B. Ahohuendo, A. Ahanchede, A. Sanni et J. Hounhouigan. 2012. Endogenous Knowledge of Four Leafy Vegetables Used by Rural Populations in Benin, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 51(1) 22-39.

Vodouhé S., R. Tossou et M. Soumanou. 2012. Perception des consommateurs sur la qualité nutritionnelle et sanitaire de quelques légumes feuilles locaux produits dans la zone côtière du Sud Bénin. Productions Végétales & Animales et Economie & Sociologie Rurales. 1- 11.

Article n°12- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

SPUTTERING DEMOCRACY IN SELECTED ANGLOPHONE AFRICAN FICTION: A THEME ACROSS GENERATIONS

 

Théophile HOUNDJO

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

E-mail : thesympat@yahoo.fr

Yélian Constant AGUESSY

Université de Parakou

E-mail :aguessico@yahoo.fr

TELECHARGER VERSION PDF

Abstract

While fighting for the independences of their countries, African people used to think that their breaking of the colonial bondage would bring them lasting democracy. But very soon, democracy was trampled underfoot. Many fictitious works account for such a state of affairs. Among them are Abrahams’s A Wreath For Udomo, Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Djoleto’s Money Galore, and Ogundimu’s A Silly Season. Internal factors as well as external ones have ‘driven’ African countries into sputtering democracy. As internal factors we can mention, Corruption, embezzlement, favouritism, and dictatorship through the imposed situations on the peoples including the absence of the freedom of the press, the absence of freedom of association, torture, abductions and arbitrary imprisonments. As far as external factors are concerned, we have regular incursions of Western countries in the African politics and economy too. Africans must be creative and original in order to avoid copying blindly what is being applied in Western countries which reflect more their realities and not always African ones. This paper aims at examining the Africans’ failure to cope with the cliché of Western democracy for more than half a century. It also suggests means and ways to promote democracy and economic prosperity. Both the qualitative research method and the postcolonial theories have been adopted.

Keywords: sputtering democracy; corruption; failure; regular interruption; factor

 

Résumé

Pendant qu’ils luttaient pour les indépendances de leurs pays, les Africains pensaient que mettre fin à l’asservissement colonial leur conférerait une démocratie durable. Mais très tôt, elle a été foulée aux pieds. Beaucoup d’œuvres fictives traitent d’un tel état de choses. Parmielles on peut citer A Wreath for Udomo d’Abrahams, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born d’Armah, Money Galore de Djoleto et A Silly Season d’Ogundimu. Les facteurs endogènes et exogènes ont conduit les pays africains dans une démocratie balbutiante. Comme facteurs endogènes, on peut citer la corruption, le détournement, le favoritisme, la dictature par le truchement des situations imposées aux peuples parmi lesquelles l’absence de la liberté de presse, d’association, la torture, les enlèvements et les emprisonnements arbitraires. Quant à ce qui concerne les facteurs exogènes, il y des incursions régulières des pays occidentaux dans la politique africaine de même que l’économie. Les Africains doivent faire preuves de créativité et d’originalité afin d’éviter de copier aveuglément  ce qui s’applique dans les pays occidentaux et qui reflète plus leurs réalités et non pas toujours celles africaines. Cet article vise à examiner l’échec des Africains à s’accommoder des clichés de la démocratie européenne pendant une période de plus d’un demi-siècle. Il suggère aussi les voies et moyens pour promouvoir la démocratie et la prospérité économique. Les théories utilisées sont celle de la recherche qualitative et du post-colonialisme.

Mots-clés : démocratie balbutiante, corruption, échec, interruption régulière, facteur.

Introduction

Until the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, Africa was run by Africans with regulations and laws inspired and established by Africans. In this light, some parts of the continent such as Ashanti in Gold Coast now Ghana and Lagos in  I were managed by kings. Other parts of the continent like the Eastern Nigeria were run by other political or administrative organizations like the council of chiefs and elders as shown by the narrator in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (p. 7). Before the establishment of colonization in 1885, Africa’s only contact with the Western world was through slave trade which lasted four centuries, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. Colonization took place from the end of the nineteenth century to the second half of the twentieth century and lasted seven decades.  How did it come to an end?

In Africa, Colonisation came to an end because some Africans wanted it to be so. History books as well as fiction-based works deal with such a matter. This paper draws, as fiction-based study, most examples or illustrations from the following selected fiction works, A Wreath for Udomo (1956) by Peter Abrahams (1919), Money Galore (1975) by Amu Djoleto (1929), The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968) by Ayi Kwei Armah (1939) and A Silly Season (2008) by Adetunji Suleiman Ogundimu.

The frequency of military coups in the 1960s and 1970s gave birth to political instability and therefore became a main cause of underdevelopment. Indeed, some years before the independences of African countries, mainly in the last two decades, for most of them, African peoples were allowed to form associations such as trade unions and political parties. Thus, they started participating to democratic elections, the way it was done in the Western countries. Such a process, decolonization, is dealt with in so many books. Some novels deal with it too. One of them is A Wreath For Udomo by Peter Abrahams where he describes the fight for independence both in the West and Africa until independence was won. Once independence won, the same democratic process must continue. But very soon the first leaders started to move from the right way by doing what was good for them to win and keep power at any cost. The opposition parties or the parties which were not holding power, rightly, disagreed and Africa was ‘drowned’ into the sea of permanent instabilities.

The objective of this research paper is to identify and study the causes and consequences of democratic/political instability in order to suggest ways and means to change such a state of affairs/things positively.

Postcolonialism and sociocriticism are the two literary theories used to analyse this paper. Postcolonialiasm, as Pewissi stated, “deals with the effects of colonization on cultures and societies” (Pewissi, 2017, p.118).  Sociocriticism, on the other hand, takes into account elements such as history, society, and the culture when reading a literary text. Otherwise, it “aims to bring out the relations existing between the structures of literary (or cultural) work and the structures of the society in which this work is deeply rooted” (Cros, 2011, p. 33). As the three focus documents are fiction narratives in which numbers, calculations and quantities are not to be taken into account for the analysis, Therefore, we have adopted the qualitative analysis approach.

This paper is divided into three parts namely the introduction, the discussion of results and the conclusion

  1. Discussion of the Results
  • Panafrica, a newly independent democratic country in A Wreath For Udomo

Democracy has started well in Panafrica. This is shown through the organization and holding of free and fair election won by the Africa Freedom Party, Udomo’s party. Once his government established, Udomo tackles the most important and urgent problems his country is facing. He is aware that it is not an easy task as shown in his own reflection: “running a country can be more difficult than winning it. Ade and some of the others are impatient. They want a republic tomorrow. They think I am too slow. Don’t you, Ade?” (Abrahams, 1977: 201) What are the achievements of Udomo’s government?

  • Educating Panafricans, a political decision to promote democracy and enhance development

In Udomo’s country, few people have been educated. At the same time, the majority of those who have been to school need training or additional training in order to play their part in the strengthening of what has been gained and then to contribute to the development of the country. Freedom, which has been the motto or the momento of Udomo’s party, cannot be sustained without educated and graduate people. So, human resources are needed for the huge task of working for development and sustainable development. A group of Panafrican people are sent abroad. Most of them, mainly children and teenagers are sent to school in the country to acquire knowledge and then participate in the building of their country through the stability that educated people work for its advent and promotion.

  • Infrastructures in post-independent Panafrica

Apart from education, Udomo has also worked in other fields that are useful and even very useful for the promotion of democracy and the takeoff and then development of his country, Panafrica.

In terms of infrastructures, the newly elected government in Panafrica has built roads, which, as known, play an important role in transport and indirectly in the development of any country. Transport being the system of carrying goods and people from one place to another, everywhere in the world, people must necessarily leave a place for another no matter the means they use. Nobody has all that he or she needs at home. People need to go to market, office, school, farm, health centres, to name only a few. These movements are made possible because of roads, the most common or most used among other ways Udomo’s government has built. Development is a sine qua non condition for political stability.

It has also built health centres (dispensaries, maternity awards and hospitals) that give the people the opportunity to be nursed or cured. Hospitals, like roads, are important tools for the development of a country, a nation. Health, good health plays an important role in the Gross Domestic Product and the Gross National Product of a country. People who are not in good health cannot produce. One characteristic of developed countries is the existence of strong and well-equipped health centres. Even if they cannot be found all through (the country) Panafrica, some are built. All this has been possible because Udomo has encouraged his countrymen to work but also because of his controversial collaboration with the white people who provide his government with technical and financial assistance. The goal behind all this is development for stability and vice versa

There are more white people in Panafrica than before independence. They are in the civil service, in the government, in road works and in trade to name only these. They also build other infrastructures. In a kind of stock taking, Udomo rightly and proudly tells his former allies, but now rivals in his own group, namely Adebhoy and Selina, what they have gained from their cooperation with the white man:

When I first came back I recognized only one of the three: the white man. But the moment I defeated him I saw the others, and they were greater and more dangerous than the white man. Beside these two the white man was easy, almost an ally. Well, I turned him into an ally against poverty. He works for us now, builds for us so that those who come after us will have bread and homes. There are schools and hospitals in the land … women are making up. Why do you think I spent so much money sending them abroad? I’ll tell you. Because I need them as allies to fight our third enemy, the worst enemy we have: the past…  There are enough liberated young people now for me to defy all that is ugly and evil in our past. We can defeat it now. (Abrahams, Ibid: 301 -302)

Udomo clearly works not only for the present but also for the future generations. This is what is abundantly referred to as sustainable development nowadays. Africa needs leaders like him for its development even if, as a leader and then a ruler, he has made some mistakes. He has a dire need of European aids. He confesses that they cannot reach the development and modernity they have been longing and fighting for ever since without European ‘capital and technical skill.’” (Peter Abrahams, 1977: 206) Unfortunately, the worst enemy they have, the past, that is to say tribalism, has won over him. It has won over him because it has prevented him from going forward through the obstacles it has put on his way but also by having him killed eventually.

  • Udomo’s death as the beginning of democratic instability in Africa

The elements mentioned in the quotation which must be taken as achievements or a great progress are not seen as such by some people among whom are Selina and Adebhoy who consider Udomo as a traitor. Consequently, they have planned his death and put an end to his life and therefore to the democratic experience he embodies. A small extract of the description of Udomo’s death is as follows:

The man at the door grabbed as he reached the door handle. The man towered above him, knife – hand raised high above his head, body still responding to the urge of the drumbeats, then he brought the knife down and shoved Udomo violently from him. Udomo crashed to the floor Udomo die Udomo die Udomo die.

But Udomo still lived. The man at the door had used only his knife handle.
But the victim was ready now. The will to resist was ended. The tribal gods had asserted their superiority. Udomo lay on the floor, paralysed, eyes glazed, mouth open.

So he was dead. Hard to believe that, somehow. He’d always been so vitally alive. Hard to think that he’d often been here in the studio, he and Lois.” (Abrahams, 1977: 306–307)

Udomo is dead. His true killers are not those people who lift their knives on him. Paul Mabi says that “the real killers, even if they didn’t strike the blows, are our laughing friends Adebhoy and a terrible tribal woman called Selina who controlled the party when I was out there.”(Abrahams, Ibidem: 308

Udomo is killed without being given the opportunity “to carry the country to a point from where there can be no going back.” (Abrahams, Ibidem: 255) Udomo’s death corresponds to the end of the democratic experience in post-colonial democracy in Africa in the early years of democracy even if in concrete life, the novel was published a year before the independence of the first black African country apart from Liberia and Ethiopia. What are the causes of this failure?

The main causes of Udomo’s death which corresponds to the end of democracy in the early years of independence have been mentioned by Udomo himself. He tells Selina:

Listen, Selina, I’ll tell you what I’m after. Our country has three enemies, or rather, had three enemies. I’ve turned one of them into ally now. But let’s say there are three… The first is the white man. That surprises you, doesn’t it?

But don’t smile yet. There’s more to come about the white man. As I say our country has three enemies. First there is the white man. Then there is poverty, and then there is past. Those are the three enemies”… our third enemy, the worst enemy we have: the past! (Abrahams, Ibidem: 301 – 302)

The past here equates to tribalism embodied by Selina and Adebhoy. It is really the worst of the three enemies of the country. In actual fact, the Panafrica Udomo and the other members of the group have thought of while they have been in Europe is different from the one they have come to see. Tom Lanwood confesses that the Africa he has written about is different from the real Africa.

Udomo’s regime is one of the very first ones of the post-independence era. A scrutiny ofanother or other regime(s) of thepost-independence period described in fictitious works is useful for this study.

 

  1. African Politics from the 1960s to the 1980s: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Money Galore-based study

Most part of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is devoted to a civilian regime in the first decade of independences in Africa. This regime lasts more than the one described in A Wreath For Udomo. The civilian regime described in Money Galore almost looks like the same as the one of Kwame Nkrumah described in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Each of the two regimes is democratically elected. For each of them the life of only one minister is highlighted. In The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the only one minister the novel really deals with is Joseph Koomson. Likewise, in Money Galore, the author has decided to write about Kafu only.

 

  • The Civilian Rule in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Money Galore
  • The Civilian Rule: Specificity in Money Galore

After His party has won elections, Kafu is appointed Minister of Internal Welfare. His supporters precisely one of the market women who has funded his campaign expresses her disappointment because she would like him to be assigned “the Ministry of Trade”. (Djoleto, 1975: 56) Kafu and his Liberation Party have reached power after winning democratic elections. But unfortunately, they have led the country to failure or bankruptcy. As a consequence, the army has seized power. The circumstances under which the army has seized power are described as follows:

“We are not burglars sir. We have shed no blood. The minister was our friend and…” Amega pleaded but he was cut short. ‘Shut up! You may have shed no blood, but there has been bloodletting all right. Look at that knife, and the cut on the forehead. We are taking over power, but we hate bloodshed. You have been a nuisance. The people will not understand. They will think we killed him!”

“Sergeant, ring for an ambulance. Then go to the front door, ring the bell and bring the wife”

‘When Grace saw the dead bodies, she gave a piercing cry and collapsed in the arms of the officer.  (Djoleto, ibidem: 181-182)

How has the political and social failure reached this level?

Kafu being the only one Minister of his government the author has put emphasis on, we can assume that he bears both the same or almost the same qualities and the defaults of the other members of the government including the head. Certainly, Kafu alone is enough to embody the failureof the civilian politicians. The first cause of the failure of Kafu’s government is his own personality because he is a selfish, megalomaniac and corrupt person who does not care for other people.

  • More illustrations of democratic instability: Kafu and Koomson as Ministers of the Republic

In order to explore properly the work done by Kafu and Koomson as ministers it is worth having a glance at what they have been so far.

  • Kafu and Koomson’s lives

Usually, the origin or background influences his political career and/or professional life. When entering the government, Kafu is thirty-two. He is the son of a retired teacher. His father’s appellation is Rev. Sampson Abaka Kafu. His mother is Mrs Edusua Kafu. His parents are neither poor nor well-off people. Speaking of them he says: “My father lives in rented rooms after forty years’ service to this nasty country. His pension is ten Cedis a month. I have to give him forty each month. I can’t save” (Djoleto, Ibid: 37-38). He is from a modest family but just as a candidate he starts using his position to enrich himself to the detriment of the people. This is what can be said about his family background. They are a Christian family although Kafu himself is an unfaithful husband. He is married to a very beautiful woman called Grace and they have two children. (Djoleto, Ibid, p. 28) He cheats her with at least four women namely Madam Odofo Lamptey, Auntie Salamatu, Mercy Mensah, the lady Ofori Nortey refers to as  “that whore” (Djoleto, Ibid, p. 180) and Lydia, Rev. Opia Dan Sese’s mistress. In the long run, he will make pregnant the first two. He is fond of women. This is a forerunner of the ill-governance he has been responsible for. After Kafu, let’s say a word about Koomson, the fictitious minister in Kwame Nkrumah’s regime.

Koomson used to be a modest citizen precisely a former “railway man, then a docker at the harbor. Pulling ropes. Blistered hands, toughened, callused hands. A seaman’s voice.Big, rough man, a man of the docks well-liked by men of the docks. Doing well, the only way we do well here.” (Armah, 1988: 88). Always in the novel, he is referred to with several titles such as “His Excellency Joseph Koomson. Minister Plenipotentiary, member of the Presidential Commission, Hero of Socialist Labor.” (Armah, Ibidem: 56) He is also referred to as the party man. He has won these titles once he has become a minister. This is megalomania which is a cause of their failure. These are not the only things he has won as a member of the government. He has also become rich. Koomson owns several cars: “Three.The latest is a white Mercedes, 220 Super” (Armah, Ibid: 110). Oyo’s mother says “that Brother Joe had influence.” (Armah, Ibidem: 58) But the man has known Koomson for several years now. He informs his friend Teacher about that “this Koomson was my own classmate. My classmate.Teacher, my classmate.” (Armah, Ibidem: 57) Besides, he has schemed to buy a few boats “the smallest ones cost about twelve thousand pounds.” (Armah, Ibidem: 136) The plenipotentiary minister says that he can afford pretending that the Commercial Bank is theirs, and they can do anything.” (Armah, Idem) Koomson behaves almost the same way Chief Nanga does in A Man Of The People as pointed out by Célestin Gbaguidi in his doctoral dissertation: “… people of Chief Nanga’s calibre out of greed, amass illegal mountains of money for themselves whereas people at the grass roots languish in abject poverty. (Gbaguidi, p. 150) This is embezzlement and abuse of power. These are among the causes of the downfall of their regime and therefore an illustration of democratic instability. Where and how do Koomson, the former docker, and his family live?

When Oyo and the man enter a taxi to go to Koomson’s, the former proudly tells the driver. : “Go to the Upper Residential Area, driver” and then brings the precision that it is: “On the hills beyond the new Esikafo Aba Estate” (Armah, Ibid: 140). Not everybody can afford to live there.

The narrator specifies this: “After all, it was not everybody who had some place to go in the Upper Residential Area. White men, then the old lawyers, and now the bigger Party men and a few civil servants” (Armah, Ibid: 141) If you happen to pay visit to somebody in this area, it almost means that you are not a ‘small’ person. The narrator adds that “it was certainly not every fool who could, get up and say he wanted to go to that area. (Armah, Ibid: 141)

  • Political Leaders’ Laziness, Megalomania, Greed and Selfishness and Lack of Discipline as a Cause of their Failure

Kafu is a teacher at the secondary school level. He has taught at National Secondary School, Cape Coast in Ghana, and his native country. He owns a Master’s Degree (M.A). When he becomes a minister he boastfully and with contempt tells his Permanent Secretary, Mr Vuga who holds the same degree: “Mine is a second. You probably took yours in Scotland. Mine is London”, which is false. (Djoleto, Ibid: 63&75). His school was founded by the Church but after independence the government has taken it over from them. How has he done his job as a teacher before becoming a minister?

Kafu’s full identity is “Abraham Kofi Kafu, MA, Dip. Ed., 32, Senior History Master, National Secondary School, Cape Coast.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 20) He does not do his work properly. He sometimes misses lectures without any permission. Mr Benjy Baisi reproaches him with going to classes drunk and not marking exercises.(Djoleto, Ibid: 19). For his first meeting with Nee Otu Lartey about the funding of his campaign, he has not asked permission. The narrator says: “On Friday, Kafu missed the last two periods.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 28) He confesses this to his Principal Benjy Baisi at hospital: “I’m sorry, Mr Baisi, I couldn’t ask permission before I left the school. I thought I could make it over the week-end and return before Monday morning.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 42) There are two other instances of Kafu missing classes without any permission. A teacher must be a model. A bad teacher cannot be a good political leader. Kafu is an illustrative element of this.

In order to meet his old classmate Nee Otu, Kafu leaves the school without warning the authorities assuming or arguing that “the boys can look after themselves. He further argues: “I can’t be everywhere. I’m starting the campaign in Accra in a week or two.”(49) (Djoleto, Ibid, p. 22). The narrator gives another instance of Kafu’s lacking discipline in the conduct of his career: “So Kafu shuttled between Accra and Cape Coast. […]  He had not resigned yet but missed a lot of classes. Mr Benjy Baisi bore it all without complaint.”(Djoleto, Ibid: 53-54)

In addition to this, he is lazy and careless about academic regulations, he is a destabilizer too. As  a matter  of fact , the government writes to  the National Secondary School, Cape Coast, asking  the school authorities to  implement a project  of  farming  by students but Kafu sensitizes his  colleagues not  to cooperate. He confesses himself:

I’ve been telling the graduate staff not to help with the projects. The non-graduates are so servile they will probably do so. We shall soon get a letter  from  the  Department  neither   confirming  nor denying  that  we  should  do  farming  in  Cape Coast. We should be able to frustrate the whole business. (Djoleto, Ibid: 14)

It is clear, Kafu goes against regulations. Whether a person is good or bad, people who know him/her can also know about his/her attitudes. Anson Berko, the bread contractor of their school, says that Kafu is “lazy and reckless. That’s all. He can’t be a contractor, how much more a politician?” (Djoleto, Ibid: 27) Before that, the same Anson Berko has warned Kafu that he wouldn’t give him the chance “to ruin the country.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 27) The running of the country  by the  government  Kafu  is  a member  of has proved  that Anson Berko is right.

Kafu proves to be both selfish and boastful. Talking to his principal, he behaves as if his listener were a small boy or a needy or maybe a rival.  He tells him:

You know I’m going to stand in the elections and you hate the idea. You hate me, I know you hate me. You  don’t  like  the Liberation Party because you can’t match the  intellectual excellence of  the  top  crop of  its  members. But I can advise you Baisi. No matter what people say, only the educated can save  this  country.  (Djoleto, Ibid: 19)

Kafu talks as if Mr Baisi were not an educated person. He addresses him as if he were his rival. He talks to him as if there were evidence that his principal is jealous of him. It is   rather Kafu who is not an educated person. He confuses people and circumstances. Making confusion is one of the important causes of the government’s failure. A good teacher is humble, respectful. He or she listens to others.  In a word, they are a model or models to follow. He addresses his principal as Baisi instead of Mr.Baisi. While contempting him this way, he is just looking forward to being candidate. How much does Kafu ‘weigh’ in the field of morality?

 

  • Kafu’s morality: Some of his Misconducts during the Campaign

Kafu’s behaviour in society, as a teacher, is questionable. Not only as a teacher but also as a candidate to parliament he has misbehaved several times. This, unfortunately, will continue when he becomes a minister. When looking for money to fund his campaign, Kafu has had to meet some people. When it is time to meet Nee Otu Lartey, Kafu drives his Peugeot car but it is not insured. On his way, he has accident and this brings the police to notice that the car is not insured.  He has broken the law. What to do then? He confides in Nee Otu, begging him, like an orphan beggar who has just arrived at a foreign country would do, through his pitiful appearance, to help him avoid being fined but also being jailed. The latter agrees to help him in this way, which he really does. The following dialogue clarifies the situation:

I found your car was not insured for the year. Had you renewed your driving license?

‘No, Nee Out, Kafu said, still tearful and morose

‘Too bad,’ said quietly and thoughtfully. It means more money will have to be put in the slot. The whole process is time–consuming. Anyway, I’ve got Inspector Yebribia working on this accident. I think we can be pretty sure that the whole affair will soon be filed away in a closed docket. (Djoleto, Ibid: 34)

 

A candidate who willingly misbehaves will surely be a bad leader. By begging Nee Otu to help him put an end to this accident file in which he is wrong, Kafu is asking his friend to corrupt the police and this is done. Once a member of the government, he doesn’t respect his country’s institutions.

The second carelessness towards his country’s laws by Kafu is his approval of the fact that Nee Out wants to start his building before applying for its approval by the suitable authorities. Nee Otu tells him: “we will start the building before the plan is approved by the authorities! Leave them to me!” (Djoleto, Ibid: 45) A further moral weakness from Kafu during the campaign is greed.

As a candidate Kafu proves to be a greedy person and a profiteer. Directly or indirectly, he obliges Nee Otu Lartey to rent a big house for him in a VIP area, Labone, a comfortable house which has a big lounge with wall to wall Carpeting, three bathrooms, four air-conditioned bedrooms, a modern kitchen with a deep-freeze. The rent is four hundred cedis a month. Nee Otu tells him: “we’ve made a down payment of two thousand four hundred. That gives him “six months.’’’ (Djoleto, Ibid: 34) Kafu has not been able to afford such a house by himself not even a small one in the past. Nevertheless he goes far by demanding from other people a house for him. He tells Nee Otu: “My own house, yes. The country owes me one.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 37)

The third act of immorality from Kafu as a candidate is his lie-telling during the campaign and even after. This is demagogy. Many people would say it is politics but even in politics there are limits and norms beyond which you cannot be taken seriously. For instance, he tells Rev. Sese:  “The country needs intellectuals in parliament. Men like myself who know their books, to reconstruct the country.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 16) Everybody has noticed how Kafu has destroyed the country instead of building it as he has promised. Lie-telling to the populations is one of the causes of his failure and the end of their governance.

 

  • Kafu, the gambler, the irresponsible head of family, the suborner and the dictator

Kafu needs so much money because the money he earns goes where it shouldn’t. The practice which ‘consumes’ Kafu’s money and consequently renders him moneyless is gambling. During a conversation with Rev. Opia Dan Sese,  he  reveals  the  contents of an  anonymous  letter sent  to his  wife  denouncing  his gambling inclinations: “What disturbs me most, Osofo, is this: the letter says Kofi is gambling at the casino Hotel Continental and the Ambassador. He’s been borrowing money from people. The letter mentions one Mr. Mills Blankson, one Amega. I forget the others.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 127)

Another evidence of Kafu’s involvement in gambling is the advice his close friend Nee Otu gives him after giving him money. He says: “’I’ll give  you  two  hundred,’ he counted it  there  and  then  and gave  it  to  him, ‘but  please don’t gamble  it  away.’”(Djoleto, Ibid: 132) After thanking his benefactor, Kafu confesses slowly, quietly “Gambling is a business – so easy to get in so hard to get out – well, well! I’m not a gambler, Odofo. I’m not. Whoever says so is a liar! I swear!’’ (Djoleto, Ibidem)

There is evidence that Kafu is a gambler now. More than just a gambler, he is a gambling addict. Such a person cannot lead people, worse still he is a minister of a republic. He has done things which show that he is not a responsible head of family. In this condition, it must be difficult for him to be among the good decision makers of a whole country.

Kafu sleeps away from home forgetting his children and wife behind. Meanwhile he is either at his mistresses’ houses or in a hotel. The narrator says: “as it was a Saturday, Kafu was late in coming home; indeed he never came home until nine on Sunday morning. He told Danso to take the car home. That was all.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 126) Rev. Opia Dan Sese is disappointed and says: “I got worried when I heard in Cape Coast that Abraham was leading a reckless life.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 127) He has stayed away for three days and is even reluctant to go back home. The narrator displays such a state of things: “By the end of the third day, in the evening, Kafu was about to go home, which he was reluctant to do because he actually had a lot of his clothes in Odofo’s house and could stay on— he had recovered fairly satisfactorily from the impact of the news of Odofo’s pregnancy.”(Djoleto, Ibid: 140) Kafu has reached a higher step than just sleep away from home: he has got pregnant one of his mistresses. He will get pregnant madam Salamatu too.

There is another misconduct from him which is against his success both in family and the leading of public affairs. As a matter of fact, Kafu finds it difficult to provide his wife with money for the running of his own house in spite of his income and the huge amount of money he is usually given by smugglers and friends such as Madam Odofo, Madam Salamatu and Nee Otu Lartey. He confides to Rev. Opia Dan Sese: “I need money myself. I’ve told you, Osofo. Help from you is always welcome. Very welcome!” (Djoleto, Ibid: 143) This is what Kafu himself confesses. His wife Grace brings more precision about this situation:

But Osofo, I’m his wife and I believe that however poisonous this letter may be, not all it says is lies. Can you believe that Kofi finds it difficult in spite of all his big income to provide money for running the house? We are living now from hand to mouth, whatever he gives me, he has taken back. If it hadn’t been for the money I get from Vida, which she kindly increased when I told her a little of my story, I would have starved with my children!  (Djoleto, Ibid: 128)

Definitely, Kafu is unable to have self-control as far as his finance is concerned; he is unable to manage his family of four people. Therefore he can’t lead public affairs no matter the level.

Apart from these ‘vices’, Kafu has corrupted a leading member of the trade union of shit carriers. To prevent them from going on strike, Kafu gives money to one of their representatives. The narrator reveals it here: “After a day or two the strike threat fizzled out. The chief to whom Kafu had given the money banked it with a view to adding more savings to it and buying a low cost house in the future at Dansoman.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 148) The opposition press confirms this in one of their issues. He reacts to it with Salamatu:

We know for certain that the strike action failed not because the workers lacked the will or had second thoughts in view of the enormous hardship it would have caused, but because of the immoral stratagems of certain individuals who are not above bribing just causes out of existence and who, above all, do not scruple to dispose of their amorous rivals by laying lethal traps for them. Woe betide a people whose governance is full of immoral irresponsibility such as we have indicated above. We shall overcome!”

“Sala, don’t you think this is slanderous bombast?’ Kafu asked. (Djoleto, Ibid: 149)

Kafu gets angry and is determined to use all his ‘strength’ and power to ‘punish’ the editor of this newspaper. Proudly, Kafu receives bribes from smugglers and he himself gives bribe too. The country can’t be well managed this way. In addition to that, he has become a stubborn and blind dictator which is incompatible with democracy. He has imprisoned Anson Berko for feeling sake and Mensah Quartey on wrong basis. He threatens everybody and refuses to listen to anybody including his close friends. He declares:

I know that a newspaper can eventually cause the downfall of a government. We must act, now! The morning Herald must fold up. Let the editor be arrested and roughed up for seven days. And… let me see… Mr Mensah Quartey must be detained for a week or two and grilled thoroughly for writing anonymous letters to ministers’ wives.  (Djoleto, Ibid: 154-155)

This is not only dictatorship but also a prohibition of the freedom of the press and speech, which is an anti-democratic practice and the consequences, will follow.

