Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Truth and Reconciliation

The statues have been coming down of late
Their existence is at least contested these days
The shadows of impunity that were proudly erected by History
Are later seen as blind spots, per Auden's Archaeology
The legacies of men reexamined in a crisis's light
A change of perspective that provides newfound insight

That while one's forefathers may have looted and wielded the whip
It's no minor proportion of humanity that is descended from Genghis Khan
One needn't have been bloodthirsty to be a slaver in days of yore
We know foundational framers owned sour property on their sugar farms.
But wilful ignorance of sins past is quite the strange fruit
Turning your nose up at banana republics while forgetting your own crops
'Tis a blissful privilege to live, as the song goes, in unfinished sympathy
And to have to be actively taught about the importance of empathy

Recall that well before Winnie's husband had assumed the mantle,
Long before the ink was dry on South Africa's new constitution
Their spokesmen were already calling apartheid ancient history
And, well, de Klerk would later join Kissinger in the rogues' gallery
Call it, of cold blooded murderers that have won the Nobel Peace Prize
The three musketeers of fate: irony, infamy and goddamn lies

In my own life there was neither truth nor reconciliation
Our philosophy of survival meant that my countrymen rather embraced fictions
True, we always sought consensus and shared humanity
And our preferred political tactic was conversation
Yet this has meant a fraught and enforced civility
So even with my keen outrage - it comes with the territory
They're an open wound: those provisions of that amnesty
The depth of my feelings towards someone I used to call Uncle
The revulsion towards the Flight Lieutenant might prove to be a mistake
So while I view him as a sinner who drips blood in his wake
A living testament to unresolved matters of justice
His every utterance contemptible and scornful in practice,
That he still walks around unencumbered is too hard to handle

Still, I'm minded that my cousin once fell for one his daughters
The heart wills it wants, I heard the news and broke into kotokious laughter
Indeed, how could I even have forgotten? I was once her babysitter
It's just flesh and blood, hell, my mum was the woman's godmother
It just goes to show that social interplay is complicated
This is as it should be, harken back to Tristan and Iseult
Or Montagues and Capulets, wherefore art thou, Oduro
Inconvenient truths, and that modern saying, entanglement
Or rather that uneasy phrase, structural adjustment

The good professor would ask: is democracy of universal application?
The self-appointed general merely laughed at the quaint suggestion
An article of faith in the conqueror's catechism:
Impunity first, we'll loot to demonstrate dominance
The lessons of brute force, our country has learned in spades
We've been treated to imperialism, militarism, and even consciencism
The die was cast, I'll say we earned our lost decades
But those painful interludes were a temporary inconvenience
True, it wasn't easy living under rogue authoritarians
Yet history's arc would shift us away from those blows of providence

It all now falls to the next generation
To enact cultural revival and a quiet revolution
Yes, blood and sin remain at the heart of the matter
As, indeed, do cultural universals and particulars
The perils of greed and opportunism we'll have to suffer
And irony will linger as life's key register
The roots of our conflicts have always proven to be bitter
The search for a blanket of soul, a soothing balm for painful chapters
What profit a man? In this life, we're all political actors
Forgiveness and love, the anthem of Bloodbath, South Carolina

Containers: Bitters

Truth and Reconciliation, a playlist

A soundtrack to this note, a meditation on secrets and lies. (spotify version)

Photo credit: DK Osseo-Asare

I nominate this note for The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of The Rough Beast, which asks: who is writing the script?

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