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A rear view look

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

There is a lie, perhaps just an omission of the truth, on the list of achievements for the gone year. On the top of my head, I can think of two. And, they are related.

The first one says: Ask not for any achievements in the gone year, it was a tough one. The second one, and this is an extension, says: Just surviving the previous year is an achievement on its own standing. The second one, its logic, is the place of discomfort. It is the one we draw on.

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“There is no achievement in surviving a year. It actually is a mockery to those who did not, as if they were lazy, or offensive, or just unlucky. Death is none of that. It is all about time…”

I sympathise with that logic because, to say that I achieved in being alive is to be dishonest. Come to think of it: it is not the case that all the deaths that we witness and hear of are a result of recklessness. Also, even if reckless, sometimes one still survives from all that recklessness. It is just the date, when you think of it.

On achievements?

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“They certainly should not have been tied to the viability of the year. It was a difficult year, and the tough times are still ahead, but that does not mean that everything got grounded…”

“But life, as we know it, was suspended. Hanged in the air like an embarrassing underwear in some dark corner of the bathroom,” I challenged.

“It is not important. People still got married, kids got born, people got jobs, they lost jobs…all the things you can think of happening kept happening.”

It is a flimsy and weak outlook to the world, I dare say. But, we are not here to talk about people’s philosophies to the world. It is a free world, after all – or, to be more accurate – the illusion of a free world has been sold for far too long that we are believers in a notion that is both dishonest and unrealistic.

We are here to talk about the year, that was. It is a random conversation. One that you chance on either because you have run out of stories or because you are not sure how to approach a sensitive story that you want to talk about.

For 2020, of course, everyone prefers to talk about the election as a high. It is understandable. For, if one were to say that we would have another election just after the May 2019 one, the most reserved of us would have laughed off the idea.

“If it is not the elections, it is the virus. A lot of important issues get trapped under the veneer of that,” he says. “Important things like the rise of our sensitivity to abuse.”

On abuse, the other day, with over four friends, we digested one of the reports. Of a clinician raping a seven-year-old. Mind boggling? Because the language in a newspaper must be measured, and kind, and gracious. Such an act can be described in many offending words and one would still feel inadequate at having spoken directly to the vice.

We were all men and it never made sense. One attempted to make sense of the whole situation. Said: “sometimes people lie about the age, what if this were such a case, what if the age were…”

It trailed. Of course, the story has various versions – like all stories – that one knows not what to hold as the truth. Still, the foundational details of it, constantly maintained, are details of horror which a sane brain cannot fully comprehend.

“You want to think that such men are beasts,” said another friend, “but you realise that beasts might have a better moral compass.”

The challenge with abuse, another friend had opined, is that we have grown up witnessing it and not regarding it as abuse. He talked of our average communities, the ghettos, and how the abuse has been allowed to pass while custodians and parents looked the other way or pretended to not see.

“From primary school,” he opined. “We kept hearing stories of girls who were sleeping with a relation. It is not something that stopped, it is something that we grew out from. It had still been happening, it still has been happening. Thank the rise of our society, we might finally be able to confront this.”

But, another thought, we might not be able to confront this. It is too complex, its claws dig into way too many other aspects of life: beliefs, poverty, deprivation and the chief suspect of culture.

“And spiritual as well,” a brother, typical, responded. It threw a few people off balance. There is a rise, if you have noted, of people who believe that prayer has done us a disservice for way too long. Now, they argue, we should be realistic and deal with the world as it comes. Each to his own? Of course, another of those illusions.

Back to the colleague I was discussing the year with, to pass time. Will 2021 change things? He doubted, before flatly dismissing the idea.

“We construct these things, man, nothing much will change. The change will only be a natural progression. Our problems will not suddenly vanish, they will just keep progressing in their normal course of events. End when they can and mutate when they have to, nothing new. Nothing peculiar.”

That outlook, however, does not mean that one has to not celebrate the new year. It also does not mean that one needs not reflect.

You can celebrate, you should actually. And mourn the losses of the previous year. Planning? That too, you must do. There are more stories, hopefully, for this space in this year. A happy and prosperous new year. Sounds cliché? It is because all this is tradition.

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