  • Kafu’s morality as a minister: Kafu taking the law into his own hand

Kafu has won the elections. “Of the 21,868 votes cast there, Kafu garnered 18,562.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 54) The direct consequence is that “Kafu has been assigned the Ministry of Internal Welfare.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 56) How does he contribute to the running of public affairs at this level?

The first measures that Kafu has taken are for his own benefit. He uses his political position to settle account with people and promote his own. The very first thing he does is to dismiss his former Principal, Mr Benjy Baissi whom he forces into retirement whereas he still has five years left, and appoints a retired person, his friend Rev. Opia Dan Sese, to take over from him. He hates the former because he is fair in what he does. At the same time, he promotes, unfairly, a retired friend. (Djoleto, Ibid: 68-69) It is a bad omen, proving, in the very beginning that his government is working and will function on the basis of unfair and undemocratic principles. In the same framework, he has had Anson Berko and Mensah Quartey imprisoned. He hates the former because he has refused to fund his campaign and wrongly suspects the latter to have sent a letter to his wife Grace describing his unfaithfulness to her. This suspicion arises from the fact that he is the editorialist of the opposition party, NUP (National Union Party) (Djoleto, Ibid: 160) Before having Anson Berko jailed, he has put an end to his contract at National Secondary School. (Djoleto, Ibid: 69)

  • Kafu and Koomson’s Greed as Ministers

As a candidate, Kafu proves to be greedy. The same thing is easily noticeable when he becomes a minister too. A minister, in a serious country, must fight against smuggling because it is destructive for the economy. Kafu blames smugglers in public but when they give him money and usable goods he takes them and even praises them, sometimes. Mercy Mensah, one of the lady smugglers gives an Omega watch to him and he takes it. She first asks him whether he would like an Omega watch and his answer is “why not?” (Djoleto, Ibid: 116) When giving it to him, she says “take this one. Ask no questions. No thanks. It’s between us!” (Djoleto, Idem) As far as the money is concerned, Salamatu is their spokesperson this time. The narrator reports:

He then heard Salamatu say, ‘Amega, Mercy, I’ve told Kafu about our offer. It’s sixteen thousand cedis altogether. The three of us are providing twelve thousand as a gift. It’s understood that the remaining four thousand will be paid back to Omega within a year. Actually it’s money that’s meant for safe keeping because Amega, like any of us, doesn’t want to keep all his money with the banks. As soon as there’s a coup and there are commissions of this and that all your accounts lose privacy. There’s no point keeping four thousand idle when it can help Kofi. So, Kofi, use it but make sure you pay it back. Amega can be tricky when it comes to money! (Djoleto, Ibid: 117; our emphasis)

He also privately takes money from Salamatu, Odofo, two smugglers. The omniscient narrator penetrates Odofo’s thoughts and discovers that “what she liked most was that Kafu had so far never tried to use false pretences to take money from her as other men had done.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 90-91)

This quotation contains several levels of irony. First, it proves that Kafu is a person and a political personality who is unable to resist dirty money. Just after blaming and laughing at smugglers he accepts money and a valuable from them. Second, mere citizens too are aware that their minister lacks money and only a little is enough to buy his silence. This is corruption. Third, these smugglers are  telling  Kafu  that  their  political regime  cope  with ill-governance  in  a way that a military coup  can  take  place  at  any time. The fourth and last level of irony is his incapacity to pay back the part of this money, the four thousand to its owner, Amega Amenu. That is the last straw. As  a  matter of fact, it is when Amega  and Ofori Nortey are ill-treating  him at dawn that, in his will to save him from  them, Bukari,  his  watchman,  mortally wounds him. (Djoleto, Ibid: 181)

Koomson owns several and beautiful cars, millions of pounds because the country’s commercial banks belong to them. He owns a house at the Residential Area and a well-furnished house to name only these.

  • Favouritism, Greed, Embezzlement and Corruption as a Cause of Political Instability

Favouritism, greed, embezzlement and corruption are beneficial for a minority to the detriment of the large majority. As such, it yields dissatisfaction which usually leads to political riots. Koomson’s room is well furnished showing opulence. The narrator describes it in the following terms:

“… all the man could see was a row of glass-covered  shelves and with a multitude of polished dishes and glasses, the sitting room was cut off by a long, high frame, beautifully polished, also with shelves all covered with small, intricate objects that must have come from foreign lands, though of what use they were the man could not decide. To his own left there was one of the new television sets, and then farther on the corner was filled by two large contraptions whose outsides were of highly polished wood. One of them the man recognized as a radio set, though it was amazingly large. The other he found impossible to place. Then there were five deep, soft choirs, all with red cushions, and a carpet on the noiseless floor. There were also the two sofas, on one of which his wife was sitting. (Armah, 1988:146)

The description of the room made above shows that Koomson is a greedy person who lives in opulence. Greed and opulence are among the causes of the overthrowing of the government he is a member of.

How does Koomson succeed in getting these things and also taking care of his people? The pieces of furniture in Koomson’s room are not bought by him but are embezzled from the State Furniture Corporation. During a conversation with Oyo, Estella reveals this state of things:

Is that the dining room?’ Oyo asked, pointing”

‘Yes,’ said Estella ‘they have come for the furniture’

‘They?’

‘The State Furniture Corporation. They renew it for us. Joe is like this with the manager”

‘I see.’ These were questions in Oyo’s eyes, questions that probably would have sprung from envy and admiration, but she did not ask them.  (Armah, Ibid: 148)

Like the commercial bank, the State Furniture Corporation also belongs to Koomson and the other party people. They just come to replace furniture for a Minister who is supposed to be a model by buying them. By so doing, they promote the corporation. The use of the present tense “they renew” implies that it is neither the first nor the last time the renewal is going to take place. This is another form of embezzlement which will lead the whole country to failure, the government in particular. The fact that the State Furniture Corporation replaces Koomson’s furniture for him is not the only one form of favouritism he is involved in or enjoyed. He has arranged scholarship in dressmaking specialization in London for Regina, his sister in law, Estella’s sister. The extract of the conversation between Oyo, the man and Estella is illustrative of this:

I was a tight friend of your sister Regina, when we were in school’, Oyo said.

‘She is in London now’

‘What is she doing?’

‘She has a scholarship. Joe arranged it for her’

‘Is she in a University then?’ Asked the man

‘No Estella said’ She’s specializing in dressmaking. She says she’s going to name her establishment after me when she comes.Estie Models, London Trained. (Armah, Ibidem: 148-149)

Estella says that the scholarship Regina has been awarded has been arranged. Moreover, knowing His Excellency, Mr. Koomson’s political position as a “Minister Plenipotentiary, Member of the Presidential Commission”, one   can guess  that  Regina has  not  deserved this  scholarship. A poor nominee’s name has been cancelled and replaced by Regina’s.  Koomson himself has said that “everything is possible … It depends on the person.” (Armah, Ibid: 149)  The person it may depend on maybe either the benefactor or the beneficiary. This practice is very current in sub-Saharan Africa. As a matter of fact, a large number of students or civil servants have been victims of such bad practices which have been carried out by dishonest senior executives. By turning the country’s commercial bank into theirs or having the State Furniture Corporation renew them their furniture, Ministers and officials do not behave well. What is happening is corruption. But there are bribery and genuine corruption. Here, everybody, almost everybody, is concerned. These practices bring frustration and frustrated people are often uncontrollable.

At the man’s house, Estella reveals how deeply politicians are corrupt. She says: “’Don’t mind them!’ Estella’s voice had climbed to its usual pitch. ‘Do you know, they themselves, the ones who shout, own things, lots of things!’’’ (Armah, Ibid: 137) Corruption is a well-established system in Nkrumanist Ghana. It is like a school people go to and learn rules and codes. This school has advocates as well as opponents (detractors), fortunately. Even among those who are for the school there are some who are skilful or talented and others awkward. Corruption or bribery is even described in image. Oyo teaches her husband that corruption is represented by the road. Drivers are those who accept bribe. There are two types of drivers. Those who drive fast are people who are involved in bribe taking or embezzlement of huge amount of money. The drivers who drive slowly are those who are dealing in bribery of small amount of money. The people who refuse to drive are the people such as the man and Teacher who refuse and hate bribery and corruption of all sorts. In a traffic, accidents may happen no matter the driver and the way they drive, fast or slowly. The accidents are those who get caught.’” (Armah, Ibid: 58-59)

Of course, Koomson is among those who drive fast and never have accidents. When a person accepts bribe, people says “he has learned his lesson”. This is what Amankwa says of the Supervisor of Space Allocation when the latter takes bribe from him in order to help him, as quickly as possible, to remove his timber from the bush.(Armah, Ibid: 108) The narrator even specifies that Koomson “has learned to drive.”(Armah, Ibid: 96) High political officials are corrupt, so are people in charge of security. As a matter of fact, there are instances where policemen are either demanding or accepting bribe in Armah’s first novel. The narrator describes a scene of bribe taking by the police after they have asked for it:

Once when the man was traveling to Cape Coast three different policemen had stopped the little bus and asked the driver for his quarter license. The driver had not bought it yet, and each of the policemen had said to him, in front of everybody, ‘Even Kola gives pleasure in the chewing’. In each case the driver had smiled and given the law twenty five pesewas, and the law satisfied. There was only one way.  (Armah, Ibid: 95)

In a word, corruption is nearly tolerated. It is so tolerated that corrupt people are promoted. It is the case of the Supervisor of Space Allocation who has been promoted after he has embezzled, as a bursar, students’ allowances. (Armah. Ibidem: 109-110) Théophile Houndjo, in his doctoral dissertation, tackles such a practice through the development of section entitled “The celebration of corruption and the promotion of corrupt people” ‘Théophile Houndjo, p. 186) Corruption is widespread and people see it as an ordinary thing or a common practice. In the man’s work place, it is written on the wall in the toilets room:

MONEY SWEET PASS ALL

WHO BORN FOOL

SOCIALISM CHOP MAKE I CHOP

CONTREY BROKE(28)

(Armah, Ibidem: 106)

  • Some consequences of mismanagement
  • Abject poverty

The ill-governance in Koomson’s country has given birth to social injustice and subsequently poverty. The gap in the standard of living between the havings mainly the politicians who have learned their lesson to drive and even to drive fast, and the having not, the grass root populations, is wide, very wide. The poor are too many and experience almost unbearable life. A few examples are Kwesi Anan, Kofi Billy, Sister Maanan and the old woman. The social situation of the Ghana under Nkrumah is such that some Ghanaians could lack just sugar, which is one of the elementary things that people who eat it must have or should not lack the money to buy some. It is the case of the old woman who comes to the man’s at night in order to borrow some, as narrated bellow:

Good evening’, she says. ‘Here I am again. Sugar. Would you be pleased to lend me a little sugar? Just for the children’

‘’The wife answers, ‘We have just finished our last packet ourselves. (Armah, Ibidem: 43)

Unfortunately she can’t have the sugar because Oyo herself has very little left as revealed by the narrator in a flash back on page 102. This simply means that the man himself is among the poor people in his country although he is a wage earner. Two or three illustrations of his being poor can be laid down as follows: At home, the man’s environment is not totally clean. It is a place which is not qualified for true human beings. The following extract describes his bathroom.

When the man has switched on the light with the bathroom and shut the door, he could not for a time take his eyes off the door where it was rotten at the bottom, and the smell of dead wood filled his nostrils and caressed the cavity of his mouth. He tried to breathe in only small, saving breaths of air, but when the cold water hit his back he sucked in a huge involuntary gulp, and there was no more point in his continuing his efforts to keep the rot out of himself.  (Armah, Ibidem: 101)

The bathroom is enough to illustrate the poverty the man and his family are experiencing. The second illustration of the state of poverty the man lives in is the fact that his son can walk barefooted. The man’s mother-in-law is laughing at him after her grandson has knocked his toe against a stone. She ironises: “My poor husband!’ said the old woman, over and over again. ‘You have no shoes to wear, so your poor little feet get torn to pieces. Ei, my husband, you have nobody, nobody to buy you shoes, so your little toes will all be destroyed.”(Armah, Ibidem: 123) Here, the mother –in-law is both pointing out the man’s incapacity to buy shoes for his only son and is also laughing at him.

The man is also unable to provide his children with a bed to sleep in. The narrator reveals such a state of things here: “Adoley and Ayivi were sleeping in the hall, entangled like some strange kind of Siamese twins in the same chair.”(Armah, Ibidem: 160) The description made above and most especially the allusion to “Siamese twins” proves that they don’t have a separate bed, even a decent one with enough room or space on it. This is an illustration of abject poverty.

Apart from the man’s example, Kwesi Anan’s poverty is also worth mentioning. He is so poor that he lives in “only a converted lavatory”. It is “in a room at the extreme end of a long, low house” in which “he had no place to take the visitor.” (Armah, Ibidem: 150)The situation in which poverty puts people mainly young people, who have, a premature tired skin” leads, among other things to violence and despair.Nkrumah’s regime has made so many hopeless people that they constitute a bomb which has destroyed them in the end.

  • Violence

Violence as a consequence of social injustice that is noticeable in Ghana under Nkrumah described in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is due to, among other things, the way their country is ruled. Kofi Billy who has been to Europe and who has fought for the white man has lost all hope and commits suicide. The narrator describes the circumstances of his death: “It was the Sunday that that Kofi Billy’s body was found. He was hanging from a sheet down from the top bar of the finished door of a house not yet finished then.”(Armah, Ibid: 75)

  • Dissatisfaction and Anxiety Within the People and their Consequences
  • The end of Koomson’s regime

At a certain moment, the economic, social and political atmosphere which has prevailed in Ghana under Nkrumah obliges the police and the army to seize power. To prove that they have been fed up with Nkrumah’s regime, they go out to rejoice. When the man asks who has seized power, they answer him “army men and police men.”(Armah, Ibid: 157) People demonstrate to show either happiness or simple loyalty to the new regime or both.(Armah, Ibid: 158)

As readers, we have noticed how Nkrumah’s regime has failed. Let us see in details how Kafu and his Liberation Party and their men have run their country.

  • The end of Kafu’s regime

The incapacity of Kafu’s government to supply the populations with foodstuffs and mass-retailed products is a forerunner of his regime’s downfall. As a matter of fact, Kafu’s government is unable to provide the people with consumer goods such as oil, even palm oil that is locally produced, sugar, milk, fish and tomatoes. There are no plantains, no meat, no yam, and drugs are scarce.(Djoleto, Ibid: 120) On the other side, the price of building materials has doubled and tripled in some cases.”(Djoleto, Ibid: 159).  Some workers claim salary increase because the cost of life has become expensive. Whereas others like drivers claim better working conditions: “These civil servants are unhappy these days.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 162)

During their meeting with Kafu, some drivers address him as if he were a mere useless citizen. He is even denounced to have taken “bribes and stashed them away in Swiss banks, sir.”(Djoleto, Ibid: 178) Within the populations, almost everybody fears a military coup. Concretely speaking, when giving sixteen thousand cedis to Kafu, Salamatu says that they fear a military coup might take place. (Djoleto, Ibid: 117) In this framework, Rev. Opia Dan Sese warns Kafu not to arrest MensahQuartey. He says: “If you touch him world opinion will lash out at you. The people will be afraid, and out of self-protection some of them will band together and kick you out. The army and police, for example. They do it sharp like an amputation,’ Opia said with a non-committal smile.” (Djoleto, Ibid: 132) These two quotations show that the collapse is to be noticed very soon and almost everybody is awre of it. It remains only the last straw that will break the camel’s back.

Kafu himself has heard of a coup and shares the idea with his mistress, Madam Odofo. He asks her: “This coup that is rumoured, Odofo, do you believe in it?’’ (Djoleto, Ibid: 166) This implies that he too is afraid. Some people like Ofori Nortey are almost sure that a coup will take place. When talking to Kafu , he says: “Kafu, I am prepared to go to jail so long as I get my own back on you. The army will release me anyway. They will overthrow you sooner or later. I can wait for them there. Where is Amega’s money, you swine?” (Djoleto, Ibid: 180) In a word, Kafu’s government’s bankruptcy has gone beyond what can be noticed with naked eyes. Before Ofori Nortey, Nee Otu Lartey has warned Kafu, in a prophetic way, against the danger of a strike which can result in a military coup:

‘Nee Otu, why this insistence?’Kafu asked with a frown.

‘Kofi, just be patient and listen. The impending strike is no joke.’

‘I know anything else.’

‘It is calculated to paralyse the whole country.’

‘I’m aware of that’

‘And it will be a prelude to a coup.’” (Djoleto, Ibid: 174-175)

This prophecy like a true one comes true. Kafu’s government is overthrown by the army. The narrator gives details here:

It was the first dawn after the declaration of the country-wide strike. Kafu was busy in his study at home, compiling a memorandum on it for the consideration of his colleagues …

Just then footsteps were heard. An army officer carrying a gun shouted, ‘Hold it! Move to the wall. Drop that knife! Sergeant, search them!’

‘We are not burglars, sir. We have shed no blood. The minister was our friend and… Amega pleaded but was cut short. ‘Shut up! You may have shed no blood, but there has been bloodletting all right. Look at that knife, and cut on the forehead. We are taking over power, but we hate bloodshed. You have been a nuisance. The people will not understand. They’ll think we killed him!’

‘Sergeant, ring for an ambulance. Then go to the front door, ring the bell and bring the wife.’

When Grace saw the dead bodies, she gave a piercing cry and collapsed in the arms of the officer. (Djoleto, Ibid: 179&181-182)

The powerful Kafu is dead. Coincidentally, the army has seized power and the novel closes on that event. Before they do it in Money Galore, the army and police have seized power in The Beautyful ones Are Not Yet Born as mentioned earlier. What does military rule look like?

  • The military in command in the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and a Silly Season

From A Wreath for Udomo to Money Galore including The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the different civilian regimes have failed for different reasons and sometimes specific ones. Politics is not a concern of the army or the police. Nevertheless, we can notice that both The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Money Galore end with military coups.

In The Beautyful One Are Not Yet Born, we notice that after the army and the police have seized power, the military regime is established and starts working contrary to what happens in Money Galore. Their first actions are negative. Violence continues and corruption still prevails. The watchman takes one hundred cedis at the gate of the harbour before allowing Koomson to enter in order to escape with a canoe. The narrator says that “the boatman took out another of the notes, and the watchman took them, slowly, with something like a loving awe, so that the notes made a soft cracking noise as they rubbed against his palm.‘Pass,’ said the watchman.” (Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born: 176)The watchman knows that Koomson is running away to escape justice but nevertheless leaves him go against money.

The police too are corrupt under the newly established military regime. A policeman for example takes bribe from a driver as reported to the readers on page 182.

The policeman who had spoken raised his right hand and in a slow gesture pointed to his teeth. The man had seen this gesture before, serveral times. Usually, its maker would add the words,Even Kola nuts can say “thanks”. This policeman, however, was saying nothing … With his left hand he extracted the money, rolling it up dexterously into an easy little ball…  (Armah, Ibid: 182)

Bribery continues prevailing after the military coup. The narrator is explicit: “in the life of the nation itself, maybe nothing really new would happen. New men would take into their hands the power to steal the nation’s riches and to use it for their own satisfaction. That, of course, was to be expected” (Armah, Ibid: 162)

A Silly Season deals, from the beginning to the end, with a military regime. How do the civilian and military politicians run the public affairs in Ribalia, the fictitious country described in the novel? Shall we expect from the military and the police the exploits, the democratic conduct the civilians have failed to adopt?

The military regime established after the overthrowing of the Nkruma’s regime in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born has not been able to put an end to corruption as it is just shown. It is almost the same ‘wind’ which continues blowing with even new vices and new ‘social plagues’ when the military junta led by an officer called Yaro takes the command. Some of them are favouritism with its branches of nepotism and cronyism, corruption and tribalism to name only these.

  • People of the New school: Corruption in Vogue in A Silly Season

All through A Silly Season bribery is encountered. Some people take bribes and fortunately others refuse it. A few examples of bribery are illustrative. The first leader of the military junta is corrupt. He accepts bribes as mentioned here by the narrator: “When the Military President is eating andsmiling. Ask French banks! Or check the president’s accounts in Germany. They will tell you that our president is a multi-billionaire.” (Ogundimu.A Silly Season: 95)

Like the Military President, Governors and State Commissioners also take bribe. Kunle Bangbelu says it here: “Many of my colleagues from the other ministries had been murmuring, bugging me for failing to let them share from what they named my ministry’s spoils.” (Ogundimu, Idem: 72)

The Military President, the State Commissioners and even the new citizens indulge in corruption because they are not punished when caught. The narrator informs us: “Even when you get caught for corruption practices, you must still try to bribe your way out. Thus, you struggle to swim out of messy waters, so that you can eventually retain your position and continue in office by hook or by crook.’’ (Ogundimu, Idem)

  • Other forms of ill-governance

Some people like Kayode are hired on the basis of cronyism. The narrator confesses about him: “The sister-in-law of his friend’s uncle came to the rescue; he was made a clerk.” (Ogundimu, Ibidem: 55)The military and civilian politicians have promoted self-enrichment in Ribalia, frustrated the press and promoted impunity. Democracy cannot prosper in these conditions.

  • People of the old school: objection to bribe taking

There are nevertheless some people who go against the new order, the new school consisting in taking bribe or promoting the practice. Among these people are first of all Mrs Banji of whom it is said that she “will not accept a gift until a job has been completed and certified consistent with the contract terms.” (Ogundimu, Ibidem: 75) For Kunle Bangbelu “it is better not to accept anything from a contractor, even when the job has been completed.” (Ogundimu, Idem) He is even stricter than Mrs Banji. The two of them belong “to the old school.” (Ogundimu, Idem) In this group of honest people are the man and the teacher in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born 

 

Conclusion

The qualitative approach, postcolonial criticism and sociocriticism used have enabled me to reach my goal. Indeed, this work has dealt with the practice of democracy in Africa during a period of half a century. It has pointed out the important different flaws or weaknesses of African democracy during this period to the extent that one can conclude that from the late fifties to the early twenty-first century, African democracy is a sputtering one or a crippled one. This is illustrated by regular or almost permanent political instability through the many coup d’Etats during the above mentioned period. Nkrumah’s regime described in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born has been overthrown by the army and the police (p.157). The government Kafu has belonged to has been ‘blown out’ by the army of his country as described in Money Galore (p.182). In A Silly Season, it is the military that are in command even though a few well-educated intellectuals like Kunle Bangbelu are appointed to high levels of decision making such as Ministers and Commissioners. The democratic and economic if not the development Udomo has been conducting in A Wreath For Udomo has been interrupted by “atavic” forces under the banner of two advocates of tribalism namely the tendem Adebhoy-Selina (pp. 306-307). This interruption is similar to or synonymous with a coup d’Etat that has put an end to some noble political and economic ambitions of a young and open-minded and dynamic African politician. The paper has also studied the causes of such trend in order to put an end to something which is known to be bad in order to establish, consolidate and promote good ways of conducting democracy and development process.

The two main causes of the prevalence of sputtering democracy in Africa are ill-governance and its ‘fertilizer’ that impunity is. Ill-governance is illustrated by evil practices in a democratic system such as tribalism, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, corruption, frustration of the freedom of the association and the press , in a word, dictatorship as shown along the development of this paper. All these ill-practices are nursed by impunity. To put an end to impunity and at the same time promote democracy, accountability must be established and implemented impersonally. Théophile Houndjo suggested in his doctoral dissertation: “Fierce fight against corruption includes an important aspect which is the establishment of a policy of accountability …” (p445). In the same vein he quotes Ngugiwa Thiong’O who, in his fourth novel,has made a plea for accountability: “Your deeds alone will condemn you … You—No one will ever escape from his own actions” (Idem)

References

  1. Abrahams, M. H. (2005). A Glossary of Literary Terms. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth
  2. Achebe, C. (1966). A Man Of The People. London: Heinemann
  3. Adeola, G. L. & J. Amuno (2013).“Corruption as Albatros of Nigerian Leadership”. In International Journal of Social Sciences. 6,  154-170.
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  9. Ashcroft, B., Griffiths,G. and Tiffin, H. (2007).Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts, Second Edition. London and New York.
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  19. Karanja.W. (2003).Kenya: Corruption Scandal; World Press Review, October ,1(10).
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Article n°11- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

ANALYSING IDEOLOGICAL POINT OF VIEW IN BEN AKPONINE-SAMUEL’S A HOLIDAY TO REMEMBER: A SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL APPROACH.

 

Sévérin M. MEHOUENOU

mehouenous@gmail.com

 Innocent Sourou KOUTCHADE

koutchade2@yahoo.fr

 Université d’Abomey-Calavi

 

Abstract

This article aims at exploring the ideological point of view in Akponine-Samuel’s A Holiday to Remember. The concept of ideology is understood as the system of beliefs, values, and categories that guides the way an interactant views the world. Through this system, language plays an experiential or ideational function realized through the transitivity system as ingrained in the grammar drawing on the contextual properties of field. The process for successfully conducting this study has considered selecting two extracts from the novella on purpose of quantitative and qualitative analyses. This has helped to uncover how the different transitivity patterns interact to convey children’s ideological point of view not only about how religion has become a hot bed of boredom but also about criminality. The work concludes that the literary work unveils the socio-criticism position of the narrator and as a matter of fact, it is suggested that Africans should find resources in their institutions to overcome these social flaws.

Key words: Experiential Function, Ideology, Religion, Criminality, World view, Psychology.

 

Résumé

Cet article vise à explorer le concept d’idéologie tel que développé dans l’ouvrage A Holiday to Remember de Akponine-Samuel. Ce concept est compris comme le système de croyances, de valeurs, et de catégories qui guide la façon dont un interlocuteur conçoit le monde. A travers ce système, la langue a une fonction expérientielle réalisée par la transitivité qui a pour base les propriétés contextuelles du champ. Pour conduire avec succès ce travail, deux extraits ont été sélectionnés de la nouvelle et une analyse quantitative et qualitative en a été faite. Ceci a permis de découvrir comment les différents procédés de transitivité s’interposent pour transmettre le point de vue idéologique des enfants non seulement sur comment la religion est devenue un lit d’ennui mais aussi sur la criminalité. Le travail conclu que l’œuvre littéraire dévoile la position sociocritique adoptée par l’écrivain et par conséquent il est suggéré que les institutions africaines trouvent les ressources nécessaires pour lutter contre ces fléaux sociaux.

Mots clés : fonction expérientielle, idéologie, religion, criminalité, point de vue, psychologie.

 

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Article n°010- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

READING OF GHOSTLY APPEARANCES WITH A REVELATION VIEW IN SHAKESPEARE’S HAMLET AND MACBETH

Casimir Comlan SOÉDÉ

University of Abomey-Calavi, Bénin

Email: cacoss12000@yahoo.fr

Ibrahim YEKINI

Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Bénin

Email: adebiaye20@gmail.com

TELECHARGER VERSION PDF

Résumé

La consultation prophétique pour l’action à entreprendre aussi bien que la mort d’un proche sont souvent source de peur et de rappel d’un manquement ou d’une tâche non accomplie. Ces aspects du surnaturel dans Hamlet et Macbeth semblent être incompris par la plupart et font souvent objet de plusieurs interprétations. Dans cette perspective, la présente étude nous a permis de faire la lumière sur ce rôle éveilleur du surnaturel dans l’accomplissement d’une destinée. Ainsi la théorie de la Réponse du lecteur nous a été d’une grande utilité dans nos analyses  dans l’utilisation que Shakespeare a fait du surnaturel dans ses pièces de théâtrale Hamlet et Macbeth, s’agissant des fantômes et sorcières combinée à comment il exploite le patrimoine culturel de son pays notamment de croyances et de superstitions de l’époque élisabéthaine. Il ressort des analyses faites des pièces Hamlet et Macbeth que les fantômes servent de catalyseurs dans la mesure où le surnaturel a une intime relation avec le caractère des principaux personnages et par ricochet avec ses proches.

Mots clés : fantômes, surnaturel, sorcières, apparition

 

Abstract

The prophecy in advance of an action to be taken as well as the death of someone or a relative seems to be most of time a source of fears or a guidance to take as flowchart for the achievement of a goal. Those dimensions of the supernatural seem to be misunderstood by many, and sometime it is subjected to many interpretations. For that purpose, the current research work aims at enlightening on the reminder role the supernatural plays in the accomplishment of a destiny. So, thanks to the Reader-Response theory, the use Shakespeare makes of the supernatural in Hamlet and Macbeth as far as ghosts and witches are concerned are shown and deciphered with the view on how the author exploits the cultural heritage of the country; the beliefs and the superstitions of the Elizabethan era. In short,   it is observed in Hamlet and Macbeth that, the ghosts are used as catalysts and mind re-sharper in the sense that the supernatural is always placed in the closest relation with the main characters.

Keywords: Ghosts, supernatural, witches, appearance.

 

 

Introduction

In the days of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the supernatural. As a result, the supernatural is a recurring issue in most of his plays. In Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into characters, and augments the impact of many key scenes. The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet, there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear but also a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions make appearances. Therefore, the role of the supernatural is very important in Hamlet and Macbeth.

This supernatural element certainly cannot, in most cases, if in any, be explained away as an illusion in the mind of one of the characters. Furthermore, it does contribute to the action, and is, in more than one instance, an indispensable part of it. But the supernatural is always placed in the closest relation with the character. It gives a confirmation and a distinct form to inward movements already present and exerting an influence; to the sense of failure in Brutus, to the stifled workings of conscience in Richard II, to the half-formed thought or the horrified memory of guilt in Macbeth, to suspicion in Hamlet. Moreover, its influence is never of a compulsive kind. It forms no more than an element, however important, in the problem which he has to face. And we are never allowed to feel that it has removed his capacity or responsibility for dealing with this problem.

