The reality of what we are doing to one another is explosive. The secret content of our lives is terrifying. There is much to scream about. There are great pollulating lies and monsters running around in the seabed of our century. [ …]
Something is needed to wake us from the frightening depths of our moral sleep.
This essay is my endeavor to contribute a critical thought on Gidaland. I do so in hope this plagued land might be healed.
Before I begin may I humbly suggest you charmingly beg your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, sons, or daughters to allow you some time to be alone. And pour yourself a mug of tea or coffee, a glass of wine or, my favorite, cognac, and tuck yourself into bed, prop your head with fluffy pillows. Or recline your reading chair; push yourself comfortably into your sofa. Whichever one is your habit or desire. And surrender yourself to my thoughts, the thoughts of a man who recently reunited with his destiny. I promise you it will not take too long. You should tell your family this; it will help ensure they leave you alone and undisturbed for the time it will take to read. And let me say this beforehand. In this age where time to nurture the mind or the spirit is increasingly scarce, I thank you, and your family too, for allotting some of your precious time to read my essay.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that this essay benefited tremendously from numerous conversations with Òdodo, Gidaland’s foremost man of letters, regarding Gidaland’s tribulation in particular, the human condition in general. Moreover, his writings have profoundly affected me, and inspired and greatly informed this essay; specifically, his thoughtful essay, The Two Kinds of Persons.
I begin with notes on myself.
I am a man who recently achieved a self-transformation and thereby reunited myself with my destiny as indicated by my name.
My name, Jéjélayé, roughly translates: gentle, the life (live life gently). In our culture we believe a name suggests the innate nature of the bearer, and this nature will manifest in his or her earthly demeanor. Thus, implicit in my name is this: I was destined to be a happy-go-lucky, humble person. My earthly demeanor as the dictatorial ruler of Gidaland, an actor in the drama of global domination (popularly called, international politics) all these years clearly proves I had abandoned my destiny. But that is in the past, for, as I say, I have reunited with my destiny.
For some time, more so since my transformation, I have been intensely reflective. At no point in my life have I been so intellectually challenged. My pondering led to an itchy desire to offer my thoughts on the agonizing human condition in Gidaland, one result of which is this essay.
Although my name is Jéjélayé, They call me the “Sphinx.” Who are they? I use they as a collective designation for those who call themselves Gidaland’s intellectuals. Their self-imposed calling is to engage in social criticism. They accuse me of being a despot. They call me a Beast. They say I am immoral, ruthless, selfish, cunning, domineering . . . They say I am abusing my power by hindering the freedom of our people, their human rights, their dreams, causing them great suffering. They say I am mismanaging Gidaland’s affairs and finances, enriching my allies and myself in the process. They say I have engendered a society plagued with widespread corruption, economic mismanagement, political fraud, lawlessness . . . Nothing that happens in Gidaland misses their criticism. Being intellectuals, and having appointed themselves promoters of Freedom and public spiritedness, I suppose they have the right to present their thoughts on Gidaland’s socio-economic-political and ethical life.
I am not disputing their accusations. I am guilty of all they accuse me. I acknowledge they are doing the moral thing by denouncing me for my dictatorial leadership and deplorable deeds. What I disagree with is their identifying me as the cause of Gidaland’s plagued existence because what that essentially means is this: they are accusing me of being the clog in Gidaland’s wheels of progress. And in that respect, they are mistaken, grossly mistaken. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a critical mistake to think me an impediment to Gidaland’s progress. Why do I believe so?
The truth of the matter is I am a symptom of Gidaland’s social illness, not its cause. And, immoral I am not. I am a man of God. I admit I have not always allowed my sense of morality to inform my thoughts and influence my actions. It is true I am cunning and ruthless in my dealings with our people, be they civilians, or civic-minded members of the Military. How else is one to ensure obedience, and preserve one’s rule? How else is one to deal with opponents who refuse the riches one is willing to bestow on them? What better way to deal with them if not by crushing them? Cruelty becomes one’s most reliable ally; one is compelled to fully utilize it. Cruelty, will and caprice are indispensable traits of a despotic leader; without them he cannot survive. (And I should mention this: we often fail to point out, especially when denouncing despots, that we all have the innate capacity for those traits.) A despotic leader, by definition, must be cruel, he must be able to assert and execute his will and caprice in order to silence the opposition and to keep his people fearful. Our intellectuals should have pondered and realized this is what a despot does, what a despot is compelled to do to survive. They should have understood that, to maintain the domination of his people, instilling fear in them is indispensable to a despot. And what is a better way to instill fear in one’s people if not ruling willfully, capriciously, cruelly?
