TO MUJUNI CARLTON RAYMOND QATAHAR
Thank you for your treatise on my poem. You may not believe it but I find writing –especially writing poetry–exhausting. Of course writing comes with great ease and measurement –and some even think–as easy as consummation. But when poetry is the currency of expression, there is a pain cultivated upon the soul –exerted even more unto the heart –as one clearly observes the world loosening up to the pursuits of loutish pleasure publicised in their mind’s eye for just a dispossessed mien of ink and paper. Yes, sometimes this art turns vulgar and the muse becomes an indecent decoration on your conscience. Besides, I prefer to forget what I write; so I really struggled to respond to your essay. Yet as ungracious as it may occur to me, let me make an attempt at remarking upon the scandal of the poem I penned.
We live in bad times Muju; you, I and the rest who see beyond this matrix.We are entering the most defining of times yet the worst ills befall us in the loss of our blissful ignorance of The System, our ignorance dying first, and thereby hastening the death of the bliss. I call it the worst ill because we end up alienating ourselves from the rest of the world; including–especially –the ones we love most. Now we are left with an unhappy and friendless lot of reality. But this cruel disease has not left us entirely; still we suffer, still we mourn. But since they are what I believe to be such mild and favourable symptoms of the realisation of how vacuous the world really is, we are still out of harm’s way.
You raise questions of importance in the last paragraph and unfortunately offer no answers. The most important questions, I find you raise without intent. For example when you write:
“African culture disqualifies such!”
My question to you then would be; what is African culture? What indeed is African?I ask not because I have no clue, far from it. I ask because I find you employ the phrase to do what brooms do best: sweep indignantly.I do not know the expense of your definition of culture, but what I shall not do is skip the account of your interpretation thereof. When you say, for example that,
“A difference needs to be struck between the culture then and the failure of humans living at the time. When we create this distinction, it should not be to glorify the strength of our culture and neither should it be at the detriment of it.”
Can you not see the natural affliction and melancholy you shall cause us by rejecting a part of our, to quote your own language, “set of values learnt and carried on by a particular society”? We must accept to be bound by whatever we choose to define as our culture. True, there are things we are certainly not proud of acknowledging about the history of custom. True, that some people took advantage of the faith our people had put in the culture for their sake of their own aggrandizement. Whatever the case, we must accept what happened as a part of our story. And when you say of what you assess as harmful custom that,
“The method of approach was disheartening but the principle underlying it was honest.”
I agree. There is not much to refute about your beliefs. If anything they should be applauded. My only contention is the high mindedness we intend to gear into and thus express ourselves above the heads of others- an infirmity we accuse ‘intellectuals’ of all the time. The questions the persona raises in the poem are not refuting the value of culture to society, but rather reflecting on the irreparable loss of trust and faith in the codes that have become indolent to his current status quo. Culture, like Pascal Olupot elegantly put it, also denotes livelihood. So how we choose to live or pursue life, by sure denotation, shall become our culture. The persona’s primary concern is how to live on into the next day today. Not yesterday where there was no airtime to pay for, nor UMEME bills, nor rent, nor bank slips to dread; but today where the realisms are changed.
The matrix has trapped so many of our people who live by mechanisms designed to turn them into slaves.And while their function is only to help The System thrive, that has become their livelihood. The problem is they think they are living yet they are just dying, and at the highest rates in the history of humanity. God no longer has to come down to express his wrath anymore; he has Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Fractional Reserve banking, NSSF, UPE, the Land Act Cap 227, NTV Talent XP,Bebe cool, Bad Black and fluoride to do his bidding. Add our people’s blissful ignorance; and the mélange is the best the world ever had. How our people pursue life is not what culture ought to permit: the self-destruction. That is the kind of life Agaba tends to call anti-culture. That whatever does not support the thriving,never mind the sustenance, of life is the antithesis of culture. So, while the persona clearly states his priorities of livelihood, they are the sort that shall soon destroy him and if the MDG’s are to go by, he shall soon retire to his grave aged 48. So the values he up holds only promise him,along with his family, misery and a melancholic death. So the question is, how does such a person who lives in the matrix be convinced to abandon it? How does he escape it?
And that is what I wanted to bring out in the poem. Perhaps I failed.
But along with my unawareness, I was arrested by the reaction. Mostly the kind that delved to see the writer smoked out and buried along with his poem. The brusqueness, annoyance and even sneering from some that we witnessed showed something that I think we ought not to overlook: the persona got under our skins. Not because he was wrong, but because he had succeeded at crafting shacks in our very own beliefs. Judgment passed upon him was actually upon ourselves.How sad! I cannot remember, without laughing, how we reacted negatively at his negativity: a perfect artifice of parody! But Muju, there are so, so, so many people I know who would buy that persona beer, or even throw him free leg, because they see themselves in his mind.
I think we should try to appeal to such people not without calmness, but also with apt answers to their uncertainties and doubts. And merely reciting habits of the past for them will not do. It won’t get them, like the persona asserts, “to pay their children’s school fees.” So, what kind of answers, then shall we have to offer?That my friend, I do not know. Me I am still searching. Besides I think we are yet to completely heal from some of the mild symptoms of The System’s disease. But to quote the preface of that daunting book Les Misérables,
“So long as there shall exist by virtues of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century –the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of sight –are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; -in other words, and still a wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth…”
Then the Lantern Meet shall always be of true value. But we have to know it; that value. And we must ever tire of discovering what it is because it just might be The Answer.
TO MUJUNI CARLTON RAYMOND QATAHAR