 

  1. The Elizabethan belief in the supernatural

In Macbeth, the supernatural is manifested through witches, apparitions and a ghost. To Macbeth the witches foretell that he will be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland: “All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter”. (1-II-50) And when he realizes that he is trapped and doomed to die, he curses the supernatural powers which have led him astray. The witches show him apparitions which give him promises concerning his fate, but the last apparition is no other than Banquo’s ghost, which brings Macbeth back to his latest crime.

They show him eight kings, with many more reflected in a mirror, with the ghost of Banquo following them. For Macbeth, although Banquo has been murdered by his orders, Fleance, Banquo’s son, has escaped, and is destined to be the father of a line of kings. Although Macbeth has won the throne, it is foretold that his children will never follow him in a royal line. Another manifestation of the supernatural is the vision Macbeth has a little while before he murders the king. Macbeth sees the vision of a dagger placed ready for him to clutch. Drops of blood appear on it.

In two plays, portents, once more, fill the heavens, ghosts rise from their graves, an unearthly light flickers about the head of the doomed man. But in Macbeth, the supernatural effect is quite different. The solemn majesty of the royal Ghost in Hamlet, appearing in armour and standing silent in the moonlight, is exchanged for shapes or horror, deeply seen in the murky air or revealed by the glare of the cauldron fire in a dark cavern, or for the ghostly face of Banquo badged with blood and staring with blank eyes. Thus, embodying the Elizabethan belief about the supernatural, Hamlet and Macbeth give us various illustrations of its manifestations as exemplified precedently, and then confirm that, in the Elizabethan period, the supernatural played an incontestable role in society.

 

  1. Father Hamlet’s ghost in action for its Soul Sake

In Hamlet, old Hamlet’s secret murder justifies the apparition of the ghost, because young Hamlet needs to be told about it so as to have a solid motivation for revenge. Moreover, the ghost’s task is not easy because of Hamlet’s indolence.

In fact, in the two plays understudy, the ghost plays different roles. A ghost, appearing in the form of Hamlet’s father, makes several appearing in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It first appears to the watchmen, Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio near the guardsmen’s   post. The ghost says nothing to them and is perceived with fear and apprehension. It is not until the appearance of Hamlet that the ghost speaks, and only then after Horatio has expressed his fears about the Hamlet’s ghost which seems to follow him everywhere. The ghost asks Hamlet to seek revenge for the king’s death and Hamlet is thus propelled to set into action a series of events that ends in his own death.

The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a catalyst for his later action and provides insight into Hamlet’s character. The information the ghost reveals incites Hamlet into action against a situation he was already uncomfortable with, and now even more so. Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost, and thus, an aspect of Hamlet’s character is revealed. Having no suspicion of the ghost after the production by players, Hamlet encounters the ghost next in his mother’s room. In this scene the ghost makes an appearance to Hamlet. Hamlet is now convinced of the ghost and he no longer harbours any suspicion. He now listens to it: “Speak to her, Hamlet” (I-v-90)

The supernatural occurs four times in the course of Macbeth. So it takes form first in all the appearances of the witches. Secondly, it appears in the form of Banquo’s ghost. It is thirdly observable in the apparitions with weirds’ prophecies. And finally, it takes the form of “air-drawn” dagger that guides Macbeth towards his victim.

Of the supernatural phenomena present in Macbeth the witches are perhaps the most important. The witches stand for Macbeth’s evil ambitions. They are the catalysts which unleash Macbeth’s evil aspirations. Macbeth believes the witches and he wishes to know more about the future so after the banquet he seeks them out at their cave.  He wants to know the answers to his questions regardless of whether the consequence to be violent and destructive to nature. The witches’ answers to Macbeth’s requests, add further unnatural ingredients to the cauldron and call up their masters. This is where the prophetic apparitions appear. The first apparition is Macbeth’s own head (later to be cut off by Macduff) confirming his fears of Macduff. The second apparition tells Macbeth that he   cannot be harmed by anyone born of woman. This knowledge gives Macbeth a false   sense   of security because he believes that he cannot be harmed, yet Macduff was not of woman born, his born. This leads to Macbeth’s downfall. A child with a crown on his head, the third apparition, represents Malcolm, Duncan’s son. This apparition also gives Macbeth a false sense of security because of the Birnam Wood’s prophesy.

The appearance of Banquo’s ghost provides insight into Macbeth’s character. It shows the level that Macbeth’s mind has recessed to. When he sees the ghost he reacts with horror and upsets the guests. Macbeth wonders why murder has taken place many times in the past before it was prevented by law – “statute purged the gentle weal” – and yet the dead are coming back.

The final form of the supernatural is the “air-drawn” dagger which leads Macbeth to his victim. When the dagger appears to him, Macbeth finally becomes victim to the delusions of his fevered brain. The dagger points to Duncan’s room and appears to be covered in blood. The dagger buttresses the impact of his key scene in which Macbeth slays King Duncan. However, the ghost is not the only motivating force behind the revenge tragedy in Hamlet because other motivating forces are underneath.

We can notice that young Hamlet appears for the first time in the second scene of the play, dressed in black, which is an implied criticism of the royal marriage which has just been celebrated. Although young Hamlet dislikes Claudius and regards him as a usurper of the throne, he appears to be a competent and even an amiable ruler. Claudius, after referring diplomatically to his marriage, dispatching ambassadors to Norway and giving Laertes permission to return to France, he urges young Hamlet to stop his excessive mourning, and not to return to Wittenberg. The audience, having already seen the ghost, is aware that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. (I-v-90), and will sympathize with young Hamlet’s feelings about his mother’s hasty remarriage, especially as marriage with a deceased husband’s brother was not permitted without a special dispensation.

The youngster first soliloquy is designed to show his state of mind before his interview with the ghost. He is profoundly shocked by Gertrude’s marriage to his uncle in less than two months after her first husband’s death, although he has no conscious suspicion that his father has been murdered or that his mother had committed adultery. He wished suicide were permissible, he compares the world to Eden after the fall, he contrasts Gertrude’s two husbands, the godlike one and the bestial one, and, with a tendency to generalize characteristic of him, he assumes that all women are like his mother.

His depression and his tears are underlined by his initial failure to recognize Horatio; but he rouses himself sufficiently to make the bitter witticism about the funeral baked meats, and his cross-examination of the three men who have seen the ghost reveals that his intelligence has not been blunted by his grief. It is apparent from the four-line soliloquy at the end of the scene, in which he speaks of “foul play” and “foul deeds”, that he now suspects that his father has been murdered.

In the further scene, before the appearance of the ghost, young Hamlet spoke on the drunkenness of the court, which leads him to generalize on the way “some vicious mole of nature” (I-iv-24) or some bad habit outweighs a man’s good qualities and destroys his reputation in the eyes of the world. Young Hamlet had already referred, in the second scene, to the drinking habits of the new court, and one function of this speech is to show the deterioration of Elsinore in the reign of Claudius. Another function, equally important from the theatrical point of view, is to distract the attention of the audience so that they are surprised by the reappearance of the ghost, and this function is aided by the extreme complexity of the syntax, which would require the undivided attention of the audience.

When the ghost appears again, in the Closet scene, it is to remind young hamlet of his unfulfilled task, and to protect Gertrude from the knowledge of Claudius’ crime. The visitation of the ghost confirms the prompting of his prophetic soul that some foul deed has been committed. The ghost has then cast Hamlet in the role of avenging angel, when all his faculties cry out for him to be a moral scourge. The ghost has asked him to be active, but his disposition is to be reflective, intellectually questioning, and in moral terms, admonitory.

But what are the means and effect of the ghost? And in particular, why does Shakespeare make the ghost so majestically a phantom, giving it that measured and solemn utterance, and that air of impersonal abstraction which forbids, for example, all expression of affection for young Hamlet and checks in young Hamlet the outburst of pity for his father? Whatever the intention may have been, the result is that the ghost affects imagination not simply as apparition of a dead king who desires the accomplishment of his purposes, but also as the representative of that hidden ultimate power, the messenger of divine justice set upon the expiration of offences which it appeared impossible for man to discover and avenge a reminder of a symbol of the limited world of ordinary experience with the vaster life of life of which it is but a partial appearance.

The appearance of the specter means a breaking down of the walls of the world and the germination of thoughts that cannot really be thought. Chaos has come again. So far, it is clear now that the ghost is solely concerned about speeding young Hamlet to revenge and to protect the queen (which is the purpose of the second visitation by the ghost). The ghost, through all that precedes, seems not to be the only instigator of the revenge tragedy in Hamlet. Jealousy seems to be another cause. The question that is raised here is to know the reason why the ghost is apparent to everybody in Act I and only to young Hamlet the second time?

In Act I, the ghost appears four times. In the first scene, it appears twice to Bernardo, Marcellus and Haratio as to confirm that the account Bernardo and Marcellus are giving to Haratio about its first two appearances to them is true. Then, Haratio cannot doubt anymore because the ghost appears “In the same figure, like the king that’s dead” (I-i-41). He even asserts “before my God, I might not believe this without the sensible and true avouch of mine own” (I-i- 56-58). But it does not say anything despite Haratio’s two injunctions; “Speak; speak, I charge thee, speak”, (I-i-51).

The third time we see it again is in the fourth scene. It appears to young Hamlet, Haratio and Marcellus. This time, it beckons young Hamlet to go away with it to a removed ground. Although it does not speak to them it shows clearly that it needs young Hamlet. Maybe it does not want to speak to him in the presence of anyone else, and this is well proved by its fourth appearance. This occurs in the fifth scene of Act I when we see only the ghost and young Hamlet, the former making confidences to the latter. This is the first time we notice that the ghost speaks and speaks to young Hamlet alone. It gives its true identity to him before revealing its unnatural murder and its author.

The ghost is visible to everybody in the first Act while in Act III, it is only visible to young Hamlet. But why is this so? It might be because, on the one hand, Marcellus, Bernardo and Horatio are not involved in the sin, while on the other hand, Gertrude is the sinner for marrying the dead king’s brother and within so short a time after the death of her husband. Moreover, a ghost, in Shakespeare’s day, was able, for any sufficient reason, to confirm its manifestation to a single person in company.

At the beginning of the play we have this intimation, conveyed through the medium of the received religious idea of a soul come from purgatory, so in the end, conveyed through the similar idea of a soul carried by angels to its rest, we have an intimation of the same character, and a reminder that the apparent failure of young Hamlet’s life is not the ultimate truth concerning him.

 

  1. Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

While considering the peculiarities in the tragedy, it will be agreed that, while young Hamlet certainly cannot be called in the specific sense a “religious drama”, there is in it, nevertheless, both a freer use of popular religious ideas, and a more decided, though always imaginative, intimation of a supreme power concerned with human evil and good, than can be found in any other of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And this is probably one of the causes of the special popularity of this play just as Macbeth, the tragedy which, in these respects most nearly approaches it, has also the place next to it in general esteem. A ghost also appears in the case of Macbeth. But here it is a mere hallucination.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have then plotted and executed Duncan. The King of Scotland’s murder in his castle has been skillful enough to let everybody believe that his attendants have committed the crime. They have killed Duncan to hurry on the fulfillment of the witches’s prophecy according to which Macbeth will be the king. But the witches have also foretold that Banquo will be the root of generations of the kings, which Macbeth would not digest, and from then on would look for any opportunity to get rid of him. It is in purpose that he has invited Banquo to a banquet in his castle. But Banquo never attented that banquet because he was killed before it took place.  However, the couple Macbeth has organized the banquet.

Then Banquo’s ghost intervenes to stop the feast. The ghost of Banquo comes and sits down in Macbeth’s place at the table. But only Macbeth can see it. While “digestion”, “health”, “sauce”, and “meat” are being enjoyed, Banquo’s ghost breaks into the festivity, disperses it, throws it into disorder, “Against this life-forms of feasting, conviviality, social friendliness and order, comes a death, a ghost, smashing life-form with phantasms of evil and guilt: an unreality, a “nothing”, like the air-drawn dagger, creating chaos of order and reality, dispersing the social unit. It is the conquest of the real, the life-giving by the unreal and deathly. It corresponds to the murderous deed whose “hideous trumpet” (II- iii- 87) waked the “downy-sleep” (II- iii- 81) of Macbeth’s guests at Inverness, raising them to walk like “spirits” (II- iii- 84) from death, like young Hamlet’s father, shattering at that dead hour all a natural peace and rest”. That is John Wain’s opinion of the ghost. This point of view is not different from the general one according to which a ghost is a soul or specter of a dead person, usually appearing as a living being or as a nebulous likeness of the deceased and occasionally, in other forms.

Banquo’s ghost has come to replace the whole being of Banquo. Indeed and based on tradition, when you are invited you should come; the least courtesy is to come.  And, when you cannot come, you reply to or you let your host know that you cannot. It seems that it is in that logic that Banquo’s ghost finds its importance by making its apparition at the banquet in order to fulfill either of these two obligations.

Macbeth has invited Banquo, Macbeth has killed him, and only he can see his ghost. And we cannot say that all this is a mere accident. The appearance of the ghost seems to occur to counteract Macbeth who does not mind at all Banquo’s absence at the feast. In fact, he does not mind because he knows the truth and is utterly sure that Banquo would never come. it seems that Banquo’s ghost appears to accuse Macbeth of his fault which nobody knows, and of which he does not care. It comes to haunt the state banquet of Macbeth. It comes to torment Macbeth. Normally, after killing Banquo, Macbeth should feel safe from his enemies, but fate quickly descends upon him in a most horrible form, the form of the ghost, Banquo’s ghost. This is a terrible punishment both for his crime and also the evil pretence of expecting Banquo to be at the banquet.

So, the ghost appears and only Macbeth, the sinner, can see it. The appearance of the ghost does not leave Macbeth indifferent. It moves him. The other guests cannot see the ghost, but they can notice its effects on Macbeth. They can notice that he is being moved; that’s why Lenox asks:“What is it that moves your highness?”(III- iv- 49-50). Macbeth cannot hide the reason or the object of his trouble then and straightforwardly answers with another question; “Which of you have done this?” (III-iv- 48). This question cannot be answered by the guests because they know nothing of what it is about. At such a level of conclusion, any other guest would react the same way. They seem completely confused and start becoming suspicious about Macbeth. Throughout the fourth scene of Act III lots of Macbeth’s speeches raise suspicion.

In fact, right at the beginning of the banquet, when Banquo’s ghost enters and sits in Macbeth’s place, and the others cannot see it but only Macbeth can see it, suspicion has been planning. All the others notice that a place is reserved for Macbeth, but the latter can see no free place. Instead, he sees Banquo’s ghost and is affected by this sudden appearance. The others can then notice that something is wrong with him. Their suspicion starts from this moment.

The suspicion and probably the confusion increase when Macbeth keeps on this incontestable self-accusation: “Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me” (III-iv-50-51). The guests are then quite sure that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” and choose to leave. The after-effects of such a situation on them is that they may continue being suspicious about Macbeth. But they do not leave because Lady Macbeth asks them to stay. She covers up the incident to dissuade them from any suspicion. Yet, the strategy does not work for it is clearly shown that Macbeth has probably committed a crime.

The consequences of the appearance of the ghost on Macbeth arouse suspicion of him because of the conflict he is having with somebody we do not know and cannot see but for a reason we may guess since most of his speeches allude to it.

When the ghost has appeared, Lady Macbeth has not seen it, and maybe she cannot see it. But she has known it must be there. This, perhaps because of she has been informed about everything of her husband’s fault and trouble that she has quickly understood him and has even tried to rescue him. Could she do otherwise as a partner, a wife and a lover, whose duty is also to be truthful to her husband mainly when the latter is in trouble? She knows the crime committed by her husband mainly when the latter was in trouble. She also knows the crime committed by her husband towards Banquo. Now at the banquet, Banquo is missing and suddenly her husband starts speaking to somebody nobody else can see, referring to something wrong which has been done against that same unknown person. To prove or to show her care and her love for her husband, she has to save him from shame. Shame, because the guests might, at last, understand everything about what is happening. In other words, they could understand that something is wrong, a crime has been committed by their host and that, now he is sorry for what he has done, he is having remorse. That his conscience is troubled as Cain was, in the Holy Bible, after killing his brother Abel. So, the ghost’s appearance at the feast reveals or lets any reader think that Lady Macbeth loves her husband, he is careful of he is welfare and would not like to let him fall into trouble. This explains her first excuse:

My lord is often thus,

And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;

The fit is momentary; upon a thought

He will again be well. If much you note him

You shall offend him, and extend his passion;

Feed, and regard him not (III-iv-53-58)

 

Everything is then quite clear. What else could be expected from a wife? Lady Macbeth has done the least she can. To let the royal banquet split so easily, so unworthily, would be a great shame for the royal family. Thus, she has promptly decided to save the honor of the royal family. By attributing Macbeth’s trouble to a simple or an ordinary discomfort which often occurs to him and does not last long, she really wants the feast to continue. She did not want the royal renown to be spoilt; she vividly opposed herself to the guests to prevent them from discovering the truth. As a matter of fact, the appearance of the ghost consolidates the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.

The appearance of the ghost at the banquet is so important that it can constitute a scene in itself. When a banquet starts, it is expected to continue in joy, in peace, and not to be interrupted by a phantom or ghost as occurred in Macbeth. Here the ghost came to the banquet to trouble it, to disturb it. It came just at the instant when the feast was about to start. Nobody could see it except Macbeth. But its effect on Macbeth had repercussions on the whole feast. Macbteh organized the banquet, and he was disturbed and he suddenly started feeling unwell. The suddenness of his trouble surprised the guests and could not let them enjoy the banquet. Since then, neither the guests nor Lady Macbeth could be in the mood to enjoy anything, and were , on the contrary, made anxious by Macbeth’s disturbance. If only any of them could do anything to make him recover, it would be helpful. But they could do nothing but sympathise. Only Lady Macbeth, as she could guess the origin of her husband’s disturbance, might have done something to help him recover. Unfortunately, she did nothing because she could not do anything. The problem was beyond her ability. All she could do and did in fact, was to prevent the guests from asking Macbeth questions so as not to make him tell everything about his crime. Instead of having only subject of preoccupation, which would be the banquet, the appearance of the ghost has suddenly become another subject, and not the least, of preoccupation. It even surpassed the banquet as it succeeded at last in putting an end to it. Thus, the whole scene has suddenly changed from a banquet scene to a ghost’s scene.

The first appearance of Banquo’s ghost was at the banquet, and its purpose was to haunt the banquet and to torment Macbeth. It probably came to reproach Macbeth. But despite this, Macbeth would not decide to put an end to his wicked instincts. He still had in mind the witches’ prophecies which foretold that Banquo would be the root of many kings. Despite his crime against Banquo, he was still obsessed by that prophecy. That’s why he decided to consult the witches once more to know much more about the future. Three apparitions came to satisfy his curiosity. The first, an armed head, warned him against Macduff: “Macbeth! Beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife-Dismiss me-Enough” (IV-i-71-72). He wanted to know more about this, but the spirit would not obey his orders. The second, a child covered in blood, said he needed fear “none of waman born”. (IV-i- 80)

The third, a child, with a tree in its hand, said that Macbeth would not be defeated until the wood of Birnam moved to the hill of Dunsinane. But Macbeth was still not satisfied; he wanted to know whether in fact Banquo’s children, and not his own, would be kings in the future. Then there was a display of eight kings, the last carrying a mirror which reflected many more; and the ghost of Banquo followed them. These stood for the future kings of Scotland, and were the heirs of Banquo. When Macbeth was consulting the witches, the second appearance of Banquo’s ghost was more significant than the others.

Indeed, the ghost’s reappearance is, like the phantasmal dagger, a “horrible shadow”, an unreal mockery, and it opposes the natural joys of feasting and “health”, life-forms, life-forces, just as Macbeth’s original “horrible imagings”, the “horrid image” of the proposed murder, unfixed his hair and made his heart beat wildly “against the use of nature”, shook his “state of man” and smothered “function” in “surmise”. So the evil makes of unity, “love”, feasting and social order a chaos, dispersing and disintegrating society. The disorder thought is important, running throughout Shakespeare and vividly apparent: order is the natural grouping of life-forms, disorder a desecration of the ties of hospitality, blood-relationship and allegiance.

 

Conclusion

The supernatural is a recurring aspect in many of William Shakespeare’s plays. In Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. In these two plays, the authors gives insights about the manifestations of the supernatural in its various forms notably as a weird, ghost, air-drawn dagger and prophecy. Through this way of plotting, Shakespeare, on the one hand, would like to call his reader attention on his or her wrongdoings towards his counterparts. His writings are an invitation of people to avoid catching the life expectancy of our neighbors.  On the other hand, the playwright is showing is reader the dimensions that can take the supernatural to correct misconduct or to achieve a goal. In fact, the supernatural provides a catalyst for action by the characters. It supplies insight into the major players and it augments the impact of many key scenes. The supernatural appeals to the audience’s curiosity of the mysterious and thus strengthens their interest.

References

  1. Brook, N. (1998). The Tragedy of Macbeth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Brown, J. R. (2006). Hamlet: a guide to the text and its theatrical life. Macmillan: Palgrave Press.
  3. Kloutsé K. B. (2014). The dramatic Function of the Supernatural in Four Plays by Shakespeare, Doctoral Dissertation, Lomé – Togo: Université de Lomé.
  4. Shakespeare, W. (1983). Hamlet, London: Longman Press
  5. Shakespeare, W. (1984). Macbeth, London: Longman Press
  6. Tillyard E.M. W, Litt D (1978). The Elizabethan World Picture. London: Chatto and Winelus.
  7. Sampson, G. (1970). The Concise Cambridge History Literature, 3rd Edition Published London: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Soédé N. Y. (2017). Inventer une Afrique autre. Monde invisible, Développement et Christianisme. Abidjan : Editions Paulines.

 

 

Article n°9- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

PROMOTING CITIZEN RESPONSIBILITY AND FLUENCY IN BENINESE EFL CLASSES USING SERVICE LEARNING

 

Estelle BANKOLE MINAFLINOU

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

bankestelle@yahoo.fr

Juvenale PATINVOH AGBAYAHOUN

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

Dossa0259@yahoo.com

Dossou Flavien LANMANTCHION

INSTI, UNSTIM Abomey

Flavienlam81@yahoo.fr

 

 

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Abstract

English language teaching and learning in Beninese Secondary Schools is much more examination-oriented than meaning acquisition-oriented. Real world issues and human values are not fully promoted as teachers hardly prepare the next generation for a lifelong commitment to productive citizenship. This study suggests the use of service learning to promote citizenship as well as to build fluency in EFL classes. The methods used during the investigation have considered introducing, experimenting and evaluating the proposed model throughout four regions in Benin Republic.  The results show that the implementation of service learning has made a significant impact on learners. 97% among the participant EFL teachers acknowledged the value of the use of meaningful contexts in EFL learning.

Keywords: Service learning, human values, fluency, EFL classes, citizenship

 

Résumé

L’enseignement et l’apprentissage de l’anglais dans les collèges au Benin est beaucoup plus axé sur l’examen que sur les réalités de la vie. Les problèmes du monde concret et les valeurs humaines ne sont pas mis en avant et les enseignants préparent difficilement la prochaine génération à un engagement à long terme en faveur d’une citoyenneté productive. Cette étude suggère l’utilisation de l’apprentissage par le volontariat pour promouvoir la citoyenneté ainsi que pour améliorer l’expression orale en anglais langue étrangère. Les méthodes utilisées au cours de l’enquête ont consisté à introduire, expérimenter et évaluer le modèle dans quatre villes de la République du Bénin. Les résultats ont démontré que la mise en œuvre de l’apprentissage par le service communautaire a eu un impact significatif sur les apprenants. 97% des enseignants participants ont reconnu l’importance de l’utilisation de contextes significatifs dans l’exécution de l’approche.

Mots Clés: volontariat, valeurs humaines,  expression orale, anglais langue étrangère (ALE),  citoyenneté.

 

 

  1. Introduction
  • Research Rationale

Benin National Teachers of English Association with the support of the U.S Embassy Cotonou has recently organized four workshops on service learning in four towns in the country: Aplahoue, Bohicon, Glazoue and Pobe. Service learning involves students going out into their communities and using that which they learn in class to help people, and bringing that which they learn in their community service back into the classroom to enhance their learning (Lieberman & Miller 2001, p14). Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and as a result, strengthen communities.The main goal of the training is to raise participant teachers’ awareness on the importance of service learning and how to introduce the model into their daily teaching so asto promote citizenship as well as to foster fluency in EFL classes.The researchers happened to be part of the facilitation teamand as teacher- researchers we set out to solve two common problems found in many partsof the country, which was that the curriculum used was not sufficient to develop students’ communicative abilities, something which we highly want to improve. We also wanted to encourage volunteering spirit and citizen engagement in the country. Young people are the future generation. The actions of ordinary citizens are more likely to affect others across the country and even beyond. So we explore ways of using service learning as a means of promoting citizenship and evaluating participant beliefs about service learning in EFL classes in the four regions. The  English language  has no fixed subject matter, and as such the teacher of English could bring real world issues into the classroom, for students come to class expecting to have fun and be engaged in meaningful discussions. The role and function of higher education is to prepare the next generation for a lifelong commitment to productive citizenship (Howard et al; 1999, 41). This paper has attempted to examine EFL teachers and students’ appraisal of the introduction of lesson-based service learning in EFL classes and how EFL teachers can teach by creating meaningful contexts for the language learner by drawing out and cultivating human values.

 

  • Objectives of the Study and Research Questions

EFL teachers must teach differently and have greater success than everbefore. In order to teach better, teachers have, according to Lieberman et al. (2001), to be at the centre of all efforts to reform and improve schools. This is the objective of this study. It is to explore ways to develop citizen responsibility and fluency in Beninese EFL classes using Service Learning. To reach this, the following three research questions have been considered:

  • What meaning do the participating instructors make of the use of service learning in EFL Classes?
  • What do the participating students think of the service learning approach?
  • Is there a relationship between the implementation of Service Learning based on the learner-centered teaching activities and instructional techniques and the students’ fluency?

 

  • A Review of Literature

As language teachers, we all know that to learn alanguage well, learners need meaningful contexts.Facts and skills that are taught in isolation and not connected to something meaningful cannot be remembered without considerable practice and rehearsal… Second language classroom activities that are meaningful create an ideal learning opportunity for second language students to learn more information in a shorter time, with less effort. (Christison 1999, p.23). Latulippe (1999) suggests that wherever possible, students should be placed in context-rich situations.This point does not need belaboring. But there is another need that young learners have, especially at school level, which hasn’t received  much attention in the field of second and foreign language learning. The need is referred to as the development of human values. Service-learning is ideal for second and foreign language teaching because it meets the learners’needs and creates meaningful contexts for the language learner and it draws out and cultivates human values (Berry et al, 1999, p. 13). Along with the provision of meaningful contexts for language learning, service-learning has the added benefit of fostering students’personal growth. Service-learning makes learners think more and more about needy people (Akpovi 2018). Service learning also makes learners plan the future considering poor and needy people and gives a different point of view. It makes learners grow in spirit and mind and in their way of seeing things.This is a responsibility that until fairly recently many higher learning institutions took very seriously. As Mithra (2000) asserts, the role and function of schools were earlier seen as integral to the processes of social engineering, developing in students critical faculties, creative potential and initiative towards applying these to the tasks of freeing people from material want and intellectual deprivation (Berry & Chisholm 1999, p.12).Today there is a broadening concern for citizen responsibility. There is a growing numberof educators who, like Howard (1999) believe that foremost among the purposes of higher education is that of giving learners the skills and breadth of knowledge to think deeply about the structures of their society and to appropriate values which must govern their personal and professional lives (p.17).And there are even those, like Louis (2005), who insists that preparing the next generation for a lifelong commitment to productive citizenship is the most important challenge facing educators and communities at the local, regional, national, and global levels.

The introduction of service-learning into ESL and EFL programs has revitalized its curriculum and made a significant impact on students. Knowles (1989) advocates that students learn best when they are committed, when the topic the learning session is concerned with is of immediate relevance, which means it can be applied right away in their personal and professional lives. Students learn best when they are doing. They learn more when they are engaged in learning for a purpose. Everything in the literature on pedagogyand how students learn supports using Service Learning. Successful language learning entails learner motivation, cooperation and it enables learners to assume responsibility for their own learning. This is one of the main objectives of education. In fact, it aims at linking the learners’ socio-cultural environment to the classroom experience so as to motivate them to become true agents of change and development in their respective communities.

  1. Data for the Study

In order to understand teachers’ beliefs and views about Service Learning, one Service Learning ‘roadshow’ was conducted in each selected region in the academic year 2017- 2018. Four towns were selected in total: Pobe, Aplahoue, Bohicon and Glazoue. During the ‘roadshow’ the Service Learning model was explained and its implementation elaborated on. A questionnaire was developed and distributed to 160 participant teachers (Forty respondent teachers per region) who attended Service Learning ‘roadshow’.  The 160 participant teachers belong to Beninese Teachers of English Association. Table1 provides more details on the participant teachers’ characteristics.

 

Table 1 Showing Participants Characteristics

Town                                Participants                  Female                      Male

Pobe                                           40                                     14                               26

Aplahoue                                  40                                      09                               31

Bohicon                                      40                                     18                               22

Glazoue                                     40                                        11                               29

 

The participant teachers with the facilitators made a list of community needs and decided on some actual service activities that can be carried out per town. The participants matched the service activities to the learning situations in the curriculum. They expanded to include a reflection activity in the learning situation. The teachers tried to find out how the model could be translated into a lesson and were then given the opportunity to plan a lesson incorporating the solution of one community needs.  See below more detailed information about each selected town, community needs and activities planned.

 

Town: A

Community Needs : How to prevent erosion in the village?