Gidaland’s intellectuals are highly educated, and well-informed. They comprise writers, social critics, lawyers, judges, university professors . . . Accordingly, one would think they are familiar with writings on the issue of despotism and despots, and realize that I, a despot, am able to rule Gidaland despotically because it is a despotic country, a jungle. (It has not always been so. I will explain what I mean shortly.) And because it is unthinkable they are not familiar with literature on despotism and despots, I must conclude they have opted to ignore such work. That would explain why they always espouse passionate criticisms that identify me as the cause of Gidaland’s plagued existence, which, essentially, amounts to shallow thinking, babbling, a fervent display of passion to “right the wrong” in Gidaland.
Besides identifying me as the cause of Gidaland’s problems and denouncing me for them, Gidaland’s intellectuals, and foreign critics of Africa, wrongly affirm these are what impede Africa’s development: corruption, tribalism, nepotism, military dictatorship, (assumed) lack of democracy, controlled-economies . . . That is simply not true. Besides military regimes, African countries have “democratic” governments. Where has it led us? It has led us backward not forward; we are regressing not progressing. And dare I say nepotism, corruption, controlled-economy are extant in many countries and governments all over the world, even in prosperous Europe and North America. . . .
So, Gidaland’s intellectuals are greatly mistaken. My rejoinder to their criticisms of me is this: Wake up! Revolutionize your thoughts! Start thinking profoundly! Why? Because your thoughts are shallow, no more than a passionate display of your sense of justice, no more than a showy display of your intellectual ability. What do I mean by “thinking profoundly”? It is time you realize I am not Gidaland’s fundamental enemy. It is time you realize I am not the clog in Gidaland’s wheels of progress. Nor are the factors that foreign critics of Africa affirm. I say to you, and your peers all over the world who have made African Affairs their area of focus: it is time all of you realize Gidaland’s fundamental enemy. Africa’s fundamental enemy is invisible but nonetheless real, like a deadly virus hidden deep within the body, slowly consuming it. It is time all of you realize Gidaland’s fundamental enemy; the intangible but nonetheless real enemy of its progress; the real clog in its wheels of progress; the non-material deadly virus consuming it is its historical reality. It has made a jungle of Gidaland; it explains its dog-eat-dog existence.
Gidaland’s historical reality and its role in making Gidaland a jungle of a society is the thought provoking issue Gidaland’s intellectuals and their peers all over the world should have raised, and be pondering rather than squandering their intellectual energy denouncing me, advocating my removal from Gidaland’s leadership, proclaiming it must be done “at all cost because historically despots have not been known to relinquish power without the ardent struggle of the people.” My dear critics seem not to comprehend Gidaland’s historical reality engendered its plagued existence. All they do is criticize me. They delight in arguing for my demise as the panacea for ending Gidaland’s suffering, as if all would be well if I were to abdicate leadership, and we were to institute a “democratic” government forthwith. . . .
Let me now discuss what I mean by Gidaland’s historical reality and how its jungle existence is explained by it.
Because it is fundamental to human existence I begin with the issue of worldview.
As Òdodo in our heady conversations and in his writings often refers to it, by worldview I mean the cosmogony-cosmology of a people, which Òdodo often calls a story. I prefer to call it a worldview; they are essentially the same. When Òdodo says a people is the Story it tells itself about Existence he means a people is essentially its worldview. That is, the story that people tell to explain the origin of the universe, to make sense of the world. I totally agree with him.
From the vantage point of today, we now know, should know, this: the worldview of a people is the root of that people’s culture. The worldview of a people is that which informs, influences and orders that people’s way of life---the visible social, economic, political philosophies, and ethics and religion of that society. The Way of Life is the visible superstructure, the worldview is the invisible substructure that holds and supports it, without which it will collapse. Here is a useful illustration:
Way of Life (visible)
Therefore, a worldview should also be understood as a psychological armor that enables a people to engage Existence, to live, to endure. It should be understood as a practical and cultural necessity that identifies and maintains a people as a cultural entity, informs and influences its existence, and from which it derives its unique culture and ethics for organizing its society, without which society is impossible.
