October 20, 2014 Mad Hatter

CONTEXTUALIZING HEROISM: WE JUST CANT RELIVE HISTORY

So a real modern hero, will have to understand that the oppression we suffer is our inability to invest in institutions and even more to have confidence in the once we create. A modern hero in my opinion is the one who will be bold to lead our people through real pain, banking on our resilience as we break our chaining to inefficiency. One who will say we bear the responsibility for our own growth without excusing our failure by blaming endless conspiracies. My real Kenyan hero, will be the one who learns from the values that founded our struggles, without attempting to live those times.

Today, Kenya celebrates Mashujaa day. A national holiday set forth to honor men and women who contribute to the collective growth of our nation. The people whose personal achievements bring honor and repute to our country, people who sacrifice their own comfort to see that others’ plights alleviated.

Hero has an indo-European provenance with its root ‘ser which essentially means protect. Indeed, notions of heroism seem to find their validation in acts of bravery when adversity befalls a section of humanity. A hero therefore, from both an etymological and contemporary perspective, is a person who steps forth when there is a gap to give a profound contribution that benefit more than their person.

Our country Kenya has distinguished names. Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Odinga, Tom Mboya, Wangari Maathai, Tecla Loroupe, Humphrey Khayange. Political or other preferences notwithstanding, these are names that evoke a certain feeling of admirable achievement. Jomo Kenyatta, the fact of him being the founding father of this nation or Maathai, the fact of her fighting for the environment.  Our sportspersons give us an insatiable desire to associate with them. The fact of their winning brings honor to us. They become our heroines and heroes.

A society therefore will choose to see an act as heroic depending on many reasons. Whether it draws pride, confers benefits or even absurdly if it satiates sometimes mundane desires.

One permanent feature though, is that these persons become some benchmarks of sorts. They offer an achievement or guidance that secures both today and tomorrow. So the future generations or even the current are referred to their exploits as sample-paths to take. Some of heroic stories inspire current exploits. So a young politician may decide to strive for Kenyatta’s charisma or a young athlete wish to exceed Kipchoge’s fame. In a way, the values, standing and choices of those we regard as heroes become spirits that breathe life into our own fights.

This got me thinking. Most of the time history has a sense of beauty. Humanity has always been hesitant to document its failures. So it exalts the niceties that exist at any instance. Of course, the very fact of human documentation means, history is fraught of subjective perceptions and individual judgments.

So when it is suggested that the versions of history we are taught was heavily revised to favor my nation’s own agenda, hiding its crime and in doing so fostering an unrealistic sense of false patriotism to corporate entity government, I silently agree with it. It is just human.

So anytime a character from the past has been mentioned with a glowing value around them, I have chosen to give cautious admiration. Because the picture will just never be complete. But that admiration in itself is complete. For even with the revision and hiding, any documentation is justified to the extent that it serves a certain purpose. So if my history is doctored to create supermen, if the fact of that creation motivates the existence of supermen in years to come, so be it.

I suppose this may be construed as complacency, no. I have chosen to question history many times. But as a young African, I choose to have trust in the history I was taught. The tales of Anako afote who fought for the independence of my country. I choose the beauty in the names of Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Mandela. I think I love the bravery of Dedan Kimathi that if it were a lie, I would rather it, than a different truth.

Well, I needed to dissuade myself from trying to question history, before I could move to the substance of my writing.

What made Kimathi a hero? What made Loroupe a heroine?

Their acts revolved around a context. When a people’s freedom and wealth were taken away from them and a free people forced to become subjects to foreign masters, it was necessary to revolt. And anyone who led this revolt served to gift their generation and states a service that was extra-ordinarily valuable. They became heroes and heroines.

And so in this, the names of Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral, Kenneth Kaunda or Nelson Mandela will forever stand exalted on the African shelf.

These people shouted away invasion. They sought freedom for their people. A pursuit which in many ways is the only inherent desire of any human being. The oppression they fought against was the actual presence of foreigners who loaded it over them. And this was a genuine pursuit. For this was a struggle across Africa, a feeling of solidarity was conceived. I have been never able to place the real reason of this birth. Was it a mutual craving for freedom or shared hate for whites.

Elite-led struggles can be full of deception. But the dwindling of Pan Africanism suggests, perhaps it was a shared hate. For a yearning for freedom is essential, it is an ideal that would have bound us together forever.

Voices of Pan Africanism have started to emerge. But the solidarity we seek today, in my view is not creating any value for posterity. From Kenya, to Uganda through West Africa, there are calls to get African problems solved by Africans. This is indeed extra ordinarily true. We have as Africans to solve our own issues.

But as we seek to assert ourselves, I believe we must contextualize our struggles. Kenyatta snr was justified to say Kenya should be left for Kenyans. Season and time allowed it. Environment allowed it. Then, internet was but an idea, today, America could be hacked by a Nairobi educated youth from the comfort of their village.

The reality of today is that shouting away other state’s interest is an unrealistic endeavor; in fact a hypocritical one.

A true modern African Political hero is the one who shall be honest enough to tell our people, that we shall not succeed unless we truly assert our greatness in the context; the context of globalization. That modern Pan Africanism should never be crafted around shouting away other nations, but by asserting the spirit of African excellence on the global stage.

In my own opinion, we are a resilient continent. Africa has faced the worst that humanity can face. Yet we retain an admirable optimism. We walk kilometers to school, yet we give the world amongst the best of the brains. And Kenya as a country, exemplifies these values even more pronouncedly.

So a real modern hero, will have to understand that the oppression we suffer is our inability to invest in institutions and even more to have confidence in the once we create. A modern hero in my opinion is the one who will be bold to lead our people through real pain, banking on our resilience as we break our chaining to inefficiency. One who will say we bear the responsibility for our own growth without excusing our failure by blaming endless conspiracies. My real Kenyan hero, will be the one who learns from the values that founded our struggles, without attempting to live those times.

A modern hero, to my truly African heart, must tell me the truth; that I am just as responsible for the failure of my society as my government. And that the success of a nation is a reflection largely of individual effort complimented minimally by the workings of state. And so that I have a responsibility, in all little bits, to be the hero, that my time calls me to be.

.Lone Felix OnwardHappy Mashujaa Day, to those who live the spirit of honest struggle

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