Solution                    :  Planting trees

Curriculum              : Learning situation two of “Seconde”: “The Environment”

Procedure                

  • Find some seeds with the students that theysow to grow baby trees/seedling
  • Bring the seedling to the village where the erosion is occurring and then the students and the community will plant the trees together
  • Raise awareness in the village to help fill in eroded areas with sand from other places
  • Raise awareness not to cut trees everywhere

 

Town: B

Community Needs: Avoid catching STDs

Curriculum  : Learning situation 1 – Youth Problems, Sequence 1 – STDs

Solution: Help the community know about dangerous sexual activities and their consequences

Procedure:                                                                                                           

  • Lead students to hospital to visit infected people and see their conditions
  • Students discuss with doctors and patients to get more information
  • Students get advice from doctors and patients
  • After coming back, students will write articles to build awareness in their classmates about STDs
  • Students will have an appointment with the chief of the village in order to organize a meeting with the villagers
  • During the meeting the students will share the causes, symptoms, prevention and consequences of STDs.

 

Town: C

Community needs  : Raise awareness about Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Curriculum              : Learning Situation 1:   Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Solution                    : Students make posters to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS

Procedure                

  • ‘Troisième’ students visit ‘quatrième’ students in class sessions to present their posters
  • ‘Troisième’ students go to the nearby hospital to present posters

 

Town: D

Community Needs: Clean environment

Solution: Collecting litter from the hospital grounds, like plastic bags and other waste

Curriculum – Learning situation ‘two’ in the Second textbook “The Environment”

Procedure: Send students to the hospital to help raise awareness and clean the hospital ground

 

  1. Results

This part pinpoints the outcomes of the study. It is divided into two subsections: participant teachers’ meaning of the introduction and experiment of the model in EFL classes and learners’ feedbacks on the model.

  • Participant Teachers’ Meaning of Service Learning.

More than 99% of the respondents agreed that a well implemented service learning method has benefited teachers, students, and communities. Participants believed that Service Learning gave them a sense of achievement and satisfaction. The model has encouraged interactive teaching methods and reciprocal learning and added new insights and dimensions to class discussions. It also promotes the use of authentic learning tasks. Some of the participants even went further by opining that Service Learning has promoted students’ active learning; engaged students with different learning styles and developed students’ civic and leadership skills as well as encouraged highly motivated and engaged students. Teacher Gbetoho asserts:

People who have knowledge but no action to help others never possess power. The combination of learning and service is a powerful methodology in EFL programs and promotes citizenship.

Teachers reported that they had been satisfied with the approach since the model provided them with different activities to engage in. These activities not only helped students to increase their English knowledge through gaining valuable insights but also contributed to learners’ community engagement. Respondents opine that Service Learning would please communities and enable teachers to be appreciated by communities. The majority of respondent teachers asserted that a well implemented Service Learning would also benefit the students. Students would thereafter beable to develop independence, a sense of responsibility and self-esteem. However, 66% of respondents are afraid of always using the model in that there are many obstacles. Here are some excerpts from the respondent teachers which point out the challenges:

Teaching examination-oriented activities make me feel guilty all the time. I wish I had more time for more interactive activities using service learning, but no, I don’t have time. We do not have time. (Agbolossou)

I have always wanted to do something fun and creative. But I don’t think my headmaster will like [it]. We have to focus on drilling, my students are very weak. (Gbetoho)

Fun learning? For students who are not in examination classes, yes; not for candidates. Definitely not for ‘Troisième’ and ‘Terminale’; too much work, expectations are high. We are pressured under the syllabus (Dossou).

 

The respondents point to a number of challenges that the implementation of the approach faces which include time constraints, curriculum and student background. Beninese secondary school classrooms are tightly regimented by a timetable and a number of factors that can constrain the experimental sessions with the Service Learning. These factors are related to a number of internal and external elements: teachers’ knowledge about the Service Learning pedagogy, current school pedagogical practices, availability of learning resources and study materials; students, skills and knowledge as well as their perception about the target language; and assessment procedures used to evaluate learner-centered teaching method.A successful implementation of the model also depends on the teacher’s mastery of how to design effective activities or tasks. Despite these challenges, the majority of the participants believe that the Service Learning model can solve many problems in the country in terms of civics and learners’ fluency.

  • Learners’ Benefits from the Approach

The approach has positively impacted students. Students have developed many skills, especially in the areas of communication, collaboration, and leadership skills. They got opportunities to act on their values and beliefs of community engagement. The model has increased students understanding of the class topics and students gain hands-on experience topics. They learn more about social issues and their root causes. The approach develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills in participant learners and they learn more about social issues and their root causes. The model has made the students more aware of targeting fluency in a systematic way. 73.4% of the students have improved self-confidence after the implementation ofthe approach, even among those who were generally shy and anxious.Anxiety as an affective state is defined as an uncomfortable emotional state in which one perceives danger, feels powerless, and experiences tension in the face of an expected danger (Blau, 1955).The findings suggest thatthe use of the model has alleviated learners’ anxiety.  In general, students’ responses indicated that the activities that relate to the students on a personal level result in the most comfort. The study showed that increased exposure over time to many learner-centered activities and techniques brings about a decrease in anxiety (Egounléti, 2008). Several activities and techniques meet with mixed reactions even after the students have had considerable experience with them, and students reactions vary at different stages of proficiency. Through the experimentation, real-life problems can be used to motivate students, to challenge them to think deeply about meaningful contents. The approach has also made learners, teachers and communities work collaboratively. In addition to that, learners have been directed towards discussions with professionals in the communities.Students have tested out their skills, interests, and values in potential career paths, or fields of interest and they had the opportunity to connect with students, professionals and community members whom they learned from.

We were surprised at how readily students embraced self- evaluation and how they naturally fed information back to each other about their performance. The research project has not just impacted participant students, but has also had a positive wash back effect on other areas. Firstly, it has greatly influenced teaching styles, which have become more student-centred and focused on students being more aware of their learning. The project has made us more aware of targeting fluency in a systematic way. The researchers could have dug deeper and looked at speech rates, non-lexical fillers and interjections, and setting more effective criteria to establish a more student-centred approach. In future research projects, we would like to explore technology, in particular speech recognition technology, and also apps that measure students’ oral speaking in service learning.

 

  1. Discussion

Beninese National Philosophy of Education encompasses the ideals of a national citizenry whose members are wholesome and balanced in all dimensions of human development, and who can contribute to the well-being of fellow members and to the nation. The school curriculum was thus designed towards achieving these ideals. One of the premises of this curriculum is that the teaching and learning process should allow for developmental growth of students in both the affective and non-affective dimensions of human development. This is clearly visible in the curriculum prescriptions at the primary and secondary school levels where teachers are to adopt a student-centered pedagogy in the classroom. In fact, this approach called Competency-based Approach (CBA) is based on constructivism, a theory which states that the learner is the main actor in the building of knowledge, and the cognitivist theory of representation which selects, structures the information and guides the behavior. It focuses on acquiring life-coping skills while developing the language to perform it, by preparing and equipping learners with the qualities and abilities of a responsible citizen fully aware of his/her role in the community (Patinvoh-Agbayahoun2011). In other words, for effective learning to take place, students need to know that what they are studying will improve their lives. Hence, the promotion of Service Learning which stands the chance of giving a meaning to the learning by showing them what they are learning at school is for, in the active life; by putting a stress on the competencies that the learners must master, rather than on what the teacher teaches alone (Gelmon 2001).

Language learning/teaching entails five major components – students, teachers, teaching approaches, teaching materials, and evaluation. Conventionally, the instructor in the teacher-centered model determines what the teaching materials will be and tries to transmit them in one way or another. The test of learning is dependent heavily on the students’ ability to memorize and produce the data at stated intervals. In this case, the students’ task is to listen, remember, and then give evidence that they have recorded the materials in their minds. Students, in the EFL context, focus on memorizing vocabulary, phrases, grammatical rules, and sentence structure, but they have difficulties applying the target language to their real life communication. The teacher-centered model in language classrooms has been questioned in educational settings. One way to modify this traditional pattern of teaching/learning is to give students more responsibility for learning. Some educators have maintained that the teacher at best can only establish an atmosphere for learning; the student must learn as a result of individual efforts (Patinvoh-Agbayahoun2011). Teachers need to encourage students to rely more on themselves and less on the teacher. Students should be self-motivated with an inquiring nature (Liu, 2007). A number of studies reveal that motivation, engagement and attitude are closely related to achievement in language learning (Gardner and Lambert, 1972).

School is like home in the educational sense of the word. School as an appendix of family should not tolerate counter values but keep learners from steadily being transformed into streets dwellers. School should be an instrument of development, a manpower builder of the development of the nation and a leadership skills builder. EFL teachers are called upon their responsibilities of promoting civics, ethics and moral valuesamong learners to prepare them for good governance, good citizenship and leadership, and motivate them to become true agents of change and development in the community. This sort of program can really put an extra burden on teachers, [about seventy percent (70%) of the teaching force in Benin is untrained] (Lanmantchion 2016)   for it assigns them a new profile just as complex as diverse and requires an acute imagination, creativity, and flexibility difficult to face by an untrained teacher.These multiple demands imposed on him/her require adequate training in many areas including updated pedagogical issues in language teaching/learning, in adolescent psychology, school practice, the world we live in etc. However, it has been demonstrated in this field that no such a program can be effective if capacities are not built in teachers to promote new ways of performing their professional roles. There is then an urgent need to reinforce teachers’capacity in the teaching of English as a foreign language through the command of time management tools, etc. Beninese EFL teachers need to adjust their craft and expand their teaching toolkit so that they might be able to meet new challenges and educate students to their fullest potential (Carter et al; 2001).

 

Conclusion

This study explored ways to develop citizen responsibility and fluency in Beninese EFL classes using Service Learningin four regions in Benin Republic. The research has confirmed that effective teaching should create the need to learn by means of significant activities which, in turn, will activate motivation and thereby create an effective learning setting (Brown, 2001). Motivation coupled with the taking into account oflearners’ needs is indispensable to ensure success in EFL learning. As a teacherof English, one should be more inclined to use methodologies which exposestudents to meaningful contents and topics, within the scope of their fields ofstudy, so that students might feel they are not only learning English just to sitfor examinations, but also that they are learning a lot through English, and moreimportantly for short and long-term life goals.

 

References

  1. Astin, Alexander W., Lori J. Vogelgesang, Elaine K. Ikeda, and Jennfier A. Yee., (2000). How Service-Learning Affects Students, Los Angeles, ULCA Higher Education Research Institute.
  2. Berry, H., & Chisholm, L. (1999). Service-Learning in Higher Education around the World. New York: The International Partnership for Service-Learning.The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VII, No. 4, April
  3. Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. White Plains, NY: Longman.
  4. Carter, R. and Nunan, D.  (2001). The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Christison, M. (1999). Applications of Brain-Based Research for Second LanguageTeaching and Learning; Part 2, TESOL Matters, 9,4.
  6. Egounléti, P.M. (2008) “Strategies to fight back students’ anxiety to speak English language: the case of Benin secondary schools.” Unpublished Master Dissertation, Abomey-Calavi University.
  7. Eyler, J. 2001 Creating your Reflection Map. In M. Canada (Ed.) Service-Learning: Practical Advice and Models. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass New Directions for Higher Education Series, 35-43
  8. Gardner, R. C. and Lambert, W. E. (1972). Attitudes and Motivations in Second Language Learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
  9. Gelmon,Sherril B.,Barbara A. Holland, Amy Driscoll. 2001. Assessing Service-Learning and Civic Engagement: Principles and Techniques. Campus Compact
  10. Lanmantchion, D. F. (2016). « Creating a Balance between Examination-Oriented Activities and Meaningful Language Learning through PBL in Beninese EFL Classes » in Revue du CAMES ‘ Littératures, Langues et Linguistique’ No 4 pp. 65-71 ISSN 2424-726x.
  11. Latulippe, L. (1999). Lessons Learned from Being a Student Again: Part 2, TESOLMatters, 9, 2.
  12. Lieberman, A. & Miller, L.ed (2001). Teachers Caught in the Action: Professional Development That Matters. Columbia, New York and London: TeachersCollege Press
  13. Liu, M.  (2007). “Chinese Students’ motivation to learn English at the tertiary level”. Asian EFL Journal, 8(1), 143-147. Pusan, Korea.
  14. McGoldrick, M. and A. Ziegert, (Eds.) 2002, Putting the Invisible Hand to Work: Concepts and Models for Service Learning in Economics. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  15. Ministry of Education (Benin), (2002). English curriculum: Principles and standards for learning English as a foreign language for all grades. Benin: Ministry of Education.
  16. Nunan, D. (2004). Task-Based Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  17. Patinvoh-Agbayahoun, J. (2011). “Prospective EFL Teachers’ beliefs about the Competency-based approach: a case study of a teacher education program in Benin. Doctoral Dissertation, Abomey-Calavi University.
  18. Yildirim, Z. (2005). Hypermedia as a Cognitive Tool: Student Teachers’Experiences in Learning by Doing. Educational Technology & Society, 8(2), 107-117

Article n°8- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

 SUPERSTITION AS SEEN THROUGH MARK TWAIN’S THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1876)

 

Ferdinand KPOHOUE

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

ferdinandkpo@yahoo.fr

 

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Abstract

Mark Twain is the pen-name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens who was born in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and grew up in nearby Hannibal, a small Mississippi River town. Hannibal would become the model for St. Petersburg, the fictionalized setting of his two most popular novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). In St. Petersburg, life is ruled by some superstitious beliefs and traditions people respect. Twain’s main characters (Tom, Huck) are taken to carry out activities likely to make them visit the churchyard at midnight, Jackson’s Island, the haunted house in search of treasure, etc. These uncommon places in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer have offered the opportunities for Tom, Huck and other characters to explore the very world of superstition. The objective of this paper is to investigate how Twain has dealt with the concept of superstition in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in order to understand how people lived in early nineteenth century in America. The results are amazing because St. Petersburg’s people are very superstitious and all aspects of their life carry some features of superstition. Tom and Huck have taken the readers to the world of witches, ghosts, charms, and other beliefs people accept simply because they do not have any scientific clarification of them.  Twain is criticizing these blind beliefs in the novel because he has made Tom and Huck discover the truth many times. In places where they are supposed to meet ghosts, they meet people they know and the miracles or misfortunes they are expecting never appear.

Key words: Superstition, belief, witches, ghosts, America.

 

Résumé

Mark Twain est né en 1835 en tant que Samuel Langhorne Clemens en Floride (Missouri) et a grandi à Hannibal, une petite ville du Mississippi. Hannibal deviendra le modèle mais nommé St. Petersburg, le décor fictionnel de ses deux romans les plus populaires, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). À St. Petersburg, la vie est régie par certaines croyances superstitieuses et certaines traditions respectées par les habitants. Les personnages principaux de Twain (Tom, Huck) sont amenés à faire des activités susceptibles de les conduire à visiter le cimetière à minuit, Jackson’s Island, la maison hantée à la recherche de trésor, etc. Tous ces lieux insolites dans The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ont offert des opportunités à Tom, Huck et d’autres personnages pour explorer le monde même de la superstition. Mon objectif dans cet article est d’examiner comment Twain a traité le concept de superstition dans The Adventures of Tom Sawyer afin de comprendre comment les gens vivaient au début du XIXe siècle en Amérique. Les résultats sont étonnants parce que les habitants de St. Petersburg sont très superstitieux et tous les aspects de leur vie portent des traits de superstition. Tom et Huck ont ​​amené les lecteurs dans le monde des sorcières, des fantômes, des charmes et d’autres croyances que les gens acceptent simplement parce qu’ils n’ont aucune explication scientifique les concernant. Twain critique ces croyances aveugles dans le roman parce qu’il a fait découvrir la vérité à plusieurs reprises à Tom et Huck. Dans les endroits où ils sont censés rencontrer des fantômes, ils rencontrent des personnes qu’ils connaissent et les miracles ou malheurs auxquels ils s’attendent n’apparaissent jamais.

Mots clés: superstition, croyance, sorcières, fantômes, Amérique.

 

 

Introduction

Set in a fictional town on the Missouri bank of the Mississippi River, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is, in many ways, a tribute to Clemens’ own childhood in Hannibal. Episodes, characters, and settings from his own childhood -the cave, Injun Joe, Aunt Polly, the Cadets of Temperance has become important parts of Tom’s story. During the writing process, he has focused specifically on Tom’s boyhood. Within the framework of the novel, however, he manages to be critical of the small-town society he has grown up in. The story takes place in the fictional town of St. Petersburg known for its superstitions. Superstition which is the belief of supernatural forces is the consequence of the incapacity of men to understand some natural phenomena. For the primitive man, the sun, the storm, the breeze and the calm represent miracles. The thunder, the sudden attack of mysterious illness, the earthquake, etc. are evil spirits and powers to be propitiated. Being contagious, superstition quickly spread everywhere. When someone fears and suspects a phenomenon, his neighbors fear and suspect it too. With the daily childish activities of Tom and Huckleberry Finn, many aspects of the superstitions regulating life in St. Petersburg are revealed.

This paper is an attempt to explore the superstitious aspects of the fiction of Twain in the early nineteenth century. As a matter of fact, Tom and Huck are mischievous but clever teenagers who are involved in activities likely to make them refer to superstitions like all people living in their community. They have undertaken to cure warts with a dead cat; they go to the churchyard at midnight to meet spirits; they hide in the Island or visit the haunted house in search of treasury. The howling of a dog for them is a bad omen. All these episodes have taken them to refer to superstitious beliefs in order to achieve their goals. Mark Twain’s literary technique is but to question these beliefs that can be handicaps for the evolution of society.

 

  1. Superstitions and their origins

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, superstition is defined as the belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science. It is also the belief that particular events bring good or bad luck. Many of our superstitious beliefs and practices began long, long ago and it is interesting to trace back through the years to find the origin of some of the common ones. The origin of most of them is, undoubtedly, to be found in man’s effort to explain the phenomena of nature and in an attempt to appease an angry deity and to invite a better fortune. From these sources come many of the absurd notions still practiced among primitive people and which have been handed down in modified form to us.

Man has ever found it difficult to understand the mysteries surrounding him on all sides and groping in the dark. He has tried by prayer, incantation, peculiar practices to force nature to do his bidding.

In his book entitled The Customs of Mankind, Eichler explains the causes and origins of superstition. According to him:

The first note in all superstitions is, of course, ignorance – an ignorance to which fear is closely allied. The true origin of superstition is to be found in primitive man’s effort to the phenomena about him; his wish to avoid evils he could not understand; his desire to propitiate fate and invite fortune; his attempt to pry into the future.

Being contagious, superstition quickly spread everywhere. What one man feared and suspected, his neighbor was bound to fear and suspect. (Eichler, 1924, pp.23-24)

Superstition, therefore, arises primarily from ignorance. Early man believed that every phenomenon of nature was the work of a spirit or devil. His intelligence could not suggest any other explanation. To this belief was added fear. The thunder, the lightning, the earthquake and darkness, all filled him with fearful dread. To him they were the workings of spiteful powers to be propitiated.

Where ignorance and fear are surrounded by danger they will always grope for a way of escape. Thus superstition is born.  A belief in the existence of spirits antagonistic to man gave rise to most of the old superstitions.

In Egypt, Greece and Rome, superstition gave birth to mythology with its pagan rites and ceremonies. During the Dark and middle Ages when most people were  illiterate, superstition flourished.

For Eichler, there are some interesting bits of history about some of our popular superstitions. According to him:

Some of the early superstitions, originally concerned with the evil eye and with customs for banishing or destroying its influence, have survived and are still observed. The survivals have taken the form of bad luck omens such as the black cat, the spilling of salt, the number thirteen, and so forth. And, of course, there are methods for overcoming the bad luck promised by these omens, as casting a pinch of the salt over the shoulder, or whispering a benediction after the Sneeze. (Eichler, 1924, p.640)

The fear of the unknown and dread of the evil eye led early man to avoid whatever seemed, to his superstitious mind, an omen of bad luck. He saw signs of warning in the simplest of evil and hence something to be shunned. The examples of the black cat and the number thirteen can help to understand how people form and perpetuate superstitions and myths.

The black cat is the traditional companion of witches. Because of this old tradition, the black cat is associated with omens such as misfortune and ill luck. According to Eichler (1924, p.642), ‘there is an ancient superstition that spirits are able to assume the form of black animals, particularly black cats.’ The black cat is even said to be a witch in disguise and killing it does not even mean killing the witch because the witch can take on the body of a cat nine times. Today, the black cat is not feared as it was in earlier times, but there are many superstitious people who still regard it as an unlucky omen. Some other people spread this belief over all cats having nine lives. It is a matter of belief and as such it is difficult to convince believers about the lack of veracity related to some phenomena.

The second example concerns the number thirteen which is believed to be an unlucky number. For this reason, some hotels do not have a room number thirteen. But how and where has this belief come from? In fact, nobody could answer. Eichler has provided an explanation in the following words:

In Scandinavian mythology there are twelve Aesir or Demigods, and the old legend is that Loki came among them, making the thirteenth. This Loki was cruel and evil, according to the story, and among the Demigods he became the “the chief author of human misfortunes.” Because he was evil, and because he was the thirteenth, the number thirteen came to be looked upon as an omen of ill luck.

Another explanation as to the origin of this superstition is that the Valkyrs, or Virgins, who waited upon the heroes in Valhalla were thirteen in number. Many writers believe that from this source sprang the common superstition concerning the bad luck of the number thirteen, especially in connection with guests at a table. (Eichler, 1924, p.641)

So many explanations are provided to explain the origins of this belief but nobody can tell the truth about it. It is even said that there were thirteen people at the Last Supper and Judas was represented as the thirteenth guest. He betrayed Jesus-Christ and he was arrested and crucified. So many other examples can be given, but without any irrefutable evidence. In short, superstition, as a belief, is transmitted through generations and is used to fill the gaps of ignorance. Natural phenomena human-being cannot explain are subject to superstition and some means to get protected against are imagined by initiated people who claim to know about them. For a long time and even today, some superstitious beliefs exist about the thunder, the tide, the sea, the rainbow, death, the moon, the sun, etc. The point to discuss in this paper is not actually superstition and its origins, but rather the use of superstition by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Set in a fictional town on the Missouri bank of the Mississippi River, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been, in many ways, the story of Clemens’ own childhood in Hannibal. The preface of the novel mentions clearly that

‘Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual — he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture’. (Twain, 1876, p.xv)

So Twain has fictionalized his own life experiences forty-one years after his birth in 1835. It is a way to revisit his childhood through the lenses of an adult mind and maturity views. In fact, Twain’s original plan for the book was to cover the span of Tom’s life well into adulthood, when he would return to visit St. Petersburg as a grown man, the same way Twain himself had done during a lecture-tour. During the writing process, however, he decided that Tom shouldn’t grow up in the book, and focused specifically on Tom’s boyhood. Within the framework of the novel, however, he managed to create a story that, while upbeat, managed to be critical of the small-town society he grew up in.

  1.   Cases of Superstition in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

Many of the characters in Mark Twain’s stories—Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Ben Rogers, Aunt Polly…live in worlds they do not understand and are powerless to control. These characters often used superstitions and other creative logic to try to explain the unexplainable occurrences in their lives. This is the best way for them to live in St. Petersburg where beliefs in outer forces influence and determine the life of its dwellers.

  • Warts cure

Warts viewed with modern eyes are so simple to understand and heal. As a matter of fact, a wart is a small growth with a rough texture that can appear anywhere on the body. It can look like a solid blister or a small cauliflower. Warts are caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. Treatments include salicylic acid, duct tape, cryotherapy, surgery, laser treatment, electro cautery, photodynamic therapy, chemical treatments, topical creams, cantharidin, and antigen shots. That is what modern science suggests nowadays. But at the time of Twain’s childhood when modern science was at its primitive level, Tom and Huck could view the matter with a different lens.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, two adolescent main characters have definite ideas on the best way to cure warts in St. Petersburg. Tom has proposed spunk-water (rain water in a rotten tree stump) whereas Huck’s favorite prescription requires a dead cat. For that purpose, Huckleberry Finn has got a dead cat from Ben Rogers in exchange for a hoop stick in order to perform the ritual likely to cure warts. Huck has convinced Tom about the use of his cat in the following words:

‘What’s that you got?’

‘Dead cat.’…………

‘Say — what is dead cats good for, Huck?’

‘Good for? Cure warts with.’

‘No! Is that so? I know something that’s better.’

‘I bet you don’t. What is it?’

‘Why, spunk-water.’

‘Spunk-water! I wouldn’t give a dern for spunkwater.’  (Twain, 1876, pp.50-51)

For Huck, spunk water is not appropriate to cure warts. Before it has the healing force, it requires some typically superstitious ceremonies. Huck explains the process:

‘Aha! Talk about trying to cure warts with spunkwater such a blame fool way as that! Why, that ain’t agoing to do any good. You got to go all by yourself, to the middle of the woods, where you know there’s a spunkwater stump, and just as it’s midnight you back up against the stump and jam your hand in and say:

‘Barley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts,

Spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts,’

and then walk away quick, eleven steps, with your eyes shut, and then turn around three times and walk home without speaking to anybody. Because if you speak the charm’s busted.’ (Twain, 1876, pp.51-52)

The incantations and the attitudes required are from superstitious beliefs because they have no scientific explanation and they cannot be understood by common people. Even the people performing the rites do not know how they come to them.  It is simply a matter of belief. Huck’s warts remedy has something impossible to understand. The process goes like this:

But say — how do you cure ‘em with dead cats?’

‘Why, you take your cat and go and get in the graveyard ‘long about midnight when somebody that was wicked has been buried; and when it’s midnight a devil will come, or maybe two or three, but you can’t see ‘em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear ‘em talk; and when they’re taking that feller away, you heave your cat after ‘em and say, ‘Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I’m done with ye!’ (Twain, 1876, pp.52-53)

How is it possible to provide scientific explanation for the above process described by Huck?

Mark Twain himself is unable to explain the phenomena he has described in his novel or he wants to raise the matter related to the origins of some beliefs. When Tom has tried to know the origins of this cure, Huck replies he has received the explanation from the old Mother Hopkins who is said to be a witch. In fact, people fear witches because they believe they have supernatural powers and are able to know what common people ignore. To know more about witches, I refer to the definition provided by Maxwell-Stuart. In Witch Beliefs and Witch Trials in the Middle Ages, P.G. Maxwell-Stuart has tried to associate the term witch with some Italian terms: ‘Stregones and stregule are Italian terms derived from the Latin strix meaning ‘night owl’, often taken to be a bird of ill-omen, and associated with feeding upon young or small creatures. Hence, when it became one of the terms for ‘witch’, it implied shape-changing and attacks upon babies or infants, especially at night. (Maxwell-Stuart, 2011, 32)  According to Lara Apps and Andrew Gow, ‘the word ‘witch’ almost invariably denotes a female person, a woman or a girl. For example, the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘witch’ in female terms, as ‘a sorceress, esp. a woman supposed to have dealings with the Devil or evil spirits’ (Apps and Gow, 2003, 8).  So many other definitions exist but for this study, I stick to the idea that witches are believed to have supernatural forces likely to allow them to carry out some strange and maleficent actions only initiated people can explain. People refer to witches or witchcraft simply to stop investigating about certain deeds and events. It is simply a belief because Tom and Huck believe they are in the presence of devils even when they see people coming to the churchyard at midnight. They are afraid. According to them, ‘It’s the devils sure enough. Three of ‘em! Lordy, Tom, we’re goners! Can you pray?’ But they have come closer Huck and Tom come to recognize that ‘They’re humans!’(Twain, 1876, 76) Tom and Huck have heard Muff Potter’s voice. They know him quite well and come to be convinced that he is not a ghost. Superstitions resist up to the very day people happen to find some scientific explanations for them. However, a hundred years after the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, Mark Twain has written about the common beliefs of his childhood through Tom and Huck. Twain is criticizing these blind beliefs because, at the graveyard, Tom and Huck hide in a clump of elms waiting for devils to appear.  After a while, three figures approach the grave. The boys believe with a horrified delight that these are the devils, but they turn out to be three adults from the town carrying out a midnight mission of their own. Tom and Huck are surprised to discover the young Dr. Robinson accompanied by two local outcasts, the drunken Muff Potter and Injun Joe. The worst comes when Dr. Robinson orders the other two men to dig up Hoss Williams’s corpse, presumably for use in medical experiments. After the job, the two boys have witnessed the murder of Doctor Robinson after a fight with Injun Joe. The desecration of the fresh grave of Hoss Williams, the fight and the murder of Dr. Robinson at the very place where ghosts and other spirits, are said to dwell show the deceptive aspects of superstitions.

 

  • The howling of dog

Tom and Huck have run away from the graveyard after the murder of Dr. Robinson. But instead of going straight home, they run to a deserted tannery and hide. They decide that if they tell what they have seen and Injun Joe escapes hanging, he will probably kill them. Consequently, they decide to swear in blood never to tell anyone what they saw. After taking the oath, they hear the howls of a stray dog, which they interpret as a sign that whomever the animal is howling at will die. Tom and Huck assume the dog’s howls are for them, but when they go outside, they see that the dog is facing Muff Potter. Their reaction can explain their superstitious view about the phenomenon:

They turned and saw the strange dog standing within a few feet of where Potter was lying, and facing Potter, with his nose pointing heavenward.

‘Oh, geeminy, it’s him!’ exclaimed both boys, in a breath.

‘Say, Tom — they say a stray dog come howling around Johnny Miller’s house, ‘bout midnight, as much as two weeks ago; and a whippoorwill come in and lit on the banisters and sung, the very same evening; and there ain’t anybody dead there yet.’

‘Well, I know that. And suppose there ain’t. Didn’t Gracie Miller fall in the kitchen fire and burn herself terrible the very next Saturday?’

‘Yes, but she ain’t dead. And what’s more, she’s getting better, too.’