From the vantage point of today we also now know, should know, this: the battle of worldviews is what wholly and truly explains human history to date. . . .
Human beings (a people) need a worldview so as to make sense of the world, to endure. The people of Gidaland are, of course, no exception to this. Therefore, we have indigenous worldview regarding how the world came to be, the nature of God, the relation of God to Man and His relationship with Man, the nature of Man, what the destiny of Man is, how he must live, the relationship of man to man, what constitutes the “good life” . . . It is our indigenous worldview that used to inform, influence and order our indigenous way of life that we derived from it.
In light of the foregoing idea of worldview I now turn to a discussion of its relevance to Gidaland’s historical reality and how its jungle existence is explained by it.
A jungle has its operative logic that informs, influences, and orders its existence. Willfulness, selfishness, cunningness, cruelty, caprice are prevailing traits in the jungle. They are the jungle’s operative traits, the behavioral foundation of its existence. Their prevalence exposes the precariousness of survival in the jungle. . . .
A country where despots and despotism thrives is a territory tantamount to a jungle. Thus, a system of overt and covert despotism caused and maintained by fear, insecurity and self-preservation, and an inclination for control reign supreme in such a country. Therefore, blaming a person in such a country as responsible for the jungle existence, as our intellectuals do me, betrays a lack of understanding of the workings of the jungle. . . .
Gidaland today is a jungle, although it has not always been so. The majority of those with whom, and those through whom, I rule Gidaland have jungle mentality---myself included, of course, but that was before my transformation. Their traits are those of the jungle. They are willful, selfish, cruel, cunning, corrupt and capricious. All are indispensable traits in our business of domination in the jungle territory, the dog-eat-dog, the Darwinian society Gidaland is, and in which our distressed people live, struggling daily to stay alive.
How did Gidaland become a jungle?
Gidaland is a society in transition. By transition I mean a period in which a society shifts from its indigenous worldview and the way of life derived from it to a foreign worldview and way of life. The transition could be willed from within the society itself or imposed by external agents. The indigenous societies of Africa, Asia, North America, South America, Australia and the South Seas are examples of societies whose ongoing transition was imposed by external agents/ factors---their so called discovery by Europe.
It is in a society’s transitional phase that the jungle comes into being, then flourishes and proliferates. . . .
For Gidaland, the transition occurred from one of a society founded on a harmonious, indigenous worldview---the “animistic”-magico-religious worldview---to the cacophonous one of today, in which the remains of our indigenous, “animistic” worldview exists alongside a trio of foreign worldviews: the Islamic, the Christian, the “rational-scientific.” The transition was not willed and induced by our people, but willed and imposed cunningly, brutally by the outside world. . . .
Gidaland became a jungle when the outside world “discovered” it. That is what I mean by Gidaland’s historical reality. Gidaland’s jungle existence today is the sad reality its contact with the outside world has made of it.
The outside world “discovered” Gidaland and set about supplanting our indigenous worldview from which we had derived our indigenous culture, and in accordance with which we had organized our indigenous way of life, which had sustained us for millennia. That effectively ended our erstwhile autonomous existence. It was a three-pronged attack. The Arabs told us their Islamic worldview, and, with the sharp edges of their swords grazing our throats, forcibly converted a multitude of our people to the Islamic faith. The Occidentals deemed us barbarian, idol worshippers; their “Christian missionaries” told us their Christian worldview and cunningly, brutally converted a multitude of our people to the Christian faith. Their secular counterparts, the “scientific explorers,” exploited, and continue to exploit our natural resources. Contrary to their claim, they did not introduce us to science and the scientific method; they introduced us to their “rational-scientific” worldview. (They did not introduce us to science because long before the Occidentals “discovered” us, our ancestors were science-literate and were master-practitioners of the Trial and Error process characteristic of the scientific method, the distinguishing characteristic of which is collecting data, analyzing it and deducing Knowledge from the process. That Africans were a millennium ago smelting iron in internal combustion furnaces to produce iron implements is one example that testifies to this. Many more examples abound if you care to investigate ancient civilizations in Africa.)
