The question of identity

The question of identity

Of the adages of the differing ages, the most vexing is the simple deed, behaviour, or virtue; courtesy: for it is quite hard to point out with clarity which one of the qualities it (courtesy) really is. What I know as fact is that it is most prevalent in those members of society who occupy the lower rungs of society, those ones who live below the poverty line.
These are the people that cling on to being courteous in spite of or despite the prevailing circumstances within which they find their squalid selves at any given point in time, for come the tides of good fortune; the elusive human virtue (quality, or, deed) disappears and in its place are found the more unsavoury alter ego: bad manners.

These present themselves not only in solo form but actually come along with their equally offensive cousins, among which one can find the two most prevalent forms: excuse and justification.
Courtesy needs not any of the aforementioned, for courtesy is in itself justified in deed, in behaviour, and in virtue, meaning that in its completeness becomes the definitive quality of that aspect of the human being that is termed as character in the absolute. A courteous man or woman is just that, an entity that needs not to be explained in terms of quality or worth. And I do not remember a courtesy visit ever needing explanation or reason for its undertaking.

Growing up in courteous surroundings where the rod was never spared for the sake of rights, there were clear lines of demarcation between the different members and people within the societies within which we lived.

There was just no confusion as to who was the younger and the elder, there was no mixing up of roles on the basis of gender or age, that is, the led knew who the leader was and none would dare infringe on the territory of the other like one sees in the modern-day society of present (or current) times where one sees men declaring themselves women and women declaring themselves as men.

It is a sick juxtaposed muddle that leaves the concerned confused as to who does what or is supposed to do when confronted with scenarios where live the many-faced individuals who simply put (not imposed), do not know who they really are; a definitive question whose most basic purpose is the determination as to the outcome of the question of individual identity.
Identity and its true understanding is necessary not only when one goes to apply for their documents related to one’s nationality at the home affairs offices, but identity serves the primal purpose of individual self-understanding that has a direct impact on the other members of society’s consideration, interaction and treatment of any given individual.
This means that we cannot easily understand each other if we present differing identities with each passing day; there has to be one constant identity with which we can be recognised and acknowledged by in the communities within which we live.

When the first seafaring settlers from the occidental Europe landed on the different shores of the oriental lands where they were to Christianise, colonise and to conquer the local peoples, they were met with courtesy; because the local communities and the leadership gullibly considered them poor pilgrimages or stragglers in need of help.

One can safely guess that the newcomers presented their ‘gifts’ (trinkets actually) as a demonstration of goodwill, and what the local did not know was that these presents were actually a two-faced affair; one meant to soften the sense of security on the part of the local and an insult to the intelligence of the local, that is, the gifts were meant to arouse the sense of fascination with the foreign object and its owner whilst in the same act blinding the local to the true intentions of the foreigner bearing galvanised metal and plastic beads.

The true identity of the foreigner could not be established until the foreigner began showing interest in the land of the local, volunteering to buy it and using force when the local did not relent to the suggestion of selling his land to him.

By then, it was too late as most of the land that previously belonged to the local had been taken away at the point of the barrel of a gun. The courteous behaviour of the local had actually been his downfall, his unmaking that led to the poverty and rampant disease that plague the previously oriental regions of the world where the European ever set foot in the guise of the saviour.
I personally find mutton unsavoury meat, not only due to its pungent smell that repels even the strongest of herbs, but I hate the meat because of the animal it comes from and the associated religious meanings (whether local or foreign).

I find lamb chops too tender a meat to really get any culinary sense or flavour out of. We deem ourselves various beasts, but a Bible-toting missionary of dubious origins managed to convert most of us into ‘lambs and sheep’ whilst in the same act stealing vast tracts of the continent from a people whose clans have among them crocodiles, lions, hippos, buffaloes, and leopards.
Conned into subservience by religious piety, the local became a docile entity worshipping an invisible god that could only be seen after death. Respect or courtesy for the ‘other’ is what actually got the continent of Africa where it is at this point in time; the other could form his little community where the local could enter only as the servant most of the time, never as an equal, but only as an understudy even in matters where the local’s level of understanding ran deeper than that of the foreigner.

Into the secrets of the mystique that drove the local religions that had sustained the local for millennia, the foreigner was led, and he wrote and noted, and devised ways to get around the sacred secrets that kept the people united: and divide and rule was born.

Most of the time, we declare our allegiance to the West in the form of religious piety and loyalty to various denominations of different sects from various religions of the east and the west. The local religions and the practices are often just frowned upon as pagan non common-sense practice, and out of respect the indigenous peoples limit their rituals and religious practices to the dark of the night and the hidden regions of their countries.

