So, there’s such a thing as writer’s block. And it happens to the best and worst of us. Granted, there is a lot in this tiny world of ours to be said. Consequently, there is a whole lot to be written. Yet still, there comes a time in a person’s life when they just can’t seem to be able to put pen to paper—no matter how hard they try. The brain gets frozen; the spirit, uninspired, and one cannot just do this mundane act called writing. Yes, I know this is a prophetic column, but, you see, we cannot wantonly ascribe this ailment to sorcery. So, what causes one to experience this intellectual yips, you ask? Well, from experience, I will say that writers easily find themselves in this quicksand when they take to performing this taboo called lying.
A writer who gets inspired still to write even in the depths of their lies is arguably a psychopath. Lying forestalls good dialogue; it blocks good writing. I know this to be true because I tried it two weeks ago. At my very wits’ end in the article ‘At Our Wits’ End’, I believe I used these words and expressions, ‘the embodiment of all that is majestic’ and ‘epitome of greatness’ in description of Ghana. And I cannot even use the inebriation excuse, because I am unfortunately quite the quintessential teetotaler. So yes, I wrote all those words sober. “That nation that sits upon this earth as though thrown down by God Himself to be an embodiment of all that is majestic”—this kind of patriotic bragging is all well and good, until one finds themselves stuck in darkness for two days—having purchasing power, but still unable to purchase power.
It is interesting, because I was busily doing research on ESG, when ECG visited, and took my light—as they were entitled to. I had spent that day on edge, counting the clock as the meter ran down, knowing all too well that the electricity credit I had purchased might not arrive in time—that my light might go off before it did. And it did happen—that which I feared the most. So, I slept in darkness for two days—which ranks as one of the least losses suffered by Ghanaians doing this electrical quagmire. Yet that does not take away from the fact that this experience has made me philosophical. It has humbled me. It is not easy for a patriotic citizen to go on bragging when they are broken.
It started two weeks ago with Brazil. One would have thought that the good people of Brazil would have read that elaborate bragging we did in that week’s article—prior to their friendly game with us, and would have, right there and then, been crippled with intimidation. But that was not to be. So, 3-nil it was. But that is certainly not the root cause of this writer’s block we are experiencing here. It is the light. How does one go on fighting for a sense of self-worth for themselves and the rest of their nation and continent when one finds their own sense of self-worth temporarily tampered with, as they sleep in 2 days of darkness—left with their own thoughts, to contemplate their existence? It did not help matters that this friend of mine—whose name I am tempted to mention in vengeance—kept on sending me videos and memes all of which carried a message he had, for months, tried to get across to me: ‘If you manage to be born, live, and die in Ghana, you get a free pass to heaven. Because you have already lived your hell.’ That’s what those videos and memes said. One meme even went on to suggest that this ‘hell’ of a training would secure the Ghanaian in hell—not heaven. Because after all, how does one train for hell and end up in heaven?
And I deserved this mocking, because aren’t I the one who goes on this pro-African bragging spree from time to time—intending it my humble quota towards Black upliftment? With you as my partner in crime—the crime of forced upliftment, didn’t we, I repeat, use the expression ‘the embodiment of all that’s majestic’ in description of Ghana? This otherwise quaint Ghana—the in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-presently-quaint Ghana… A nation having potential, yet its fullest of potentials not yet reached—its progress arguably stalled since the historic day of 1957… This presently quaint country of ours, didn’t we paint it as the most attractive of nations in a cliffhanger of an outro last two weeks—a cliffhanger so high that the articles subsequent to it were to indispensably suffer an underachievement… Didn’t we parade this nation of ours on the world stage as one deserving of a place in the highest of global seats? And then one goes home and is humbled by—among many, many other things—two days of complete darkness. Why? Because one had the purchasing power but could still not purchase power. I must tell you, that was the last straw.