With the systematic inculcation of the Islamic, the Christian and the “rational-scientific” worldviews in our people, our indigenous worldview and way of life---our Lifeline---was forcibly displaced, tactlessly cut off and replaced with those of the foreign worldviews. They made Allah and Jesus Christ and Reason our new God. They disrobed us and attired us in caftans and turbans. Attired us in white robes and crucifixes. Attired us in suffocating suits and ties. They gave us new names. Koranic names. Biblical names. Named us after their names for the days of the week, astrological names: Sunday, Monday, Friday. They twisted our tongues with their language. They bended our minds, re-oriented our thought processes and thinking, our sense of justice, morality and fair play. Thus, we became cultural-amphibians. They turned us against one another. Brothers fought and conquered brothers. Sisters yelled and spat at sisters. Sons disobeyed mothers. Daughters disobeyed fathers. Mothers, the pillar of our existence, were deposed from their rightful place at the head of the family, accused of being temptresses, ordered to conceal themselves from neck to ankle, relegated to the back room, the kitchen, ordered to serve men thenceforth, and thus they invented Women. They replaced our indigenous shrines with mosques, and with churches. They replaced our oral tradition, whereby our customs, and our knowledge of the world were passed on from the old to the young, with their written tradition and through it taught their customs and knowledge of the world to us in “colleges.” They replaced our hands-on approach to acquiring skills, whereby our trades and crafts were taught by our masters to apprentices, with “technical schools” where they taught us their trades and crafts. They replaced our communal courtyards with member-only country clubs. They replaced our judicial system with the court of Sharia Law, the court of Confession and the court of “Rational” Law. (I recall Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart.) They hoarded and shipped to Europe innumerable of our pantheons and cultural artifacts which embody our indigenous worldview, tell our history and testify to our glorious ancient civilization. Many of them would later show up in museums in Europe and North America, and in the homes of many of their famous and wealthy people. (I recall Ben Okri’s poem, “Lament of the Images”, especially this stanza:
They took some images
And brought them across
The whitening seas
And stored them in
For later study
Of the African’s
Dark and impenetrable
They called them ‘Primitive objects’
And subjected them
To the milk
What theft! What sacrilege! What barbarity! . . .
Their cultural imperialism was merely a stage in their destruction of our indigenous existence, in their destruction of our life. In time, innumerable people were stolen, hoarded like lambs, shackled and shipped across the sea to nourish the so called new world.
And having been robbed of our spiritual essence, our indigenous civilization undermined, defeated, those of us left became demoralized. Our psyche maimed, we were no longer able to understand ourselves, and the new world in which we found ourselves.
With no indigenous worldview, everything is up for grabs. Such a society becomes a jungle where anything goes, where only the strong survive, where fear, greed, corruption, tribalism, nepotism, cruelty, domination are prevalent, where the worst in human beings is cultivated, nourished, flourished and manifested in its people’s demeanor, eventually enabling an outsider to objectively, innocently, say of them: “That is who they are”; “That is how they are.” This is the society Gidaland has become.
If Gidaland’s jungle existence is not transformed another despotic leader will surely follow me as many are waiting for their turn to dominate her for their own emotional pleasure and material gain. . . .
That is not surprising as a jungle society is most conducive to the creation and proliferation of jungle men. As a political leader, the jungle man embodies the worst in human beings. He is selfish, greedy, corrupt and insecure. He is averse to morality. He believes life is a struggle for existence; that only the strong survive. In his jungle, survival of the fittest mentality, the fittest man is the most powerful man, that is to say, the absolute ruler. His main preoccupation is self-preservation. Accordingly, although he is capable of moral choice, he must be amoral. Morality is not one of his codes of conduct. And because he is not moral, he is not civil. His interest is not to live in a civil society, or to foster one. He is content to exist in the jungle and is, therefore, compelled to ensure the preservation of the jungle. And that is most assured via sheer power. Unmitigated power is, therefore, essential to him. He thrives on it because he must be able to assert himself; he must be able to realize his will and caprice. He cannot concern himself with the progress of his society. So, like the beast in the jungle, he obeys his appetite. Whim, will, selfishness, indulgence, cunningness, and the use of force and absolute power are practical traits that define him and are indispensable to him. Tribalism, nepotism, bribery are useful means facilitating his endless quest at self-preservation through domination, strengthening and fostering his jungle existence. He, the jungle man, should be understood akin to the non philosophic man. . . .
