Wind of Change

They say a wind of change is blowing
And I cannot disagree
But change means very different things
I had to ask the wind

Of course, I blow
The Grand Dame said
Nothing is, otherwise
But change means very different things
What would you have me be?

At that, I paused
A little unsure
Too big a question for me
I know the wind can energize
But also pulverize

Whatever it is
Whatever you bring
Oh please don’t let it be
A wind that carries on its breath
The scent of death and waste

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If I am only here for myself, then why am I even here?

(This is an incomplete thought. I had wanted to wait to publish but time is running out.)

Life. Not death. Life. Not death. 
 

This is a follow up to the piece I wrote “Can’t Play Fair If The Game is Rigged”. The premise of that piece was that conditions as they are in Cameroon and around the world, are such that the average Cameroonian woman (any woman for that matter) is playing a losing game. I emphasized that there must be a fundamental change in how we see ourselves as women, as individuals in our communities, and as a collective of individuals forming this community. I also recommended that the first step to this transformation is reflection, thinking about yourself as a human being and what that means, but also to think about your needs and what you can to do to fulfill them. The hierarchy of needs outlined below by psychologist Abraham Maslow is a good place to start:


 

I’m going to take a small detour in this essay to address the most common pushback I get, as a person/woman decrying the sorry state of affairs in Cameroon. I want to this before I continue with what I want to talk about so that you understand why I still call bullshit on any reason I am given for things being the way they are, or why I am wrong for being as frustrated as I am.

 

The most common pushback I get is that I am not strong-minded, mentally balanced, grounded etc. I am told that I allow my emotions to be easily influenced by surrounding circumstances. That I need to elevate my mental state in order to achieve mental balance and not be weighed down by “ungovernable” circumstances. Basically, that my redemption consists in rising above these circumstances, surrounding myself with the right people and living for myself and those I love. The reasons given for this approach usually fall along the lines of “You can’t change the world…”, “People are selfish and you just have to take care of yourself…”, “This is just how things are…” Now I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard similar advice from family and friends, lovers and husbands, bosses, and even random strangers.

 

This is not bad advice per se. In all honesty, it’s the sort of advice I would give in a similar situation. I agree with the school of thought that our minds regulate our reality and thus mental mastery is needed for optimal life. But unlike most people who offer this advice, I wouldn’t end here. I would say that this exhortation to mental conditioning needs to eventually extend to the people in our communities, these same people whose individual and collective beliefs and actions create the circumstances we have to deal with, including the so called “ungovernable” ones. I would do this because I recognize that no matter how I craft my inner realities, that is, the world (starting with my community) as conceived, perceived and experienced by my mind, no matter how I craft this for my own wellbeing, I still have to contend with external realities – the world (starting with my community) as conceived, perceived and experienced by the people who make up that world (community). This is what Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie means when she says people make a culture and not the other way around. Things are the way they are because we want and/or allow them to be the way they are.

 

As the individual mind believes, so it is. But also as the collective mind believes, so it is.

 

But how do a lot of us in Cameroon operationalize the concept of mental balancing or whatever it is we choose to call the process of mastering our mind? It seems to me that the act has become transactional like prayer, fasting, and many other philosophical and religious practices which while intended to connect individuals to the Origin, the all-encompassing entity that some call God, that we may align our wills with what makes for Life as it could be, has become the “legal tender” by which we bribe this entity into giving us what we want, regardless of the effects it has on people other than ourselves and the people we care about. I feel like it has become a “major key” to help you live your best life, the emphasis being on what you are going to do to make you and yours comfortable, given the circumstances. So essentially, you recognize the situation is suboptimal yet only look for ways to craft it to your immediate benefit and nothing more.

 

Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, indeed.

 

Ubuntu is one of the main philosophies or worldviews to come from the African continent. Simply expressed, Ubuntu means: a person is a person because of people. Or in the words of philosopher Michael Onyebuchi Eze:

“ ‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.

Why do I bring up Ubuntu? Because as African peoples, regardless of what part of the African mosaic we come from, one unifying philosophy is the fact that we take care of each other, that we are all we’ve got, that we go together, that it takes a village, that communality and individuality are in constant interplay, and our humanity is guaranteed because we guarantee the humanity of others. We thus navigate this path between individual consciousness (self) and shared consciousness (society, community) for the entirety of our lives so, how are we so comfortable with worldviews that limit the scope of who we consider as “ours” such that we define areas we are going to care about and ignore everything else (and wonder why we have such corrupt societies)? As I see it, this approach, is valid and WILL work for those individuals who abide by it but unless a critical mass of people does the same, it’s of minimal value to the larger society – the shared consciousness and thus the reality of the individuals who make up said society. As a result, the factors that create these less than ideal conditions don’t change by much.

