Cosmopolitanism is the engaging of cultural and literal life of the society and dialogue which is described by the Oxford dictionary as, “A discussion between two or more groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem” (OED). Whether one liked it or not, each society as one is a single community connected by everyone’s thoughts in the form of their differences, however there must be conversation, and acceptance to make a sense of great living as one. In Cosmopolitanism, Anthony Kwame Appiah draws much attention on the effects of dialogue and the issue of how expression and communication should occur in the society. For Appiah, Cosmopolitanism is in which he emphasized, “ starts with what is human is humanity” (Appiah 134). This is really showing that despite all the background noise and situations that distract us from the world views, we must understand to develop habits of that there was always someone before us in where we are now.
In the classic novel Things Fall Apart, there were distinct backgrounds and values shared based on everyone’s beliefs, however some were considerate and others were not so accepting. Everyone should not feel that there is ever one proper factor that makes a belief or value more acceptable and everyone is entitled to secure their own beliefs. We must distinguish the ideas behind Mr.Brown and Mr.Smith’s sought out values were important enough to both become universal. To effectively have communicated and shown there impact they were to come upon much diversity between all of the people in the society. One must understand the idea that through dialogue, that not everyone will be on the same side of agreement and discussion, however dialogue is morally engaging and focusing when societies work together as one to make a difference together, because at the end of the day everyone’s impact on society affects someone. Whether dialogue is shown in the society or not, it will show the strength or weakness between one’s character in being able to embrace and understand where everyone is coming from for the betterment of the society. Mr.Brown empathized to want and understand both sides, of the “divided line” however, Mr.Smith was one-sided and wasn’t willing to accept anything other then using it for his own benefit. Appiah’s idea of dialogue pertains even to the idea of shared identity, with many different interpretations of Mr.Brown who unifies ideas to understand the Igbo tribe opposed to Mr.Smith, who desecrated the society with his lack of proper communication.
When we hear dialogue, we first believe that it is just the mere reflection of expressing what only we may feel to be heard, rather than understanding that we need to listen to each other instead. However, if it is not closely related to our thoughts, we are done engaging in conversation. For example, an everyday idea is the simple thought of learning the specific material for that day; if one doesn’t use dialogue effectively neither the teacher will teach efficiently to help show what is important by teaching the students, nor will it help the students understand what is going on. In this example, dialogue is asking your teacher questions when you are unsure, and asking for their feedback and opinion to get tasks done properly, and advancing their knowing which will help them for their future. But Appiah claims in Chapter 6, “Imaginary Strangers”, that dialogue is brought upon through discussion, with strangers and how in a sense, we are all a stranger to one another. In the text Appiah claims, “But the great lesson of anthropology is that when the stranger is no longer imaginary, but real and present, sharing a human social life, you may like or dislike him, you may agree or disagree; but, if it is what you both want, you can make sense of each other in the end” (99). The stranger whom we portray as the differences of another person in which we don’t want to face, is “real and present” because we may want to agree or even disagree. However, in the end by understanding each other in where the other person is coming from with their thoughts, is a step closer to making sense of why we should be more empathetic in the beginning. He emphasizes its hard to empathize with someone or see an interest if we cannot see ourselves in them. Additionally, he brings upon the idea that to find at least some sense of similarity between a stranger so that you can have a reason to engage in conversation to spark dialogue between one another.
Appiah claims dialogue is when you are not trying to persuade whoever you may be in conversation with on any topic, not trying to get them on your side or trying to get them to do engage in something. In “Changing our Minds” Appiah states, “I don’t say that we can’t change minds, but the reasons we exchange in our conversations will seldom do much to persuade others who do not share our fundamental evaluative judgements already” (72). Conversation is just to get you to be used to another person. It is a way to get to know what other people are like. We are trying to understand each other and our values, knowing at the end of the conversation and dialogue, there is no reason to decide on who was right, however on making sure the agreement of dialogue allowed one to understand where the other is coming from. We need dialogue to build a sense of skill to connect everyone to each other, and spread our differences.
