Monday, 18 June 2012

My Peace I Give To You

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

                            -John 14:27

 The poet is always indebted to the universe, paying interest and fines on sorrow

     -Vladimir Mayakovsky, Conversation with an Inspector of Taxes about Poetry

"Words are not our age-mates. Words can heal, but the same words can cripple a spirit. Words can motivate, but the same words can dampen the best of intentions. Words can be the harbingers of hope, but the same words can be of sorrow and much pain. Words kill. Words maim. Words can obliterate a nation. Words are not our age-mates. Always remember that."
~Yours Truly 

Today, I won’t write any poem. I will just speak to you. In Kenya, we mourn the loss of a Minister, an Assistant Minister, two pilots and two body guards. They died about a week ago through a fatal plane crash. My condolences to their families.

At the beginning of this year, I made a pledge that this blog will preach peace and brotherhood (sisterhood, you might also say) as Kenya gears up for her elections in March next year.

There was much violence and bloodletting in 2007/2008.

Ethnic tensions and animosity were stirred in people’s hearts. Brother descended upon brother, neighbor against neighbor. People were burnt. Arrows were aimed at fellow humans which left them dead or with brutal scars. Today, there are still people living in camps, with no place to go. Many are not healed. They carry scars in their hearts and the nightmare of 07/08 still disturbs them when they are awake and when they are asleep. Mothers buried their sons and nursed their raped daughters. They are forced to remain strong because even when they were raped and infected with HIV and AIDS, they have to hang on, else they will die. Their children, also living with them in camps, have grown to accept less in a society that has shunned them and relegated them to the periphery. They are the lesser mortals.

Blames have been leveled to many people — the government, the media, politicians, Kenyans themselves, e.t.c — but I haven’t heard it being laid on poets. The poets were guilty too. I use poets in a general sense to include bloggers or the citizen journalists.

They are to blame for remaining silent as the air smelt of human blood.

They are to blame for joining in the tirade, helping fan the ethnic diatribe.

They are to blame for using their words, not to inspire unity, but to sow discord.

They are to blame for absconding their roles as the fiduciaries of the society, them being blessed with wit and power of conviction.

I have written it here before that we are supposed to be the agents of peace. Words are not our age-mates. Words can heal, but the same words can cripple a spirit. Words can motivate, but the same words can dampen the best of intentions. Words can be the harbingers of hope, but the same words can be of sorrow and much pain. Words kill. Words maim. Words can obliterate a nation. Words are not our age-mates. Always remember that.

At this time, as we still mourn, let us remind ourselves that we are not immortal but frail and transient. We are leaves on branches which when blown by the wind of death, just fall off. The mouths which we use to spew bilge and filth will just rot. The mystery of death calls us to reflect on the duty we have of being agents of peace in Kenya and the world.

When I decided to open this blog, I realized the power it had right from the start. In the past, we had drums and smoke signals. Message transmission wasn’t that fast. Right now, this post is being read all over the world. Who ever knew that I would strike wonderful friendship from a wonderful soul in Canada? Who ever thought that I would have a friend in Nigeria or the United States?

Therefore, my daily challenge has been to exercise maximum restraint in what I write. It is never easy. In Kenya, I am afraid to say this, the temptation to appear “macho” is so real. Preaching peace is viewed as being “spineless” or being a “coward”. To fire salvos is viewed as being “brave” and “man enough”. To rally one-self into ethnic cocoons is viewed as not being a “betrayer” and being “our son”. Admonishing and throwing expletives at persons holding contrary opinions is viewed as being a “champion” and a “true fighter”. The ability to annoy so many in so short a span of time is a strength, not weakness. We get everything wrong but we, in a remarkable march to our assured failure, tread on. We are like the proverbial Abunuwasi in the Kiswahili fable who sits on the very branch that he cuts with a panga.

But I wouldn’t mind it much if our failures were personal. No, I wouldn’t mind it at all, anyway. But I mind it when we use the most potent tools at our disposal— the words— to tranquilize a whole society into non-action or to stir up their bloods to pointless confrontations and conflagration of emotions. This is unacceptable.

While eulogies were being given by our politicians, I was happy to note that most of them were calm and composed. They spoke softly and with measured restraint. Why can’t they speak like this for a month, just a month? After that, we will not worry much because after a month it will be their newly acquired habits.

As for us, the poets and versifiers, our duty is to make an impassioned plea for peace. We cry when another swats a butterfly on a wall. We stare at paints for hours, admiring their beauty and talent. We mourn when a minstrel loses a voice. Others look at cobwebs as dirt but we view them as inspiration for another poem. All our lives are spent examining this world with child-like curiosity, noting its peccadilloes, infractions, beauty, covered secrets, its silhouette of darkness. We don’t just look at a face. We want to see whether it is creased or buoyant, whether the eyes are burning with hope or sunken in hopelessness. We watch lapping waves keenly as scientists do on a specimen. We can pick a word, let it rest on our breasts, keep it away, draw it near again before finally placing it in the beak of a dove and let it fly to distant lands. We love the sea, we love the desert. We love the mountains, we love the plains. We are ticked by every minute detail in this world. If these be true, then, fellow pilgrim, then any disturbance to all these hurts us most. We are the greatest losers. Why then can’t we, even if it is for self-preservation’s sake, help nurture peace? 


The Unknowngnome said...

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Words have meaning, intent and should be stated with a clarity of vision such as you have.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

So beautiful, Salem. You are a true peace pilgrim and it makes you a man among men, as you show what real strength is made of. I love what you say about us being leaves on branches.......It is very sad about those who died. I love what you write about the respectful measured way politicians speak of it. Yes, if only that could be every day! As I (rarely) watch the news, I see all the Mouths hurling invective to fan the flames of discord, and feel discouraged. When I read YOUR words, I know there is hope, and remember there are agents of peace everywhere, they just speak more quietly and peacefully.

echoesofthehills said...

Thank you so much TUG. It is our perpetual duty and we are called to be peacemakers.

echoesofthehills said...

O, thank you so much Koko. You know who the peacemakers are? The poets. They love life in all its varied form and in their moment of introspection, they always want the success of man/woman. I am doing it in my own little way. It is a spark and it will light up the world, ultimately. You also do, Koko. And that is something I admire most.

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