 

As the individual mind believes, so it is. But also as the collective mind believes, so it is.

 

For example, my mind as a Cameroonian woman is deeply disturbed by patriarchy and sexism in the country, all it brings with it and how it has complicated to the point of destroying, is complicating to the point of destroying and unless we do something about it, will continue to complicate to the point of destroying the lives of women, and by extension society as it could be. Following the recommended thinking however, I would be expected to focus on elevating and balancing my mind and doing what I need to do to make sure this is not the case for me and those I care about. Basically, patriarchy and its attendant evils are present but how I orient my mind regarding it is what really matters and any attempts I or others make to challenge the status quo first in minds and then through policy, is wasting energy because this is just the way things are. I don’t know if I’m the only one who realizes how fraudulent this is, ESPECIALLY coming from a “well-meaning” man or woman whose praxis is patriarchy.

 

Think of it this way: You can become enlightened enough to eat and drink healthy, exercise and rest regularly, meditate etc. You can even know to take medications like ACTs and have access to the best. But if your compound has optimal conditions for mosquitoes to thrive and you do nothing about that, malaria will continue to plague you. Matter of fact, the parasites will likely develop resistance to whatever restorative or preventive actions you take. Similarly, you can be enlightened enough to know what patriarchy and sexism are, know how to protect yourself from their effects and live your life so all people know you will not stand for that nonsense. But if the collective mind/consciousness of the society that generates these patriarchal sexist attitudes doesn’t become enlightened as well, they will simply adapt around you and you will need to repeatedly dip into these mental balancing resources to just function normally. Energy that could go towards more fully realizing our potential goes towards just simply surviving the day without losing it.

 

Talk about perpetual energy drainage.

 

Furthermore, there is an incrementalism to this approach, an unnecessary “take am small-small” attitude which in my opinion speaks more to moral cowardice than to wanting to take a measured approach. What are we taking small small when we see the destructive effects of these attitudes multiplying exponentially? What are we taking small small when we see the causes and effects plainly? What exactly are we taking small small, when by each of us holding each other accountable as a collective, we can cover that ground much faster? There is also what I see as a communal irresponsibility imbedded in it which is why counselling/therapy, medication, meditative practices and all the means by which individuals can control their minds notwithstanding, our societies keep deteriorating. The individual can do the work but only on the level of the individual. If shared consciousness and collective reality is to change, this self-reflection, need for assessment and mental regulation also must happen at the community level. ​

 

So yes, we need to master our individual minds as beings in this universe and as women living in a deeply patriarchal and sexist world. But where is the exhortation to work towards mastering the collective mind for what we all know is the good of the collective?

 

As the individual mind believes, so it is but also as the collective mind believes, so it is.

the apocalypse we fear

the apocalypse we fear

will not come from Divine retribution

will not involve gods coming down

on fiery clouds, sickle in hand

judgement on the agenda

and for us mortals

heaven or hell the destination

 

the apocalypse we fear

will come and trust it will

because we have forgotten

the principles

that we may balance them

and the laws that govern this realm

that we may mind them

 

does not everything on this realm

come from the same origin?

the Spirit of which sings softly in our ears?

what creature can consume itself and live?

do we not see the imprint?

in high forms as in low?

if it obtains in the cosmos

surely on earth, won’t it do same?

 

does not everything have an opposite?

what swings left, will it not also swing right?

and if it swings far left enough

will it not with mighty force swing right

destroying all in its path?

what rises up, does it not come down?

and if it rises high enough

what a great fall it will be!

 

does not all matter vibrate?

ask your friendly scientist

do all causes not have effects?

and effects their causes?

do we and all created things

masculine, as feminine

not follow the rhythms of life?

 

the apocalypse we fear

will come

because we have abandoned

the most important principles

that we may balance them

and the greatest law of all

which is love

Curses loading…

You dehumanize your wives
You beat them
Some of you force yourselves on them
A man can’t rape his wife, can he?
You humiliate her with your mistresses
Mock her devotion with your other children
Endanger her life with the diseases you bring home
Marry, impregnate, abandon at will
Love is a word that drops from your lips
Poisoned
But I’m high strung if I talk about it
I’m unstable if I call out your cowardice
Feminists are evil, right?
But you’re manipulative and controlling
Selfish beyond belief
Emotionally underdeveloped
Spiritually vacant
Morally retarded
Spirit killers
Enemies of life
Thieves of potential
Prison wardens in disguise
Beta men pretending to be alphas
Whatever the hell that means
Broken children emulating broken fathers
That’s not evil
The problem is the women
The same ones who you claim should tell you what to do
The same ones you wouldn’t deign to listen to
Your gods are watching you
All of them
Old and new
There will be a reckoning

Review: The Mirror and Nine Other Stories by Susan Nkwentie Nde

 Heather Snell continues our summer voyage into children’s literature.

