THE RIGHT HEARTS FOR OUR HISTORY
by ‘Deji Kuye (TER)
The heart with which history must be summoned and the action with which it must be adorned are dependent on the nature of its events –being ended, ending, ongoing, reformed, pleasant, unpleasant, dignifying or denigrating. If offspring of sharks are still sharks I think dolphins should not forget history and must seek genetics for their fortification and survival. If wolves’ descendants become dogs, then sheep can think of a pact. At no point in time, for no reason or excuse of greed or oversight must the survival and wellness of a people and their unborn be traded for temporal mirth.
The rafters are burning and there are rats under the bed. The ‘father’ of the family does not only chase after the rats but also wants the silent third woman of the three casket to follow in the paths of the rats. I cannot disagree that such a father of us too unique and unmatched in the world. What heart shall apply a touchstone of history to our situation?
Whatever conflict is ending, ongoing or loading we cannot pretend that all is well and set to follow a path of a RUGAIC changeling of national integration when our intricate relationship is full of suspicion, bitterness or hostilities. We are involved. And our nation will be a sophistic brotherhood intercourse except we begin to drop the swords of history and take the balm of humanity. However, that sword dropping is not absolutely, we may need to follow the vestigial watchfulness and readiness ofNehemaic ambidextrous builders.
Joseph C. Ebegbulem, in his “Ethnic Politics and Conflicts in Nigeria: Theoretical Perspective” put our experience in a sentence “Nigeria has witnessed a lot of ethnic disputes and conflicts over allocation and sharing of resources, power and position.” And Benjamin Chuka Osisioma in his article, “Conflict Management and Peace Building in Nigeria: Finding the Common Ground” gave a periodization of the conflict by saying that “Historically, Nigeria is fraught with conflicts, some of them life-threatening, others minor and pedestrian.”
Our history, afore 15th century through the 20th century holds accounts of pre-colonial cultures, slave-shipping, religious invasion, colonial experiences, amalgamation, and then independence in 1960. Our history desires peace. After 1960 we have experienced coup de tat, quasi-genocidal war, territorial wars, religious wars, terrorism and other aggravated tensions fostered by aggrieved sections that lost true Nigerian nationalist vision for whatever ethnic or political reasons. Tensions have not ceased.
Conflicts, death-dealing, riotious and suspicious are being advanced by unpacified comrades of historical acts of cruelty and discrimination –being socio-political or economical –and being a continued tradition of dangerous ethno-religious consciousness of primacy and antipathy. It is not a matter of who started it or why it was started. We are all enmeshed in this serrated nationhood, Nigeria. And our nationhood will remain illusory except we begin to drop the bullets of vengeance and take the honey of nature for our collective healing. We must be wary of the siren of ethnic prejudice.
The Federal Government has declared on June 18, as reported by the Guardian, that History should be taught in all secondary school. That, to me, is commendable. The past is not dead; the past is only archived. And when the past is not archived, the present is malnourished and afloat. History is the lodestar of every generation. So, any system of education that removes or distorts history is a system of degeneration. We must know our bold adventures that were successful and learn from them. We must see our navigations that led into capsize or to a coast. Then we can decide well for the progress of humanity, what is to be avoided, what is to be restored and what is to be advanced. In the words of Maya Angeolu, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” That, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, is because “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Nothing should be relived as much as there is the imagination for what is better.
History should not repeat itself if it is not pleasant. Sadly, it always does, with colourful cloaks. History should guide us into eschewal of itself. But when history of dastardly deeds fuels us into a resuscitation of it we have failed in our use of memory. We, for the good of mankind, should use history; history should not use us.
When I look at a deer or an antelope and beautiful rabbit being torn by flesh eaters I feel there is victimisation of innocent or harmless creatures. But these harmless preys are actually nocent in a panoramic reference to nature –they are herbivores. That is the case in the world of humans. No people are too good without a history of atrocity. From the Egyptian and the Persian to the Roman, the Guptas, the Qin, the German, the Mongol and to the British, Brutality had been a game of revolution –the victimised are victimisers –from empires to empires –the fall of one, the rise of another –none too humane that is not heinous. No religion, no God’s people or peace people without a past history, or perhaps, a working history of acts of terror.
Olaudah Equaino in his interesting narrative awakened our sensibilities towards sympathy not only for Gustavus Vassa, the African but also for Africa. But in the tradition of Eboe, in the land of his natives and neighbouring settlements, wars and domination are not unknown. Africans kidnap Africans and sell to non-African slave traders. There were slaves of war. There were cases of adultery and capital punishment. There was a system of justice, of doing different things. Every victim is an object of delight to the victimiser and of sympathy to distant eyes. But victims are victimisers.