I totally agree with Òdodo’s idea that societies today are inhabited by two kinds of men: the philosophic and the non philosophic. I also agree with him that the majority of men are of the non philosophic kind. Here we find man living an unexamined life. Emulation has become his norm. He follows in others’ footsteps. To be like others, to win favorable public opinion informs and influences his conduct. He does not bother to think profoundly about his life. He does not bother to reflect on his conduct and the adverse effect it might have had, might be having, on his society. Anyone who so reflects, he believes, is an idealist, which he is not because he “knows” that “things are the way they are, and one must take life as such.” He lusts after power and prestige, and will do anything to gain it. But that is not so with the philosophic man. . . .
Although the philosophic man is often in the minority, he is the true mover and shaker of events in the world. His philosophic nature makes him a perpetual thinker. He seeks Knowledge. He seeks to comprehend the world. He is the one conscious of possibilities others are unaware of; the one who see things others do not. He encourages others to partake of the philosophic life because he believes, rightly, it is important that all are knowledge seeking. A state of being that can be attained only by way of philosophy, which simply means keeping the Life of the Mind perpetually receptive to and engaged in thought. His, to be sure, is the noblest of endeavors. (What endeavor is nobler than the pursuit of Knowledge?) He is perpetually in love with humanity, which for him is not an abstract idea but a living reality made of flesh and blood, in need of spiritual and material nourishment, and imbued with the capacity for endless possibilities, divine abilities. So, he seeks to elevate humanity to its divine height. He uses, among others, oration, literature, music, film to affect humanity so that the world might be justly or more justly organized. . . .
Although now and then the philosophic man triumphantly challenges the prevailing power of his society, his steadfast tendency for knowledge seeking and his non-conformist methods of knowing counters prevalent mores and attitudes. And because he is often in the minority and usually not in a position of power and therefore defenseless against tyranny, he often falls prey to injustice. He is often intentionally charged and convicted of crimes and silenced so as to suppress his revolutionary fervor and thus neutralize its radiating influence on others. When the philosophic man is not murdered out-right, he is relentlessly harassed, jailed, ostracized, impoverished and goaded to lunacy. Those are some of the means of extinguishing his revolutionary fire of ideas; some of the means of undermining his message; some of the means of ending his wailing for personal and societal transformation, his wailing for Truth, Justice and Universal Love in the world. Philosophic man is concentrated energy, spawning a world of ideas. He cannot be annihilated. So, when he is murdered he lives on through his work. Accordingly, he is, rightly, called immortal.
The foregoing is my paraphrase (not without some plagiarism) of Òdodo’s idea that the philosophic and the non philosophic are the two kinds of persons living today, which he cogently discussed in his appropriately famous essay: The Two Kinds of Persons. His ingenuity is revealed and immortalized in that essay. I appreciate the essay because it provides a profound yardstick to measure human beings. The essay enabled me to know of Òdodo as an intellectual worthy of the name before he became an international affairs journalist, the correspondent who covers my office for the Ecumenical Society. The essay intensely affected me. My self-transformation was roused and propelled by it.
I was a non philosophic man, a jungle man. A critical understanding of Gidaland was not on my list of concerns. I usually did not reflect on trans-personal issues. When I did reflect, it was never out of societal concern as I was not concerned about the wellbeing of our people. It was always for personal reasons: to contrive the endless maneuverings needed to realize whatever objective I desired to achieve; to contrive ways of decreeing cunning political and harsh economic policies that are often forced on me by the lords of the world; to contrive ways of crushing dissidents, manufacturing or buying consent; to contrive ways of forever instilling fear. . . .
That is not surprising because in a jungle country, political power, especially when it is absolute, allows the leader to have a merchant mentality. The non philosophic leader is most likely to think of his country as a for-profit entity. Accordingly, he is most likely to conduct it as one conducts a business. He is most likely to become averse to morality. Selfishness, cunningness, cruelty are his indispensable traits. He deems his country’s wealth a fruit-filled cake. He consumes most of it with those comprising the custodians of the status quo, whose interest and preservation is his duty to maintain, and shares the rest among those in his inner circle whose allegiance is necessary for the preservation of his domination. That the majority of his people are denied their share of the national cake is not a concern of his. This is the psychology of a non philosophic man, the man with jungle mentality, the Darwinian man, the man I was before my transformation. . . .