Mid-way through an epic poem of an article we, the people of Attempted Prophecies, had underway, as additions to our contributions to Black upliftment, the spirit of inspiration temporarily left us, and what we were left with were blank pages—so last week, ‘Attempted Prophecies’ was a no-show. Because—please tell me—what was I going to write in defence of this claim of enormous greatness? Even this week, this column was almost a no-show. And you can tell from the fact that publication was done on a Thursday instead of yesterday (a Wednesday). After going through several tossing and turnings, writings and revisions, I decided to power through. You know what, just take a look at what we originally had planned for this week’s opening paragraph…
This is Where the Article Was Originally to Begin
“Before we commit the mistake of dying—I tell you—we must each make it a point of writing down our versions of events. Because—and this will come as no surprise to you—there is no one more concerned with affairs concerning you than you yourself. [Pardon the bad English]. There is none, at the end of the day, concerned with painting us in the best of light than we, ourselves. [Again, to the literature purists, pardon the tautology]. History is an indispensable fact of human living—so far as the act of living is undertaken, history becomes indispensably birthed. Human beings, being in varying degrees self-absorbed and again, in varying degrees, sadists, we find ourselves committing garnishments and ‘tarnishments’ to history—every chance we get. The embellishments are committed when we take charge of the penning of our own histories; the tarnishments, when we leave our histories un-codified…”
We were then going to quickly go on and partly dismiss this paragraph right up here—this long-held Eurocentric and White-centric assertion that history is only valid when written, and cite the many instances of the acceptance of Caucasian oral history as points for this argument. If the world managed to find truth in the afore-oral chronicling of Greek history by Homer, the world should surely sit still and swallow the truths embedded in the countless oral histories of Africa.
This objection was itself to come with an objection. Because it would be mighty fatal for the good people of this continent of Africa to proceed, in this immensely literate age, to have their lives un-codified, leaving their histories in the hands of those who bother to take to writing. Because what is it that we have established? Histories suffer either garnishments or tarnishments—the former are undertaken by persons who take charge of the penning of their own histories; the latter suffered by those who leave their lives un-codified. But why is it so important that a people take to the commitment of casting their lives in stone? By ‘stone’ I mean paper.
If there is one thing human experience has taught us, it is this fact: it is unapologetically human for a people to look into their pasts to derive a sense of self-worth for their present existence and for their futures. There are nations, races, continents and subcontinents of people walking around in this 21st century with their shoulders lifted so high that they could self-suffocate. These people are fearless in their approach towards the act of living… These people are not just existing, they are thriving. They are commanding the course of the entire world around them. Having been born into a legacy of innovations and inventions… for example, their ancestors having orchestrated (and recorded their orchestrations) of the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, and having caused further advancements through the decades and centuries—one which saw to the birthing of the second, third, and fourth wave of this industrial revolution, modern nations, continents, sub-continents, and persons proceeding from this heritage live their lives knowing full well the duty of inventiveness incumbent on them. They walk about knowing that such innovativeness runs in their blood, that it is their duty to carry on with this global legacy of innovation. So then, this immensely Digital Age of ours. And the legacy of human wonder continues…
But take this other group of people—a people whose histories of human wonder are left untold, left to vanish into thin air and into questionable legends… Since human existence began, these people’s histories have been left festering in their soils, unexplored. So much so that their stories and the interpretations of their present existence are left up for grabs—left in the hands of others, and made tragically to begin at a point of belittlement. The 7th century when the Arabs set foot in eastern and central Africa, to the 15th century when the Europeans infiltrated the continent, and caused acts of human degradations on the people of Africa…surely this is nowhere for a people, serious in their journeys of nationhood and personhood, to begin the recounting of their histories. What legacy does such a past set in the minds of present generations of these people? Is it a PTSD that ensues? Or is it Stockholm syndrome?
Do such a people become a statistic—the statistic that says: ‘the abused becomes the abuser’, and then proceed to commit upon their own selves this same theft? Do they learn from their past oppressors and take to taking advantage of one another every chance they get? In their minds, does retrogression—on a subconscious level—become synonymous with leadership and nationhood? As the Europeans scrambled for Africa—robbing the continent of its natural and human resources, do the people of Africa end up taking a page from their past colonialists’ book, and, in turn, cause this same scrambling upon their own selves? Do these people, after years of suffering these thefts, become to their own selves, their own robbers, causing upon one another and consequently on their nation as a whole a seeping national journey—one where betterment is not consciously worked towards? What legacy do the modern people of Africa have, honing in their minds? Having been largely made to believe that their national and continental histories begin at a degrading and dehumanising point, what perceptions of selves do the Africans carry?
