Where are we, who are we?

Where are we, who are we?

Yesterday, after a very long and rewarding hike up one of the slopes of a table plateau, I and my hiking partners decided we should cap the day at one of the hotels.
And sitting in one of the private bars over drinks to cool off and recap the events of the day, our session of camaraderie was rudely interrupted by this visibly inebriated senior citizen who decided in his drunk as a raccoon state of mind that he would shout for his order of drinks, and to interrupt our private session in a “three or four” star hotel (don’t exactly care how many stars the hotel bears) with misdirected questions on who we were.

I guess the colonised old man thought we looked out of place in our hiking boots, shorts, dirty socks and dishevelled appearance that were the result of a whole day hiking in the summer heat with full backpacks on our shoulders, heavy field glasses around our necks, walking-sticks in our hands, novice hikers holding on to the safety belts because their new legs were exhausted from the climb up the steep mountainside’s rugged tracks and treacherous rocky goat paths on the ascent to the flat summit.
I guess that in our hiking shorts and sweaty shirts we looked out of place in comparison to his drunk self covered in freshly ironed double-mercerized company golf shirt, painted violet mirror-shine loafers, starched chinos, and designer eye-glasses.

But we were not out of place because we had the money to pay the bill and to leave the barman with a generous tip.
We walked out of there on our two legs, he was carried out of there because the gin and the tonic he was guzzling had somehow dissolved the synovial fluids in his knees, rendering him incapable of executing the simple act of walking and forcing him to be walked to his car.

I was not impressed by this pitiable old figure, who as he had earlier slurred, attended university somewhere “overseas.” That he had been overseas to get some masters degree in some field is none of my business; it is the business of his lonely wife, advantaged children, and spoilt grandchildren.  And that he chooses to call his village “People’s Republic” don’t shine no fool’s teeth in my books: what disgusts me is listening to those old fool declarations those Africans that “have been to” seem to stutter in machine gun staccatos with the rapidity of modern-day gatling gun salvoes.

I find these fusillades of I-turkey-think-I-am-a-peacock worse than the scratch of a pin across glass irritating to my ears, because they are as impotent as listening to a eunuch boast about his exploits in the mistress’s quarters.  The boasting that one has such and such a high degree in some ‘hallowed’ field of study without the results is the same as firing a blank gun into the path of an advancing buffalo stampede; it absolutely is useless, and does not evoke an iota of admiration from my observant self.

You see, I have this old story repeated a million times, “ . . . he he he! I went to some private school, and I can speak so many foreign tongues . . . I am a chief executive in this company because of my ‘prestigious’ qualifications from such and such overseas university . . . ”
I frankly think these statements by my mates from universities across the seas or borders are hogwash, because I see not the results; all I hear are stilted empty boasts: for how smart are you in reality if the people whose sweat and toil got you the education and the position live in squalor whilst you bask in the glory?
In a tailor-cut suit or loincloth, the fool behaves the same, lives the same, because he cannot tell the difference between a banquet hall and a shebeen. This is what I saw when the deplorable old figure spoke, and it made me wonder: where are we, who are we?

These two questions seem to have never been posed in our communities in the past 51 years of independence, rather; the preoccupation has been to flaunt our qualifications in the faces of those that did not go to the institutions we attended. In short, the boasting has always been; I know more about the ways, and the countries, and the manners of former colonisers than your poor uneducated self.

The sad part is that the boaster and the boasted upon are often from the same village, are from the same clan, and the same tribe, or, that both share the same politics and religious points of affiliation. Where are we, who are we?
Those old black and white pictures of kings, priests, teachers, and non-believers bear the same countenance; they are the portraits of natives in ill-fitting spats, tight pantaloons, funny caps, and weather-beaten western hats.

They are pictures of sheep in wolf hides, of slaves in chains they themselves often made and put on around their necks.
Brands and labels made at below cheap labour rates still go on to be manufactured in sweat-shops posing as industries, and natives still go on to lord over other natives just because they can speak the coloniser’s tongue with the accent of the coloniser (like the old fool spoke to me, even having the audacity of addressing me as ‘jack’).

I do not believe in assuming the manners and the roles of others just so that I can appear to be like them. The old way of doing things on the basis of competition to please the master, and not on the new way of basing existence on mutual trust and understanding with the concomitant virtues of grace and compassion so that all benefit, should be done away with.
Don’t come here to flash your fancy watches encrusted with the diamonds stolen from the lands of our forefathers if you do not want me to write about you, and do not try to pull rank by flashing fancy degrees from stilted universities; these things mean nothing, because they only serve he or she that believes in their power without realising that they are actually exposing their behinds by brandishing these guillotines and chains of the “master”.