There is just no clear explanation why certain indigenous practices cannot be done in the light of the day or in the sight of all. The reasons may be many as to why such practices are limited only to those quarters where darkness and secrecy rule for often, the reply is simple; they are not meant for everyone’s eyes.
The truth could however prove to be contrary to this simple answer, that is, people have been shamed into hiding their indigenous religious practices for the sake of not being ostracised for following such ‘heathen’ practices.

The foreign practices presented themselves as the standard for rightful religious practice, and therefore, those that practice anything different are frowned upon as out of place. The African was not divided not only upon tribal lines as the usual belief carries, but the African was divided in the mind more than anywhere else.
With this split personality, it became hard for the African individual to contribute meaningfully to the progress of his given society.

It is often thought that the continent does not progress as it should due to divisions along ethnic or racial lines and ideological outlooks. These may be true, but the fact of the matter is that they are just a fraction of the whole picture, meaning that there are actually deeper underlying causes to the lack of progress on the continent, and top among them is the idea of the thought pattern most prevalent within any given individual resident within a community.

If there are differing thoughts on how to deal with issues at hand, this means that there is no sense of consensus and this leads to what is envisioned not being reached.
Divide and rule did not split the community at large, what divide and rule did was to inculcate a sense of indecision in the native, that is, the main question the local was stuck with became: do I follow the traditional way or the way of the foreigner?

The dilemma caused by the question led to a form of indecision that has plagued the continent and its citizens, contributing to a large extent to the underdevelopment of the continent. Instead of being ruthless about rooting out the effects of this double mentality, the African politician and citizen instead choose to comply with the demands of the terms and the conditions the former colonisers always impose when it comes to rooting out the double-mindedness that is feeding underdevelopment.
There is simply no way any plan can be decisively carried out if the minds involved in its execution are of the double nature sort more influenced by the fear of prospective loss of aid money than the real concerns on the ground.

The African politician would rather sell his or her people for the sake of aid money than to present the real concerns, in short, the political entity is eager to please the donor and to ignore the real concerns of the people that voted him or her into power.
Always with the cap in hand, the politician will go to those lands that stole from the land of his birth in the days of colonialism and oppression, often as the underdog that takes orders, as if one does not hold the power in the decision-making processes.

The vast swathes of land being sold to foreign companies under the guise of investment does not equal the expected amount of growth in ay of the lands where foreign investment takes the fore when it comes to driving economic development.
There is just no way that there can be any development where the terms and conditions are set by any entity other than the local one that is familiar with the prevailing circumstances and challenges.

Hampered to a large extent by the lack of will on the part of the local to address matters as they are, the foreign investor is left to run as he or she pleases, ignoring previous attempts to gain economic independence at the expense of the local who has little understanding of what is going on.
The brainwash comes in the form of associating former leaders with the docility that led to development. Many of them are known as men of peace, which is in itself a lie considering the scale of violence that was prevalent in the days when such leaders ruled over their lands and defended it from conquest.

Moshoeshoe is often associated with being a king of peace, and such a misconstrued perception has actually brainwashed the people into believing that they should be ripe candidates for exploitation by foreign forces that come bearing his message of peace.
Some of us are getting tired of the docile Moshoeshoe figure, we actually yearn to meet the Lepoqo that raided Ramonaheng’s herds, because getting tired are we of the false image of the African the west previously took advantage of that is now becoming the far-east’s favourite hangout where the misfits of their society are brought to train for the larger global markets.

Historical evidence proves that we are not docile, but out of respect for laws that protect the foreigner more than they do us, we end up giving in to situations that we shall surely regret in the future.

It does not help anyone to pretend that we are not conquered. It will go a long way if we stand up and realise that we are a captured state, and that we need to get out of these politically imposed chains.

Denial means that one does not agree with the presence or the occurrence of something even if all the evidence points to its existence. Many have been forced into silence and they cannot address matters related to an issue that is negatively affecting everyone around them.

The truth of the matter is that we have a biased foreign policy that expects the Basotho to behave cordially when it comes to dealing with the business travellers from the east, ignorant of the injustices such travellers mete on the general population they come across.

Loss of business, unequal opportunity, sanctions against local businesses, outright unacknowledgement, and bullying, the local is hushed into silence by governments whose interests are more in the appeasement of the donor than addressing the real concerns of the people.

One gets tired talking out of respect, begging for what is due to them, and smiling despite the pain inside, as is the quintessential image of the African begging for rights with a cap in hand. Always talking out of respect with figures whose manners show no respect for him, whose actions are unscrupulous; always looking at the continent and its resources as a whore begging to be raped.

By: Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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