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Culture is fluid and customs change

By unknown | Jan 29, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Your editorial titled Yengeni cleansing ceremony raises interesting questions.

Your editorial titled Yengeni cleansing ceremony raises interesting questions.

Leaving the SPCA aside for the moment, who then is responsible for deciding which traditions and cultures are good or bad?

Should this process of evaluating a particular practice always be left to the members of that cultural community or are people who find themselves outside of that community also allowed to express opinions about such practices? Culture is a fluid thing and customs change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Cultures also interact in the modern world, for better or for worse.

In the 1850s the Americans of the south considered it their culture to keep slaves, and resented the attempts by the Americans of the north to change their traditional ways, and so there was a civil war to decide the issue.

According to the logic of your editorial, the Americans of the north would have been wrong even to express an opinion about the matter, let alone start a civil war. Should the evaluation of a particular culture's practices always come from inside the culture?

I was once present at such a ceremony in Transkei. It took a good deal of prodding before the "beast" bellowed. No doubt the "beast" suffered. The tradition was upheld. Should we not try to minimise suffering wherever we can, if only by raising a question?

JW van der Riet Johannesburg


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