‘All right, you wait and see. She’s a goner, just as dead sure as Muff Potter’s a goner. That’s what the niggers say, and they know all about these kind of things, Huck.’ (Twain, 1786, 87)

The howling of dogs is believed to be an announcement of a bad omen. According to Eichler, ‘An ancient belief is that the howling of dogs portends death and calamities. This appears to be a relic of the time when men made deities of animals. As a deity, the dog was supposed to be able to foresee death and give warning of it by howling or barking’. (Eichler, 1924, p.648)

Superstition is a shared belief and is transmitted from a generation to another. The interpretation of the howling of dogs as an ill omen has been heard from slaves from Africa. The universal dimension of the belief in superstition is underlined here. Through this belief, Tom and Huck are afraid first but feel out of danger when they notice the dog is facing Muff Potter.

  • The rattlesnake rattles

A rattlesnake is a poisonous American snake that shakes its tail to make a noise when it is angry. A rattle, according to Eichler, ‘is older than you would suspect and is said to have been invented by Archytas. He made painted clay puppets, representing human beings or animals, and put small stones inside of them to cause a rattling noise’. (Eichler, 1924, p.606)

A rattler, at the origin, is not a magic power used for protection but certain superstitious beliefs of supernatural forces men can put in some things, people come to believe it protects. Tom is definitely conscious that his rattlesnake rattle protects him against cramps. As a matter of fact, Tom, Huck and Joe Harper trip to Jackson’s Island where nobody in St. Petersburg can discover them. Feeling mistreated after ill-treating Aunt Polly’s cat, Tom resolves to act on his earlier impulse to become a pirate. He meets Joe Harper, who is likewise disaffected because his mother has wrongly accused and punished him for stealing cream. They find Huck Finn, always up for a new adventure, and the three agree to slip away to Jackson’s Island, an uninhabited, forested isle three miles downriver from St. Petersburg. That night, the three boys take a raft and pole their way to the island, calling out meaningless nautical commands to one another as they go. At about two in the morning they arrive on the island, build a fire, and eat some bacon that Joe has stolen for them. The three boys are playing when Tom notices he has lost his protective device. His reaction is automatic:

Then Joe and Huck had another swim, but Tom would not venture, because he found that in kicking off his trousers he had kicked his string of rattlesnake rattles off his ankle, and he wondered how he had escaped cramp so long without the protection of this mysterious charm. He did not venture again until he had found it, and by that time the other boys were tired and ready to rest. (Twain, 1786, p.126)

Superstitious beliefs take people to accept as true the power of charms prepared by some conjurors for protective purposes. Ignorance takes people to see the manifestation of supernatural forces everywhere. As a matter of fact, a cramp is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction caused by muscle fatigue or a lack of electrolytes such as low sodium, low potassium or low magnesium. In early nineteenth century people could not explain the mechanism of cramp and therefore attributed it to mystical forces.

  • The haunted house and its treasure

From the twenty-fifth chapter, Mark Twain introduced again the phenomena of witch, haunting spirits and unlucky day to make the superstitious world more significant to explore. So, one day Tom has a desire to hunt for buried treasure. He encounters Huck Finn, and the two characters discuss possible places to find treasure, what form the loot might take, and how kings have hundreds of diamonds. They then set off for the nearest dead-limbed tree, since such trees are typical hiding places for treasure. That afternoon, the boys dig in a number of places around the tree but find nothing. At first, Tom blames a witch, and he then realizes that they are going about it all wrong: they need to find where the shadow of the tree limb falls at midnight. They return that night and dig for a time, again without result. Eventually frustration and fear of the darkened woods make them give up because they fear haunted houses because ‘they’re a dern sight worse’n dead people. Dead people might talk, maybe, but they don’t come sliding around in a shroud, when you ain’t noticing, and peep over your shoulder all of a sudden and grit their teeth, the way a ghost does. I couldn’t stand such a thing as that, Tom —nobody could.’ (Twain, 1786, p.192)  Tom and Huck believe in ghosts and are sure they can appear any time in this haunted place. People have spread the belief and they can repeat it with determination and certitude. It even happens that people defend they have met dead people that have walked to avoid them. In fact, they have met the double of the dead one and with faith take it for truth.

Still in this haunted house, Tom and Huck confuse misfortune and superstition because their vain attempt to find out the hidden treasury is assimilated to the power of a witch. In the following dialogue, Tom and Huck explain the reasons of their bad luck:

Sometimes witches interfere. I reckon maybe that’s what’s the trouble now.’

‘Shucks! Witches ain’t got no power in the day- time.’

‘Well, that’s so. I didn’t think of that. Oh, I know what the matter is! What a blamed lot of fools we are! You got to find out where the shadow of the limb falls at midnight, and that’s where you dig!’ (Twain, 1786, p.190)

In fact, when people are unable to explain a phenomenon, it is attributed to ghostlike powers influencing ongoing actions. People are not able to question their techniques or knowledge because of the period when the actions take place. Here the second solution regarding the shadow of the tree at midnight is more ambiguous because it may be a night without sunshine. Even though it is the case, the position of the moon is important to determine.

The other superstitious reason mentioned by Tom and Huck is about the day. It is Friday, the most unlucky day of the week. They decide to make their way to the haunted house on Saturday. The fear of Friday has no scientific roots and simply believed to be so. Eichler’s point of view confirms my assertion:

The origin of the superstition concerning Friday is traced by most authorities to the crucifixion of Christ on that day. But there are some writers who advance the theory that Friday is regarded as an unlucky day because it was on Friday that Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. It is quite probable that this popular old legend gave rise to the superstitious notions concerning Friday. (Eichler, 1924, p.645)

It is but a matter of belief and environment simply because there exists no material evidence to show its veracity. He who does not believe in Christianity can laugh at such an explanation whereas Jesus Christ disciples may find an interest to accept it. Mark Twain refers to superstitious beliefs simply to trace to his own childhood and take the readers to appreciate this period of time when every aspect of life can be subject to its superstitions.

Conclusion

Twain first explores superstition in the graveyard, where Tom and Huck go to try out a magical cure for warts. From this point forward, superstition becomes an important element in all of the boys’ decision-making. The convenient thing about Tom and Huck’s superstitious beliefs is that there are so many of them, and they are so freely interpretable; Tom and Huck can pick and choose whichever belief suits their needs at the time. The humorousness of the boys’ obsession with witches, ghosts, and graveyards papers over, to some extent, the real horror of the things to which the boys are exposed: grave digging, murder, starvation, and attempted mutilation. The relative ease with which they assimilate these upsetting events into their childish world is perhaps one of the least realistic aspects of the novel. The boys negotiate all this horror because they exist in a world suspended somewhere between reality and make-believe. Their fear of death is real and pervasive, for example, but surely they do not really understand death and all of its ramifications. Twain uses this innocence of adolescence to spotlight the phenomenon of superstition in St. Petersburg and in the early nineteenth century. The very strategy used by Twain consists in revealing the falseness of what is believed. Wherever Tom and Huck are expected to meet ghosts, they happen to discover people they know. Nowhere in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has a superstitious belief comes true. Twain has written the novel in 1876 to demystify superstition. He has made use of teenagers who are still fragile in their beliefs to go where adults can never accept to go because of their strong beliefs in superstition. Huck, a pariah in St. Petersburg, is used to play this role because no parents can allow his child to experience superstitious events. The other boys (Tom and Ben Rogers sometimes) follow him for the purpose. Superstition is less and less important because of the evolution of science.

 

Bibliography

  1. Apps L., Gow A. (2003).Male witches in early modern Europe. London: Manchester University Press.
  2. Eichler L. (1924). The Customs of Mankind. London: William Heinemann Ltd.
  3. Laxalt R. (1957). Sweet Promised Land. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
  4. Lukács G. (1955). The Historical Novel. Boston: Beacon Press.
  5. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2007). Malleus Maleficarum. London: Manchester University Press.
  6. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2008 ) ‘Astrology and same-sex relations’, in K. BorrisThe Occult Sciences and Same-Sex Love in Early Modern Europe, London: Routledge.
  7. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2008). The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
  8. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2009). The Devil: From Early Modern Times to the Present. London: Amberley Publishing.
  9. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2011) ‘Poltergeists: A History of Violent Ghostly Phenomena’ . London: Amberley Publishing.
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  11. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2014). The British Witch: The History of a Dangerous Profession. London: Amberley Publishing.
  12. Maxwell-Stuart P. G.  (2015). ‘Magic and the Sciences during an age of change,’ in The History of Evil in the Early Modern Age. London: Acumen Publishing Ltd.
  13. Maxwell-Stuart P. G. (2010) Astrology: From Babylonian Times to the Present Day. London: Amberley Publishing.
  14. Miller J. (1993). The Makings of America: The United States and the World, volume I: to 1865. Lexington: D.C. Health and Company.
  15. Miller J. C. (1959). Origins of the American Revolution. USA: Stanford University Press, 1959.
  16. Nash B. G. (1999). American Odyssey, The United States in the Twentieth Century. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill Company.
  17. Patrick J.; Berkin C. (1984). History of the American Nation. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
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  19. Twain M. (1884). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Published by Barnes & Noble Books.
  20. Whalen F. D. (1946). Parkhill W. Founders of our United States. New York: Noble and Noble, Publishers, Inc..
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Article n°7- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

ACCES A LA TERRE ET AUX INTRANTS AGRICOLES : UNE ETUDE DE CAS AUTOUR DES PETITS EXPLOITANTS DE L’OFFICE DU NIGER AU MALI

 

 

Touré BOUREIMA

Université des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Bamako (ULSHB),  Mali

Email. toureboureima@hotmail.com

Fabien AFFO[1]

Université de Parakou, Bénin

 Email. affofabien2000@yahoo.fr

 

TELECHARGER VERSION PDF

Abstract

Located in Segou region, an administrative region ranking fourth in Mali, “Office du Niger” is regarded as one the largest irrigated perimeters in Western Africa. Its hydro-agricultural potential is estimated to cover over one million hectares of arable land and can alone yield more than half of Mali production. Perceived as the new Eldorado, this agricultural hub attracts has become the destination of the population from all the regions of Mali and even from abroad. However, the conditions surrounding land and inputs access for those smallholders are far from meeting the desired expectations. The methodological approach adopted is largely qualitative. It heavily draws on, and is inspired by the actors-based approach: farmers, technical agents of “Office du Niger”, village chiefs, administrators, etc. As for the findings, this research work has revealed how the current farming system as well as the conditions around land and agricultural inputs access seriously weaken the smallholders in the study region.

Keywords: Mali, access to land, agricultural exploitations, agricultural inputs, social insecurity, poverty. 

 

Résumé

Situé dans la région de Ségou, quatrième région administrative du Mali, l’Office du Niger est considéré comme l’un des plus grands périmètres irrigués de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Son potentiel hydro-agricole est estimé à plus d’un million d’hectares de terres cultivables et produit à lui seul, plus de la moitié de la production rizicole du Mali. Considérée comme un nouvel eldorado, il attire les populations venant de toutes les contrées du Mali et même de l’extérieur. Cependant, les conditions dans lesquelles ses petits exploitants ont accès à la terre et aux intrants agricoles sont loin d’être enviables. La démarche méthodologique adoptée est largement qualitative. Elle s’inspire fortement de l’approche basée sur les acteurs : paysans, agent technique de l’Office, chefs de village, administrateurs, etc. Comme résultat,  cet article révèle en quoi le système d’exploitation en cours et les conditions d’accès à la terre et aux intrants agricoles fragilisent sérieusement les petits paysans de la zone.

Mots-clés : Mali, accès à la terre, exploitations agricoles, intrants agricoles, insécurité sociale, pauvreté

 

 

Introduction

De nombreuses recherches en sciences sociales ont été consacrées à la zone Office du Niger au Mali. D’abord elles ont porté sur les différentes politiques agricoles (Schreyger, 1984 ; Jamin, 1994 ; Coulibaly, 1997 ; Bélière, Coulibaly, Diawara, 2011 ; Sanogo, 2003 ; Magassa, 1999). Ensuite, elles se sont tournées vers les rapports de production (Dougnon, 2007; Diakon, 2011). Cependant, très peu d’auteurs se sont intéressés aux conditions de production quotidienne des petits exploitants de la zone. Or, c’est de cela que dépend l’avenir de l’Office du Niger, notamment en ce qui concerne ses orientations futures. Voilà pourquoi, à travers la présente recherche, il est envisagé de sortir des sentiers battus pour aborder d’autres aspects de la problématique de l’exploitation agricole dans la zone office du Niger. Ainsi, l’objectif de cet article consiste à analyser système d’exploitation en cours et les conditions d’accès aux intrants agricoles fragilisent les petits paysans de la zone. Pour ce faire l’article est subdivisé en deux parties essentielles. La première est consacrée à la démarche méthodologique, tandis que la seconde partie présente lés principaux résultats de la recherche

 

  1. Matériels et méthodes

La démarche méthodologique adoptée est largement qualitative. Toutefois, elle a pris en compte quelques aspects quantitatifs dans le but d’estimer certains éléments : nombre d’hectares et de paysans intérrogés, nombre de bétail ou de matériels agricoles, etc. Elle s’est fortement inspirée de l’approche basée sur les « acteurs » : éleveurs, agriculteurs, organisations paysannes, autorités coutumières, les agents des services techniques et administratifs, les élus communaux, les experts, et les bailleurs de fonds. Nous pensons en effet que c’est à travers l’observation attentive des pratiques et des dynamiques que l’on peut comprendre les stratégies des acteurs concernés par la question foncière, (L. Delville, 1998, p.72).

L’enquête qui s’est déroulée au cours du premier semestre de l’année 2015 était de type socio-anthropologique qui se veut au plus près des sujets concernés par l’étude, (O. J-P de Sardan[2], 2008, p.41). Elle a concerné principalement trois zones de production de l’Office : Macina, Kolongo et Niono. Deux techniques de recherche ont été utilisées : l’observation et les entretiens[3].Les observations ont essentiellemnt porté sur la pratique des acteurs et les interactions entre ces derniers, notamment dans le domaine de l’accès aux ressources et leur exploitation. Une attention toute particulière a été portée aux conflits entre les différents acteurs et au processus de négociation.

Principalement, deux outils d’enquête ont été utilisés : le guide d’entretien et le carnet de terrain.Le premier a été adressé aux individus aussi bien qu’aux groupes. Certains entretiens ont été réalisés de façon informelle en raison le plus souvent des difficultés d’utilisation du dictaphone. Au total, 52 entretiens ont été réalisé dont 48 en individuel et 14 en focus-groupe. Les groupes d’acteurs touchés par les enquêtes sont : autorités traditionnelles (chefferies locales, jowro, notables), exploitants agricoles, éleveurs, élus communaux, organisations paysannes (associations, coopératives, syndicats), agents de services techniques, experts, administration locale (prefets, juges, Gouverneur) et les commerçants.

Trois niveaux d’analyse ont été adoptés. Le premier a trait aux sources écrites ( les ouvrages, les documents d’archive, les rapports d’étude et  d’évaluation, les mémoires, les revues de presse, les thèses, etc.). Le second niveau d’analyse a porté sur les données d’entretien recueillies sur le terrain. Enfin, le troisième niveau porte sur les données d’observation consignées dans le cahier de terrain. Toutes ces analyses ont été effectuées en fonction des principales thématiques abordées : le foncier agricole, le foncier pastoral et les conflits y afférent.

 

  1. Résultats
  • Du statut foncier des petits exploitants agricoles de l’office du Niger

Du point de vue du rapport avec le foncier, les petits exploitants de la zone Office du Niger sont régis principalement par trois types de contrats : i) le contrat annuel d’exploitation (CA), ii) le permis d’exploitation agricole (PEA) et iii) le bail d’habitation (BA). Si les deux premiers sont considérés comme des contrats d’exploitation liés aux terres agricoles, le troisième quant à lui permet à l’exploitant de s’installer dans la zone de production. Ainsi, pour des besoins de compréhension, nous tenterons d’analyser chacune des catégories.

2.1.1. Les contrats liés à l’exploitation des terres agricoles : du contrat annuel au permis d’exploitation

Le contrat annuel d’exploitation est le premier niveau de convention formelle établie entre l’Office du Niger et ses petits exploitants agricoles installés dans sa zone de production. Il est d’une durée d’un an renouvelable par tacite reconduction autant que l’exploitant paye régulièrement sa redevance eau au plus tard le 31 mars de chaque année. Ce faisant, l’exploitant entretien lui-même le réseau tertiaire de sa parcelle tout en appliquant toutes les normes et techniques culturales adoptées par l’Office. De même, l’exploitant ne peut ni céder, ni sous-louer, ni partager la parcelle de terre que l’Office lui a octroyée à des fins d’exploitation agricole.

Quant au permis d’exploitation agricole, le deuxième niveau ou deuxième étape de convention formelle, il est accordé sur des terres aménagées, à réhabiliter ou nouvellement aménagées. Il est octroyé au titulaire du contrat annuel d’exploitation qui a prouvé sa capacité à répondre aux normes d’intensification de la production et à respecter toutes les clauses contractuelles de l’Office. A la différence du contrat annuel, le permis d’exploitation donne à son titulaire un droit d’exploitation pour une durée indéterminée sous réserve du respect des clauses contractuelles de l’Office. Comme le contrat annuel, la terre objet de permis ne peut être ni céder, ni sous-louer, ni partager. Toutefois, à la différence du contrat annuel, le détenteur du permis est indemnisé en cas de retrait.

Ainsi, une analyse comparative des deux types de contrat révèle clairement que le permis d’exploitation confère plus d’avantages et de sécurité que le contrat annuel. Ce faisant, tout porte à croire que l’obtention de ce document serait l’objectif fondamental de tous les petits exploitants de la zone Office qui, depuis plus d’un demi-siècle, revendiquent la sécurité foncière. Cependant, il ressort de nos enquêtes que la plupart des petits exploitants de notre zone d’enquête ne possèdent guère ce document : 87% des paysans interrogés contre 13% qui étaient parvenus à se faire délivrer.

A la question de savoir ce qui explique cet état de fait, deux raisons sont généralement évoquées : l’ignorance du document pour certains, et la méconnaissance de ses avantages pour d’autres. Ceux qui affirment ignorer l’existence du permis se fondent sur le fait que l’Office n’en fait pratiquement pas cas dans ses rencontres avec les petits exploitants. La préparation de la campagne, la question des subventions et le paiement de la redevance eau seraient les principaux thèmes débattus lors rencontres. De même, les organisations paysannes qui sont censées informer les exploitants de l’existence du permis et de ses avantages ne semblent pas non plus s’intéresser à la question.

A ce sujet, un exploitant de Kolongo disait : «Ces gens là, les responsables des organisations paysannes, ne se préoccupent que des questions de subvention et de crédits agricoles. Et même s’ils savent l’existence de ce document, ils ne le diront jamais par peur de  perdre certains avantages[4] avec l’Office » (S.D, entretien réalisé à Kolongo, le 03 -03-2015). Un autre de la commune de Macina ajoute : « Dans cette affaire, il n’est pas facile de devancer nos responsables d’organisations paysannes et agents de l’Office car, on dit chez nous, celui qui saute avant le maître de cérémonie risque d’en faire une seconde fois » (S.D, entretien réalisé à Sirakoro, le 09-03-2015).

Du côté des exploitants imprégnés de l’existence du permis d’exploitation, c’est plutôt la méconnaissance des avantages liés à ce document qui transparait. Ils ne  font aucune différence entre le permis d’exploitation et le contrat annuel. Un exploitant de Niono disait à ce propos : « Avec l’apparition du permis d’exploitation, nous avions tous pensé que sa détention allait nous donner plus de garantie sur les terres que nous cultivons. Mais cela ne fut malheureusement pas le cas car, en pratique, ce qu’on constate est qu’on soit détenteur du contrat annuel ou du permis d’exploitation, celui qui ne paye pas la redevance eau est systématiquement chassé de son champ. Alors, dans ces conditions, à quoi bon de chercher un permis d’exploitation ? D’ailleurs à partir du moment où le contrat annuel continue tant qu’on paye régulièrement la redevance eau il n’y a aucune raison de chercher un permis», (M.K., entretien réalisé à Niono, le 12-03-2015).

Cet autre exploitant de Kokry ajoute : « L’an dernier, mon voisin a perdu son champ alors qu’il détenait bien un permis d’exploitation et la seule raison évoquée par l’Office était qu’il n’avait pu payer à temps la redevance eau. Pourtant, nous savions tous que ce dernier était régulier et son retard était plutôt dû à la maladie de sa femme qui avait été hospitalisée, mais malgré tout, il a été chassé de son champ » (I.S entretien réalisé à Niono le 17-02-2015). Ainsi, pour ces répondants, ce n’est ni le contrat annuel ni le permis d’exploitation qui garantit un petit exploitant dans la zone Office mais plutôt, le paiement régulier et à temps de la redevance eau.

Telle semble être d’ailleurs la conclusion à laquelle DAVE, (2004, p.41) était parvenu dans son étude après avoir constaté que seulement 10% des exploitants détenaient le permis d’exploitation agricole. C’est pourquoi, il note ceci « les paysans de la zone Office ne semblaient pas considérer que ces permis leur conféraient une sécurité foncière nettement plus élevée que les contrats annuels. Ainsi, la vaste majorité des paysans préfère se contenter de contrats annuels d’exploitation ».

Pourtant, une analyse plus approfondie des deux modes de tenure (contrat annuel et permis d’exploitation) montre bien des différences tant sur le plan de l’accès à la terre que dans les rapports de l’exploitant avec l’Office du Niger. Certes, le non paiement de la redevance eau est une cause d’éviction systématique quelle que soit la nature des contrats. Mais en cas de décès, les ayants droits du détenteur du permis d’exploitation peuvent toujours bénéficier des terres de leur parent défunt, ce qui n’est pas le cas du contrat annuel qui n’en impose aucune obligation à l’Office. Ce phénomène est aussi valable en cas de réhabilitation des casiers.

Par ailleurs, en analysant les propos des exploitants qui ne font aucune différence entre les deux modes de tenure, on voit bien qu’ils ont une vision assez erronée de la sécurité foncière : celle qui réduit la sécurité foncière à la propriété exclusive des terres. Cette perception occulte trois phénomènes majeurs : le statut de bien public des aménagements agricoles, les coûts financiers générés par les travaux et les avantages qu’ils confèrent aux exploitants de la zone, comparativement aux autres paysans qui cultivent sur des terres non aménagées.

 

2.1.1.  Le bail d’habitation

A l’instar du contrat annuel et du permis d’exploitation, les petits exploitants de la zone Office jouissent aussi du bail d’habitation qui, selon le décret de gérance confère à son titulaire un droit de jouissance à durée indéterminée transmissible aux ayants droits. De même, l’éviction d’un exploitant de son champ ne peut en aucun cas entraîner la résiliation de son bail d’habitation au contrairement de ce qui se produisait dans un passé récent. Cependant, si cette mesure est considérée par bon nombre d’agents de l’Office comme une avancée majeure, les exploitants quant à eux sont d’un avis contraire.

En effet, pour plusieurs enquêtés, le principal enjeu de la migration des paysans vers l’Office du Niger, c’est l’obtention de terres de culture et non l’habitat. Alors, accorder un bail à durée indéterminée, pour ce dernier, tout en maintenant les clauses des autres contrats dans leur forme actuelle, n’aurait aucun sens. Car, pour les paysans, un exploitant exclu de ses terres n’aura sans doute aucune raison de résider encore dans son village. D’ailleurs, pour beaucoup de répondants, cela constitue une humiliation que nul ne pourra supporter. C’est pourquoi, un exploitant de la zone de Macina déclare : « Dans cette affaire, l’Office du Niger nous a donné la queue de l’hyène[5] », (A.C., entretien réalisé à Macina, le 19-03-2015).

Un autre de Kolongo ajoute : « C’est justement à cause de ce jeu de l’Office que cette zone est considérée par tous les paysans qui y résident comme  un Sonsoribougou[6]  puisqu’on ne sait jamais ce que demain pourrait être», (S.M, entretien réalisé à Kolongo le 23-03-2015). Pour ces derniers, c’est ce phénomène d’incertitude liée au foncier qui aurait poussé plusieurs paysans de la zone à orienter l’essentiel de leur investissement soit dans le bétail ou dans des lieux autres que la zone Office du Niger : les centres urbains et les villages d’origine des exploitants. Ceux qui investissent dans le bétail justifient généralement leur acte  par le rôle que ce dernier joue aussi bien dans la production que dans le système d’épargne. En effet, en dépit de la mécanisation débutante, le bétail continue toujours de jouer un rôle essentiel dans le labour et le transport des hommes et du matériel.

Certains paysans soutiennent d’ailleurs que sans bœufs de labour, on ne peut demeurer comme exploitant dans la zone Office. Sa fonction d’épargne s’explique par deux phénomènes. Premièrement, en cas de problème lié au paiement de la redevance eau, le bétail peut être facilement vendu pour y faire face. Il en va de même pour les nombreux problèmes familiaux (décès, baptême, problème de justice, etc.) aux quels les revenus tirés de la culture du riz ne pourront pas satisfaire. Le second phénomène s’explique essentiellement par des raisons de rentabilité. De plus en plus, certains paysans se tournent vers l’embouche qu’ils considèrent comme un véritable créneau porteur. La majorité des paysans qui exerce cette activité la considère d’ailleurs comme plus rentable que le système bancaire et les caisses de microcrédit installées dans la zone.

Un délégué paysan de Macina déclare à ce propos : « Lorsqu’on achète un bœuf à 125 000 FCFA, en l’entretenant pendant 6 mois, on peut le revendre à 200 000FCFA. Le bénéfice dégagé est de loin supérieur au taux d’intérêt que les caisses de micro-finance nous proposent », (A.B, entretien réalisé à Macina le 09-04-2015).  A ce sujet, CISSE (1999) avait déjà noté que quel que soit le système de production adopté dans cette région, il se compte en cheptel. Le nombre de greniers, la panoplie d’appareils de pêche, sont aujourd’hui abandonnés au profit de la constitution de troupeaux. Tant les éleveurs, les agriculteurs, les pêcheurs que les commerçants et salariés réinvestissent dans le bétail.

Quant aux paysans qui investissent ailleurs que la zone Office, deux raisons sont généralement évoquées : s’assurer d’un « chez soi » en cas d’éviction ou préparer l’avenir des enfants qui doivent poursuivre leur cursus scolaire dans les centres urbains. Sont illustrateurs à cet effet, les propos d’un exploitant de Bagadadji-Niono : « Lorsqu’on est exploitant à l’Office, il faut toujours préparer ses arrières car, nul ne peut prédire l’avenir » (CH.T., entretien réalisé à bagadadji-Niono, le 11-03-2015). Ceux qui défendent ce point de vue se fondent sur le fait qu’on aura  beau résider longtemps dans la zone, les terres de l’Office resteront toujours sa propriété exclusive. Dans ce cas, obtenir un terrain d’habitation assorti d’un titre de propriété dans les centres urbains serait le moyen le plus rassurant. Ce point de vue se justifie d’ailleurs en partie par l’état défectueux de la plupart des concessions rurales dans les villages de la zone de production.

Toutefois, il faut signaler que depuis quelques années, le changement politique amorcé (démocratisation et décentralisation) a tendance à fléchir un peu le phénomène. En effet, on constate que certains paysans investissent de plus en plus dans leur village à l’Office. Ceux qui le font se réfèrent surtout au vent de changement qui, selon eux ne permettra plus à ce dernier d’évincer comme par le passé. C’est le cas par exemple de cet exploitant de Ouaiguya qui déclare ceci : « Nos familles résident ici depuis le temps des blancs et nous n’avions plus d’autre repère qu’ici. Alors, à quoi bon de chercher à partir. En plus, avec le yèrèta  (la décentralisation) on nous a dit que désormais, nos terres nous appartiennent, dans ce cas, mieux vaut investir ici qu’ailleurs », (B.D, entretien réalisé à Ouaiguya, le 21-02-2015).

  • Les charges d’exploitation : la redevance eau et les intrants agricoles 

Outre les modes de tenures, les charges d’exploitation constituent aussi une problématique qui, selon plusieurs enquêtés fragilise sérieusement la sécurité foncière des petits exploitants. Parmi celles-ci, la redevance eau et les intrants agricoles sont surtout les plus cités. A ce sujet, les plaintes se focalisent sur le fait qu’en plus de leur coût qui a connu une forte croissance au cours de la dernière décennie, le contexte de leur résolution met aussi les petits exploitants dans une situation de fragilité extrême.

 

2.2.1    La redevance eau

Les petits exploitants de la zone Office du Niger sont chaque année soumis au paiement d’une redevance pour la fourniture d’eau. Instaurée depuis l’époque coloniale sous forme de paiement en nature (400kg de paddy par hectare pour les superficies en casier), elle a été au cours de la décennie 90 déterminée en espèces à la suite d’une série d’études sur la tarification d’eau. Le montant de la redevance est fixé en fonction des coûts estimés nécessaires pour l’entretien des réseaux et les différents services chargés de l’encadrement. Le coût de la redevance est estimé en fonction du type ou de la classe d’aménagement, de la campagne et des types de culture. De façon générale, on en distingue trois catégories selon les zones :

Classe 1 : zone réhabilitée et nouvellement aménagée ;

Classe 2 : zone non réhabilitée et moyennement dégradée ;

Classe 3 : zone fortement dégradée et hors-casiers.

Le tableau ci-dessous indique les niveaux de redevance à l’hectare de 1997 à 2012, en FCFA/ ha.

 

Tableau I : tarifs de redevance eau

Source : réalisation personnelle, 2015

 

En observant le tableau, on voit bien qu’au cours de la dernière décennie, la redevance eau a connu une nette augmentation dans tous les casiers. Ce phénomène se trouve surtout accentué pour les cultures de contre-saison dont la redevance est désormais passée de 6.700 FCFA à 67 000FCFA, soit dix fois supérieur. L’objectif visé serait de décourager ce type de culture en période d’étiage. Par contre, la redevance des cultures maraîchères (consommatrice de peu d’eau) a été réduite de 67 000 FCFA à 6 700 FCFA, pour encourager ce type de culture.

