By Ebele Mogo.
Narrative is a very feeble weapon in the face of human darkness and yet it’s all we have – Chris Abani
It seems this year has been a year of uprisings everywhere. A world spinning out of control and crying out to not be ignored. From the developments in Ferguson in response to the yet improperly addressed problem of police brutality in the States, to Ebola in West Africa, to abductions of school girls, to Syria, Iraq, to two disappearing planes etc. It is enough for a melodramatic movie.My old schoolmate and friend said it well on twitter:100 day abduction, MH17, MH370, Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Central African Rep, Sudan, Libya, Egypt. The world is rotating anti-clockwise
— Ogbeni Agbabiaka (@ArroYomi) July 22, 2014
Recently a friend and colleague contacted me to co-create a response plan to Ebola here: https://www.engageafricafoundation.org/blog/view/ebola-in-africa-what-are-we-learning
It was a very little response that did take a lot of work from both of us yet nothing compared to the magnitude of the problem. A little creative offering you may that if used would help greatly with containment. Of course we cannot control if it is used but we can reach out to offer it in the hopes that it will be and make it simple enough to be adopted.
Shortly after we got a very positive response from other colleagues, researchers and even media outlets and the communities that we had designed this tool for.
Of course in the face of the outbreak, it is still humbling and possibly frustrating to know that anything you do is ultimately a little pathetic response.
Writing in the face of the abduction of girls is a pathetic response.
Tweeting to protest police brutality is a pathetic response.
Singing a song in response to the world or self or thing you hope for is a pathetic response.
Doing business in a new never been done way is a pathetic response.
Acting the part of a slave who wrote his story is a pathetic response- it doesn’t stop what happened to him or others.
Seeing people and things that others do not want to see is a pathetic response.
I remember a blind woman knocking on the window of the car to beg for money when I and my dad were driving in Lagos and were stuck in traffic. My dad gave her some money and yet I remember how it disappointed me that no matter what we gave her it would be a pathetic response. She would still beg tomorrow and she was not even living in a setting where she had the resources to empower herself especially since she was poor and blind. She was so happy that she began singing and praying for my dad. I was 14 then and I still remember the whole thing because it just touched me so profoundly especially when she began singing.
Everything I have ever made will ultimately be a pathetic response and so, if we are not careful we do nothing at all. The truth is that it is frustrating sometimes that every response you have to offer will always be so so little compared to the world you imagine and in addition to that, it also may not work out exactly as you hope.
Unlike what people may think, there is nothing romantic about trying something new especially on a level that resonates profoundly with you- its a hard process that can also be scary. Its not like we are perfect and always have the right intentions and perfect clarity either. But when you realize
that everything you do and offer is a pathetic response that may lead to more pathetic responses then maybe that’s the real power there.
I think that most of our problems with the world and funny enough our opportunities are exactly in that space where we are stunned into a crises of imagination. We know that everything we do is ultimately a pathetic response so why bother? We cannot dare reimagine the world. We cannot dare reinterpret a story. We cannot dare imagine someone else’s side of the story. Isn’t that why we have culture wars, religious crises, uprisings, polarization in how we discuss and deal with people we disagree with, and with ‘others’ of any kind?
It is audacious to imagine. It always is. It is audacious even when it is done silently and quietly. There is a part of us that just wants to keep things the way that they have been, and even when we say we want to be disruptive there is the part of us that may pull us to simply be “disruptive” in the ways that are already accepted and guaranteed to work.
I have been exploring this need to not be so concerned that you are disempowered and yet to be concerned enough to offer your own little pathetic response. Would you like to explore this with me? This idea that you can make or be a part of something tiny as a response to the way the world is and in anticipation of the world you want to see. Something imaginative and yet real. Something idealistic and yet analytical. Something that takes a hard look at the gritty truth and yet is still thoughtful and deep.
Something understated- your own pathetic response.
Maybe you are already in this process – you most likely are to be reading my writing anyway. In which case, I say, do not underestimate the power of your pathetic response. It really isn’t pathetic at all, it is what changes the world eventually.
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
Ebele Mogo writes at www.streetsideconvos.com. She is a writer and entrepreneur who laughs too much and asks too many questions. She has previously been published in the Kalahari review, The Human Touch: A Journal of Poetry Prose and the Visual Arts by the University of Colorado Center for BioEthics and Humanities, Poetry Potion, Pennwood Review among others.