As the world grows increasingly totalitarian, generations of people are being born into environments where they don’t remember what it was like to live without many of the restrictions they now find in place. Worse yet, they don’t even know that many of the things they interact with as ‘normal’ are actually restrictions and people around them will go to great lengths to explain to them that these are simply ‘guidelines’ and ‘requirements’ to protect them and to keep society ‘healthy and balanced’.
For example, many of those born during colonialism emerged into a world where a ‘new normal’ governed their very existence. A world where documents had been introduced to prove one’s identity and claim to certain spaces on this earth and where people were rounded up from their traditional homesteads which were spread out over ridges and valleys in Afrika and forced to live in fenced concentration camps under the vicious and hostile authoritarian control of the wicked colonizers. For them, that was normal. Much like those born after the fake independence, into nations that were fenced in by invisible lines called ‘borders’ that delineated national boundaries which cannot be crossed officially without documentation that identifies one’s origin and proof of payment (visas) needed to access the next nation and permission indicated by a rubber stamp. For many of those born into these days, that is considered ‘normal’.
Those who remembered the days before slavery and colonial oppression had afflicted Afrika were able to pass on these memories to their children and grandchildren and remind them from whence they came; when the living was different, when the invisible iron fences introduced to Afrika and embraced by the colonizers’ successors were not enforced. This gave rise to hope and an awareness that things, indeed, could be different. These custodians of ancient memory were the ‘elephants’ of their day, whose words and stories of days gone by inspired – in their generations – the desire for liberty and created the necessary environment for the spark in the quest for liberty to become a raging fire that spread across Afrika. It is tragic indeed, that their words and lives were defiled by the compromises that the Casablanca group infused the continent with… but yet there is hope – for their words live on and find place in the hearts of those who still desire and fight for true liberty, those who are still aware of the scaly dragon-like claws of the old oppression of the colonialists around their necks, albeit presented in a new form; those whose cries of warning to the ones who have embraced this ‘new normal’ often go unheeded until it is too late.
Every family, community, nation, and continent needs some good, wise and strong ‘elephants’ in their midst if they are to not only survive but thrive and blossom. In the world of the elephants, there are those who are old enough to remember the ancient paths, the ways of safety. They are wise enough to know how to nurture and guide the younger generation to live lives that will sustain a society. The wise old bulls guide the young males and maintain balance preventing the bulls from exerting destructive aggression against other animals around them. Likewise, the prudent mature cows train the young females in nurture and care and the searching out of ancient feeding and watering grounds. This ancient knowledge is used to save herds from drought and hardship and to evade danger. The elephant herds are strong enough to knock down old and rotting trees to make way for new life to have a chance at the sunlight where, before, they were denied access to spaces they needed for growth.
They disperse the seeds of the fruit they eat, safely encased in nourishing manure to distant lands that the trees are unable to reach on their own. And they are able to shake the trees with the fruit and leaves too high up for others to reach so that nourishment comes down from the inaccessible places to reach those who are unable to connect without the help of these giants – and not only for those of ‘their kind’. They are fierce enough to chase off predators and astute enough to identify friend from foe… and compassionate enough to mourn for their loved ones and for others who have passed on from this world. Their memories have even allowed them to exert revenge on old enemies – not cleaving to those who sought to destroy them in the past, but eradicating their influence entirely and teaching their young to do so. Even in their death and decay, elephants provide life and sustenance to so many in the animal world – and where a leader dies, the ones who are left behind are equipped sufficiently with the wisdom and knowledge required to thrive without him or her.
Human society needs to learn from these mighty beasts how to be life-giving and life-sustaining whether alive or dead. We need wise and stable ‘elephants’ in our societies… people who are brave and strong and wise enough to shift the laws, regulations and structures that no longer serve us or never did. We need those who will be able to guide us to ancient paths, safely, where we can draw wisdom for living in the now. People who will ensure that everyone in society gains access to the sustenance they require by shaking things up a little so that the status quo doesn’t stifle society in its staleness but that light and fresh air are let in so that the new life is allowed to flourish. Recognizing that the new generation holds keys to the survival of the old and selflessly releasing hold for them to step into place. Unlike in our current generation where the old – who are supposed to be elders and custodians of ancient wisdom – are competing with the young ones for gains… including those of corruption. What will we have left to offer the generations to come?
We need those with the ability to disperse hidden potential to the far flung locations where it is needed, safely encased in the nourishment it needs to get a good start. Ensuring that those who are unable or unequipped by design to make the journey to spread this life themselves will receive all the selfless help and strength they need to fulfill the aspects of their purpose which are beyond them. That’s collaboration. We need the fearlessness and protectiveness of those who will ensure that balance is maintained, harm is kept at bay and that the next generation is well taught and disciplined in what is sustainable and beneficial for all, empowering them to grow up into wise leaders and members of the community – correcting them and keeping them from harm. We need those who know who the enemy is, and who, no matter what he comes in dressed like, are savvy enough to identify him and fiercely dispense with him and all his treachery and deceptions and who will teach their children to do the same. We need those who are not concerned with only ‘their own kind’ but with the welfare of the whole, understanding through the ages how the whole interacts sustainably in its diversity and that a whole is not a whole without the success of each one.
The sometimes intimidating force and nature of the wise, the fierce, the bold and the strong is not to be feared and countered with vicious attacks. Rather it is to be understood for its necessity for the betterment of all. Those who do not play the role of ‘elephant’ need to ready themselves with electric saws and rakes to move the fallen trees and branches a little bit so that they can follow in the path the ‘elephants’ are making, and with baskets to reap the benefits of the ‘elephants’’ considered labor. For theirs is not a path of devastation… but rather it is one of recreation.
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Chioma Phillips is the Editor of Msingi Afrika Magazine and the host of Msingi Afrika Television. Her hope is to see the Truth shared, with all who will listen, for the transformation of the people and the continent of Afrika - and the world. She believes passionately in the critical role that Afrika and Afrikans have to play on earth right now and hopes to ignite the spark that will cause them to see and believe who they are, so that they can live out their Truest lives for the remainder of their days.