It is these different aspects of life together that make up a social culture. And it is the culture which he inherits that gives a man his human dignity as well as his material prosperity. It teaches him his mental and moral values and makes him feel it worth while to work and fight for liberty.
But a culture has no meaning apart from the social organisation of life on which it is built. When the European comes to the Gikuyu country and robs the people of their land, he is taking away not only the livelihood, but the material symbol that holds family and tribe together. In doing this he gives one blow which cuts away the foundations from the hole Gikuyu life, social, moral and economic. When he explains, to his own satisfaction and after the most superficial glance at the issues involved, that he is doing this for the sake of the Africans, to “civilise” them, “teach them the disciplinary value of regular work”, and “give them the benefit of European progressive ideas”, he is adding insult to injury, and need expect to convince no one but himself.
There certainly are some progressive ideas among the Europeans. They include the ideas of material properity, of medicine, and hygiene, and literacy which enables people to take part in world culture. But so far the Europeans who visit Africa had not been conspicuously zealous in imparting these parts of their inheritance to the Africans, and seem to think that the only way to do it is by police discipline and armed force. They speak as if it was somehow beneficial to an African to work for them instead of for himself, and to make sure that he will receive this benefit they do their best to take away his land and leave him with no alternative. Along with his land they rob him of his government, condemn his religious ideas, and ignore his fundamental conceptions of justice and morals, all in the name of civilisation and progress.
If Africans were left in peace on their own lands, Europeans would have to offer them the benefits of white civilisation in real earnest before they could obtain the African labour which they want so much. They would have to offer the African a way of life which was really superior to the one his fathers lived before him, and a share in the prosperity given them by their command of science. They would have to let the African choose what parts of European culture could be beneficially transplanted, and how they could be adapted. He would probably not choose the gas bomb or the armed police force, but he might ask for some other things of which he does not get so much today. As it is, by driving him off his ancestral lands, the Europeans have robbed him of the material foundations of his culture, and reduced him to a state of serfdom incompatible with human happiness. The African is conditioned, by the cultural and social institutions of centuries, to a freedom of which European has little conception, and it is not in his nature to accept serfdom for ever. He realised that he must fight unceasingly for his own complete emancipation; for without this he is doomed to remain the prey of rival imperialism, which in very successive year will drive their fangs more deeply into his vitality and strength.
Facing MT. Kenya