La gestion de la redevance eau est « individualisée ». Les factures sont adressées à chacun des exploitants en fonction de la superficie attribuée et de la classe de tarification. Chaque paysan devient ainsi responsable individuellement pour le paiement des sommes facturées. Le non-paiement de la redevance est une cause d’éviction systématique quel que soit le statut du contrat. Certains auteurs (Keita, Bélière et Sidibé, 2002) trouvent que cette pratique constitue la seule stratégie dont dispose l’Office du Niger pour assurer le bon fonctionnement de l’ensemble du domaine aménagé.

Les règles de jeu sont ainsi claires : tant qu’on paye régulièrement la redevance eau de l’Office, on est assuré de son statut de titulaire de l’exploitation sur la terre attribuée et on perd systématiquement ce statut à partir du moment où l’on accuse du retard ou lorsqu’on est en cessation de paiement. L’étude effectuée par l’IIED[7] (2006) rapporte qu’en 2004, l’Office du Niger a sollicité et obtenu des ordonnances d’expulsion pour le non paiement de la redevance eau à quelques 4000 exploitants. D’ailleurs, l’image forte qui est connue de l’entreprise à la télévision nationale est le discours péremptoire de son ex Directeur Général selon lequel : « Celui qui ne paye pas la redevance eau avant le 31 Mars sera expulsé sans aucune concession ».

A ce sujet, RUF (1996 : 52) rapporte que pendant toute la période stricte d’encadrement, de 1950 à 1985, un système de sanction avait prévalu, touchant surtout ceux qui n’atteignaient pas le rendement normatif fixé par l’Office du Niger. Dans un premier temps, on réduisait les terres concédées et la part d’autoconsommation. Faute de moyen de subsistance, le colon vendait ses bœufs s’il en avait encore. Le taux d’exclusion pouvait ainsi atteindre 10% des attributaires au cours de certaines campagnes et les terres libérées étaient réattribuées à de nouveaux bénéficiaires qui étaient le plus souvent des commerçants et des fonctionnaires.

Les colons exclus abandonnaient pour la plupart la zone de production. Mais avec l’adoption du décret de gérance actuel, l’Office a changé de stratégie. Désormais, les exclusions ne sont plus faites pour cause de rendement mais plutôt pour non paiement de la « redevance eau ». De même, si auparavant l’exploitant exclu était tenu de quitter le village (pour ne pas contaminer les autres exploitants), désormais, il peut continuer à résider dans le village. Cependant, du coté des petits exploitants, ce changement de stratégie ne résout nullement le problème de la redevance eau.

Autrement dit, pour la plupart des exploitants interrogés, la redevance eau est excessive et l’Office est trop inflexible quant à sa date de paiement. Pour l’excessivité du coût, les arguments s’appuient généralement sur l’écart existant entre les charges d’exploitation et la marge bénéficiaire dans la production. Bon nombre d’enquêtés s’appuient sur le fait que dans la zone Office du Niger, la charge d’exploitation[8] d’un hectare de riz se chiffre en moyenne à 525 500 FCFA pour une production d’environ 70 sacs de paddy, soit environ 6 à 7 tonnes à l’hectare. La vente de cette production en raison de 9000 FCFA le sac, permet d’obtenir la somme de 630 000 FCFA. Ainsi, la marge bénéficiaire dégagée pour chaque hectare ne serait que de 105 000 FCFA, soit environ 210 $.

 

Tableau II : charges d’exploitation d’un hectare de riz

Source : réalisation personnelle, 2015

 

Marge bénéficiaire (630 000 – 525 500  =  105 000 FCFA (environ 210 dollars)

En poursuivant cet exercice sur la base d’une exploitation de 3 hectares couramment octroyés aux familles comptant en moyenne 10 personnes[9], le bénéfice d’exploitation serait de 315 000 FCFA, ce qui, selon plusieurs enquêtés couvrirait difficilement les dépenses annuelles de la famille. C’est d’ailleurs ce qui pousserait plusieurs exploitants à préparer immédiatement les cultures de « contre saison » pour combler le déficit. Les femmes et les jeunes qui ne peuvent plus compter sur le revenu généré par la culture hivernale s’adonnent à la pratique du maraîchage et du petit commerce pour subvenir à leurs besoins. D’autres préfèrent l’aventure vers la capitale (Bamako) du Mali ou en Europe.

En se basant sur ce discours, plusieurs exploitants montrent que la culture du riz n’est point rentable de nos jours et du coup, la redevance eau est pointée du doigt comme un des principaux éléments les empêchant de gagner plus.  Pour les exploitants qui critiquent l’inflexibilité de l’Office sur la date de paiement de la redevance (le 31 mars), ils fondent leur argument sur le fait qu’à cette période, le riz est encore abondant sur le marché. Ainsi, la peur de l’exclusion pour non paiement de la redevance pousse plusieurs exploitants à vendre leur production pratiquement à la même période, ce qui fait considérablement baisser le prix.

Et les commerçants qui comprennent bien cet enjeu en profitent. Ils ne viennent généralement acheter du riz qu’au cours de la dernière semaine du mois de mars (période du paiement de la redevance eau), ce qui réduit considérablement les marges de manœuvre des paysans qui n’ont d’autre choix que de brader leur produit. Cette peur s’accentue encore si on peut craindre que les listes des personnes exclues puissent être affichées devant les bureaux de l’Office ou lues dans les radios locales de la place. Sont édificateurs à cet effet, les propos d’un exploitant de Niono : « Ici, le paiement de la redevance eau est une affaire de honte pour tout le monde » (B.T., entretien réalisé à Niono le 23-02-2015).

A ce problème s’ajoutent aussi la question de « l’endettement chronique » des paysans et les « prélèvements sociaux ». A ce sujet, Coulibaly (2005 : 57) rapporte qu’environ 90% des petits exploitants de la zone de Niono sont endettés et plus de 80% de leur production est consacrée au paiement des dettes. Dans la zone de Macina, on assiste à peu près au même scénario. « La plupart des exploitants sont endettés et tout créancier qui rate la fin du mois de mars pour réclamer son crédit est obligé d’attendre la campagne prochaine. C’est pourquoi, certains sont obligés de suivre tous les mouvements des paysans endettés. D’ailleurs, d’autres vont jusqu’à surveiller clandestinement l’évolution des champs» nous disait un exploitant de Macina, ( A.D., entretien réalisé le 22 février 2015).

A ces propos s’ajoute aussi le harcèlement des paysans de la zone par les caisses de microcrédits pour prendre des crédits : crédit campagne (pour les intrants agricoles.), prêt redevance eau (pour payer la redevance eau), avances sur récolte (pour les travaux de récolte), crédit d’investissement destiné essentiellement à l’équipement. Ainsi, ce phénomène de harcèlement associé à l’attrait de l’argent facile plonge plusieurs petits exploitants dans des situations complexes. C’est pourquoi, un paysans de la zone de Kolongo traduit le concept de colon[10] à une situation de gouffre dans le quel est plongé la plupart des petits exploitants de la zone : « Colon koro te dowereyé mogo minbé kolon kono » (le colon n’a d’autre signification que quelqu’un qui est dans un puits). Autrement dit, qui ne s’en sortira jamais.

Quant aux prélèvements sociaux, ils s’expliquent par les multiples dons effectués par les colons à la fin de chaque campagne agricoles. En effet, dans la zone Office, la période de récolte appelée communément « campagne » est aussi celle où les zones de production sont prises d’assaut par toutes les catégories de personnes : parents proches ou éloignés, griots, marabouts, amis proches ou lointains. Ainsi, pour maintenir voire consolider ses rapports sociaux, les exploitants font de multiples dons qui, selon eux constituent aussi des dépenses supplémentaires qui jouent fortement sur les revenus. A cela, s’ajoutent les évènements sociaux comme les mariages, les baptêmes, les décès.

Ainsi, en analysant ces phénomènes, on voit bien que les petits exploitants de la zone Office sont confrontés aux mêmes types de problèmes qu’on rencontre un peu partout dans les zones de culture de rente :  l’annualité des recettes, l’endettement chronique et les prélèvements sociaux. Cependant, la particularité de la zone Office du Niger est le manque d’organisation qui apparait dans toute la chaîne de production.

 

2.2.1     Les intrants agricoles

Outre la redevance eau, la question des intrants agricoles constitue une autre difficulté qui fragilise sérieusement la plupart des petits exploitants de la zone Office. Pour certains enquêtés, elle est, à l’instar de la redevance eau, l’une des charges qui pèsent le plus sur les petits exploitants. Cette situation s’expliquerait en grande partie par les spéculations dont les petits exploitants font l’objet dans ce domaine. En effet, face à la crise céréalière de 2007-2008, le Gouvernement du Mali a décidé de mettre en place un plan de relance de la production de riz. Ce plan dénommé « Initiative Riz » ambitionnait de parvenir à l’autosuffisance du pays en riz et à exporter environ 100 000 tonnes vers les pays de la sous région. C’est ainsi que des dispositions ont été prises pour subventionner les intrants en vue de les rendre accessibles aux exploitants agricoles.

Les résultats atteints ayant été probants, le gouvernement a non seulement reconduit cette politique mais aussi, l’a élargi à d’autres céréales telles que le maïs, le mil/sorgho, le blé et même au coton (ECOFIL, 2012). Ainsi, le sac de 50 kg d’engrais qui était vendu à 25 000FCFA sera subventionné à 50%, soit 12 500FCFA. Pour mettre en œuvre cette politique, État malien a mobilisé d’importantes ressources financières au près des partenaires financiers : le tableau ci-dessous en donne quelques indications.

Tableau III : les ressources financières allouées à la politique d’initiative riz

Source : réalisation personnelle, 2015

A l’époque, le Ministère de l’Agriculture rapporte que la production de riz marchand au cours des trois dernières campagnes a été respectivement de 964 588 tonnes ,1 346 055,45 tonnes et 2 308 233 tonnes. Ces quantités couvraient largement les besoins de consommation intérieure et offraient même des excédents commercialisables variant de 64 588 tonnes à plus de 450 000 Tonnes de riz marchand (M, A, 2012).

 Tableau IV : Les résultats des productions

 Source : réalisation personnelle, 2015

 Si ce projet Gouvernemental est présenté comme un réel succès, sa mise en œuvre comporte cependant des pratiques qui fragilisent sérieusement les petits exploitants.  En effet, dans la zone Office du Niger, l’obtention de l’engrais exige de chaque exploitant qu’il présente chaque année sa fiche de concession indiquant le nombre de parcelles qui lui a été attribué par l’Office. On lui délivre ainsi un bon d’engrais correspondant à la dose dont il a besoin.  Mais alors, par manque de liquidité, certains exploitants font recours soit aux caisses de crédits ou aux commerçants, et c’est là qu’apparaissent toutes sortes de pratiques spéculatives.

A ce sujet, écoutons cet exploitant du village de Kankan : « Ma parcelle est de trois hectares et la quantité d’engrais qu’il me faut est de 18 sacs. En me rendant à l’Office, ils m’ont donné un bon d’accès à l’engrais subventionné. Il se trouve que je n’avais pas d’argent. Alors, pour que je ne sois pas en retard dans mes travaux, je suis parti voir un commerçant qui m’a fourni le produit. Cependant, ses conditions d’octroi étaient non seulement que je devrais lui payer sur chaque sac d’engrais 2500FCFA mais aussi en nature, notamment en riz avec un prix qu’il fixa à l’avance. Pour s’assurer qu’il serait remboursé, il m’exigea aussi de louer sa batteuse. Ainsi, au lieu de 12 500FCFA le sac, l’engrais m’a couté finalement 15 000FCFA pour chaque sac. De plus, j’ai payé la location de sa batteuse en raison d’un sac de riz de paddy par tonne battue »,  ( S.T, entretien réalisé à Kankan le 27 – 02- 2015).

Ce témoignage ne reflète certes pas la situation de l’ensemble des petits exploitants de la zone, il est tout de même révélateur d’une nouvelle forme d’exploitation dont sont victimes  certains paysans. A ce sujet, environ 58% des enquêtés disent trouver l’engrais à crédit. C’est pourquoi, certains informateurs n’hésitent pas à qualifier la situation d’un véritable esclavage. Malgré ces pratiques, certains exploitants arrivent tout de même à s’en sortir. Parmi ceux-ci, on dénombre au moins trois catégories : les paysans qui font de la diversification, les fonctionnaires-exploitants et les Peuls entrepreneurs.

La première catégorie composée d’exploitants qui font de la diversification représente environ 31 % des paysans interrogés. Elle est composée de deux sous groupes : ceux qui font de l’embouche bovine et les exploitants qui pratiquent le maraîchage. En effet, dotés de plusieurs têtes de bœufs gardés dans les enclos, les premiers utilisent surtout de la fumure organique qui, en plus de diminuer la quantité d’engrais utilisée augmente aussi considérablement le gain. Pour certains enquêtés, cette catégorie d’exploitants connait rarement des problèmes en période de soudure. De même, parmi les exploitants interrogés, c’est surtout cette catégorie qui investit plus dans le bétail et dans l’équipement.

Quant au second groupe qui pratique le maraîchage, c’est le surplus dégagé par cette activité qui constitue de plus en plus son point d’appui. En effet, considéré au début comme une activité des femmes et des jeunes, le maraîchage est devenu depuis quelques années une véritable source de revenu pour bon nombre d’exploitants. Certains le trouvent d’ailleurs plus rentable que le riz. Sa redevance eau est moins élevée (6 700 FCFA contre 67 000 FCFA pour le riz) et sur le marché, le prix de ses produits est plus élevé que le riz, allusion est faite au prix de l’ognon qui varie entre 150 FCFA et 600 FCFA contre le riz qui varie entre 250 FCFA et 375 FCF.

Pour les fonctionnaires-exploitants qui représentent 11% des répondants, la croissance de leur gain s’expliquerait par le fait que contrairement aux autres, ils bénéficient de plusieurs avantages et sources de revenus : salaire, prêts bancaires. Ces avantages leur permettent non seulement de trouver l’engrais au prix subventionné mais aussi, de s’acquitter de leur redevance eau sans contrainte majeure. De même, certains répondants prétendent que le statut d’intellectuel de ces derniers leur permet d’être mieux organisés que les autres paysans qui sont en majorité analphabètes. A ces groupes s’ajoutent les Peuls entrepreneurs qui louent des bœufs de labour aux exploitants moyennant un loyer en nature. Bien que la pratique existe depuis fort longtemps, de nos jours, elle a pris une allure sans précédant. Ainsi, chaque bœuf de labour loué rapporte 6 sacs de riz paddy au moment de la récolte, à son propriétaire. Ce phénomène est aussi valable pour les cultures hivernales que pour celles de contre saison.

En somme, l’analyse de ces pratiques révèle qu’en dépit des subventions consenties par  l’État, l’obtention de l’engrais constitue toujours un problème sérieux pour bon nombre d’exploitants de l’Office. Cette situation s’explique non seulement par la libéralisation des prix des intrants mais aussi, par le manque d’organisation des exploitants bénéficiaires. Par ailleurs, la tendance à la diversification qui s’opère chez certains exploitants montre à suffisance que ces derniers sont beaucoup plus en avance que l’entreprise même qui reste toujours focalisée sur la monoculture du riz.

  1. Discussion

Après analyse des résultats obtenus au cours de cette recherché en lien avec les écrits antérieurs quelques résultats méritent d’être discutés. Il s’agit dans un premier temps des deux premiers contrats : le contrat annuel d’exploitation et le permis d’exploitation. L’analyse comparative des deux formes de contrat révèle que le second (le permis d’exploitation) confère plus d’avantage et de sécurité foncière que le premier (le contrat annuel). Ainsi, tout porte à croire l’obtention de ce document serait fondamental de tous les petits exploitants de la zone Office du Niger qui, depuis plus d’un demi-siècle, revendiquent la sécurité foncière.

Cependant, il ressort de nos enquêtes que la plupart des petits exploitants de notre zone d’enquête ne possèdent guère ce document: 87% des paysans interrogés contre seulement 13% qui étaient parvenus à se faire délivrer. Telle semble être d’ailleurs la conclusion à laquelle DAVE, (2004, p. 41) était parvenu dans son étude après avoir constaté que seulement 10% des exploitants détenaient le permis d’exploitation agricole. C’est d’ailleurs pourquoi, il note ceci « les paysans de la localité ne semblaient pas considérer que ces permis leur conféraient une sécurité foncière nettement plus élevée que les contrats annuels. Ainsi, la vaste majorité des paysans préfère se contenter de contrats annuels d’exploitation ».

Ce phénomène s’explique en grande partie par la contradiction existante entre les normes et les pratiques. Autrement dit, les paysans constatent plutôt que les motifs d’éviction de l’Office se focalisent beaucoup plus sur le « non-paiement de la redevance eau » que sur le statut des contrats. Ce qui leur pousse à accorder plus d’importance à la question de la redevance eau qui, à l’évidence représente la seule garantie fiable pour demeure comme exploitant sur les terres de culture attribuées par l’Office du Niger. D’ailleurs, à ce sujet un exploitant de Niono disait : «  Ici, le paiement de la redevance eau est une affaire de honte pour tout le monde ». Outre l’éviction, les noms des fautifs sont généralement diffusés dans toutes les radios libres de la place, ce qui constitue en soit un affront grave en milieu paysan.

Deuxièmement, il a été constaté que le bétail constitue l’essentiel des investissements de petits producteurs de la zone Office du Niger. Une situation qui s’explique non seulement par la précarité du statut foncier des petits exploitants assortie chaque année du risque d’éviction mais aussi, par la fonction d’épargne que représente le bétail dans la zone. C’est d’ailleurs pourquoi certains paysans prétendent que sans beauf de labour, on ne peut demeurer comme exploitant dans la zone Office. Sa fonction d’épargne s’explique par deux phénomènes. Premièrement, en cas de problème lié au paiement de la redevance eau, le bétail peut être facilement vendu pour y faire face. Il en va de même pour les nombreux problèmes familiaux (décès, baptême, problème de justice, etc.) auxquels les revenus tirés de la culture du riz ne pourront pas satisfaire. Le second phénomène s’explique essentiellement par des raisons de rentabilité. De plus en plus, certains paysans se tournent vers l’embouche qu’ils considèrent comme un véritable créneau porteur. La majorité des paysans qui exerce cette activité la considère d’ailleurs comme plus rentable que le système bancaire et les caisses de microcrédit installées dans la zone.

Troisièmement, il a été constaté que la fragilité des petits exploitants de l’Office s’explique aussi par leur manque d’organisation, toute chose qui réduit considérablement leur marge de manœuvre non seulement face l’Office du Niger mais aussi et surtout face aux commençants qui dévalorisent leur production. En effet, sachant bien que la date buttoir du paiement de la redevance eau est fixée au 31 mars de chaque année, plusieurs commerçants ne viennent acheter du riz que dans la dernière semaine du mois, ce qui réduit considérablement les marges de manœuvre des petits exploitants qui sont tous obligés de vendre leur production au même moment. Du coup, c’est une perte énorme de profit. C’est dans ce contexte qu’un paysan de Kolongo affirme que le concept de « colon »[11] n’exprime ni plus ni moins qu’un paysan dans le trou et qui ne s’en sortira jamais. En dépit de ces difficultés, il faut bien noter que certains exploitants trouvent leur compte. Il s’agit entre autres de ceux qui font de plus en plus de la diversification (maraichage et culture du riz) et les détenteurs de bétail dont la gestion pose de plus en plus de problèmes.

 

Conclusion

Loin d’analyser l’ensemble des problèmes rencontrés par les paysans, cet article met tout de même en lumière quelques conditions difficiles de production des petits exploitants de la zone  Office du Niger. Ainsi, les multiples plaintes relatives au statut foncier des petits exploitants n’interpellent pas l’office à repenser sa politique agricole vis-à-vis de ses petits exploitants ? Autrement dit, faut-il maintenir les paysans de l’Office dans la situation actuelle ou adopter une nouvelle politique foncière plus sécurisante afin d’encourager ses petits paysans à produire plus dans la quiétude ? De même, le retrait de l’Office ou de l’État malien dans le système d’organisation des petits producteurs n’est-elle pas la cause de leur faiblesse vis-à-vis des opérateurs économiques ? Dans tous les cas, la situation des petits producteurs de l’Office du Niger suscite un débat qu’il convient d’aborder non seulement pour l’avenir de l’Office mais aussi pour le devenir du monde paysan au mali.

 

Références bibliographique

Belime, E. (1920). « Les irrigations du Niger : études et projets », éditeur-Emile LAROSE, (Gouvernement général de l’Afrique Occidentale Française), Paris, Cote N° ONAO 247,

BELIERE J.F, KEITA I, SIDIBE S. 2001. « Gestion du système hydraulique de l’Office du Niger : évolution et perspectives », communication au Colloque PCI 22-23 Janvier 2001 « la gestion des périmètres irrigués collectifs à l’aube du XXIème siècle : enjeux, problèmes et démarches », Montpelier, CIRAD

BELIERE J.F, COULIBALY M, 2004. « Contrainte foncière et stratégie d’appropriation par les exploitants agricoles du grand périmètre de l’Office du Niger au Mali », Séminaire PCI Novembre 2004, Montpelier, CIRAD,

BRUCE J.W. and MIGOT-ADHOLLA S.E. eds ; 1994, « Searching for land tenure security in Africa”, Kendall /Humt publishing company,

BRONDEAU F.2001 « Quel avenir pour les grands périmètres irrigués en zone sahélienne ? Exemple de la région de l’Office du Niger (Mali) », Histoire-Géographie n°379,

CHAUVEAU J.P/LAVIGNE-DELVILLE P., 1998 « Quelles politiques foncières intermédiaires en Afrique francophone ? », in Philippe Lavigne Delville « Quelles politiques foncières pour l’Afrique rurale ? », Réconcilier pratiques, légitimités légalité, Paris, Karthala,

COULIBALY CH. 1997. « Politiques agricoles et stratégies paysannes au Mali (1910-1985), le règne des mythes à l’Office du Niger », édition les Cauris d’Or Bamako-Mali, Collection Histoire rurale,

COULIBALY, B. L. 2005. « L’endettement paysan à l’Office du Niger : cas de la zone de production de Niono », ISFRA (mémoire de DEA), spécialité géographie rurale, Bamako-Mali,

COULIBALY M.Y, SANGARE Y.2003. « L’accès aux ressources et leur gestion dans les grands périmètres irrigués Africains : de la prévention des conflits à la décentralisation à l’Office du Niger (Mali) », Cahier Agriculture, Volume 12, n°247-51

DIAKON, B. 2012. « Office du Niger et pratiques paysannes : appropriation technologique et dynamique sociale », Paris, l’Harmattan,

DAVE B. 2008. « L’Office de tous les plans agricoles, Défis sud » n° 86, bimestriel-Décembre 2008, (www. Sosfaim.org)

DIAWARA, M. 2011; “Development and administrative norms: the Office du Niger and decentralization in French Sudan and Mali”, in journal of the International African Institute, vol 81, N° 01? P : 434-454, February

DOUCHET J.M. 1992. « La gestion foncière à l’Office du Niger (rapport d’étude du 1 octobre au 14 novembre 1992) », IRAM, Paris, dossier d’archives Office du Niger, n°117,

ETIENNE Le Roy,  KARENTY, Alain ;  Alain Bertrand, 1996 « La Sécurisation foncière en Afrique : pour une gestion viable des ressources renouvelables », Paris, KARTHALA,

JAMIN J-Y. 1994. « De la norme à la diversité : l’intensification rizicole face à la diversité paysanne dans les périmètres irrigués de l’Office du Niger ». (thèse de doctorat), Institut National Agronomique de Paris Grignon, Paris, France,

MAGASSA H. 1999. « Papa commandant a jeté un grand filet devant nous. L’Office du Niger 1902-1962 ». Fondation YEREDON, Ségou, Mali (1ère édition 1978/ François Maspero/ Paris,

RUF, T. 1996. « Les grands périmètres irrigués sahéliens », in « Stratégies et comportements des agriculteurs les plus pauvres vis-à-vis de l’intensification et de la préservation des ressources naturelles dans les pays de l’Afrique soudano-sahélienne », septième chapitre de la partie III « caractérisation et évolution des stratégies et comportements des agriculteurs à l’échelle locale », fond documentaire ORSTOM, code : BX6086, EX : 01

SCHREYGER, E. 1984 « L’Office du Niger au Mali, 1932-1982, la problématique d’une grande entreprise agricole dans la zone du Sahel », Steiner, l’Harmattan, P : 417

OLIVIER de Sardan. JP., 2008. « La rigueur du qualitatif ; les contraintes empiriques de l’interpretation socio-anthropologique », Paris, ACADEMIA BRUYLANT,

SIDIBE, L, 2007. « Etude relative à l’amélioration du contenu des baux à l’Office du Niger », Ministère de l’Agriculture, Bamako-Mali

TOURE. A, Zanen S, KONE F, 1997 « La restructuration de l’Office du Niger », contribution de ARPON III, coopération Néerlandaise, Office du Niger Ségou

TOURE, B.2015. « Aménagement agricole et pastoralisme en zone Office du Niger : une étude anthropologique des dynamiques foncières et des conflits liés aux ressources », (Thèse de doctorat) ISFRA-Bamako, Mali

[1] Auteur correspondant

[2] « type socio-anthropologique qui se veut au plus près des situations naturelles des sujets –vie quotidienne, conversations, routines–, dans une situation d’interaction prolongée entre le chercheur en personne et les populations locales, afin de produire des connaissances in situ, contextualisées, transversales, visant à rendre compte du « point de vue de l’acteur », des représentations ordinaires, des pratiques usuelles et de leurs significations autochtones » (Sardan, 2008 : 41).

[3] « La production par le chercheur des données à base de discours autochtones qu’il aura lui-même sollicités reste un élément central de toute recherche de terrain », Sardan (2008 : 54)   Dans son ouvrage intitulé « Argonautes », Malinowski (1963 : 82) note aussi que «  le but final de l’ethnographe est de saisir le point de vue de l’indigène, ses rapports avec la vie, de comprendre sa vision de son monde ».

[4] L’Office accorde pas mal d’avantages aux  responsables des organisations paysannes de la zone : facilité d’accès à la terre, subventions agricoles, prolongement de date d’échéance de paiement de la redevance, etc. Une pratique qui réduit considérablement les marges de manœuvre de ces derniers dans la défense des intérêts de leur militant.

 

[5] Une expression couramment utilisée dans la zone pour désigner la supercherie.

[6]Terme en langue bambara signifiant littéralement « village ou l’on s’accroupie » en référence au caractère éphémère de la résidence et du faitt que l’occupant peut à tout moment être évincé.

[7] International Institut for Environnement and Development

[8] Il s’agit notamment des normes théoriques établies par la zone de production de Niono

[9] Il s’agit notamment des normes établies par l’Office du Niger

[10] Termes signifiant en langue bamanakan un puits

[11] Termes signifiant puit en langue Bamanakan

Article n°6- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND EMPOWERMENT IN CHIMAMANDA N. ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS

 

 

Laure Clémence CAPO- CHICHI ZANOU

lclemence@yahoo.com

Célestin GBAGUIDI

celestin.gbaguidi@uac.bj

  1. P. Judith AKOGBETO

akogbpaule@yahoo.fr

Faculté des Lettres, Langues, Arts et Communication(FLLAC)

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

 

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Abstract

This paper explores the phenomenon of women’s disempowerment and empowerment as the result of their childhood experiences. To this end, it draws on Chimamanda N. Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus. In this novel, Kambili and her brother Jaja have experienced the lifestyle of three different towns and village; Enugu, Abba and Nsukka. Enugu, their home place has been oppressive to them whereas Abba and Nsukka, their village and their aunt’s place, have favoured their empowerment. The focus is on the way Kambili’s transformation has taken place as a result of her contact with Abba and Nsukka. This experience has allowed her to compare her lifestyle to Amaka’s and her mother to Aunty Ifeoma. She feels that she has not received the right education and needs to change. She is now open up, expresses herself freely and takes responsibility. Kambili’s progress conforms with Molara Ogundipe-Leslie’s Stiwanism which confronts the family as a site for social transformation as far as gender relations are concerned.

Keywords: Childhood, disempowerment, empowerment, environment, feminism, Stiwanism

 

Résumé

Cet article explore le phénomène de déresponsabilisation et d’autonomisation des femmes comme conséquence des expériences de leur enfance. A cet effet, il s’appuie sur le roman Purple Hibiscus de Chimamanda N. Adichie. Ce roman raconte l’histoire de Kambili et de Jaja qui ont fait l’expérience de trois villes et village, Enugu, Abba et Nsukka. Enugu, la ville où ils résident est pour eux une source d’oppression tant dis que Abba et Nsukka, leur village d’origine et la ville où réside leur tante Aunty Ifeoma, se trouvent favorable à leur épanouissement. Ce qui importe le plus, c’est la manière dont la transformation de Kambili s’est opérée après qu’elle eut fait l’expérience de Abba et de Nsukka. Son contact avec ces deux milieux lui a permis de se comparer à Amaka, et de comparer sa mère à Aunty Ifeoma. Elle s’est aperçue que l’éducation qu’elle a reçue n’est pas appropriée et qu’elle doit se remettre en cause. Alors, elle  est devenue plus ouverte, s’exprime librement et prend des responsabilités. Ce changement de Kambili  est conforme au Stiwanism de Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, théorie féministe qui voit la famille comme le premier milieu favorable aux changements en ce qui concerne les questions basées sur le genre.

