Achebe’s “The king is naked”
I guess it all boils down to who you consider yourself to be. Or, as Micheal Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11) would say, on who your daddy is. I never considered myself as part of the people so the idea that the people considers me as one of its own never had much appeal. Which is why I don’t particularly jump up, as if somebody has shoved hot stuff under me, when the subject of “hizbu” is brought up. Even if the vulnerable among them break my heart as much as the next Ethiopian. Citizen of the world, is how I like seeing myself as. Or … another member of the human “go’T”. If you go bullying around, you won’t be my friend. Whatever name you go by, whichever country you vote in and whoever your daddy may be.
Individuals, I can stand. Individuals, I can even bear to be around. Maybe not for 24 hours but for a reasonablly long time. Hearing their woes, holding their hands, listening & understanding (judging, devising, psycho-analysing). Because individuals are just another me. They may look mighty and detasteful in groups, but alone, they are vulnerable & earthly — sometimes not even a match to the sister ;). (Yes, I’ve been told I can be a control-freak sometimes)
But groups…, groups make me feel sick. Because groups are usually stupid and illogical. Groups laugh at bad jokes, taunt the vulnerable and stand together no matter what. What’s worse: they take pride in it! Which is why get-togethers and meetings are the most agonizing moments of my life. Because I have to kiss them, ask after them and their family.
So yes.. this is another point Dostoevski, or atleast one of his characters from “The Brothers Karamazov”, and I don’t see eye to eye on.
This all doesn’t mean, ofcourse, that I won’t (theoretically, atleast) die for “the hizb” if need be and think “the hizb” knows best. I would & do all that, inspite of the silent hatred I harbor for them. And inspite of the silent hatred they would harbor for me when finding out this is what boils beneath the friendly abesheet exterior. And everybody harbors for everybody else when they aren’t standing together and referring to themselves as “egna”, like some member of the Moa Anbessa Yiddish clan ;)).
And, like all those in a love/hate relationship, or in a relationship (period!), nothing more I enjoy than talking and reading about the short-comings of these very “hizb” I would, theoretically, die for. And Chinua Achebe’s “A Man of the People”, is full of it.
Odili Samalu, the narrator, is a high school teacher and an ex-member of the P.O.P (People’s Organization Party), whose life completely changed after a reunion with his old teacher and Minister of Culture: Chief the Honorable M.A. Nanga. A man, Odili tells us, “who had used the people’s opposition (to white colonization) to enrich himself” and “is one of those who had started the country off down the slopes of inflation” yet is loved by the multitude so much they would “dance themsleves lame” every time he makes an appearance. For the next 150 pages, Odili (with his “sardonic sense of humor” and unruffled-by-illusion look, sometimes, at his own vanity too) shows us just how much the people deserve their government. The concluding paragraph says it all:
Overnight everyone began to shake their heads at the excesses of the last regime, at its graft, oppression and corrupt government: newspapers, the radio, the hitherto silent intellectuals and civil servants – everybody said what a terrible lot; and it became public opinion the next morning. And these were the same people that only the other day had owned a thousand names of adulation, whom praise-singers followed with song and talking-drum wherever they went. Chief Koko in particular became a thief and a murderer, while the people who had led him on – in my opinion the real culprits – took the legendary bath of the Hornbill and donned innocence.
“Koko has taken enough for the owner to see,” said my father to me. It was the day I had gone to visit Eunice and was telling him on my return how the girl had showed no interest in anything – including whether she stayed in jail or out of it. My father’s words struck me because they were the very same words the villagers of Anata had spoken of Josiah, the abominated trader. Only in their case the words had meaning. The owner was the village, and the village had a mind; it could say no to sacrilege. But in the affairs of the nation there was no owner, the laws of the village became powerless. Max was avenged not by the people’s collective will but by one solitary woman who loved him. Had his spirit waited for the people to demand redress it would have been waiting still, in the rain and out in the sun. But he was lucky. And I don’t mean it to shock or to sound clever. For I do honestly believe that in the fat-dripping, gummy, eat-and-let-eat regime just ended – a regime which inspired the common saying that a man could only be sure of what he had put away safely in his gut or, in language ever more suited to the times: “you chop, me self I chop, palaver finish”; a regime in which you saw a fellow cursed in the morning for stealing a blind man’s stick and later in the evening saw him again mounting the altar of the new shrine in the presence of all the people to whisper into of the ear of the chief celebrant – in such a regime, I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest – without asking to be paid. (149-150)
Read it when you get time. You will get a kick out of it. May even prove me wrong ;).