Attempted Prophecies By Yao Afra YAO: We reserve the right to forget


A Hell of a Detour

Even if Hitler someway, somehow made it to hell, I very much doubt that his stay there was long. Because if God Himself could go so far as to describe Himself as a “jealous God”… God, being the epitome of all that is good, if She could describe Herself so unflatteringly, as a jealous one… A God unwilling to share His position with others, unwilling to share praise, unwilling to share neither the role nor accolades due a Creator with anyone else, one can only imagine the sentiments of satan, the epitome of all that is evil, on this same matter of sharing—in his case, the accolade of being the definition of evil itself.

It is because of this that I say strongly—without any real empirical proof, yet strongly—that Adolf Hitler, even if, he, somehow, someway, found his way to hell, was not granted a long stay. Because Satan would sooner break all hell loose than to share the same space with a human who threatened his position as the evillest being that ever was. So where is Hitler, you say? I honestly don’t know—and that is not the aim of this article, anyway. We do not intend today’s piece as an inquisition into the whereabouts of the long-deceased Fuhrer. But let me quickly say, we may be right in assuming that he was doomed to an even deeper hell…

Chapter One: The Godly Act

  1. Deutschland

Much has been said about Adolf Hitler—one of the devilish human beings that ever graced the surface of the earth. So ubiquitously does he reign in history and in our minds that we tend to forget that the man finds his origins in the people… that he did not spring up from hell… that behind him—this single man—was a whole army of people, a whole generation of people complicit, either in full or in part, voluntarily or involuntarily… Right behind him, fuelling the raging ideologies of a superior race on one hand, and an inferior race on the other hand, an ideology that found its methodology in a gruesome ethnic cleansing, were a nation of people, once again, either in full or in part, voluntarily or involuntarily, nodding him on, cheering him on, sharing in his end hence, his means—the German people.

Many scholars have tried putting themselves into the shoes of the German people of the era of Adolf Hitler—trying to understand what specifically their sentiments regarding this pseudo leader were. Whether they so blatantly knew of the mass incinerations occurring at the various Nazi killing centres… You know what, this whole ‘incineration’ thing is too fancy a word. It almost obscures this gory horror that was the mass burning of fellow human beings at the stake—one of the many evils spawned by the Nazi Regime. Did the Germans know, in vivid terms, what was being done to the so-called ‘inferior race’—of which groups like the Jews, Communists, etc. featured prominently—in the camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor, Belzec, and co.? And if they knew, did they care? Were their inactions only informed by the helplessness characteristic of a people under authoritarian rule as Hitler’s regime was? Or was their concerted inaction informed by a latent or overt stamp of approval—an approval for the total annihilation of fellow human beings?

Some historians try to paint the picture of the former: a people forced into acceptance of this horror committed upon fellow humans, either out of ignorance of the true facts, or out of helplessness and fear of the dictator. Others have leaned more towards the latter: a German people often-times fully aware, and complicit in their acceptance of the end promised—a nation of ‘pure’ Germans, the supposed Aryan race, the superior race; an ideology of racism, brute expansionism, and dominance at all costs. Both schools of historians perhaps commit the flaw of using a portion to define the whole—a sort of worldly synecdoche, if you will. And maybe, in beginning our article on this front we may just be inadvertently adding to this flaw… The fatal flaw of explaining different people yet employing a generalisation. What we call ‘stereotyping’. But when has stereotyping cared? Hasn’t the defining object of stereotyping been to bunch up an entire group of people in a box, and arbitrarily place on them one defining label?

So, the question here is: what are the German people to you now? What is the world’s perception of the German people as it stands? Is it that of a people inclined to unparalleled evil and to racism? Extreme racism—radicalised racialism? Deadly racism? One where ‘deadly’ as used here is not a metaphor? A people inclined to wipe out fellow human beings they find unacceptable—be they children or the elderly, women, or men?

Of course not! That is definitely not the case. The German people, in the world’s mind, are innovative people. In technology and innovation, they are the very definition of finesse. Germans are an ingenious people—a people who have influenced greatly, and still do, the course of human knowledge and ingenuity, and consequently human progress. Oh! Great, great Germany!

H-how? And why is this so…?

  1. Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam says he is good people.

Ever since this vast nation acquired independence, ever since Jefferson and co. penned that beautifully worded text that is the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…”, ever since these beautiful words came into the public domain in the year 1776, all Americans have been united in this perception of their own self: Americans are good people! America is the land of the free. In America, you can become all that you want to be. America is heaven on earth—a place where all humankind is afforded life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness.