History makes a people—it orchestrates their future. The effect of history on a people comes in two opposing forms—either as a curse or a blessing. It is that which goes on to form the consciousness of a people. A people may walk about within the confinement of their nations thinking themselves liberated but would still be so wandering about bonded—in thought. Self-bondage. The worst kind of bondages there is.
That is why it becomes woefully disastrous for an entire continent of people, to find, when they also take to committing this indispensable human act of looking back on their history, only gore, only records of their ancestors (a.k.a. their past selves) bonded together in bondages, made slaves, colonised, and belittled. It does not augur well for a people’s consciousness and sense of self-worth to find history beginning on such a brutal and belittled note. That is why it becomes incumbent that we look further and deeper into history. Because surely this ancient continent of Africa did not begin in the 7th century; neither did it begin in the 15th century. As human beings have existed, this ancient continent has existed. And that sameness we talked about weeks back in the ‘Death of Me’ articles, it finds itself resonating here.
For instance, we know that our African ancestors, much like the rest of the world around them, had their fair share of tribal and ethnic statehoods—a form of nationalistic bond preceding the modern concept of nationhood as we have it. These Africans of historic times had their share of majestic reigns, enormous wealth, human dignity (when it was in fact afforded), internal conquests, a deep sense of self, etc.—just like the rest of the world. All these—the good specifically—were to suffer brutally upon the experiencing of external conquests—in our case—from a group of differently coloured individuals, Europeans. The Transatlantic slave trade and subsequent colonisation, for instance, was an event so grim in its effect, and so broad in its reach that it has risen to such position of prominence in the continent’s history. So formidable was this beast that it continues to overshadow, in our abused African minds, for example, recorded exploits of North African civilisations and advancements—civilisations and advancements that were sure to have spread south to the rest of the continent, but have been left to be snuffed out into obscurity for a lack of codifications and a lack of a dedicated, conscious efforts towards the recounting of history.
So here we have it, a continent that has managed to deal itself a bad card by failing to delve deeper back into its own history, to sniff out that heroism, that records of human advancements, that legacy of awe buried deep in its history—one discoverable through, among others, its oral tradition, legend, archaeology, its languages. We have consequently failed at consciously imbibing this history in our own selves, in our children, in our educational systems. A history having its fair share of ups and downs, its heroisms and weaknesses—as symptomatic of the rest of the world around us—has been left un-taught the vast majority of Africans. So then, the perception of a peculiar continent—peculiar in weakness and so-called backwardness—has been left to wander free in the mind of the African and the rest of the world—when this was in fact nothing but a selling point forged and sold by a group of colonists on the prowl. This perception of African peculiarity has been left to roam free, although looking back on history—if history be fairly and accurately laid before us all—what we find between us and the rest of the world is sameness not a divergence.
This has been a detour. Yet a necessary one. Because should we have proceeded with our inquisitions into the birthing and utilisation of rule of law in nations, and should we have done so in the context of Ghana and proceeded head-on, as we intended, to the recounting of affairs from the colonial era through to this post-independence era, what we would have been unconsciously doing would have been lending credence to that perception that Africa’s history began with its colonisation and slavery. And should I have proceeded this way, and consequently, helped create this perception, I believe that would have landed me in a writer’s block unbreakable for years—years!
With this tangent effectively taken, we may hop right back to the rule of law—with Ghana as case study. Having experienced a writer’s block from the excessive bragging done last two weeks, you would think I would have learnt my lesson. But what am I if not stubborn? So, I will say this again: next week we shall take a look at that nation that sits upon this earth as though thrown down by God Himself to be an embodiment of all that is majestic. And you know what that nation is…