AiW Guest: Heather Snell

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The Mirror and Nine Other Stories is a product of Langaa, a press with offices in Bamenda and Buea. As Langaa indicates on their website, access to publishing is a problem for African writers. Distribution is an even bigger problem: Langaa partners with the African Books Collective, Michigan State University Press, and Amazon to distribute African stories, but due to high printing costs Langaa must operate on a print-on-demand-only basis.

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Why “Smart” Men Still Hold On To Sexism – 5 explanations

1. Moral Cowardice
2. Lack of Empathy
3. A Lack of Experience With Gender Based Dehumanization
4. Myth of A Meritocracy Informs A Superior Male Complex
5. Unwillingness To Give Up Advantageous Superior Social Position

Asaase Yaa Mma

I might be the only person not impressed by "the sexist but charming" Christopher Hitchens. I might be the only person not impressed by “the sexist but charming” Christopher Hitchens.

“Why are smart men still sexist?” The question itself is a bad one. Why do we presume smarter people possess better ethics? Well, it is because we are ableist. Ableism is the systematic maltreatment and disenfranchisement of people with disabilities. One’s moral code has much to do with their socialization and their integrity, and little to do with their intellectual capacity. You and I could be brilliant and evil, or we could be not-so-brilliant and kind hearted. Nonetheless, societal attitudes teach us to possess contempt for intellectually disabled persons. So much so that we presume those with high intellectual capacities to be superior.

If a man reinforces the societal idea that women are inferior to men in anyway, we should refrain from attacking his intellect and aptly scrutinize his moral code. Men are sexist, not because…

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Finding Epie will not fix our rape culture problem

I was about  20 years old and in my final year of university when I was first sexually assaulted by an adult man.

I didn’t resist.

Don’t get me wrong I was in shock that this was happening to me. ME of all people. Like what?! Which motherfucker??! I was enraged, livid, murderous. He knew me. Knew my parents. Knew my family. Knew I was the kind of girl who could speak for herself. I knew his wife, his children. That didn’t stop him. I daresay THAT was why he targeted me.

And I didn’t resist.

Why, you may ask?  Because what I felt at that moment as he slid his hands up my thigh, as he pushed aside my panties, what I felt was resignation. Resignation and a bone deep tiredness born of disappointment, disillusionment and disgust. That moment was a culmination of what I had always known about my community but had hoped would be something I was wrong about.

As a girl growing up in Cameroonian society, you understand pretty quickly that you are not yours. Yes, you are you but you are not yours. You are there for men (regardless of their relationship to you) to control, to look at, comment on, maybe admire…or grope, insult, dominate and eventually own, because that is what marriage (still the highest achievement women can have in our society) is in our communities. Ownership. Don’t believe me? Look at the disproportionate praise and admiration men who do not treat their wives like trash get. Never mind that being married to someone should mean you place that person’s welfare as high as your own.

I was 10 the first time I was catcalled. I was walking up Clerk’s Quarters road in Buea trying to catch a taxi to GRA where we lived. A truck full of soldiers drove by to the camp at Long Street and the whistles erupted almost immediately. I ignored them. Realizing they would get no response from me, one of them called out:

Tu te prends pour qui? Avec tes grosses fesses la, espece de wolowos.

As I moved into my teens and developed as a woman, it became worse. It was almost as if my developing body was an invitation. I don’t need to give too many examples. Any Cameroonian woman (or African woman, or woman for that matter) can tell you what “worse” means. Worse is at home, at school, at work, on the streets, on the farms, in the markets. Worse is normal. Worse is expected. Worse is defended.

Worse is quite literally life. Your value as a woman in this society hinges on how well you can deal with worse. Your value hinges on if and how well you can love worse, marry worse, understand worse, make space for worse, forgive worse, turn a blind eye to worse. It’s why we praise our parents and grandparents relationships even though we KNOW the fuckshit the women almost always had to put up with.

This is the culture in which we live, move and have our beings. A culture where you as a woman are not safe from any man, regardless of his relationship to you. A culture where you are expected to take precautions to ward against a danger even though you don’t know which face that danger will be wearing when you finally meet it. A culture where you will ultimately get blamed and disparaged for other people’s decisions because you had the effrontery to become their victim.

I am tired.

I have written abut our communities and our messed up approach to sexuality Here, Here and Here.

 

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