Why am I now writing this essay? Why am I now an earnest crusader for the transformation of Gidaland?
The answer is simple. I am free of the spell of Evil that has long demonized me. I have reconciled myself with my destiny as indicated in my name.
What specifically explains my self-transformation (which I like to call change of heart and character)?
These two reasons are major:
I conquered death, and self-preservation:
By this I mean I made peace with death, and, consequently, self-preservation. It really was not difficult to do. As Òdodo often tells me in our conversations, no one can negate death. So, one has no choice but to live. Life is precious. It is in life that we can experience the manifold pleasures and pains of being alive. Therefore, one ought to appreciate life and live fully, and, ought to promote that which makes life meaningful not only for oneself but for others as well. It is crucial one comprehends this and its many connotations. It means one ought to promote Truth, Justice, Freedom, Knowledge, Love, brotherly love . . . If you see someone being abused you ought to do the best you can to stop it. If you meet someone sad you ought to give them comfort to the best of your ability. If you meet someone hungry and tired you ought to feed and give them rest to the best of your ability. You ought to promote love of Knowledge. You ought to strive to impart knowledge to the ignorant . . . heaven is an ideal to be realized here on earth. . . .
My friendship with Òdodo, his ideas and writings, and the world of ideas he introduced me to, and the philosophic fervor that had infused me upon reading his essay, The Two Kinds of Persons, intensified:
Consciously musing about one’s society, and the world in general, and studying what eminent men of letters have taught and written about the human condition best appeases philosophic fervor. Philosophic fervor usually manifests in one’s desire for Knowledge, for a deeper understanding of one’s society, for a critical understanding of the affairs of this world, for self-transformation . . .
Having overcome my evil tendency, I detested myself for my deplorable deeds all these years as Gidaland’s despotic ruler. Guilt relentlessly tormented me. I eventually sought solace in Literature---undoubtedly man’s most powerful ally in his earnest pondering upon Existence---and began to muse incessantly on Gidaland’s plight, on human existence.
Following a list Òdodo prepared for me, of the literature I have read so far I am most fascinated by that of Leo Tolstoy and Ben Okri. For someone who had not been concerned about Morality but who now sees its crucial importance to social organization, to human progress, the work of Tolstoy and Okri made me see the world in a different light, as it could be. As Òdodo often tells me in our conversations, I started thinking seriously and came to believe that heaven could exist right here on earth, that the realization of Universal Freedom here on earth is the ultimate goal.
Citing the moral crisis of his life, Tolstoy divided his life into four periods. The third and fourth periods perfectly describe mine. The third was an eighteen-year period from his marriage to his “spiritual birth,” during which he lived “a proper, honest” family life, “not yielding to vices castigated by public opinion” which characterized his second twenty year period “of vulgar licentiousness, of ambition-serving, vainglory and, chiefly, lust.” The fourth was a twenty-year period, in which he hoped to die, and from the vantage point of which he comprehended the significance of his life. He would alter nothing about his life, he said, except the “evil habits” he previously acquired.
As Tolstoy in his third and fourth periods, I am reborn in spirit, living a pious life, a life of vision for a just future for Gidaland, my main regret being my erstwhile evil deeds. I have mentally relinquished my despotic ways, my jungle mentality. My life is laid bare before me, its importance clear to me. I now know how I must live and what I must do henceforth. (My transformation is yet to manifest in concrete political action to transform Gidaland. But it soon will!)
Okri’s literature should be in the library of anyone who cares about the wellbeing of human beings. He engages in a passionate prayer for Truth, for Justice, for Knowledge, for Love, for brotherly love in the world, for human survival at this troubled juncture in human existence. His essay, “While the World Sleeps” speaks directly to my heart. I am like the character in that essay awoken from sleep as if by “Rilke’s armies of reality,” “woken by a nameless yearning, a feeling which if followed to its naked conclusion could change [his] life” […], but who “[…] avoided a self-confrontation.” Unlike the character, I wholeheartedly engaged in the necessary emotionally painful self-confrontation.