Some of us have come to realise that the majestic Africa our forefathers once knew in ancient times, was actually brought down to the status of beggarhood by its people who were willing to slave, and to play the knave with their people. Africa did not just wake up poor one day, what happened is that there were complicit fools willing to sell their peoples and their lands for a dime just so they could have the appearance of being better than they were in real terms.

Lands are gone and the little left behind is being fought over because someone is willing to sell their legacy to the next high bidder.
Meanwhile, the people robbed by time and history willingly plunge into the maws of the frenzied sharks that have been traversing the lands and the oceans even before Christopher Columbus sprouted his first line of below-the-navel moustache.

The grabbing is still the same old one, it is just that this time, the grabbers have become more suave in their skulduggery. And so the numskull believes that nothing is wrong with the one-sided deal presented, but the truth of the matter is that a leopard never changes or loses the spots that mark its hide. By adopting the ways of people that benefit more from the resources “industries” churn out, we are in all essences being complacent kine that willingly take the yoke that singes the neck.
Mere oxen we are because more often than less, we carry the brunt of the labour but receive only a miniscule fraction of the rewards, as oxen that carry the maize from the fields are paid only in dry stalks.

One should teach one, and the next should pass such sacred knowledge to the next, an act which the old wise man that acts as our guide does by telling us the names of the stars in the sky as our forefathers knew them in our mother tongue, imparting such sacred knowledge as the names of the animals, creatures, herbs, the trees, and the other plant species that grow on the slopes.

This is the kind of knowledge we need, not the boasting we are often forced to listen to.
When the attacks on “foreigners” erupted in the past weeks, it was not the result of the concerns the attackers raised that those poor émigrés were attacked.
It was not the fact that they took jobs or prostituted the women; it was just the symptoms of colonially taught self-hatred coming to the surface.
We have heard of vast Malian empires of Mansa Musa, we have heard of Zimbabwe’s Mwenemutapa, and what made these empires great is that the products of their institutions of higher learning always worked together towards the betterment of the citizenry of the land and the surrounding territories.

Come the colonist, the division of the once peaceful tribes that had lived side-by-side for centuries began and the mistrust between people based on tribe and ethnicity would go on to this day. Instead of African individuals feeling that their education was for the improvement of the communities or the lands they grew up in, education became a pride, the sole possession of the individual that had earned it in the classrooms of faraway colleges and universities.

Individuals with a bit of education were guaranteed of a better position in the workplace, were granted better seats in councils and decision-making bodies.
The “educated” became the higher class, the “upper-class” of their communities because they could quote odd passages from unknown books; they thus went on quoting this irrelevant knowledge whilst their continent regressed.

After these many years post-independence, the continent is in depression, there are endless wars leading to mass migrations of poor people from certain ethnic groups, and the same basic tools of division as used by the colonist, that is, religion, politics, and minerals, still go on to be used to divide the poor African masses.
The “educated” still go on to give their stilted opinions and ‘learned’ observations on the radio and the TV and the mass-media pages and blogs.
Where we are now demands not the use of the irrelevant western tools of economic emancipation, because their designers know nothing of the basic conditions of the people they claim to serve or are aimed at.

They would have no idea how to talk to a herdboy because they have never herded cattle or goats themselves, and they would never know how that herdboy relates to the company executive who is a pliable tool in their hand but is an ineffective community member because he or she now spends most of their time in the hotel private bar and club, instead of engaging in constructive community dialogues as the letters he or she got from that university of far overseas claims them to be.

Book knowledge without relevant results in the seen world is as useless as a diamond on display behind a bullet-proof glass pane.
It is good to see the certificate on the wall, but if the owner thereof is churning no visible results in the world of the walking and the living, then that certificate is nothing but a piece of paper in an expensive frame on the wall.

What we are in reality is made of the simple virtues of grace and compassion, mutual trust and understanding, empathy and sharing, love and smiles.
The new trend of looking at each other through dark glasses so that the expressions of the eyes cannot be seen is not what we are.

We could progress to the future if only we understood that unity is the way to the future; stabbing each other in the back to get to “that position” of power will help none of us at all.
Attacking each other on the basis of tribe and education will only leave us drunk as the old man in the hotel’s private bar, with nothing to show tomorrow; except a heavy hangover that needs more booze to cure.

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