English    Swahili

Rocks and Roses


A sad Liberian girl called Nene, walked up to her grandma who was in the middle of drinking a jug of Emu. Why are you so sad? said the grandma. Racism, grandma I don’t get it, why can’t they see me as an equal, why do they think I’m a monkey, why do they hate me. Puzzled at these questions, the grandma said, Why? Monkey? Hate? Have you heard of the phrase “Ua waridi lililokua katika nyufa ya kwenye zege”. No, said Nene. OK said the grandma, I think I need to tell you a story my grandmother used to tell me, so you can put these observations you have made into context, the grandma continued. A long, long time ago the grandma began. Just how long-ago grandma? Said the girl. Does it matter? Said the grand ma. I think it will help me put the story in context, the girl said. OK, OK for arguments sake let’s just say 2020 years ago. Can I get on with telling you the story now? OK grandma, I’m listening.

Right, where was I? A long, long time ago in a place called Sin City, a group of men came together and drafted a proposal. They were pleased with the proposal and to that end they took the proposal to the people. Addressing the people of Sin City, they said: dear people of sin City we have a proposal for you. A proposal that will ensure that you don’t have to work hard like people of other great cities. Our proposal is that with your backing we will go on a voyage to capture men and women from a faraway land, we will use brutal force to bring them to this great city of ours and completely dominate them once they get here. As a result, we will get them to do the type of work that you don’t want to do. Jobs like baby sit your kids, transport you around, build your homes, clean your Ferrari, and build our industries etc. By dominating these people, we will get them to be far more productive than you will ever be, due to the economics of low cost, increased hours and a rootless expectation on their performance. As a result of all these activities we the people of sin City will all be better off. Excuse me, said a lady in the audience, but these, not sure what the politically correct phrase is to call them, slaves or Unwilling worker. LOL, said the person addressing the audience, you can call them the Unwilling, that’s more pleasant. More politically correct for our time. Please go ahead. You were about to ask a question? Yes, the lady continued, so these Unwilling, will they not mix with us and cause a lot of confusion, whereby people are not sure who is an Unwilling and who is a real citizen of Sin City. Ah! Good point my lady, so let me reassure you that these Unwilling that we intend to capture have to look completely different from us in appearance, so as we don’t confuse them with the locals. Does that reassure you?

Different like how continued the lady. Well, a good friend of mine said in a land far away, there are people just like me and you but with dark blue skin. That’s how we will tell the Unwilling apart from the real citizens of this great city. So, do we have your support? What followed was a very loud “yes” from the crowd, and on the basis of that promise, the men went on the voyage and brought back many Unwilling making the voyagers very rich and leaders of industries, and because they kept their words, they became upstanding members of their society. On the basis of that promise alone they developed a monetary system, developed the city’s industry and completely dominated the Unwilling.

Initially, the domination was physical, then after a while it became less physical and more psychological. The etiquette and direction of how to deal with the Unwilling came from the Top, from the upstanding members of the society. As a result, the behaviour of the society was a mirror image of the elite of that society.

So, grandma, what are you trying to say? In your story, the citizens of Sin City, knew the Unwillings were humans, equal humans, they just look different, but that was strategically a good thing for the native members of Sin City. They didn’t think the Unwilling were monkeys, and they were solely motivated, by their desire to dominate, the Unwilling, so that the Unwilling can do the type of work they didn’t want to do, or under terms they wouldn’t accept.

The members of Sin City knew the Unwilling were human. Said the girl. Nene, said the Grandma, would you let, a monkey baby sit your children? Would you let a monkey clean your Ferrari, Would you let a monkey treat your relative with cancer? Would you let a monkey be your driver? In short would you put your life or things that are precious to you in the hands of a monkey? And if your answer is yes to any of the above, then what does that say about you?

OMG grandma are you saying that the people I’m calling racist actually know I’m human? And that what I perceive as hate is actually people wanting to dominate me, for their own economic benefit? So this is just a form of bullying.

If we were to run with your synopsis for a bit said the grandma, how do you stop a bully from bullying you? Does a bully ever stop when you go crying to them begging to be accepted? Or if you change your outfit or hair style so you can fit in better? No grandma. Said the girl. So, what do I do grandma? Be patient my Nene, the Law of Karma will take its course, in the meantime the change starts with you Nene, said the grandma. The grandma continued, look into that mirror, you are a dark skinned, beautiful and intelligent Lawyer, remember, the phrase I mentioned earlier “Ua waridi lililokua katika nyufa ya kwenye zege”, the best translation I can give you is, the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete. The rose in that phrase is actually the Hibiscus flower which is the African rose. The phrase was coined a long long time ago when someone discovered that a Hibiscus flower was growing through a gap within Olumo rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Olumo rock being a sacred site where it is believed all black people can trace their spiritual origin to. But you said concrete, yes, said the grandma Olumo rock was lost in translation and changed to concrete over time as there are no equivalent words and it makes sense for westerners. Anyways what I’m trying to tell you is that you are an African rose that grew from the crack in the concrete. You are human, you know that, everyone else knows that, the only people that will say otherwise are the people trying to dominate you. So how do you and I make that change if the elite are a mirror of the society, said Nene. Well, the society has to self-reflect, put a mirror up to their face. OMG grandma why is the word mirror, so prevalent in your story, heard during the slave trade, we were sold out for something as silly as mirrors. Ah! That’s a story for another day. Remind me later to tell you the story about mirrors.

One last question grandma, you mentioned that the monetary system was based on the system that dominated the Unwilling and loyalty to that system, I hope you are not trying to say that the current monetary system is based on us being dominated, because imagine if it was? in your story, who is really free or sane? the rich Unwilling or the poor Unwillin? Ha ha ha, said the grandma, that’s a story for some other day. OK go have chakula cha mchana said the grandma, then go and have a wash, so we can pray together, remember cleanliness is next to Godliness.

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