WHEN IS OSTRACISM GOOD?
Any society or religion that labels some of her citizens as untouchables or descendants of untouchables is evil. Did God create some of us as untouchables or did human beings with evil intentions designate other humans as untouchables? Any God that will designate some of His/Her creation as untouchables is not a real God. I am glad that some societies are realizing their folly and accommodating every human under one human umbrella. Despite legislation banning such designation of fellow human beings as inferior, the practice continues subterraneanly.
In Igboland, there are individuals designated as Osus, which is the equivalent of untouchables in other cultures. These individuals to escape being lynched by their primitive communities, on account of probably false accusations, seek the protection of God by moving into a shrine and establishing residence there. You would expect the accusers to storm the shrine, seize the miscreants, and administer justice. But none of that happened. Instead, the refuge seekers are ostracized by primitive Igbo society. If they are really guilty, one would expect God to administer His/Her punishment through death, disease, or infirmity. None of that happened either. The guilty verdict is usually the product of soothsaying by corrupt priests who are amenable to financial and material inducements. In a just and egalitarian society, after a lapse of time, one would expect the ostracized individuals to be readmitted into the larger society because God obviously did not judge them guilty. Generations after generations, they are alive and thriving, so they are innocent in God’s eye.
Humans by maintaining a guilty verdict despite God’s innocent verdict are arrogating to themselves the role of God. Is there a silver lining to the injustice? Yes, the Osus were the first Igbos to embrace Western Education and prospered long before their “free” brethren. Any Igbo person complaining about hatism should first join the fight to eliminate the Osu Caste System completely in Igboland. It is ironic that the clergy will not approve the marriage of their relatives to Osu. Maybe, there is also an Osu God and a free God that are at loggerheads or may be Adam or Eve was Osu?
Ostracism is good when it is applied across classes, is reversible, not based on birth, and is used to force a change of behavior inimical to the larger society. This type of ostracism has no religious implication and does not change your class from a physician to a night soil man! An example is an act of sabotage or consorting with the enemy by a member of a society under siege by external enemies. Humans are a gregarious bunch and being shunned by neighbors, friends, relatives, and the entire community is bound to have a chilling effect on any individual. This is better than lynching the transgressors and no priests or soothsayers are involved. A guilty verdict is given after all evidence is presented and the accused is given the opportunity of defending her/himself. If you do not like the ostracism, you can atone for your transgressions, change course and be admitted into the larger society.