DON’T WRITE US YOUR MEMOIRS – THE JOB’S NOT YET DONE!
I know it’s tempting to lay down your sword and pick up your pen to celebrate your days of glory. To speak of battles fought and won. I know your bones are crying to you to sit gently in a chair beside a warm fire, your grandchild on your knee, regaling them with heroic tales of how you “fought and conquered distant lands” in the jobs and vocations you took up when you were younger. But, my father, my mother – the job of your generation is not complete and we are dealing with a real mess in Afrika. A mess that this generation and, most importantly, the next is not prepared accurately to deal with and to finish. So, sharpen your swords and let us meet out on the battlefield – you yet have work to do to secure the future of Afrika.
I know many of you got jobs in the aftermath of colonialism. You went to ‘mission schools’ during the time of the oppression and some had opportunities to go to the university. You were high on the euphoria of the conquests of the Afrikan freedom fighters who secured a type of victory that allowed you the room to do all these things – you entered a brave new world and you began to build and defend the structures you found, because you were told to. Ignoring the cries of the freedom fighters who knew the war was not over. Rejecting the appeals of your peers who understood what was really happening, “The fight is not over, it’s all a trick to lull us into a false sense of security!” But you believed the words of your ‘founding fathers’ who told you that victory had come and it was now time to put axe to grindstone and ‘build the nation’. Diligently you set to work, unaware that you had become mere pawns in a larger game that was being won by the neocolonialist imperialists. Unaware, or unwilling to ask, I often wonder to myself.
Anyway, you built, using their templates, their knowledge, their globalist masterplan… you built a great, big, hulking prison system across Afrika that– unbeknownst to you – was to contain your offspring. To become the system that prevented them from fulfilling their great potential. Was to become the system that shaped them into the minions for the global system, to build it, sustain it and protect it as you had the microcosm you so diligently worked on. Enthusiastically, you designed and implemented structure after structure that resulted in a system that resembled nothing that your own parents and grandparents remembered. Trapped in the concentration camps of the white man or living in the forests hunted by their brethren or the colonizer, your parents and grandparents remembered a time when Afrikans roamed free, knew no visa or identification paper and oh, how their hearts longed for those days… but you, you grew up somewhere in between. Maybe if your family was opposed to it, you fought against the system, if your family was for it, you defended the system and if your family was somewhere in between, you were trapped in fear, behind a wire fence, manned by armed by white men or men who looked like you. Or maybe you were a maverick who broke the mold and joined the battle regardless of conditioning, but because you believed in something greater.
Unwittingly or not, you were a part of a greater war… and you still are.
As the white man planned their strategic retreat, some of those of the generation of the ‘founding fathers’ agreed amongst themselves to form cliques to profit off the backs of their brothers and sisters in the aftermath of colonialism. Instead of restoring things to the way that they were – or as close enough as they could – they chose to embrace the way of the imperialist and build according to the selfish and greedy colonial capitalist approach. They chose to drag the majority of the rest of you along in their plan, without cluing you in to what was really going on. You became their minions and their pawns. You believed what the white man told you, that your lives before this were backward, limited and flawed and that if you did things ‘their way’ you could make things better. So, you worked hard all of your lives to make that happen. Some of you believed in the dream you were sold and some of you quickly learned that the dream was a lie and you were not working towards some glorious reality and they tried to warn you and got arrested, shunned, ridiculed and rejected by the system and by you. The ‘founding fathers’ conspired against those with aspirations for real liberty, murdering them in order to silence the possibility of dissent. They killed their friends and brothers-at-arms in order to secure for themselves a pedestal that you guarded with all your strength and might. They clearly were the bigger pawns in the shelves of the colonial pawn shop, even though the world thinks and calls them heroes. But they are not and will never be, for history does not lie even if historic books do.
Then you raised our generation to be ‘good’ citizens of our countries. Obedient to the governing authorities. Never questioning what we were told but trusting that they always had our best interests at heart. You told us to go to school and work hard and get a job. But as our elder brothers and sisters did this, they found that there were no jobs. Your generation had been gifted the still warm, but now empty seats of the colonizer and you still occupied these seats and had not created new ones. So now, no room was left for the next people to come in and take their turn at building. Unless you had a ‘godfather’ in government, you couldn’t get anywhere and you couldn’t get anything done. You said we were lazy, that we were not ‘trying hard enough’ and sent us back out there to hunt for opportunities that barely existed so as not to embarrass you – and those of you who had money, sent our friends and peers overseas to study and work and there they remained – because life back home was impossible without someone to grant them access to jobs. You didn’t mind so much, because of the dollars they were able to send back home.
But, most of you didn’t see what you should have seen back then – that the whole system was flawed and doomed to collapse in on itself. How could you see? You weren’t looking because you believed the dream and anything that spoke contrary to it – even our own pain – you rejected as being the one which was flawed. I suppose, at that point, you could not face the possibility that ALL of your labors were in vain after all. To fix it, yours became the generation of the NGO that sourced money from overseas to come and change things on the ground for your backward relatives and countrymen who couldn’t make it on their own. You came to the rescue, building them wells and schools to ‘civilize’ them a little more. You found ways to house the street children and the refugees from ‘war torn’ Afrikan countries and because of that you were able to sleep better at night… while pocketing a fair bit of change and giving the white man greater and renewed access to Afrika. You thought you were doing Afrika and your people good, but clearly, we are no better for your “labor of love”. For while the foreign NGOs and the many foreign entities come to Afrika in the name of charity and steal both our natural resources through unfair trade policies and our people through human trafficking, the sane ones among us cannot find good grounds and reasons to stay in the continent because the entire system is warped to favor the foreigners and their local allies.
