Communal duties have become a thing of the past

Our society has moved on and has adopted all western values. Or is it a situation where we have partly remained traditional and partly a confused society? What has happened to our traditional communal character? We have become so westernised that we are no longer bothered by anything happening away from our immediate families. This past two weeks I witnessed activities that left me outright confused. I still have no right explanation for these. In the villages where I grew up, social cohesion amongst the people was part of our being. People shared all the emerging chores and duties. This was more pronounced particularly in times of bereavement and weddings where the whole family clan and the village had a role to play. These roles and duties included sharing the costs of funerals and weddings, and this included each member of the family, clan and to some extent the whole village. In case of death, once such was announced, the entire village would gather at the homestead of the family of the departed. This was during the days when we had no mortuaries in our villages, and the funeral would take place immediately. As part of the obligation, relatives and clan members would bring grain and other food stuffs to cater for those who would be engaged in different chores at the bereaved family home. This same response was also extended to weddings as the family would contribute towards the feast. In each of these two ceremonies, it was a given that all family members and the clan were duty bound to somehow assist. For the bereaved, these duties included grave digging, providing firewood, and preparation of the homestead and all the foodstuffs. Both funerals and weddings were not expensive and families never had to worry about the financial strains endured in the modern era. But now things have changed, and with our society becoming part of the so-called global village, we are witnessing a complete change in the involvement of people and relatives. In the days where there were no mortuaries as indicated earlier, the expenses related to death were generally minimal. With the introduction of the service, funerals have become highly costly. It is not cheap to keep a corpse in the mortuary and the cost of coffins/caskets are just high. What is even more costly is the catering during the time leading to the actual funeral. I hear Kgosi Kgari III of Bakwena once tried to put control over this. The expenses are normally the responsibility of the immediate family members. It is sad that all expectations are that one family must outclass another, and this doesn’t come cheap. What is even becoming emotionally burdensome is that even the insurance industries have joined in the fray with somewhat curious funeral covers that enhance the competition. We have actually been drawn into the business of thinking of death and not old age safety networks. People would rather take a funeral cover than a health plan. Traditional burial societies that were started by tribesman and women at the height of the migrant labour system away from home have also died a slow death. The said communal responsibilities have become a thing of the past and the extended family and village moral fibre is dead. We have reached a level where we even don’t attend funerals that are supposedly not well-endowed (maso a sa nonang).Ceremonies have become the responsibility of the affected families while the rest wait at a distance for the final day where there is attendant food. We have copied the ways of the west but we are not doing it right, but we have also abandoned our own ways. So, in essence, we are a confused lot. We are neither traditional nor a western people. We are just a confused and lost lot!