June 20, 2010
By Wanaku

Traditional Leadership – Representation vs. Change. What to do?

Ntumfoyn – Fon’s Messenger?

I want to thank all who are generous with their time and knowledge/experiences invarious aspects of Kom tradition/culture. Especially those with privy to the right information and those of our elders who have made an extra effort to become IT-savvy enough to share their Kom-KnowHow in digital format and online. The subject of “NtumFoyn” seems to be in the spotlight (as do other subjects), with no exit in sight. Permit me to learn some more by thinking aloud and asking even more questions.

The rippling effects of change

Every generation comes face to face with new challenges that have to be overcome one way or the other.  Sometimes it is a question of survival, and more likely a question of what one can call “functional existence”.  The current discussions/questions/answers/exchanges on the subject of “NtumFoyn”, imho is one of those. There are several others. Infact the list could be endless – including various aspects of daily living from birth through life to death.  Let me explain.

Functional existence
By functional existence I mean that on a general scale humans exist in groups by default, and they will more likely gravitate towards social organization. “Man is a social animal”. So it is not strange that as a people, Kom citizens would be caught up in a situation where there are questions about the who/what/which/whom/where of the social entity called Kom. The situation is made more complex by quaking changes in the fabric of Kom internally and externally. Socio-economic, political and technological changes only add fuel to the fire. The question is: will Kom survive the changes and come out stronger, weaker or non-existent?

Effects of Change
Changes create stresses and pressures on different parts of any given structure. The Kom family can be compared to a “structure”. Without a deliberate effort to look (and see) around the bend (so to speak), some (or all) of these changes could spring surprises at this structure, with effects that would be more difficult to overcome in the long run, if nothing is done to preempt the said inevitable effects of change.

Need for Information – the “Right” information

In the current example discussion, it would seem (at least to me) that Kom citizens generally want to get the right information about various aspects of Kom tradition/culture. How they get this information (word of mouth, personally, third party, consumer of the written word, online …) is also important.

Questions: What are these channels of information? Who uses them? Do the suppliers of Kom tradition/culture services have access to these channels? Are they aware of the existence of these channels? Is there any deliberate coordination of and control of the flow of information and/or information distribution about Kom tradition/culture? Is there a need for such? Once Kom citizens have access to this information, whether they agree with the said information or not is another question. But it seems the main issue hinges on access to the right information about aspects of Kom tradition/culture that (might) directly affect the lives of Kom citizens inside and outside Kom.

After obtaining/getting/been supplied such information, it is now left for the citizen to decide what to do with it. Getting the wrong information in the first place would lead to questionable decisions by the citizen. Could this be avoided? If I am not mistaken, the current issue/discourse, falls into this class.

Effective demand for Services

With that in mind one can now ask the following questions (bear with me):
If Kom citizens consider their traditions/culture as an important part of their lives, does it mean that there is a demand by citizens for services from the (example) “Bureaus of Kom Tradition/Culture”? One would think that this would be the case. There is a (latent) demand for “services”. These so-called services are borne of the history and evolution of Kom tradition/culture, and are provided on demand or by default in given situations. From some of the anecdotal examples of citizens providing payment in kind (goats, chicken, salt, etc) for various ceremonies, events, initiations etc, it follows that there is “effective” demand for these services by the citizens.

A Kom citizen wants/desires a service, creating a demand; a service provider fulfills this demand; resources/goods are moved/transported/transferred from one place/person to the other; operation is completed; customer is satisfied; time passes; a new demand is created; service providers prepare for the next operation. This goes on and on in any society. Kom is not an exception. The real question is: what can/should/could Kom be doing to harness these latent activities that are here to stay, in a way that would be beneficial/satisfying to Kom citizens as a people who find themselves mostly in the geographical location called Kom and also in the diaspora on every continent of the world? That is a long, winding and challenging question/proposition. Is it?

Understanding the problems
Describing … articulating … a problem or situation in some opinions seems to be a cheaper way of beginning to solve the so called problem. Studying, researching about a problem situation gives one opportunities to have some insights that could guide towards solutions. Most complex problems/situations can be best solved/resolved by looking at the details – what some call ‘detailed analysis‘. Some have referred to this as looking at the ‘brutal facts’ – a sort of truth search. After which a synthesis of the relevant facts/points is used to craft a solution/resolution of the problem/situation. Is this applicable in our situation?

Service Providers of Kom Tradition/Culture Services
Now the next question is: given the changes that Kom society is undergoing, is there an equal effort by the providers of Kom tradition/culture services, to catch up with the times? In other words, vulgarizing the dissemination of the positive aspects of Kom tradition/culture by seeking ways to reach out to every son/daughter of Kom inside or outside of KomLand? This sounds like a daunting proposal given the need for resources to be able to accomplish such a wish/dream. But one might ask the question: is there a blueprint for such a proposal? Is there any strategic plan at a high level or at a grassroot level on how to connect Kom citizens who want to live a Kom-centric life irrespective of where they find themselves on the globe? Is this even necessary?

These questions might already have answers. They might be premature questions or just plain outlandish babblings. For now, they represent a reference point for one (at least me) to ask more questions and learn even more.

Sometimes it is not just about supplying a service. It is also about creating demand. If the audience/customers have no knowledge or information (the right one) about the said service, then what kind of demand will they have for such a service? A questionable demand, I’d say … and an ineffective demand at best. So the hope (considering the above) is that we all recognize what we have or don’t have (i.e. take stock of our Tradition/Culture assets and liabilities) and make the best out of our situation for the joy and benefit of all Kom citizens – inside Kom and in the diaspora. At that point everyone would say without any doubt that “Foyn nii saa ilaa ajung“,  as peace and harmony would reign on all the nine hills of Kom.

So-called “Government Services”

There is also the question about what could arise if the supply/demand of Kom tradition/culture services is mixed with the supply/demand of so-called “government services”. To the kmots (Kom wo/man in the streets) would this not be confusing? Receiving mixed signals about various aspects of daily living from various angles/points/sources of power? It is like having too many coaches for one team … or more cooks than one needs in the kitchen. Hopefully the rules of the many games that are played on (not with) the people could be made clearer, in order to give people a chance to not just “exist” but to also “function”. Moving the society forward requires an understanding of where it is at, and lowering one’s shoulder in the right place to push the structure (Kom) higher up on the food chain of a rapidly globalized world.

Please feel free to comment, question, discuss, answer, reply, share …  ideas, thoughts, information on this and similar subjects. Our goal is to help all of us adapt to a rapidly changing world without losing the best of our “komness”. Is there a word like that?


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