Lately, I often feel sad it took this long for my self-transformation to occur. Perhaps it was meant to be so. What is not at all sad is this: I am now truly alive for the first time in my life. The adage, an unexamined life is not worth living is one of the seemingly simple but profound thoughts there is. That I am a transformed man I cannot repeat enough. Devotion to the moral, to Truth, to Justice, to Knowledge, to Love, to brotherly love, all these have become my sole concern at this point in my life. I feel I have redeemed my life now that I am exercising my newfound conscience. I feel light, as the gravity of my life up to now has been lifted off my being. I am enjoying a wellness of being, a lightening of the spirit. I feel good about myself. My spirit is enlivened. It is the first time in my life that I feel fulfilled. And, these days I am almost driven to lunacy when I think about the senseless executions, jailing and harassments that philosophic men have suffered under my leadership. So regretful I am now. Whereas we should celebrate and utilize the best of their ideas for the development of Gidaland, for the wellbeing of our people, we plot and wrongly convict them of crimes. We hang them, we shoot them, we poison them, we bomb them, we jail them . . . If only I had been and thought the way I do now, no doubt I would have ruled justly and strived to help Gidaland realize its God-given potentials. I would have labored to revolutionize its jungle existence, create a truly civil society where our people can endeavor to realize their God-given potential. So, my self-imposed task for the rest of my life is to steadfastly struggle to institute in Gidaland a society grounded on morality, justice and freedom for all our people, both in principle and practice. If need be, I will die struggling to realize it!
Everything I have written about Gidaland regarding its jungle existence, and how we, its political leaders, treat it as a for-profit entity; how we unjustly persecute and silence our philosophic men, is not limited to Gidaland. You must comprehend that Gidaland is a prototype of all of our African countries; a particular case that accurately depicts the woeful situation of Africa today. No wonder we, political leaders in Africa, live lavishly while the majority of our people languish in poverty. No wonder many of our people have emigrated, scattered all over the world, human seeds seeking fertile lands, while those who remain are starving body and spirit. Our inducing fear in them has systematically undermined their spirit. (But that will soon change!) They have resorted to using churches and mosques as spiritual refuge from their miserable daily lives . . . As I have in disguise done many times, in wandering our streets, or going to our marketplaces, you will see them, our people. Their lackluster eyes looking about nervously, staring into space, their cheeks sunken, cheekbones overly emphasized. Fear and hunger have achieved what we want of them: to be politically irrelevant masses. Too weak to agitate for social change, too weak to think deeply, totally preoccupied with eking out their meager living, perpetually improvising to make up for all sorts of deficiencies in their material needs, they have become dormant, virtually non-existing members of our society. They have become wasted human resources, potential harbingers of our society’s transformation whose energy is being sapped. What devilish objective intellectual, material and spiritual deprivation cannot achieve? What devilish objective inducing fear cannot achieve? Such devilish injustice . . . You should see me now, fuming with such heated rage not even cognac can placate. . . .
Ah! . . . Enough said.
In this essay I have discussed the agonizing human condition in Gidaland, a prototype of all of African countries. I have argued that intellectuals all over the world---betraying their misguided, simplistic understanding of world affairs---have grossly misunderstood its cause. Their simplistic interpretation of Gidaland’s plight, of Africa’s plight, has resulted in their espousing erroneous recommendations and policies for transforming it. I have, therefore, argued for a mature understanding of it, which should be a philosophical one, as that would most enable a comprehension of it. That is what I have attempted in this essay. It is my hope it will spur further thought and critical debates.
If when you finish reading this essay you deem it nonsensical, naïve, abstract or idealistic, that would reveal a lack of knowledge of human beings and their existence, an inability to think about human beings in a fundamental way. The questions I would then ask of you are these: What essentially is a human being? How essentially is a society created? What makes a society endure? If you thoroughly engage these fundamental questions, you will begin to appreciate the basis of my thoughts, the central idea pulsing in this essay.
