| Due to my self-consciousness, I have never been a good speaker. This limits me very much, but I try to see it in a positive light. As far as I am concerned, "Shut mouth equals wide open ears". In short, I have proven to be an exceptional listener. Now I do have a friend, Sarah, who likes to talk. Fortunately, she has the gift of gab, so we make quite a formidable conversational pair. A while back, Sarah stumbled upon a group of topics that appealed to her, and she classified them under one broad heading that she baptised "Africology".
I was fortunate enough to "witness" one of her ruminations on the subject. "My friend," she said, "I hate to generalise, but have come to the realisation that it's almost impossible to get anyone's attention without making sweeping statements. So here's my general view of "my people.
“It's a favourite pastime of African scholars, students, and dreamers to imagine the potential that their continent and their people can aspire to, and to feel disillusioned at the obvious failure of their would-be heroes to achieve these dreams. "Where did Africa go wrong? What prevents our continent's people, with these rich natural and mineral resources, their brain power, varied culture and religion, and rich history from attaining the heights of glory that their ancestors once did?" -These are the thoughts that run through our heads as we watch yet another headline about a coup, an impending famine, a civil war or some other misfortune striking the continent. Day after day, we see more and more demonstrations of what people have come to view as the Westerner's efficiency and the African's mediocrity.
"Most of the times, the hopelessness of our situation leads us to believe that that we were powerless victims in the face of the evil machinations of another civilization, and that the effects of domination by that civilization have included the gradual destruction of our culture and our self worth. We enjoy reminiscing about the good old days: Remember, back when there were councils of elders? How about the congregations around beer pots, during which these most respected members of society would use their long straws to take turns sipping, ruminating all the while on the gems of wisdom that they had acquired in their rich fruitful lives? "In the past, I used to nominally say that all people were equal. That equality was abstract though, it wasn't a reality in my world. Now, with a new perspective, I could see that we all had equal potential. The ways in which we realized this potential were different. The resources that we had to make use of this potential were not the same. But, at the end of the day, it was all human potential. Not black potential or Caucasian potential.
"The little nuances of meanings that I had attached to certain words changed too. The word "primitive" stopped having negative connotations. It simply meant individuals who lived a life-style closer to nature, and in harmony with their environments. "Civilized" came to refer to what it had originally meant: city-dwelling individuals.
"Now, I have a confession to make. I may claim to be talking about "Africology", but these ideas can be applied to any community globally. I don't believe that there really exists a common African community. It has been convenient to conceive of one in order to support political and religious ideology, but the ties that supposedly bind Africans are not as concrete as we would like to believe. Yes, we are interconnected. In some ways the connection is subtle. In others, the historical bonds are too clear to deny. But I think that we will not feel justified in claiming equal potential with the rest of humanity until we are able to simultaneously see ourselves as individuals, and as members of a global community."
I think that this as good a point as any to conclude Sarah's little speech. Thanks to her, I had a lot to think about over the next few weeks. Admittedly, I found some resonance in her words because I could remember experiencing similar moments in my childhood. I could clearly remember those moments when it seemed that everything I believed had been based on a lie. Then there were also moments when life seemed to drop a key into my lap that proved to be the answer to all the unanswered questions that were troubling my mind.
Sarah, wherever you are, I wish you a Happy New Year. Continue to share your ideas with the people that you meet. The ones that you planted in our little community have already taken root continue to inspire us every day. "Considering the fact that I grew up in the city, and know next to nothing about my multi-cultural heritage, it may seem like I'm being sarcastic or displaying some so-called intellectual arrogance. In reality, though, I am only describing the thoughts that have gone through my own mind. It's all very well to talk about appreciating our past, and about the morals and values of our predecessors, but if we cannot connect these to our own individual selves, and our present reality, then it is as if we're merely describing a myth.
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The opportunity to learn from people from different walks of life has opened my eyes to the larger problems affecting us all.
I enjoy doing creative writing, poetry, and pieces on social issues. You can read some of my writing on my weblogs: KAHENDI'S BLOG, Ouagadougou's Weblog and Kahendi's Korner
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