AUGUST 28, 2014 By Oswald Hanciles
“….Time has to be experienced in order to make sense….Since what is in the future has not been experienced, it does not make sense; it cannot, therefore, constitute part of time, and people (Africans!!) do not know how to think of it – unless, of course, it is something which falls within the rhythm of natural phenomena” – “The Concept of Time” in African Religions and Philosophy, Heinemann, 1969.
Escape from the African ‘Mind Trap’
I plead with you!!! Listen to me!! To ‘us’. There are very few of us in Africa who can ‘see into the future’ – and publish our views so that the worst case scenario can be avoided. You didn’t listen to me when I wrote about three articles in this Column about the ramifications of us losing a ‘Preventative War’ against the Ebola Enemy when it struck in Guinea and Liberia. In April, 2014!!! Now, I hear you scream, “Our country has been quarantined!! Our traditional friends are slow to come to our rescue….!!” I am not being immodest when I state here unequivocally that you should listen to me. To us!! I am experiencing a profound sense of sadness that you have not been listening to me. I understand. Read the quotation above. You are in the ‘tropical rainforest African’s Time Trap’. You cannot see into the future – beyond the rainy season, Harmattan; the one year period of sowing rice seeds and harvesting them.
Slash-and-Burn Farming…has led to Ebola Outbreak
In Liberia in 1987, I was the brain and CEO of the Save My Future Conservation Society (SAMFU). The primary purpose of this NGO was to work with local and international groups for the conservation and preservation of Liberia’s rich tropical rainforests. In the 1980s, these forests were identified by pre-eminent environmentalist, Norman Mayers, as one of the “top ten biological hotspots” in the world. Most Africans in Liberia then derided what we were doing. They said we just wanted to tap money from the international community. Using GREENLOVE magazine which my NGO spawned, we used cartoon pictures to teach people to…Don’t chop all your forests down in slash-and-burn farming methods. Reduce your birth rate – as high population without scientific ways of improving agricultural productivity dramatically conflicts the ‘logic of the tropical rainforests’. If you destroy the forests, you c lose forest space for your sacred Sande and Poro rite-of-passage schools – in GREENLOVE magazine, there was a cartoon story that depicted the Bassa creation myth, ‘The Djuankadju of the Bassa’ (The Bassa are the most populous tribe in Liberia). Move forest conservation from the periphery of your national life to the center. In one of the cartoon stories of GREENLOVE magazine, we ‘brought Jesus Himself down into the fray’ of educating about the forests. The people of Liberia ‘did not Listen; even with the ‘Second Coming of a Green Jesus’. Stop eating ‘bush meat’, etc. The forests growth are intricately interconnected; the forests have survived for millions of years, and should not be destroyed wantonly because a few people have to live in marble houses, and ride luxury American/European cars. They did not listen. Now, we are being told by white experts that one of the reasons why we have been stricken by Ebola is because we have cut down too much forests; we have gone into the ‘natural homes’ of wild animals, of bats…..
Ebola on Global TV: Helping us; and waging war on Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia….
I know you are hard of hearing. But, you have good sight. Almost EVERY SINGLE HOUR, on every major TV with a global reach – CNN, Al Jazeera, SKY News, BBC W, Fox News, Bloomberg, CCTV, etc – Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and now, Nigeria, are being splattered as the ‘Ebola Countries’. The message is being etched into global consciousness that we are the most FEARFUL place on earth to be in today. Then, you express surprise that airlines are refusing to land in the three countries; foreign embassies are pulling their non-essential staff out… Look, while we are being ‘dashed’ TOKEN millions of dollars by the EU, World Bank, UNICEF, United States government, etc., the costs of this negative publicity on the three countries in the next FIVE years (minimum) can be speculated at over FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS!!! But, hey, listen….!!!
We can turn the tables on them. We can write our own narrative. But, we must think out of the box. We have to actively consult futurists like Oswald Hanciles.
Ebola is harbinger of emerging global complexity
We in the Mano River Union have to realize that we are enmeshed in an emerging global reality of overwhelming complexity. The ‘Ebola Mystery’ is a harbinger of scenarios which are to come – as Climate Change, and ‘infectious global terrorism’, looms….. Growing complexity has several adverse effects. It causes confusion – and, with the Ebola complexity, it has causes fear, and panic. Complexity thwarts understanding of relationships and depth thinking. And deep thinking, and imagination, are exactly what we need to understand the frightening scenario unfolding. What do we do?
We can adapt and use this Ebola Complexity to our advantage, and shape the future. Or, we can let the change drag us along into the future, and create greater alienation among our people, and allowing our society to implode, or, explode again, destroying itself in the process.
Some people are withdrawing, and failing to cope – trying to let only they and their families survive the Ebola War. (Unlike in our rebel war years when most of the elite ‘pulled out’ to Guinea, Gambia, UK and US, this time round, no one is going to accept large numbers of rich or poor refugees from the three West African countries in theirs). We have to learn to accept the Ebola reality as a new challenge – like people in Europe confronted the bubonic plague, or the first and second world wars… Thankfully, we are being led by President Ernest Bai Koroma who has accepted the challenge of the new Ebola reality – we are least likely to suffer from collective angst; we will not degenerate into mournful wailing; we are warning against intellectually vapid approaches. When we barb some the initial slow or inept of the a ministry to the Ebola attack, we did so out of patriotism – the same patriotism we exhibited when AFRC/RUF rebels ‘captured’ Freetown, and we risked life and limb for country. We are not interested in anybody’s job; we hate no one; we gain nothing from pulling anybody down. We must not just “cope” with the Ebola Reality. We must learn to “shape” our future….
Ebola Change: We must question our politics, our foreign relations, etc.
The Ebola War challenges us all to question how we do politics in Sierra Leone. We must question our foreign relations strategy. Do we send out our partisans as ambassadors just as political reward? Do we position ‘press attaches’ in our embassies abroad just so that they can ‘enjoy’? Now that the international media waging ‘implicit war’ on us, can most of them even imagine what has to be done? Please, listen to me. To us. Listen like you didn’t listen before.
When President Tejan Kabbah died and every other person was lavishing praise on him, I wrote four articles excoriating President Kabbah’s ‘war record’. I wrote that that Kabbah’s ‘war record’ was based on a Big Lie – that there was nothing any government could have done to prevent the AFRC/RUF taking over the capital city twice!!! The cataclysmic January 6, 1999 invasion of Freetown could have been prevented through wise use of intelligence, and massive mobilization of the people of Freetown. And, when the pogrom of the AFRC/RUF on January 6 was splashed on the world media, it presented a rare ‘propaganda ammunition’ to the SLPP government – to so stigmatize the AFRC/RUF that all the world would react them with utter revulsion; with video documentaries, PR experts engaging global influencers, the RUF/AFRC would have been ‘killed’ as a bankable force. Tejan Kabbah did not know what to do. He did not listen to PR experts. He waited until the US government arm twisted him to make one of the worst War Criminals ever in human history – Foday Sankoh – “equivalent to Vice President”. Today, President Koroma has another ‘Ebola Opportunity’ like President Kabbah had a ‘RUF/AFRC Opportunity’. He has to listen to me. To us.
We all have to break out of the African’s ‘Time Trap’ which Mbiti so authoritatively postulated in the opening quote of this piece. All three Mano River Countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone; and Nigeria; have to escape from that narrow-minded and small-thinking propensity of the African – I appeal!! .