Aeschylus in Agamemnon showed what will be true of King Lear, “One disgrace exchange yet for another … The man who sins is sinned against, the killer pays the price.” Possibly, vengeance may lead to victory but except there’s absolute annihilation or incapacitation that victory has just birthed a baby destined to heroic mission in the way of the chain of retribution. Aeschylus also posited that “Old violent aggression loves to generate new troubles among evil men—soon or late, when it’s fated to be born, new violence springs forth, a spirit no one can resist or conquer, unholy recklessness, dark ruin on the home, like the destructiveness from which it sprang.”
That is the truth Martin Luther King Junior told us when he said “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” And he instructed us, “The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
John Campbell asserted in “Conflict in Nigeria Is More Complicated Than ‘Christians vs. Muslims’” that the insurgents in Nigeria “had killed many Christians as well as Muslims”. I think conflict in Nigeria is a tangle of unyielding factors budding from history of differences and hostilities.
The defeated wanted a second round that they may fight harder and win. Well, victory is often a result of resilience. Such vindictive hearts will always look for faults blameable, to aggravate such with comments fit to trigger parties into battles. That is the case between certain Super powers in the world. And that is the case everywhere.
Only the hearts capable of forgiveness master history. Only the hearts capable of peace and love should feed on history. Only hearts of humanists should explain our history. Only hearts that value lives of humans and nature should trumpet our history. Endless retribution does no good to mankind. History should not repeat itself.
There is, however, a need to be true to reality. Let us use feminism as an example. On the history of patriarchy many women are fighting back that male hegemony that had made (and many have not stopped to make) women tools or dolls fitting only for prescribed functions of which sex and motherhood are primary –the latter being a result, a relief, a burden, a delight or perhaps a consequence of the former. Thanks to a realist god, Henrik Ibsen, Nora leaves A Doll’s House to become a destiny of her own.
One may think as a man reading a feminist work that there is a gradual change –like the comrades in Orwell’s Animal Farmfighting Mr Jones, as spurred by Old Major, assured all animals are equal, and only get to achieve a recreation of the displaced order. It may be like a tilt to transferring of the mythical oppressive hegemonic gender power to the ones once overruled. It is like a gradual revolutionary taking of power from men and using it against men as men have used it against women. But that is surely a papa’s way of seeing mama’s strides –threatening. And the change may not be worthless after all. Papa’s Eureka moment might be when his daughter is faced with the trauma of rape and domestic violence. How can we ask our warriors to surrender when surrendering does not stop the war or the massacre of our people?
The hearts of forgiveness, the heart of love, of peace and of aesthetics, of not forgetting but of being conscious and cautious of good and evil captured with the lens of history will work only when history is truly historical as slavery in its original form has become historical.
But when hegemony has not stopped, when oppression has not stopped, when racism has not stopped, when affliction has not stopped, when raping and choking, destruction and mutilation, killing and spoiling are openly perpetrated in the shades of impunity, when terrors are sainted and prized and saints are TERROFIED, when a people’s voice and being, lives, desires, and dignity are subjected to unpleasantness and agony in shades of perpetuity then we definitely cannot evoke the spirit of letting go or the heart of comradeship. We will only summon the heart of fighting back as we look at history in the face and make it our guide.
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As Adrienne Rich would say that “love itself is in need of re-vision” I think love, marriage, union of any kind, nationhood, sisterhood, motherhood, brotherhood, family, sexuality, fatherhood, childhood, leadership, followership, membership, citizenship and all relations including religion need a re-vision upon a new condition of sacred humanist ethics of mutualism and not viral vices of parasitism. The affliction that has ended may be forgiven but the ongoing, however subtle, must be challenged and stopped. So, it is not about gender roles or tribal codes or racial vanity. It is all about respect and mutual delight on the solid foundation of a scriptural sacred humanist maxim, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
The word of Alexander Pope is sufficient in itself as he gave his “Esay on Criticism” saying:
Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man’s erring judgment, and misguide the mind
What the weak head with strongest bias rules
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
It is extreme for a man god fearing and humane to ignore the attacked and robbed man who is bleeding and dying to champion a call for offerings and volunteers to build a mighty temple for Ares. Do not seek to quench a fire by moving a magma into a domain too filled with magma. You cannot appease furious souls by asking them to worship the ones they are wary of.
The right hearts for our history are the hearts of a humanist, religion regardless, which shall know times and situations and for which peace of now and peace of the future is primary –knowing what to avoid and when as well as what to accommodate and when. History shall not die and may it guide us into not dying or not dying anymore.