The thing here though is that in 1776 a particular group of human beings were being used as cattle in this same country—this supposed land of the free.

Hundred years later, in admittance of how hypocritical it was of them to, on one hand, be leading the crusade for freedom and liberties, while on the other hand, hold an entire race of people involuntarily enslaved, this country was to pass a law specifically abolishing slavery.

Slavery abolished, America reiterated their goodness every chance they got—both on the national and international level. A nation where all humankind was free to take on the train that is the pursuit of happiness, and of fulfilment. A land where all humankind is granted the basic dignities of life—an equal playing field where one, if they should apply themselves, could attain their wildest dreams and aspirations. Oh! the amazing, amazing America!

But all this wasn’t particularly true, was it? Because contained right in its vast national borders, was this same race of people, supposedly granted freedom, yet technically still bound. A people who were disenfranchised on every national front—a people denied access to equal and quality education, consequently denied access to decent employment, a people denied decent living, and a chance at a good life. A people sabotaged on every front; their every move made a crime. A people physically contained in this same border of a country yet refused actual integration.

A nation where a particular race of men and women were constantly accosted by groups of citizenries and were lynched, hanged, and at best, imprisoned for the pettiest of crimes, and most times, for no crimes at all. Indeed, during the entire period spanning the years of the American Civil War and World War II, countless Black men and women were made victims to a racial terror on an unprecedented scale. These men and women were wantonly grabbed by the White American and at the stake, burnt, lynched; their bodies, hanged on trees for all to see.

This reminds me of this uncle of mine who once devised the perfect solution to the lizards that had been constantly climbing his wall to be to catch one, “…Catch just one, kill it, and hang its body on the wall as warning for its fellow lizards”. That was essentially the philosophy these Americans of the late 1800s through to the late-90s took with the Black Americans of the era. There were actual events held in celebration of these much anticipated ‘ceremonies’. Advertisements were placed in newspapers, inviting the general public to come and enjoy as this-and-that Black person was lynched at a particular date. These became family gatherings—the White American would go with their families, their little sons and daughters, to enjoy a picnic that was the hanging of fellow human beings. Yes, picnics. There were actual eating and drinking, and general merriments as these hangings and lynchings took place. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) reports that over 4,440 lynchings took place in America between the periods of 1877 and 1950. 1950—that is just some 70 years ago.

Through it all, America said it was good people. A nation where the freedoms and rights of each and every citizen is religiously secured. And even now as I write, as you read, tell me, what is your perception of America? Is it not true that it is indeed the nation where all people are free to pursue the greatest of dreams, a land where all are free to be as they choose to be? Is your perception of them that of an evil people, capable of committing atrocious acts such as pouring acid on fellow human beings because they dared swim in a pool with their Blackness? 1964—just some 59 years ago, this happened.

Are you not applying now for a visa to be part of this great nation? Why…?

A Godly Right to Amnesia 

Because a people reserve every right to forget! Why has the German, the American, and all other such nations of the West and East, having had such a history—and often times still having—of gore, of crudeness, bruteness, inhumanity, monstrosity…why and how have these nations managed to convince themselves and the rest of the world around them that they are all but these derogatory adjectives? Why do we agree when the American say they are good people? Why do we agree with the Germans when they say that they are the very beacon of stability and democracy in this modern world?

Why, you ask? Because a people reserve every right to forget. They reserve the right to refuse to make their past define their present. They reserve all rights to break free of the misdoings of their ancestors. They reserve every right to be selective in their acceptance of the influence of their ancestors upon their present lives. They can choose to be inspired only by their greatness and reject all impositions their wrongdoings attempt at having on their present lives. Oh! a people do have every right to forget—it is a Godly act, in fact. Jeremiah 31:29, anyone? I daresay, they reserve every right to, even in the depths of their worst times, still sell a fiction of themselves as all that is good—in hopes that they may, while faking it, make it someday. To tell oneself a lie, and choose to religiously believe that lie, to steadfastly look upon this lie as a shining beacon of hope, all the while working towards attainment of the state of that lie… Ah! one cannot be mad at this ingenious national approach!

Chapter Two: The Devilish Act

That is why I find this all so shocking that we Africans haven’t managed to do same. We are not going to use the word ‘Black’ and implicate our fellow kinsfolk in the diaspora, many of whom are still mentally and institutionally so bound that true liberation eludes them across certain crucial fronts. We are going to have to zoom in on just us Africans in today’s piece. Why haven’t we, an entire continent, being home of the Black race, managed to pull for ourselves, for our individual and national good, this same act of forgetting—of forgetting and reversing the damages done by the past?