Mots-clés : Enfance, déresponsabilisation, autonomisation, environnement, féminisme, Stiwanism

 

Introduction

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, launches her triumphant entry on the national, regional and international literary scene in 2003. Born in the seventies to Igbo parents, Adichie is reported to have grown up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. The environment in which she lived has favoured her artistic talent even though her contact with African acclaimed writers only comes later (Ojinmah: 2012).

In fact, like the majority of women’s fiction, Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus has often been analysed in a feminist perspective whereby men are portrayed as perpetrators of violence against women, and women as victims, and strong women generally, as prostitutes. For example, Kivai (2010) in his analysis of the root cause of female marginalization and subjugation in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, identifies domestic violence, religion, traditions, family life, desire for sons and colonialism as being responsible for unequal gender relations, which serves as the basis of women’s exploitation.

Of course, Adichie is engaged to work with women, and through her writings, she gives them the means to empower themselves and the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. She intends to remove the stereotypical portraiture of women and move towards stronger representation of women characters not only taking active and shared roles with men, but also taking responsibility for their own destinies. To achieve her vision, she is convinced that, for lasting change to occur, it has to start from the family, a place where men usually assert their power over the women and get them fall submissive. In Purple Hibiscus, she exposes how Kambili’s father’s injustices towards her wife Beatrice have negatively affected Kambili and her brother Jaja while their cousins, Amaka and her brothers, all brought up by their mother Ifeoma, a widow, grow up with a completely different outcome.

Adichie is in fact pointing out that the relationship between husband and wife affects the children and their lives seriously and therefore advocates for both men’s and women’s positive change of mindset for the progress of society. This view developed by Adichie in Purple Hibiscus complies with Ogundipe-Leslie’s Stiwanism (1994: 230) which stands for Social Transformation Including Women in Africa. This theory advocates for a new reordering of society, particularly at the level of family as it indicates the family as a site for social transformations (p. 210).

This study is mainly interested in Kambili’s progress as a girl. In this perspective, we first present Enugu as a place favouring her disempowerment, in the second position, Abba as the place of the beginning of her self-discovery and we finally emphasize Nsukka as the place of her empowerment. Then, I conclude with the lessons to draw from her experiences.

  1. Defining Key Concepts

It would be a useful beginning to clarify the topic by explaining its main constituent terms and some others likely to contribute to understanding it. Among them are childhood, empowerment, disempowerment and environment.

Childhood is defined as the time a boy or a girl spends from birth until he/she becomes an adult. For Evans (2012), childhood is considered to be a period of innocence, vulnerability and development; during this time, children are in need of adult protection and care due to their physical and emotional immaturity. So, some qualities that are often associated with childhood are physical and emotional immaturity and vulnerability in comparison to adults, causing lack of autonomy and social dependence. Therefore, a child needs to be brought up by his/her parents to be empowered. To empower, according to The Oxford Advaned Learner’s Dictionary (1948), is to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. For Kabeer (1999) defines empowerment as “the ability or self-confidence for making choices or changes in one’s life” (p. 435). In a word, to empower a child is to render him/her powerful and confident. If, on the opposite, parents breed their children in a mood in which they lack self-confidence and feel weak, ineffectual, fearful and unimportant, they have then disempowered them. Most of African women have indeed been victims of disempowerment.

As far as the word environment is concerned, it can be defined as the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal or a plant lives and which influence their lives. (Longman Active Study Dictionary: 2000). Environment contributes to shaping people’s character and influences children the most. Environment is the same as setting. It is the physical location that provides the background in which the events of the narrative take place in literature. It has to do with the time and the place of the action. (Ross & Geoffrey Winterrowd: 1992).

In Purple Hibiscus, itshowcases contrasting women’s ways of thinking and perception and their empowerment. The story takes place in two towns Enugu and Nsukka and the protagonists’ hometown, Abba, where they usually celebrate Christmas. This movement to a variety of places leads Kambili and Jaja to new experiences and discoveries opens their minds to comparison. Their ensuring growth and maturity enable the narrator to create an atmosphere of freedom which helps to dismantle the oppressive powers.

In other words, while a given environment around young female characters serves to disempower them, others serve as a factor which empowers them.

2. Enugu, a place of disempowerment.

Enugu, the town where the narrator-protagonist and her parents live, and where the story opens, is introduced to the reader as a place which symbolizes women’s oppression. Indeed, in Achike’s family, Eugene is a stark reminder of the patriarchy and male chauvinism. His attitude and behaviour prevent his wife and children from being happy. He is violent and usually beats both wife and children. He reacts uncontrollably when he is angry and often creates physical damages and destroys household properties beyond repair. In this way, through the beating, he has hurt his wife’s body to the extent where he has killed the child in the wife’s womb. Beatrice, Eugene’s wife undergoes two miscarriages as a result of being beaten. (Adichie: 41-43, 253)[1]. Jaja’s finger is disfigured for failing two catechist questions, Kambili is scolded before her classmates because she comes second instead of first in her class; her feet are soaked because she shares the same room with her grandfather who is considered by her father as a pagan (PH: 55, 201).

The objects and images that the narrator has associated with Achike’s house emphasize Eugene’s oppressive attitude towards his family at home. For example, the red colour of the hibiscuses growing in Kambili’s house stands for blood and violence in this context. As Kambili is often punished in her father’s bedroom, she relates the room to a never-ending place with nowhere to run to when penance waits (PH: 49). This climate of violence is evidence that Kambili’s family lives at their father’s unpredictable mercy, which prevents them from expressing their feelings freely.

Silence is therefore another medium of disempowerment. In Eugene’s house, of course, laughs, speaks or smiles. The mouth is bound to be closed or to praise Eugene as the best husband, the best father, or praise the products of his factories as the best ones. For instance, the afternoon when Jaja has not gone to communion and Eugene is very angry, though Beatrice does not like the taste of the cashew juice brought from Eugene’s factories, she says it tastes good(PH: 20). Still to please Eugene, Kambili supports her mother’s view, saying: “It’s very good” (PH:21). All that is done in the home is performed silently. They, for instance, communicate with their spirits and eyes, their eyes interconnect without an exchange of words (PH: 113). They walk silently at home, make silence when Eugene is resting; they think silently and go to church without talking to each other. Even their family time is quiet (PH: 20, 39- 40). So, although Kambili’s house is the most prestigious of the city, it is uncomfortable as whenever its inhabitants happen to talk, it is not to express their true mind, but to make Eugene proud and happy.

Beatrice, like her children, lives under the influence of her husband in such a way that she cannot react at all to his abuse. Eugene controls her and everything related to her life, her movements inside and outside home, her friends, what meal should be cooked, etc. In a word, the home which is supposed to be under the wife’s care, is under the husband’s instead.Beatrice’s situation is just shocking and annoying. She is more or less in a prison, clearly in a psychological and emotional trap. Ogundipe-Leslie (1994: 211), concerning about women’s dependency behaviour, finds that: “African women need to educate themselves about the rights and responsibilities of liberal democracy in a modern nation-state for the woman as an independent individual and not as a dependent”. In other words, it is only by sharing responsibilities with the father within their home that mothers can positively affect the education of their children and contribute to their well-being.

Kambili’s mother’s silence in the face of her husband’s abuse in the presence of their children, which occurs repeatedly, does not help Kambili at all. It does not help to boost her self-confidence or make her courageous; it rather makes her weak, fearful and sad. A mother who is unable to communicate, advise and share experiences with her daughter and strengthen her is rather a social danger, and a girl always living under stress with no one with whom to share her pains and fears, is at a loss how to behave and lacks the ability to understand the world around her.Having grown up in such an environment, Kambili lacks the ability to hold a serious conversation or give her opinion. When she goes to the hairdresser’s and some girls are gossiping about her hair, she is unable to voice her mind as she confesses in the following words:

I wanted to tell the girl that it was all my hair, that there were no attachments, but the words would not come out. I knew they were still talking about hair, how long and thick mine looked. I wanted to talk with them, to laugh with them so much that I would start to jump up and down in one place the way they did, but my lips held stubbornly together. I did not want to stutter, so I started to cough and then ran out and into the toilet(PH: 141).

Likewise, when at school Kambili is asked by Mother Lucy to start the pledge to Nigeria to be faithful, she has tried to speak but has failed both the first and the second time. In her effort, she has opened her mouth but the words have not come out. Before she finally succeeds in starting the pledge, she has gone through unimaginable states of unease. Though she knows the words to use, they have not come out. She even sweats all over(PH: 56). In a word, Kambili repeatedly finds herself in situations where she remains silent or utters words she does not intend to, often out of fear of displeasing her interlocutors or because she is unable to articulate her response. Adichie, by highlighting the mood characterized by the family’s speechlessness, emphasizes the importance of communication between husbands and wives and parents and children because she is aware of its importance to their development.

Apart from being silenced, neither Kambili or Jaja nor their mother can take a decision for themselves. Only their father decides everything, the clothes the children must wear, the book they must read, how to answer questions, the time to go to bed, how to pray etc., just an absolute dictator. The resultant atmosphere in their home clearly does not favour the family’s progress. It does not help mother and children to live freely and enjoy life. It rather prevents them from building up their personality.

As an homodiegetic narrator, Kambili is conscious of both her physical handicap and its causes; she knows her stressful life at home makes her a victim of such mental problems as anxiety and depression; this turns her dump, unable to express and defend her view among other children though there are a lot of things in her head, unable to create and develop her skills. The challenges she is daily confronted with in her home such as violence, silence, fear of speaking or asking questions, are destroying her, making her less than a human being. This kind of life makes her waste her potential depriving her of her talents. Of course, in order to please her father, she is successful at school, but her authentic character takes a back seat.

For Kambili, a fifteen years old girl, it is such a harsh treatment to live in a luxurious home which at the same time is unfavorable to her empowerment. This environment is incompatible with Kambili’s age as the family’s chief executive and self -appointed god, Eugene, carries out his duties and regularly tortures his family to become the humble servants of God. For Adichie, the fact that parents constantly beat children for any mistake leaves a negative psychological effect on the victims when they survive this traumatic experience, mainly if they are girls.

We do agree with her because, as the saying goes, “as is the mother, so is the daughter”. Thus, there is likelihood that Kambili will, like Beatrice, grow into a mother who is dependent and unable to resist oppression from her husband; she will obey the rules made by him even if it means death. Aware of those long term negative consequences on girls, Ogundipe-Leslie (1994: 163) theorizes that for a positive transformation in African societies, women should change their mindset and face oppressive practices: “Our dependency complex, built into us from early childhood socialization, is certainly one of the weaknesses to be combatted”.

Moving further, what emphasizes Enugu as a place of disempowerment is Christianity. Adichie demonstrates that Christianity is used as a force which prepares women to accept violence and oppression from men, and discourages potentially positive social change. This is noticed through the way the mass is celebrated. At the Roman Catholic Church, silence is for the mode of conduct. Eugene’s house and the church are remarkably alike; silence is required not to disturb the presence of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, just as the religious rituals are performed in Latin not in Igbo because the aim is not have the church members understand what is said, in a like manner, Eugene does not mind his wife and children’s opinion about anything concerning his household, which concords with the Christian commandment  of the wife’s submissiveness to her husband.

In short, the narrator is pointing out that Enugu and particularly Eugene’s house subjugates women and therefore, girls have no chance to be brought up in this place with self-confidence skills. Adichie knows that not all places are like Enugu. So, a stay in another town or in a village is necessary to arouse the characters’ awareness. In this perspective, the narrator uses the celebration of Christmas to relocate the protagonist in her hometown, Abba.

 

3. Abba, the beginning of self-discovery

In literature, a village is often set as an idyllic place where people enjoy a peaceful life. Purple Hibiscus is no exception. A week stay in a village is enough for urban people to realize that there are other ways of life to possibly make a new and better start. Among Christians, Christmas reminds the birth of Jesus-Christ and therefore marks the beginning of a new era. Abba is thus going to bring about changes in Achike’s family’s lifestyle.

What first makes their stay in Abba interesting is that, there, Kambili and her brother have no schedules imposed on and nothing to fear like them their father’s tough reactions. They eat together and have more time to discuss and more time to laugh. The narrator also brings to the fore the close relationship among women. The wives of Eugene’s family members come over to do the cooking and Beatrice has the opportunity to chat with them and other women. Her duty is to stay around and provides more salt, more utensils, etc… Contrary to Enugu middle class women, poor Abba women are not submitted to strict religious rules. They move freely from one compound to another. As a result, in Abba, Beatrice and her children untie their lips and have a happy moment (PH: 67).

Indeed, in Abba, Kambili and Jaja have space to enjoy childhood. Eugene, here, is busy entertaining the endless stream of visitors and attending church council meetings. So, he has little time for his family. Clearly, the atmosphere in Abba is very relax. Kambili’s happiness makes her confess Abba’s difference as follows:

In Abba Jaja and I had no schedules. We talked more and sat alone in our rooms less, because Papa was too busy entertaining the endless stream of visitors and attending church council meetings at five in the morning and town council meetings until midnight. Or maybe it was because Abba was different, because people stroll into our compound at will, because the very air we breathed moved more slowly (PH: 67).

Another opportunity which makes Kambili and Jaja’s stay in Abba interestingly different from lifestyle in Enugu is their visit to their paternal grandfather who lives close by their home. Their contact with their grandfather Papa Nnukwu has made them realize that their father has unjustly decreed him heathen. The fact is that in the old man’s house they discover a Papa Nnukwu different from what their father used to tell them; the old man invites them to eat, discusses with them concerning his health, teases them, laughs with them and even prays for them. (PH: 71-74). In addition, staying in Papa Nnukwu’s company helps them to really come into contact with their Igbo tradition and custom and to know more about it.

Actually, Papa Nwukwu is a good person, happy in his poor living condition and who defends his belief no matter how crazy it may sound to his son Eugene. He is not going to live under Eugene’s control though poor. Papa Nnukwu is very amazed at Kambili and Jaja spending good times with him; Kambili also feels so comfortable in his company that she has no desire to go back home as her words express: “Jaja nudged me. But I did not want to leave; I wanted to stay so that if the fufu clung to Papa Nnukwu’s throat and choked him, I could run and get him water. I did not know where the water was, though. Jaja nudged me again and I still could not get up”. (PH: 74). Kambili’s unwillingness to leave has made them stay with Papa Nnukwu longer than planned. Another indication that she enjoys her grandfather’s company is that even on her way going back home, she has waved tohim and kept her eyes on him while he shuffles back into his coumpound (PH: 75). She has discovered Papa Nwukwu is somebody greater than her father says he is. She admires his strength, his calm and happy look even in his sick state.

Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene’s sister is another important character Achike’s family members come into contact with in Abba. A resilient, educated, intelligent and liberal mother, she is a single parent of three children who she upbrings in a way that contrasts with that of her brother. She trains them to be outgoing and outspoken, rather than be confined to religious solitude in a bid to appear moral. Her parenting system is clearly contrary to that in Beatrice’s home, where the children including their mother, are ridiculously conditioned to act like robots. Kambili easily perceives the difference between her mother and Aunty Ifeoma who is a strong, fearless and influencial woman who openly defies Eugene, her brother. For instance, when Aunty Ifeoma is asking Eugene for permission to bring Kambili and Jaja outside and Eugene ignores her, she gets angry and raises her voice as follows: “It is not Christmas that we are celebrating, eh? The children have never really spent time with one another” (PH: 85). Every time Aunty Ifeoma disagrees with Eugene, she raises her voice in such a way that Kambili’s heart stops, then starts again in hurry.

The portrayal of Ifeoma’s children is also very significant. Through their behaviour they show great contrasts with that of Jaja and Kambili; as it appears from these words:

Amaka was a thinner, teenage copy of her mother. She walked and talked even faster with more purpose…her eyes…, quizzical eyes, eyes that asked many questions and did not accept many answers. Obiora was a year younger, very light-skinned, with honey-colored eyes behind thick glasses and his mouth turned up at the sides in a perpetual smile. Chima had skin as dark as the bottom of a burnt pot of rice, and was tall for a boy of seven. They all laughed alike: throaty, cackling sounds pushed out with enthusiasm (PH: 86).

The use of some words like ‘smile’‘laugh’, ‘purpose’, ‘quizzicaleyes’ and their association with Amaka demonstrates that she is following in her mother’s footsteps, full of joy and very sure of what she is going to do. It is clear that a girl with such features could be nothing than an open-minded and a courageous girl. Even Amaka’s brothers, Obiora and Chima, are happy, open-minded and most of the time liberal so that Kambili enjoys their company: “I heard her loud laughter, and it echoed and went on for a while. I did not realize it was my cousins’ laughter, the sound reflecting their mother’s, until I went out to the living room” (PH: 100). Clearly, no wonder, Aunty Ifeoma’s children are all raised with the same values. They are connected and easily communicate with each other. This demonstrates that any individual is a product or the reproduction of the space where they grow, the product of how they are brought up.

Kambili has found her cousins very different from herself and this has made her compare herself mainly to Amaka. She is very surprised about how Amaka does things because she does not know that a girl, younger, with a less educational level than herself can behave this way, doing more than she can do and than she can imagine. She finds her, strong and too mature for her age and all this, has of course, made her ask herself if she is not really abnormal as Amaka has remarked (PH: 87). No doubt, this is the beginning of a change process.

A new indication of Kambili’s self-realisation process is the discovery of lipstick in Abba. Amaka used to wear lipstick, and during Christmas service, she wears the same bright red lipstick as her mother and this has made her teeth seem whiter when she smiles. This again surprises Kambili to the point where it diverts her from concentrating on Mass as she confesses: “Although I tried to concentrate on Mass, I kept thinking of Amaka’s lipstick, wondering what it felt like to run colour over your lips” (PH: 99). Kambili cannot stop from thinking because she discovers that all those things forbidden to her because qualified as ungodly or sinful, indeed contribute to Amaka’s blooming. Each moment she spends in contact with Amaka makes her discover another positive aspect of her personality. Kambili, clearly, finds Amaka radiant and much at one with herself and admires her as an example to follow. Amaka is indeed portrayed as a confident and skilled girl to inspire Kambili so that she can free her hidden talents.

In a word, in Abba, Kambili has experienced new events which please her a lot and make her question her father’s rigid principles. She wishes her relation with her family could be better, that her life could be like Amaka’s. She soon realizes that Aunty Ifeoma plays her role as a mother wonderfully. But in Nsukka, Kambili learns even more from Aunty Ifeoma and her children’s lifestyle.

4. Nsukka, the place of empowerment.

Nsukka is another space which has really marked a great step towards Jaja and Kambili’s self-discovery, the real place of transformation for Kambili and his brother. In fact, Aunty Ifeoma’s home is located in Nsukka which is a university center where knowledge is acquired to enhance sustainable development. The narrator pointing to the presence of the university in Nsukka lets the reader know it is a place where live people who are educated, and hence, forward-thinking, open-minded and progressive. Aunty Ifeoma, one of them, is a lecturer with a more balanced vision of life. As a worker, she is an economically independent woman; she lives with her children in a plainly furnished but aired house, and though they go to school, she involves them in household chores and activities outside home. She encourages them to voice their opinion on issues, has fun with them, rarely punishes them, encourages them to have walk and to take care of themselves. Aunty Ifeoma is one of the types of new African woman Ogundipe-Leslie is referring to for the change in women’s status and the development of Africa:

Women must begin to be self-reliant mentally, socially and economically in the context of our problems as underdeveloped nations. We can say to ourselves: Don’t look for a man’s money to spend. You are adult. Support yourself or think thusly. Raise your daughters to be the same way. Then men can respect you and relate to you as equals and responsible persons; not exploiters and dependent. (p. 163).

Aunty Ifeoma has all the qualities cited here above; she is a conscious and serious mother who shows her kids what decency and devotion look like. As a widow she does not wait for any man, not even her brother to provide for her needs and keep her kids safe. She does her best to protect, guide and empower her children. She fights for her full social and economic rights in her family, her workplace and in society in general. She is the embodiment of the proven strength and her daughter Amaka’s role model.

Kambili’s stay in Nsukka allows her to understand why Amaka is so different from her in so many ways. In Ifeoma’s house, Kambili and jaja have experienced a way of life different from the quiet childhood they have in Enugu. For instance, they pray breaking into Igbo songs at the end of each decade of the novena (PH: 133), have a more funny schedule, have rules different from that of their father, and join in works (PH: 134). Kambili for instance has learnt how to peel yams, how to help in the kitchen, to fetch water and set the table for foods, she has even found herself wearing lipsticks and shorts which have been qualified ungodly by her father (PH: 181). Also, she participates in sports and church activities. As to Jaja, he has started playing football, (PH: 141), washing car and plates, also helping in the kitchen. They watch TV, listen to music and have walks. Kambili and Jaja have found themselves doing things they are not used to and have never done before. Clearly, in Ifeoma’s house in Nsukka, kitchen operates as a place of empowerment because all children, Amaka, Obiora, Chima, Kambili and Jaja are taught the art of cooking.

Of course, Kambili has to willingly struggle against herself to be able to overcome her limitations, her silence, her shyness and her inaction which are all part of the lifestyle in her father’s home in Enugu. Her behaviour sometimes irritates Amaka, who has become critical of her shyness and even impatient with her. Kambili has no choice than to cooperate and voice her opinion. Aunty Ifeoma has also encouraged her to always defend her view (PH: 177).

A factor which also positively affects Kambili in Nsukka is her encounter with Father Amadi, a young priest and friend of Ifeoma’s family. Father Amadi has encouraged her and got her to participate in sport and church activities and feel free to ask questions about issues she does not understand. The effect is that in his company Kambili has gone to the stadium many times to enjoy herself, watching the boys playing football and practice running. She is even made aware that she has good legs to be a good runner. Kambili has really enjoyed this moment she has spent Father Amadi with. In his company, she easily laughs at his jokes: “I laughed. It sounded strange, as if I were listening to the record laughter of a stranger being played back. I was not sure I had ever heard myself laugh” (PH: 183-186). Thus, for the first time in her entire life Kambili discovers that she can laugh aloud, that apart from being excellent at school, she has the ability to achieve great things, she can for instance be very good at running, an amazing gift revealed to her!

Quite interestingly, this relationship with Father Amadi has indeed strengthened and freed Kambili from all discomfort and embarrassment to the extent that once back home in Enugu, on the second day of school, she has freely and happily joined the group of girls on the volleyball field. She is no longer that so called “backyard snob” (PH: 211). She has another view of her life as a girl.

There have been a lot of changes when Kambili has started taking things personally. Of course, her progress has been slow as she has started by muttering a word (PH: 147), then words, and begins to speak more confidently, laugh and even sing. To let the reader know she has made a lot of progress in her cousins’ company, she says: “I laughed. It seemed so easy now, laughter. So many things seemed easy now. Jaja was laughing, too, as was Amaka, and we were all sitting on the grass, waiting for Obiora to come up to the top” (PH: 288).

In short, in Nsukka, Kambili, just like her brother Jaja, has experienced a different version of family life and faith: Ifeoma and her children are open- minded and defenders of their view and their Catholicism is liberal and loving. She also experiences love for the first time as she develops strong feelings to father Amadi. In the novel, Adichie attracts the reader’s attention to Kambili and Jaja’s desire to go back to Nsukka to signal that they have had unforgettable positive experiences which make them meaningful and fulfilled. An indication of their happiness in staying in Ifeoma’s house is Kambili informing the reader about Jaja’s reaction when their father has allowed them to stay in Nsukka a few days longer: “… and Jaja smiled so widely I saw dimples I did not even know he had”(PH: 155). Of course, there, they feel they are full human beings with the rights to speak, act, and live with joy and responsibility.

Ifeoma and her children’s impact on Kambili as a girl is quite significant and impressive. In their home, she feels that her life has meaning and purpose, has learnt that she is full of potential and that she matters; she has then started to uncover her dreams and passions. She starts to feel happy and hopeful. No doubt, no matter the concerns, for positive changes to take place, new solutions are needed for old versions of thinking. Einstein is right when he says: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. (Anonymous: 2015).

 

Conclusion

This paper has set out to emphasize the influence of environment on shaping human character; that is, showing that the environment where one lives or grows up affects one either positively or negatively. To this end, I have explored Purple Hibiscus, a novel in which Kambili and her brother Jaja have experienced the lifestyle of three different towns and village; Enugu, Abba and Nsukka. In Enugu, where their own home is a hostile place to them because of their religious father’s violent character and intolerance, which has made them grow silent and inhibited and turned their mother fearful, submissive and disempowered, in Abba and Nsukka, on the contrary, they have encountered different life images. Abba is a loving place with such kind, wise and truthful people as Papa Nnukwu and the women of Eugene’s family who are always ready to help and advise. In their contact, Kambili and Jaja have experienced love, attention and joy and have noticed that Aunty Ifeoma, though a woman, answers back to their powerful father, and even rejects some of his ideas.

Nsukka, more interestingly is a university center, a place where live progressive, understanding and open-minded people. Kambili and Jaja’s stay in this town in Aunty Ifeoma’s house in contact with their cousins has allowed them to actively participate in activities and even take on responsibilities, and express themselves freely, which they have never experienced before. Moreover, through their contact with Father Amadi, they have discovered that Kambili, though not a boy but a girl, can be a successful sports woman. This has made them change their life’s philosophy and become self-confident. They are even rebellious against their father’s ways of life.

What the paper is mostly interested in is the development and transformation which occur in Kambili’s life after she has experienced a happy family life with Aunty Ifeoma as her protector, defender and adviser.The idea is that parents, especially mothers, should be positive role models to their daughters as they have profound impact on them; it is important they teach them to be brave and open-minded. From home, mothers should socialize them to be comfortable and brave.

Aunty Ifeoma is an example of a good mother. Her strength and capability to successfully bring up her children, which is noticed through her daughter Amaka’s maturity and her ease to voice her mind, not only complies with the sustainable development goal number five, but also, is one of the practical aspects of Ogundipe-Leslie’s Stiwanism which wants women to re-engage themselves for their rights, and provide them paths to achieve it.

Adichie is clearly pointing to the fact that what impacts most on children is the environment where they grow up and insists that it is parents’ role to provide them one conducive to their sound development. In this perspective she strongly believes that contrary to Beatrice who thinks that it is the duty of her husband all alone to provide for the family, the African mother has to be financially independent like Aunty Ifeoma, and actually share household responsibilities.

 

References

Adichie, C. N. (2003). Purple Hibiscus, Lagos: Farafina.

Alexander, L. G. (1968). For And Against, London: Longman Group Limited.

Anonymous, “Literary Devices”, on https://literarydevices.net/mood/, accessed the 12/10/2018.

Anonymous, (2015). “Talk: Albert Einstein”, https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk, accessed the 12th/10/2018.

Darko, A. (2010). Faceless, Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers.

Evans, R. (2012). “What is childhood and what do we mean by young people”, in Understanding Young people’s right to decide, IPPF, p.1-3.

Hornby, A. S. (1948). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (Eighth edition), New York: Oxford University Press.

Kabeer, N. (1999). “Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measure-ment of Women’s Empowerment”, Development and Change,Vol.30, p.435–464.

Kivai, M. G. (2010). Female Voice and the Future of Gender Relationships in the Nigerian Nation in Chimamanda  N. Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of A Yellow Sun, Master of Arts, Kenyatta University.

Longman Active Study Dictionary (New Edition). (2000). Harlow: Longman.

Ogundipe-leslie, M. (1994). Re-Creating Ourselves: African Women & Critical Transformation, New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc.

Ojinmah, U. (2012). “No Humanity in War: Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun”, Journal of Nigerian Studies, Vol.1, N02, p. 11.

Sample, S. (2005). Devenez Un Grand Leader, Paris: Groupe Eyrolles.

Winterowd, W. R. & Winterowd, G. R. (1992). The Critical Reader, Thinker and Writer, London: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Ward, M. J. (2005). “An Historical Perspective of Self-Determination in Special Education: Accomplishments and Challenges”, in Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Vol.30, N03, p. 108-112.

[1]PH followed by the page number will be used in reference to Purple Hibiscus further in the work.

Article n°5- Rilale-Uac/ Volume 1, Issue n°1

AFRICAN AMERICANS’ RESPONSIBILITY IN THE USA DEFERRED DREAM OF FULL INTEGRATION A CENTURY AFTER EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION: A DISCURSIVE REVISITATION OF JAMES BALDWIN’S THE FIRE NEXT TIME (1963)

 

 

Didier KOMBIENI

kombidid@yahoo.fr

Faculté des Lettres, Arts et Sciences Humaines (FLASH)

Université de Parakou

Nassourou IMOROU

imoroun@yahoo.fr

Faculté des Lettres, Langues, Arts et Communication

Université d’Abomey-Calavi

TELECHARGER PDF ICI

 

Abstract

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, it was obvious that the former slaves’ fate was at stake. But it was not possible to anticipate on any complicity between stakeholders who fought for Blacks people’s emancipation and those others who shed their blood opposing their enfranchisement, hindering the promises of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in America. A century later, justice and equality for Blacks were still an unattainable dream. Many black authors and artists have depicted the white man’s biased attitude against the newly freed black. Yet, other black authors like Zora Neale Hurston, through her novel: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and James Baldwin with his essay: The Fire Next Time, have adopted a more mediate and responsible stance. For them, even if it is true that the white man’s attitude toward the emancipated blacks is suicidal, the Blacks’ daily attitudes towards the whites in the one hand, and towards their fellows African Americans in the other hand, has rather contributed in worsening the cohabitation and social interplay of the two social communities: the former master and the former slave, now full American citizen. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next time, written on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of emancipation, with the aim of taking the stock of Blacks’ situation in America since emancipation ratification, operates in the same vein.