I would like to conclude with this statement:
I say this to thinking persons all over the world: the age of innocence, ignorance and apathy is over. You must strive to expose the lies of History. The time has long been overdue you realize that Gidaland today, Africa today, is a jungle brought into being by her historical experience: the agonizing drama of her existence since she was “discovered” by the outside world. I appeal to you all to be profound in your thinking; to be mindful of not letting your God-given ability for reasoning be influenced by conventional thoughts; to not give credence to popular thoughts and modes of thinking; to be brave and leave no stone unturned as you labor to uncover the deeply hidden truth about Existence. I appeal to you all to not be conventional thinkers whose thoughts are hastily baked and charmingly served on the plate of conventional popular opinions.
And I say this to leaders all over the world, whether military or civilian, whether out-rightly despotic or under the guise of “democracy”: We are deluding ourselves if we think our domination of Man’s life is cemented. The resiliency that characterizes the human spirit will frustrate our demonic ambition; its elasticity is infinitely extendable and will triumph in the end. Tomorrow is always to come. And with the coming of tomorrow comes hope. Man is mortal; Hope is not. . . .
And I say this to leaders in Africa specifically: Enough! Enough! Enough! It is time we dissent. We know Africa is on the violent stage of History, on which is unfolding a bloody drama of Existence. We know we are principal actors in its continuation. We must bravely struggle to stop it. Yes, it is a daunting task but we must bravely confront it. We must effect Africa’s emancipation, progress and glory. After much deliberation, this is what I know: The Salvational work will have to start in thought about Existence, leading to this knowledge:
A people is the indigenous Story it tells itself about Existence; its indigenous worldview is that Story.
A people’s indigenous worldview is a psychological armor enabling it to engage Existence.
A people’s indigenous worldview is the cultural wellspring out of which it derives, and which informs, influences and orders, its way of life.
A people’s indigenous worldview and way of life is to it what the root is to the tree: a lifeline. Africans became a tree without its root when their indigenous worldviews and ways of life were supplanted. We all know what happens to a tree sapped of nutrients from its root.
When a people’s indigenous worldview is supplanted what ultimately results is that its indigenous way of life, everything, falls apart; its society becomes a jungle.
The sure way out of the jungle is to first comprehend it is a jungle, then strive to comprehend how and why it came into being, and comprehend that a new worldview is needed, being mindful that the new worldview must necessarily take into account the old worldview, and make meaningful the ongoing suffering of the majority of our people.
Our philosophic persons---poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, musicians, painters, sculptors---are, collectively, our Storytellers, our “Mythmakers,” our Keepers of the Flame warming our hearts, reminding us of what must not be forgotten: Justice, Freedom, Character, Equality, Togetherness, Unity, Progress, Knowledge, Love, brotherly love . . . They are indispensable to the Cultural Rebirth we so crucially need, which is what I have referred to as the Salvational work needed. It is they who are most receptive to Thought, which they strive, often under daunting circumstances, to convey to us in their work.
We have long been looking elsewhere, running helter-skelter seeking salvation from our problems. I assure you we need not do this because the Salvation we seek elsewhere is right here at home. (I recall this Yorùbá proverb: Ohun tí à nwá ní Sókótó wà ní àpò sòkòtò---What we are seeking in a far away land is all along in our pockets.) It is not surprising we are looking elsewhere for Salvation. As Okri writes in his essay, “Redreaming the World”:
“The oppressed […] often think of their victors as their standard of aspiration. Lack of historical confidence leads them into this bifurcation of thinking. They have not as a people learnt how to snatch historical confidence from the most unlikely places, from the fact that they are still here on this planet, inhabiting some sort of space, that they often survived slavery and all manner of outrages, drought, famine, dictatorships, bad governments, bitter wars, mass imprisonments and other permutations of human viciousness […].”
We must comprehend our Salvation is right here at home. Yes, the Salvational work is a daunting task. But undertake it we must! We must be brave, and strive to achieve it. And to be surely prepared for it we need to realize this is requisite: we ourselves, each and every one of us, need to effect self-transformation, a spiritual rebirth. Without such a rebirth we will remain deaf to the Message of our philosophic persons; we will remain oblivious to our role in perpetuating our jungle existence, the devilish role we play in allowing others to divide, conquer and rule us and use us to dominate our people, our resources; we will continue to lack vision. Without vision there is no true emancipation and progress. I pray we not perish for lack of vision. That I achieve such a rebirth is testament that all can do it too.
Viva philosophic persons everywhere!
I rest my case. And I thank you so much for reading my thoughts.