If the German refuses to be bound by the scruples that comes with such a gruesome past, if the American chooses to refuse to be bound by same, if all these past colonists and slaveholders of the West and East refuse now—and have so, throughout the course of their national lives—to be gripped by the bloody hands of their bloody pasts, why haven’t we, the former victims of their acts not managed to pull this same feat? Why have we failed to leave behind the remnants of colonialism—that which managed to convince us that our way of life, our way of dressing, eating, being, and even down to the physical form which the talented Creator has endowed us with, is wrong and inferior?

Why have we chosen to proceed with our national lives still bound in the clasps of this colonialist thinking of inferiority and servitude? If the perpetrator could choose to wash her hands free, how much more the victim—why can’t the victim seem to wash his brain free? If ever forgetting and redemption be accessible—shouldn’t it be more so to the victim than the perpetrator?

Because we do recognise that in order to be successful in their act of stealing from us, these past colonialists had to be calculated, don’t we? In order to effectively steal from us and cause us to willingly submit to this poaching, they had to adopt a calculated, unfounded strategy of belittlement. In order to successfully weaken us to the point of servitude, they had to employ all means possible—all unfounded means possible—of breaking our very sense of self, our self-esteem. That is the only way the stealing could run smoothly.

On all fronts, our sense of self and of esteem was toyed with towards this end of mass thievery that occurred from the 15th century onwards. We have covered the various aspects in past articles. In this article, we narrow in on hair—the Black person’s hair. This otherworldliness, this ability to defy gravity—Black hair. All over the world, the human hair, as it grows, falls. But there comes the African, there comes this Black person, they, their hair, it stands! I tell you what, in creating the Black hair, God was just showing off. There is no other logic for this distinctness, this distinction—this display of showmanship, than the desire in the Creator to show off Her sheer creativity.

Here are hair strands that do not sprout out straight, but curls and coils; their pathway zigzagged, curved, not straight to the point. In creating the Black person’s hair, God, He indeed was making a point. Sheer creativity, unmatched ability for creativity—that is exactly the point He was making with the African’s hair. Hair that refuses to immediately back down even when drenched with water; hair that comes out forcefully to assert its presence largely. ‘Look at me!’ It demands of all around it. The Creator, indeed, was in no ordinary mood when he made our hair.

Oh! I am going to continue with the bragging in this paragraph… Hair that stands, defying gravity—I don’t know how God comes up with this stuff.  Hair that has a mind of its own—refusing to be easily amassed into a small confinement of space. No wonder God had to rest on the seventh day! In fact, as we are all aware, the Creator Himself, after His 33-year trip to earth, on the day of his exit, was to pull this same magic pulled by Black Hair. The Saviour, it was said, defied gravity by being lifted up into heaven by His afro… Oh! behold the lamb. Up, up the Saviour went, pulled up by his woolly hair. I’m not lying. Please take this seriously.

Don’t act all shocked at the conclusion of today’s piece. Because you very much know that this is not the first time that we have begun an article so strongly with a geopolitical opening only to cap off with a call for a sociological and ideological revolution. We have drilled down to the bottom of these senseless, conscious belittling historically and presently caused us—touching on even the most perceived mundane. In an article like ‘This is Not about Football’, for instance, we touched on the glorious African figure. In articles like ‘This Whole Thing Began With Textiles’, ‘The West Used to be Full of Colour’, etc. we zoomed in on the criminally underappreciated glory that is the African apparel.

These conversations are crucial because it is important that in our pursuit of national growth, we start first, by demanding of our own selves—ourselves as human beings and as a race—personal growth. That is the only way true development, true liberation—economic liberation—can ensue for the African. It is only by uplifting our individual selves as a people, that national, continental, and racial upliftment will ensue for us. I mean, the conversion of this to economic prosperity is just as direct as it is indirect. And we will talk about the economics of it all in another article. But before that what is it that we hear…

‘Hair v. Motown’ is Not a Contradiction.

What is this that we’ve been hearing? That this very thing that God made in extravagant creativity—this hair of the Black man and woman has been termed as what…? Unprofessional? Unattractive? Unclean? Untidy? Pardon my French, but which fool comes up with this stuff? The very thing that biologically springs out from our head—you and I… This very special thing that, in its natural state, stands, our Black hair, donning its natural state of being is considered as what…? Unprofessional? Now please do pardon my Spanish, but which fool comes up with this stuff?! Because God definitely isn’t the fool here. He, in creating this wonder that is Black hair, committed no such mistake of foolery and unsightliness.

And as you and I choose to—even after all these years after our independence from colonial rule—still be guided by this colonial tomfoolery, where does that place us?

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