Key-words: Incomplete Emancipation – whites’ attitudes – cohabitation – anniversary of emancipation – warning

 

Résumé

Lorsque la Guerre de Sécession éclata aux Etats-Unis en 1861, l’avenir des Noirs esclaves d’alors était vu comme l’enjeu. Mais nulle ne pouvait anticiper sur cette complicité  post-conflit et post émancipation, entre les supposés anti esclavagistes du Nord qui ont lutté pour la libération des Noirs et leurs frères esclavagistes blancs du Sud qui ont versé leur sang pour faire perpétuer la traite négrière et l’esclavage en Amérique. En effet, un siècle après l’abolition de l’esclavage, les Noirs américains sont toujours en quête de justice et d’égalité. Plusieurs écrivains et artistes noirs américains sévèrement décrié de l’attitude injuste des Blancs américains qui se refusent toujours d’admettre leurs ex-esclaves désormais leurs compatriotes, avec les mêmes droits. Mais d’autres auteurs tels que Zora Neale Hurston, à travers son Roman Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), et James Baldwin dans son essai intitulé The Fire Next Time, ont plutôt adopté une position médiane. Pour ces derniers s’il est vrai que l’attitude des Blancs américains envers leurs frères Noirs est suicidaire, il est tout aussi évident que les Noirs, à travers leurs attitudes quotidiennes, faites de mépris, rejet et haine envers les Blancs d’une part et envers leurs compatriotes Noirs même d’autre part, ont contribué à rendre la cohabitation et la collaboration avec les Blancs difficiles. The Fire Next time de James Baldwin principalement, écrit à l’occasion du centenaire de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, évoque une responsabilité commune des Blancs et des Noirs américains dans l’échec de l’intégration des Noirs, et la nécessité pour les Blancs et les Noirs de s’accepter en vue d’une Amérique réellement intégrée.

Mots-clés: Emancipation inachevée – centenaire – nécessité de cohabitation – avertissement

 

Introduction

The idea of “race” is a social construct paradoxically meant to portray a natural classification of the mankind, reflects biological differences among groups of people that originate from different parts of the world. Since racial ancestry classifications are generally hooked to observable physical differences between people, the apparent naturalness of race seems obvious to most people. The African Americans make up one of those social communities of the American society distinguished by those racial standards of classification. Although it would be inaccurate to talk about the history of America without mentioning the participation of the Blacks in the country’s development from its inception, the first British colonial settlements to the Emergence of the country as today’s Super power, it has been hard to mention the United States of America a homogenous nation, since a century after their emancipation, the ex-slaves were still struggling to have a fair share in the American common welfare. Although the responsibility of African Americans in the worsening of their conditions in the post-emancipation era is to be attributed to the Whites and ex-masters, one might also contend that overall, emancipated Blacks did little to change this situation. This is an interpretation which ensues from the reading of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time which makes up the substance of this paper.

 

  1. Context, objective and method
    • Contextualizing the essay :The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time was published in 1963, exactly a hundred years after emancipation proclamation in America. Baldwin then intended to make a point of the real meaning of emancipation from the offer or, the white American, and the beneficiary, the ex-slave. As for Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God that was rejected by the Harlem Renaissance leaders because of its presenting the negative side of the Blacks, The Fire Next Time has dared address both Blacks and Whites as co-actors and equally responsible for the non-homogeneity of the American society.  Indeed, the racial issue in the middle twentieth century was so hard that, as a black novelist or writer, to dare portray any negative side of fellow blacks would be seen as an offence to the whole African American community.

Emancipation had meant a lot for African Americans; it came to them with hopes and promises. But with legislation like the Jim Crow Law that prevailed from 1890 to 1910, African Americans were almost retuned into a new form of slavery. The Black codes and Ku Klux Klans’ activism had led to the decline of Blacks’ hope and the promise of Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation gift was then jeopardized. Baptist preacher Thomas Dixon wrote The Leopard’s Spot: a Romance of the white Man’s Burden (1902), asserting White supremacy amidst the supposed African American evil and corruption. The book was so popular that Dixon added a trilogy. His second novel, The Clansmen, adapted for the film The Silent Birth of a Nation, portraying the African American as an unintelligent, sexually aggressive person. To counterpart that negative view on the black man, writers starting from the Harlem Renaissance, were urged to consider improving the image of the Blacks in America.

James Baldwin’s essay, structured in two letters addressed to his fellow blacks, was a kind of appeal for self-consciousness, instead of attributing their current situation to a mere racial conflict with the Whites. Baldwin then agreed with Zora Neale Hurston, when the latter said: “Many Negroes have criticized my novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, because I did not make it a lecture on the race problem”; Hurston, though not rejecting this remark, explained her choice as follows:

… I was writing a novel and not a treatise on sociology….. I have ceased to think in term of race; I think only in terms of individuals. I am interested  in you now, not as a Negro man, but as a man. I am not interested in the race problem, but I am interested in the problems of individuals, the white ones and the black ones’[1]

 

  • Objectives, methodology and literary theory

The present paper aims at revealing the responsibility of the Blacks in the unkept promise of emancipation, and their incomplete integration in America. Without denying the Whites bad attitudes, this paper analyzes and interprets the bad attitudes and harmful practices of some Black Americans towards their fellow Blacks in the one hand, and towards the Whites in the other hand, which contributes for nothing but increases the gap between the two races. The final warning of Baldwin is the to be taken seriously: Whites and Blacks had better accept and love one another, otherwise both races will go through self-destruction.

The methodology used here is mainly based on documentary research; data have priory been collected form the plot as presented and developed by James Baldwin through the essay, and the analysis and comment have been made on the basis of the African American post emancipation history. Indeed, The Fire Next Time is not a fictional work; it is the revelation of Black Americans’ negative side of life, in a period they were in search of security and improvement of living conditions, a period when they were denouncing the white man’s atrocious legal and non-legal measures against them. The literary theory applied is the New Historicism, a form of postmodernism applied to interpretive history, a literary theory whose goal is to understand intellectual history through literature, and literature through its cultural context. New Historicism appears as appropriate to the present paper since Baldwin’s work is an essay based on history (civilization), and there is hardly a gap between literature and civilization.

 

  1. Baldwin’s View on American Racism, a Century after Emancipation

Through “My Dungeon Shook, Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation”, the first of the two letters that make the essay: The Fire Next Time, Baldwin mainly discusses two issues; he presents the white man as an innocent-guilty player in his conflictual and racial relation with the black man, then he depicts the black’s conceit, which has prevented him from emerging out of domination, to enjoy full equality.

  • The Innocent Guilty White Man

Baldwin, in his address to his young nephew, refers to white people as “innocent and well-meaning people” (page 6). This could be understood on four main grounds.

The white man of the moment was not the direct person to be blamed for everything that happened to the Blacks in the New World. The white man is just an heir; he has inherited from his ancestors. The White American of today has grown within a system where the Blacks had no rights; a system in which he was taught that the white race is superior, and that there should exist no equality with any other human of a different origin, let alone the Blacks. There was then no sin for the perpetuation of slavery, even though it was said that the Blacks were emancipated. How could the ex-servant pretend to equal the ex-master? And the neat hands of the whites were not made for those kind of job accomplished by the Blacks in the plantations and in the households. How could things change so suddenly? There lies the innocence in the behavior of the post-emancipation Whiteman.

Since the very scourge of the black man came from the practice of slavery, it is important to analyze the problem from the roots. Should the white man be blamed for the whole institution of slavery? The white man, for sure, was not the inventor or the practice of slavery. Slavery had existed in the African kingdoms before it was transported to the American colonies to replace the indentured servants, due to the benefit it represented for the colonists. The African kings made war captives during their inter-tribal crusades. The American slaves were not kept in chains in permanence, unless proved dangerous for the master, contrarily to the African slaves. African kings made of other people slaves out of pride[2], while American colonists acquired slaves out of need. During slavery, the black man was a valuable property and part of the white man’s family, while in Africa, although some slaves lived in the household, they were hardly close to their masters the way American slaves were.In America, the slaves had a circumscribed freedom and could cook their own food, while in Africa, the case was different.It appears clearly then that the white man, at least the one of the post-emancipation period, is an innocent player in the slavery system. But if the white man of the nineteenth century can be free from responsibility in the enslavement of the Blacks, what reading could be made a hundred years after the emancipation proclamation?

 

  • The Reverse of the Medal

When the thirteen American colonies declared war on the British for obtaining independence, it was on the premise that “everybody on earth possesses the right of self-governance” and then to reinforce the independence and union, the new states made it clear in the preamble to the Constitution that “all men are created equal;” that “they are endowed by the creator with a certain unalienable rights”. The slavery issue then seems to run in the same vein as the domination of Great Britain over America. And it ignited the memorable fights for freedom which were later materialized into clauses of civil rights appended to the colonies’ constitutions. Among these provisions, are the rights for every human to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness on which the Declaration of independence is premised. But if it can be admitted that the slaves be denied these rights, since slavery obliterates black people’s rights to life and liberty, what then to say about the white man’s attitude after the abolition of slavery?

The deprivation of the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right the enjoyment of happiness to Blacks, the ex-slave,  was programmed to be changed by Abraham Lincoln by his proclamation and the ratification of the blacks’ emancipation in 1865, which is destined to free the enslaved blacks from their unjust bondage. (reference) But the Blacks were rather rescued from a permanent hell to a slow motion hell. There was actually no pragmatism in the proclamation of freedom to the Blacks; their situation got out of boundaries and became more critical. The post-emancipation America had black people go through hard times by depriving them of the fruits of their freedom, by segregation and many other forms of injustice. To put it more clearly, the condition of the blacks now turned from exploitation to persecution.

It is that experience of the African Americans that James Arthur Baldwin tries to reveal; he demonstrates the inadequacy of the emancipation proclamation after 100 years in his famous essay “The Fire Next Time”. In that first part of the book entitled: “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” Baldwin diagnoses America’s racism and makes his prescription for his young nephew’s survival in such a diseased society. As a man who has seen America at its worst, Baldwin warns his nephew of the dangers threatening a young black man. He insinuates that the black’s emancipation was founded on pure lies. If it the white American of the 1960s is to free from responsibility in the presence and condition of the blacks in America, those white men cannot be free from the responsibility for the atrocious condition into which they forced the Blacks after emancipation. Why then free the slaves and then immediately control the whole of his life under some “black codes”? Why should there exist, in the same nation, a Constitution governing a group of people (the whites), and some codes aiming at preventing others (the blacks) from enjoying the liberty they are said to have gained? The paradoxical attitude of the white men is also when they freed the blacks, just to let them at the Ku Klux Klan’s mercy; when they set the Blacks in segregated neighborhoods for them to perish. “This innocent country set you in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish” (page 7). And Baldwin makes his point clearer: the Blacks were born there and were going through those difficult situations just because they were Blacks and Free. A black man should then not be free. And this can be learnt from the whole process from the institution of slavery to the post-emancipation. As slaves, Blacks were better treated by the Whites than they were when they became free; during slavery, the black man as a property and had a great value for his master. Most of them fed for survival and labor, and had a shack to sleep in. When the Black was sick, he was cured. He lived in the compound of his master and was encouraged to start a family and to reproduce. But on the contrary, when the same black man became free, he no more had any value; worse, he became a threat to the white man. The latter became reluctant to have him in the surrounding.  And any search of prosperity hardened the difficult collaboration with the white man. Baldwin sets this clearly in the following words: “The limits of your ambitions were thus expected to be set forever. You were born in a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence; you were expected to make peace with mediocrity” (page 7). But Baldwin does not choose to merely tell the black man about his past and present conditions. He has mainly aimed at telling him what, from his own daily attitude, has encouraged the white man in that position of domination.

 

  • Fighting Conceitedness

Adapting to new conditions is not always easy, nor acceptable to everyone, and this is how Baldwin explains the resistance of the white man in accepting the Black person’s new status. How could it be possible for the white man to accept that his former slaves suddenly become his fellow citizens? How could those white men conceive a society where there would enjoy the same rights with those people they have enslaved and dominated for centuries? The real issue resides there. This can be seen as a fear of possible retaliation from the former slaves, but also as a mark of pride.

Many of them (the whites), indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the mind of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. (Page 9)

The abrupt change here is the idea of having blacks as free and equal human beings, in an environment formally entirely controlled by the whites. But as Baldwin puts it, the main problem with the blacks is not the refusal of the whites to accept their new condition; it is rather the refusal of the Blacks to take control of their new condition. That is their refusal to become their own masters. For centuries, Blacks had received orders and toiled hard under constraint. But as long as they continue kowtowing to and looking up to the white man as a superior being, this attitude will give the white men good reasons for continuing to maintain them in this new form of slavery. In his letter to little James, Baldwin warns the latter (and through him the whole black American community) that the most destructive thing is to believe what people think or say of you, especially when this is negative. When it is said by the Whites that you Blacks are worthless and you buy into this lie, your soul and spirit will be corrupted with the idea and you will in actual fact be worthless. Baldwin addresses his nephew in these words: “Please, try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear” (page 8). Baldwin then reminds the Blacks about the terms ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Integration’ respectively from Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois, which imply forgiveness, love and responsibility, but never submission and conceit. However, to me, the best message of Baldwin to the black community, one hundred years after emancipation, lie in the following: “Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go” (page 8). These words might seem to emphasize on the origin; but where you come from, here, has little to do with the (African) origin of the black Americans. The idea here is rather what those Blacks have been able to accomplish until then. In effect, the huge contributions of the Blacks, either as slaves or as citizens, into what the United States looked like a century after emancipation, are undeniable. Their contributions in the plantations, in the households and the overall increase of the whole nation’s living conditions are most obvious, and this is what accounts for the rejection of any idea of a true emancipation for them. Calling on Blacks to remember where they come from, is then urging them for a huge contribution to the building of American. It won’t then be conceivable that blacks willingly exclude themselves from the enjoyment of the fruits of those efforts of theirs. That is why, integrating the American society is essential for their survival. This contradicts the philosophy of separation advocated by Marcus Garvey, and which claims that blacks did not choose to be in America, and since they were now free, they had better go back home. There is no other place for the black Americans than American; and to live there, they must join hands, weigh their potentials, reject the idea of being inferior and worthless, and make their way through the American society.

 

  1. Black Americans’ Religious Considerations: a Handicap to Integration
  • Religion as an Alternative to Safety

Although many slaves in America tried to practice their African ancestral religions, the majority of them were forced into their masters’ religion, which is Christianity. After emancipation, despite the need to find a typical black identity within the global America, there appeared no need to reject the white man’s religion. As a matter of fact the vast majority of emancipated Blacks were born in a kind of Christian faith. But faced with the scourge and the new slavery system to keep them in domination, Blacks, and the youth, in their great majority abandoned the church for the street. Harlem stood a prototype street life environment, where young Blacks thought to find solutions to their new lives. But very soon, it appeared clearly that the street was far from being the solution to the white man’s oppression. Baldwin displays his experience this kind of life in Harlem when he was fourteen.

What I saw around me that summer in Harlem was what I had always seen; My friends were now downtown, busy, as they put it, “fighting the man”. They began to care less about the way they looked, the way they dressed, the things they did; presently, one found them in twos and threes and fours, in a hallway, sharing a jug of wine or a bottle of whiskey, talking, cursing, fighting, sometimes weeping; lost, and unable to say what it was that oppressed them, except that they knew it was “the man”, the white man… But now, without any warning, the whores and pimps and racketeers on the avenue had become a personal menace.… My friends began to drink and smoke, and embarked – at first avid, then groaning – on their sexual careers. Girls, only slightly older than I was, who sang in choir or taught Sunday school, the children of holy parents, underwent, before my eyes, their incredible metamorphosis, of which the most bewildering aspect was not their budding breasts or their rounding behinds but something deeper and more subtle, in their eyes, their heat, their odor, and the inflection of their voices. (Pages 16 to19)

In the street, white policemen would amuse themselves with Blacks by frisking the latter, making comic (and terrifying) speculations concerning Blacks’ ancestry and probable sexual powers. The wages of sin were then visible everywhere, in every wine-stained, in every ambulance hooks, in every scare on the black man’s face, in every black baby born onto that land, in every knife and pistol fight on the avenue, and in every disastrous bulletin that informs about: a cousin, mother of six, suddenly gone mad, the children parceled out here and there; an indestructible aunt rewarded for years of hard labor by a slow, agonizing death in a terrible small room; someone’s bright son blown into eternity by his own hand; another turned robber and carried off to jail. In these circumstances, crime was everywhere “not as a possibility, but as the possibility”. Since the experience in the street has shown to be more threatening than positive to the Blacks, it became urgent to leave it. With the advent of the Second World War, many Blacks the found refuge in the army, all to be changed there and rarely for the better, many to be ruined, and many to die. Others fled to other states and cities – that is, to other ghettos. Some went on wine or whiskey or the needles (drugs). And the vast majority, including Baldwin, fled into the church in search of protection and salvation.

  • Baldwin’s Experience and View on Christianity

To be a good black person the immediate post-emancipation period could be equated with to attend church, the only place where Blacks, not only had the only Savior, God, but also where the temptation of falling into criminality was killed. For most Blacks outside the church, killing or robbing the Whites was far from being a crime, since this would only mean getting back what belonged to them. Any black person, with little knowledge on the Holy Bible could make a pastor, with the overt mission of shepherding the black community to salvation and protection from the Whites.  Baldwin then experienced two different Christian lives, first in the church where his own father was a pastor, then he switches to a female pastor’s church by a friend of his. But with the two, Baldwin, voicing the whole black American community, made the same remark: the church was another place for racketing people. Black people in their different churches were to mirror the pastor rather than God. The “Whose little boy are you?” that welcomed every new comer would just mean “who are you going to worship?” Such a question could not be put if the expected answer was God. The woman pastor was totally satisfied, and Baldwin was admitted to the church, soon where he replied: “Why, Yours” (page 29).

Black pastors, as Baldwin witnessed it, were full of energy and some of their words seemed really powerful. When they set a hand on your head or forehead and uttered their biblical incantations, you’d faint. Under the woman pastor screaming and invocations, Baldwin lay unconscious for some time before he came back to himself. With such prophetic power, it is right that he wonders why those pastors couldn’t make a change, given so much power by God. And “if His (God) love was so great, and if He loved all His children, why were we, the Blacks, cast down so far…?” (page 31).

The Blacks in those churches had been looking for three main things: Faith, Hope and Charity (page 31). Faith that would drive them close to their God, the only solution to the persecution they were subjected to. Hope, that is the only thing they could still rely on in that American land they had been driving to unwillingly, that they had shed their blood to make a living place, and that it was not conceivable that they should live now; they was nowhere else to call homeland, America was the only land they had ever known, even though they could not deny that they all came from somewhere that still existed, that would not reject them. Even if the separationist attempt by Marcus Garvey helped build a nation (Liberia) in Africa, it is also true that the Back to Africa trip revealed that Africa is not a mere village where everyone could get to their different source families. Africa is a continent with more diverse cultural and ethnical colors; Charity, because the church was supposed to be a place beyond family features, where solidarity, assistance, acceptance and love should reside. But on the opposite, Baldwin found in the Black American churches, the counterparts of those three concepts: the principles of Blindness, Loneliness and Terror. First, when the black pastor said: “love your neighbor”, he or she meant something totally different from what Baldwin had anticipated; the neighbor didn’t mean the person living next to you, nor a human being like you. Your neighbor in the view of the pastor was the one with the same skin color with you; and sometimes your neighbor is not every black person, be he /you’re your father, your mother or siblings, or any relative of yours. Your neighbor is simply that black person attending the same church with you. Baldwin was shocked to learn that the church taught to hate other people, since selective love implies hatred to other human beings. Then, there was the clear opposition between the advocacy of the pastors and their attitudes outside the church. Pastors preached humility and simplicity; they taught that poverty was far from being a bad condition; it was rather a condition to reach God; they urge worshipers to give the offertory: “Happy be the poor; they will see God”, says the Holy Bible, actually. But at the same time, the pastor owned and drove many Cadillac cars; they lived in high standard homes; they dressed clean. How could this be understandable?  Did this mean that pastors just drove other people to God and didn’t want to be there themselves? Finally, the church, rather than driving Black people out of fear and sin, have led the latter into living a life of real awe and terror; worshipers were conditioned into such a mood that announced no hope for them unless they became mean. They took no real initiative to their integration (page 71). A good black man should not relate to a white man; he who befriends white people was destined to hell, since the white man was a sinner (page 78). Yet, the white man was to be seen everywhere in America. Moreover, they were the masters in every domains of activity. Outside the church, no Black could pretend to do without the Whites. The church, the black man’s church was then advocating a kind of racism, a separation of Whites and Blacks on the American land, which would be harmful to the Blacks and rather beneficial to the White, as since emancipation proclamation, the freed Blacks were seen as threats and were undesirable in the white man’s environment.  Such narrowmindedness and blindness was a hard experience for Baldwin and for many silent Blacks who where to stay in the church though because at least the church has a positive side: it nurtures their hope for a happier afterlife and takes the Blacks from their sorrow and painful resentment for a while.

The church was very exciting. It took a long time for me to disengage myself from this excitement, and on the blindest, most visceral level, I never really have, and never will. There is no music like that, no drama of the saints rejoicing, the sinners moaning, the tambourines racing, and all those voices coming together and crying holy unto the Lord. ….I had never seen anything to equal the fire and excitement that sometimes, without warning, fill a church, causing the church…to “rock”…when the church and I were one, where people near me surrendered their pain and joy to me, and mine to theirs, and the cries of “Amen!” and “Allelujah” and “Yes, Lord!” and Praise His name!” and Preach it, brother… (pages 33-34)

With such an image, it is clear that Baldwin’s disillusion will eventually take him out the church and he clearly expresses it.:  Blacks had to divorce from all the prohibitions, crimes and hypocrisies of the Christian church; if the concept of God has any validity or any use, it should be only to make the Blacks larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time one got rid of Him. (page 47).

 

  • The clash between Christianity and the Nation of Islam

With the failure of Christianity to meet Blacks hope and expectation following emancipation, a new religious movement appeared in America: the Nation of Islam headed by Elijah Mohammad. The Nation of Islam stood out as a clearly cut alternative for the Blacks’ improvement. The aim of its leader was to draw the majority of, if not all, the Blacks to their cause. And the motto was also clear, to protect the most vulnerable people in the black American community, the women. “Protect your women”, that was the sound message Elijah Mohammad would send his black compatriots ( The Fire Next Time, page 77) The Nation of Islam was opposed to the kind of life Blacks were having in the street, marked with alcoholism and prostitution. Indeed, the Nation of Islam succeeded in getting many Blacks from alcohol and its most rational aftermath of criminality; it likewise succeeded in getting many women from prostitution. In Elijah’s palace, water and soft drink are the only admitted beverages; all women in the public had to protect their body from any sexual appetite; there exists among Elijah’s followers a true solidarity and mutual assistance. Those were what positive things Baldwin noticed from the Nation of Islam, which the church failed in achieving. Yet, above those three aspects, the Nation of Islam appeared as destructive as the church, for Blacks’ integration in America. When Baldwin, after accepting Elijah Mohammad’s invitation, was introduced to the latter’s house, the first impression was the same he had with the pastors, and with reference to their living standards compared to the people they were supposed to lead to prosperity. “I was frightened, because I had, in effect been summoned into a royal presence. I was frightened for another reason, too. I knew the tension in me between love and power, between pain and rage, and the curious, the grinding way I remained extended between these poles, perpetually attempting to choose the better rather than worse”(The Fire Next Time, page 60). As with the church pastors, there was an enormous gap between ElijahMohammad and his people from the Nation of Islam; and Baldwin immediately anticipated on the deity Elijah might represent in that community he was heading. Indeed, the appearance of Elijah in the room where Baldwin was led, and was made to wait, certified of the power he bore over his men and women. “Something came into the room with him (Elijah); his disciples’ joy at seeing him…” (The Fire Next Time, page 63) Knowing that Elijah lived in that palace with those mentioned disciples, one can clearly understand that he stood as an earthly god-like personality, whose simple appearance or presence meant more than privilege and benediction. Such domination on the basis of religion basis would necessarily be more disastrous than productive for Blacks’ integration. If today, Martin Luther King, Jr. is still commemorated in America and worldwide, it is due to the kind of philosophy and strategy he used, but most importantly the personality he showed. King did not set his own personality forward; he acted and was accessible to everybody, Blacks and Whites. Elijah seemed so perfect a human being to his men and women that nobody dare contradict him. Every word, every remark and comment coming from him, especially when he described the white man, was universal truth. Around the table he offered food to welcome Baldwin, and from the other corner of that room when women were sitting, only applauses and approbations almost spontaneously and unanimously followed each statement he made. “Whenever Elijah spoke, a kind of chorus arose from the table, saying ‘Yes, that’s right’. This began to set my teeth on edge” (The Fire Next Time, page 76). The worse with the Nation of Islam, which made it similar to the churches, their pastors and followers, was that, if they proclaimed any love, that was exclusive; for Elijah, a good Black, that is a good Muslim (because as he said it to Baldwin, the God in the church is White; the only God for the Blacks is a Black God, and He was to be seen only in the Nation Of Islam’s Temples), should never be seen with a white man. “And Elijah himself had a further, unnerving habit, which was to ricochet his questions and comments off someone else on their way to you. Now, turning to the man on his right, he began to speak of the white devils with whom I had last appeared on TV: what had they made him (me) feel?” (The Fire Next Time, page 73). Elijah announced that the Nation of Islam had been collecting money in order to buy and own a separate land for the Black. Now, how could it be possible for Blacks to survive in America, on a separate land, or even as a separate nation? Elijah seemed to have forgotten the experience with the Harlem Ghettos, when the American government encouraged the white to leave the inner city and build their houses in the suburbs; the result was the programmed death of so many Blacks from cholera and other contagious diseases. If set as a different community, there would always exist ready-made policies to have the Blacks perish. This separatist approach advocated by Elijah was undoubtedly suicidal to the Blacks. Fortunately that Baldwin, although unsatisfied with the practices in the church, did not approve of the philosophy of the Nation of Islam as advocated by Elijah Mohammad.

 

  1. Baldwin’s Conclusion and Warning

The overall message Baldwin tries to put across through The Fire Next Time is two-fold; first, Baldwin seeks to incite Black people, to rise from their conceitedness which they adopted because of their past status as slaves. He urged Blacks to consider themselves now as free people, full American citizens; they should no more see the Whites as their masters, but rather as their fellows. The American Declaration of independence reads in its preamble that All Men Are Created Equal. Although this assertion came just to get rid of the British imperial parliament, king and government, the fact is that the American Constitution in force ever since has not altered the assertion. Blacks should know that the many centuries of the practice of slavery has made the Whites dependent on the Blacks’ labor. It is normal that the change in the Blacks’ status be hard for the Whites to accept. It is then up to Blacks to fight make to true the unpaid for promissory note of the Constitution. Fighting here means working hard, integrating the whole American society despite the Whites’ resistance. But, for Baldwin, the only way to succeed that integration is love; continuing to love someone who hates you will certainly eventually take him to reconsider his attitude. If Blacks continued rejecting the Whites, this would simply reinforce Whites in their motives for rejecting and denying the Blacks the right of citizenship, as guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to the American Constitution

But Baldwin does not just call on the need of Blacks to love one another and accept their white compatriots. He goes further to warn both Blacks and Which of the danger awaiting them in case the two races refused to accept each other and live as one integrated nation. For this, Baldwin uses a biblical reference: “God gave Noah the rain bow sign; No more water, the fire next time” (page 106). The message of Baldwin is clear: when God once noticed that there was much disorder, misunderstanding and atrocious attitudes within His people on earth, He chose the most sage of people, Noah, and asked the latter to build a boat, then Noah got inside the boat with his good people, with a couple of every animal species before God sent water to destroy the world. As a matter of fact, when the water eased off, only Noah and the occupants of the boat survived. Here, Baldwin is warning: everybody knows that destruction through fire is more atrocious that through water; and next time, it is fire God will send to destroy those who are a handicap to community life. Such a sound message, although set in the American context, a hundred years after emancipation proclamation for Blacks, is still relevant to the America of today, but also to the whole world fraught  with killings, genocides, civil war, dictatorship plaguing millions of people, depriving them of their natural and legal rights.

 

Conclusion

The incisive essay The Fire Next Time depicts the growing severance between Christianity and the Nation of Islam. Baldwin argues the need to eradicate the oppression of Blacks through the joint efforts of both religions. Among all his works, The Fire Next Time holds a high literary stage because of the period and style, but also due to the address. Baldwin’s essay came as a review over a new form of collaboration between two races for a century: the Whites and the Blacks whose status have changed from master-slave into co-citizens. Indeed, such abrupt change in condition, in any way, is difficult to accept, especially by those to whom the former state was more beneficial. But the message of Baldwin is clear, Whites have to accept the new condition of the ex-slaves in the one hand, and the Blacks have to show love and acceptance to the Whites, the only condition to take the latter to change their mind, and for America to function as a homogenous nation.

Bibliography

Achode, C. S. (1993).  Appelle-moi nègre: crise et quête d’identité noire de l’Amérique a l’Afrique d’hier à demain. Centre National de Production  des Manuels scolaires, Porto-Novo.

Addison, C. Jr. (1971). Bondage, freedom and beyond: the prose of black Americans. Zenith Books, Double-day and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York.

Agence d’Information fédérale (1810). La constitution des Etats Unis d’Amérique. (Extrait), Washington D,C Press.

Allan, N. and Commeger, H. S. (1996).A Short History of the United States. Alfred A. Knoff, New York.

Amstrong, R. L. (1974). Hypotheses: Why? When? How? Delta Kappan Press,  Philadelphia, (Extract, Pges 213 – 214).

Baldwin, J., (1965), The Fire Next Time, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York

Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, Chicago.

Hurston, Z. N., (1937), Their Eyes Were Watching God, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago

[1] Article ‘The Hierarchy itself : Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the Sacrifice of Narrative Authority’, by Ryan Simmons

[2]Addison, C. Jr. (1971). Bondage, freedom and beyond: the prose of black Americans. Zenith Books, Double-day and Company, Inc., Garden City, New

 

 

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