But you didn’t ask the most crucial of questions: “Why are things like this? Where is the dream we were sold? Why is it not working? After all, we did all we were supposed to…” For if you had taken the time to reflect, to consider, to ponder, you would have come to this all-natural conclusion, “We need a better plan for Afrika, this thing we’ve been sold is a sham!” You would then have become the next revolutionaries for change – like your fathers and mothers before you. You would have pushed, collectively, for a different reality to be put in place on the ground. But, some of you had been numbed by the free government housing, numbed loans you took to buy huge houses and your own pieces of land back from the white man who was repatriating, numbed by the prestige of the positions you were given – which were given for the very purpose for which they were most effective: to silence you and to turn you into a weapon that silenced dissenters who did not have access to the same benefits you enjoyed. Somehow, you found it easier blaming them for being late to the table that gave you the privileges you got… instead of understanding that the system you were building is a pyramid and therefore can only house so many.
Some of you agitated for political change, not so much out of love of your country, but because you realized that the only way to get your own head above the rest and to breathe some air was for you to become a part of the system that makes decisions about how things are done. So, you pushed some dictators out of the way, only to become worse dictators yourselves… or to make way for your children or proteges to continue your legacies of oppression and safeguard ‘your’ wealth. Some of you chose to look on in horror and whisper in your houses at night of the atrocities that were going on, but you stopped at the whispering and your whispers never translated into action… and so things continued to get worse and worse and worse over time. And you taught us to whisper and not to ‘rock the boat’ but to leave things as they were for fear of the consequences… instead of teaching us to live boldly for the hope of the victorious outcome. We can clearly see now that most of your labor of love was not for love at all, but for self-preservation and wealth accumulation.
And the fruit of your laxity and your selfishness, of your unwillingness to fight – for those of you who chose the route of comfort, luxury and selfish gain – is the laxity, selfishness, complacency and complicity that is displayed so loudly in the next generations. People who lack in ideology, lack in purpose and whose sole focus is the acquisition of things to surround themselves with, no matter the cost. So, don’t sit there and talk badly about those whose behavior you see as shocking and disappointing. Those in public office, those in private business who go around exploiting and hurting others, those in farming who choose to poison their crops and customers in order to escape with a profit without understanding the curses they bring on their own heads. This is your fruit. You have no high horse to stand on. Don’t say to yourself that you taught them better, they don’t learn by your words – they learn from your actions, your choices… from the way you lived your life. You let this happen each time you chose your comfort and safety over the truth. Each time you chose to turn a blind eye to the problems your new nation was facing, each time you ignored the niggling concerns about the vanishing liberties you and your fellow citizens were facing and on and on and on.
Now you want to sit down at your desk in your study to quietly ruminate on the days gone by and to leave us a memoir of your days? To tell us what opportunities we should take before it’s too late? To tell us how to live? Please don’t. Don’t recline in your seat when those of your generation, the ones who know things are sick and broken are still fighting alongside us to push back the darkness. Don’t abandon them yet again. Don’t bounce your grandchildren on your laps with pride, congratulating yourself for a job well done when the lives that face them in the days ahead are nothing but hell. Don’t rebuke your children for following your weak and misguided exampled. No!!!
Put on your armor, sharpen your sword and fight alongside your children and grandchildren, for the war is still raging. Pick up the phone and call the people who you still know who have the ability to change things or who will at least listen. Call the ones you know who have the ability to connect you to the ones who may have forgotten your name but will remember you once you speak. Call them and tell them that they have failed us. Tell them that they ought not to have learnt from your generation how to engender complacency, but they ought to learn from those who stood up to you and your generation because at least those had ideals that they were fighting for (and still do and still are) that were for the betterment of those who were around them. Tell them boldly and clearly that the poison called Covid-vaccines which they are mandating their people to stick into their arms willl destroy the next generation even if they themselves escape now. Admit to the people on the other end of the phone that you failed when the time came. You failed to hold them accountable because you yourself were compromised. Fight now against the injustices you failed to confront in the yesteryears, when you were trying to build for us a ‘good life’. I am here to inform you that there is no ‘good life’, there is only a continuation of the pains that you refused or failed to deal with, while you killed the ones who wanted to face them, and even if you didn’t have sword in hand – you did it with your silence.
Don’t leave us your memoirs on paper celebrating a life that did not safeguard our future nor teach us how to safeguard the future of the generations to come. We don’t want them. Don’t write us your memoir of how great your days were when you refused to teach us how to live and eat clean simply because you were caught up in the fantacy of shopping processed food and drinks from the malls and supermarkets. It made you feel good that “development” had come to your nation, but the reality is, it was cancer and the many other non-communicable diseases that you opened the door for into our lives.
Let your memoirs be those of lives greatly lived for purposes bigger than you, that terrify you to face them. Let them be of sacrifices made that ensured that the best version of the future had a fighting chance. Do not abandon us to the future you know does not exist… let us face the now with the fierceness of those who came before us who fought with everything, every passion to create the possibility of freedom for Afrikans – but this time, let’s finish what they started.
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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.