In Things Fall Apart, one of the missionaries, Mr.Brown, was successful because of his dialogue and the interpretations he placed in expressing his understanding of the society as one shared identity under many differences. Achebe claims, “ Whenever Mr. Brown went to that village he spent long hours with Akunna in his obi talking through an interpreter about religion” (179). Religion is an important part a person’s identity and Mr.Brown never took that part away from any person, and was fully engaging himself where it all came from. When Mr.Brown comes to the Igbo society he is patient and understanding and does not force his religion on others. When talking to Akunna neither of then succeeded in converting each other to their religion they were just choosing to learn more about their different beliefs. Mr. Brown also said for the religion of the clan, “he came to the conclusion that a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (Achebe, 181). The members of his church wanted to share their beliefs of the Igbo culture and possibly cause a little disturbance. Instead, Mr.Brown wanted peaceful relations and so he goes to discuss religious beliefs with Akunna the clan leader, so that they learn about each other’s faith and have respect for one another.
Additionally, for Mr.Brown to show he empathizes with them, his endeavor is not to spread Christianity but also make the society a better place for the all of the people, even the children by urging them to go to school. In relation to Cosmopolitanism, Mr.Brown respects and engages with the society through dialogue, to show that despite all the different world views the only way to deeply understand we must listen to one another. The only way we will properly advance our beliefs and values in this society, is through being able to take our already developed ideas and create new ones based on our “shared identity”. He has made some changes such as the building of the school and hospital, only for the positive aspect of making the community better for the economy by seeing what he thought the people in the society valued, not what his depiction was of what the culture should be, and showed respect to it. For example, when he builds the school, as I have mentioned earlier, his idea was not for his own success but for the children as he claims by telling the Igbo people, “that he urges the people to send their children to school because they are their future leaders and will need to know how to read and write” (Achebe, 181). He felt as if there should be no government involvement and that the people need to take control over their beliefs to grow stronger as a unit. Mr.Brown knows that it is important to them and that they need to urge themselves to stand up for what they belief in will make a difference for their society. This opportunity would mean so much for not only the present but for their future and not letting someone take over the power they can discover and have.
On the other hand, Mr.Smith was not so successful in his lack of dialogue reflecting importance for him and the way that everything would play out. Since the start of Mr.Smith taking over for Mr.Brown he demands his beliefs to be spread to the society almost instantaneously. Achebe claims Mr.Smith’s character and that he was a “different kind of man”. “He saw the world as a battlefield in which the children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness” (Achebe 184). This was part of a stereotype, in which no one tried to even understand the differences in culture and that, that tribe was seen as civilized for their action, however this was not the case. Mr.Smith depicted the society in portrayal of darkness that he was trying not to shed a new form of light on. Mr. Smith aims for Christianity to be spread, by breaking the people’s relationship with one another to get them to dislike each other and question their beliefs and worth. The traditions they have he can’t empathize with from his own ones and feels they should be changed as well. He never tries to understand where there beliefs, values, or traditions are coming from rather just feels as if everything they do is wrong and depicting how everything should be changed to what he beliefs is morally correct.
As a missionary, Reverend Smith becomes strict and harsh in many ways when for example, when Okeke his interpreter and the angry spirits had met together at Mr. Smith’s parsonage to come get him back he told his interpreter, “ Tell them to go away from here.This is the house of God and I will not live to see it desecrated” (Achebe, 191). Mr.Smith compared to Mr.Brown saw things as “black and white,” and black in this novel was seen as “evil” (Achebe, 184). Mr. Smith really never had the chance to try and understand there customs and ways and it is “foolish” because they don’t know him as he doesn’t know them, well enough. Mr.Smith becomes very prejudice when he only believes its his belief may be the only proper way of the society’s growth and accomplishments, when Mr.Brown leaves.
Overall, when reflecting on Mr.Brown and Mr.Smith’s experiences with the society, there is a vast difference between how dialogue is reflected with the both of them. By being very understanding and open with the beliefs and traditions of the Igbo society he allows himself to be open to have conversation with people to know where they are coming from. That is why by having open dialogue he can accept there differences and not influence change to his ways but add a mixture of everyone’s values and beliefs into one. Mr.Smith however, never did find a way to have any form of dialogue with people and just found all the ways that their shared beliefs and traditions were not similar to his and that he tried to make no sense of it. When one does not engage in dialogue in understanding someone else, it shows as a person whether they are trying to show division between a society or unification. Additionally, if a group of people are all living together society it is one society that is made up of shared identities that must work together and communicate for that society to prosper and build everyone up to live united as one.