Monday, 30 March 2009

How Come?

Most civilised societies are united in their hatred and revulsion of the actions of Hitler and his barbaric SS army. We even erect permanent monuments to condemn their deeds, especially the inhuman extermination of 6 million Jews or make that Jews, Poles, Russians or Gypsies – whatever version you subscribe to.

We feel so strongly that society should not have to go through those dark days again and we entrench a yearly remembrance in our national diaries to ensure we do not forget.

A good and worthy thing I say, but it does leave me wondering why another seismic and tragic period relatively goes unmarked or even noted during our global moments of deep reflection. Could it be that those whose forefathers were responsible for such acts, are proficient at remembering other people’s evil deeds, but at the same time very slow to remember theirs.

Is it possible that human beings are only remembered when they are deemed to be worthy of remembrance? Or maybe it is just too embarrassing to acknowledge. After all, what ammunition would we have to shoot down the Germans (a global pastime) if we ourselves, have to admit our complicity in the extortion and near destruction of a people?

You see sometimes, I believe I do not have the moral authority to pursue this issue, especially as everyone knows African leaders - just like in the present day - were complicit in and benefited from, the rape of their own people. How can I condemn what the Europeans did, when my own people were complicit in selling each other out? But then I have come across stories of Jew giving up Jew in Nazi Germany, so I am able to comfortably refocus on the plight of those slaves that had to withstand another example of Man’s inhumanity to man.

I will keep asking, if only to ensure that the West never forgets. Just like it has never forgotten any transgression against its own people, no matter how long ago it occurred. So, you can imagine my chagrin, when one of my English colleagues once said to me;

"Come on you guys need to get over it!"

I had no choice but to hit back;

"We would the moment you quit talking about what the Japanese did to your soldiers in that World war!"

As you can imagine, it was not my most popular moment.

Saying that, I hold on to this truth; that the recounting of an evil perpetuated in the past, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel, does not indicate angst or a desire for revenge, mostly it relects a desire within the human spirit to understand whence we came, so we can define where we end up and ensure those events do not reoccur.

Our need to get people to stop talking about their past, because it reminds us of our capacity to be inhuman, is just a defence mechanism that Man has perfected. For those who would claim they have gotten over it, please endeavour to learn more about the period, for there is no forgiveness until you fully comprehend what you are forgiving.

A good start will be this book; If We Must Die: Shipboard Insurrections in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade by Eric Robert Taylor . For my part, it has never been about us getting over anything. It has and should always be about no one getting over it.  Especially, those who are hell-bent on us forgetting.

One thing really worries me though; what has really happened to the approximately 4 million black souls tossed aboard into the Atlantic at the slightest sign of illness or revolt. Do they wander the high seas aimlessly confused or are they in the afterlife comparing notes with the asphyxiated and poisoned from Auschwitz?

I wonder if they are asking them – How come they remember you and forget us?

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