[HR][/HR]Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam) Mboneko Munyaga 20 October 2011 [HR][/HR]Tanzanians could be a mosaic of more than one hundred and twenty tribes but there is something that sets them apart as a people to be distinctly differentiated from the rest of their neighbours who sometimes boast bigger and ethnically stronger bonds of their narrower communities. The people are definitely very different from north to south and west to east of the country but a common cultural thread bonds them together in a unique "Tanzanianness," difficult to find in many parts of the world, including the older democracies. There has been so much debate as to what makes Tanzania unique as a nation. But unique to the country is the "joke culture," which made the Wasukuma and Wanyamwezi the joke "kin" of the Wazaramo on the coast, more than 1,000 kilometres away. How the culture evolved is not clear but is a very strong tradition, which outsiders may find hard to understand or even tolerate. The Luo on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria and the Haya on the western end of the lake are also joke kin. In the absence of a blood relative,the joke kin filled that role and was traditionally duty bound to ensure that no harm comes to his guest. The role played by Kiswahili as a lingua franca was also very important in evolving a common culture, defined often as the sum total of the way the people live. But even with that foundation, the efforts of Mwalimu Nyerere to form a nation-state in which all the people were brothers and sisters "ndugu" in Kiswahili, played a very important role in evolving a common culture. In the traditional sense, it was easy to relate to a brother or sister as someone you shared blood with. In turn, it mattered little whether he or she subscribed to a different faith, had different skin pigmentation or was more blessed in material wealth. In traditional African societies, such differences between blood relations were irrelevant. Culture also takes root where a particular society shares common values and aspirations and resonates with similar hope and spirit. All that has changed now and not so surprising, many people, especially of the older generation find themselves kind of lost in the modern maze culture dynamics brought about by increasing cultural infusion than diffusion as a result of the internet and the new social media. The changed underlying economic philosophy and attendant social attitudes is also another reason. While it is true that culture is never static by a perpetually dynamic process, there is always a moment of "culture shock," which is sometimes hard to relate to. "If you want to earn the wrath of your neighbour today, then reprimand their children as was customary in our times," many older people are commonly heard saying today. When they grew up, bringing up children in accordance with societal norms of propriety was a communal responsibility. All parents then knew that an elder reprimanded a child in the child's own best interests. With good reason, it is not so today where pervasion and abuse have become commonplace. Whereas Tanzania has never had a national dress code, but the people generally feel unacceptable invasion to their sense of decency by the wave of wearing half waist trousers, which has sadly caught up with girls also who wear half waist skirts apart from the miniskirts which have long been endemic. No society is one hundred percent homogeneous culturally but many people agree that it is important to have acceptable norms of behaviour that would cut across tribal, race and religious differences to project what is distinctly a Tanzanian way of life. Dr Emmanuel Mgonja says the country suffers from "culture trauma" because of a lack of leadership to galvanise the people. "There is no longer that genuine feeling for the common man similar to what the people felt under Mwalimu Nyerere. People are not comfortable. There is grumbling from all corners of society. It is impossible to have common values under such circumstances," he says. Mwalimu Nyerere, he claimed, had a group of elders whom he consulted from time to time for national and cultural cohesion. The elders today are only there to advance personal interests and not to serve the society. It is no longer the practice, he says, for the president to talk to several groups of people in society such as the youth, women and even members of the armed forces. However, it is not all gloom and doom. It is possible, he says, to recoup the nation's pride for common values and culture if the head of state, upped his love for the people. In finding a solution to the problem, he says, people should not so much as lament about what is happening but embark on genuine soul search as to what went wrong. Only then, he says, can society come up with solutions to what is a very serious threat to national unity. Pastor Imelder Sanga of the Seventh Day International Ministry says the question of erosion of cultural values is a result of the attack on the family as the nucleus unit of social cohesion in society. Because of economic hardships, she says, families have been extremely disrupted and no longer serve as the bastions of the spiritual life of a person, without which there can be no cultural values to speak of. In a way, she says, religious leaders like herself are largely to blame for the erosion of cultural values as they have not been able to inculcate in their followers, the supreme gift of love for one another. Without love for one another, she says, people cannot even love and fear God, whom they do not see. That Tanzania has many religions and denominations, she says, is even better for society as people are free to belong to religious affiliation of their free choice and on their own volition without intimidation or the use of force. All religions, she says, preach love for one another and the fear of God. If there is a religion that preaches to the contrary, then it is not a religion from God but an agency of the Devil, for he is the father of all evil. She suggests for initiatives to form a national inter- faith council for religious leaders to discuss seriously the dangers society faced and how best to steer their followers in the best direction and interests of society. Currently, she says, some religions have turned into mere businesses and that is why families cannot pray together starting at home and in places of worship. "I can assure you, without families acting strongly as the basic unit of society, there can be no end to all the undesirable things we see in our midst," she said. Her words were echoed by retired Game Warden, Mr Raphael Simon Kambanga who said parents were largely to blame for the cultural degeneration in society. "When we gained independence, we also left the children independent and hoped that they would somehow be like us. We were wrong," he says. Mr Kambanga says to regain the lost glory of African cultural values, society needs to go back to the traditional way of life and not to blame everything on globalisation. To do so, he says, is tantamount to admitting that we have failed to survive and it will only be a matter of time before there shall be Africans in the world any more. Pastor Sanga said mothers were both the problem and the solution. If you see well behaved children, it is most likely there is a very strong woman behind them. "But some of us are actually the problem. With each passing day we hurl insults at our children using words that cannot be spoken," she said. Mothers, she said, cursed their children almost on a daily basis and "you cannot have a nation of cursed and blessed people at the same time," she emphasised.