Essay: The Voice of the Master

Friday, August 02, 2019

In this consummately engaging treatise The Voice of the Master Gibran’s masterful artistry grips the moral senses to the point of it leaving an aftertaste of compulsion — to change -  or to resist change and wallow forever in the bliss of our ignorance. There are a few tips The Decided could learn from this ancient Lebanese mystic, especially when it is understood that the economy is central to every index on development be it the Middle East, the United States or The Gambia. While the private sector can lay claim to success in showcasing local potential, investors’ files continue to swell with bidders doing business from beach sand to oil, the very raw resources that are destroying the people’s advancement under tens of African governors.

Well-intentioned no doubt they now squat around the dining table of the Decided Gambia and are feeling their way over the Braille dots, of which as soon as they master the layout, the blind misspelling can begin. The promises are being buried six feet deep and the script we had decided is now undecipherable. It is perhaps good teaching to sound the knell in order to avert the evil spell by reminding the business world and our own patriotic agents of their joint capacity to be the big bad wolf that could blow down this delicate house of cards that is ours for a country. But are you a merchant, drawing advantage of the needs of the people, engrossing goods so as to resell them at an exorbitant price? If so, you are a reprobate; and it matters nothing whether your home is a palace or a prison. Or are you an honest man, who enables farmer and weaver to exchange their products, who mediates between buyer and seller, and through his just ways profits both himself and others? If so, you are a righteous man, and it matters not whether you are praised or blamed.

The merchant talk above without quotation marks is deliberate to drive home Gibran’s desire for a sense of ownership of sublime truth to those to whom the struggling common labourer looks, yearning for an affordable life with rice (the non-plastic kind, I mean) on his table – or even beer, for belching sake! His pension receipt could then go the extra mile at least until the extended family remittance arrives, even if that derives from the proceeds of bitter means and substances in Europe. Woe betides the commoner who does not have hope of a remittance; well knows he that as close as they may seem back-to-back the 1st is quite a hungry stretch from the 31st and that many like him have only one assured meal a day. Thus, the eyes of a thousand breadwinners look to the cherry blossoms ahead, that is if the designers of the promised economic fairy tale will tell the true story and will guide the script so that we will live happily ever after in the peace that has become a synonym.

Remember, they who wait peacefully in great expectation decided the new order and are eager to reap a translation of their blackened fingertips at the ballot box. They are the ones whose peaceful uprising brought us the boldest statement ever in the history of the plebiscite since 1962 which exactness eludes me 20 weeks after, but which paraphrased:  ‘By the evidence of the figures in front of me… there is going to be a change… of garments,  favours and allegiances… in this country. That was not Gibran’s poetry; that came from a common man whose democratic guts and gumption outstripped Gibran’s subtleties and galvanised the wretched of the earth to even more fearless resistance.

In the deafening silence of the city’s deserted streets a lunatic chanted, “The Ides of March are come,” to which a beggar replied: “But not yet gone.”

From a similar well of wisdom of The Voice of the Master we now drink from the soothing cup while the drops from our lips, puckering the raped and tortured soil below, do so to rhythmic perfection, fulfilling muted prophecy that one day I will see a rich man standing at the temple door, stretching out his hands, which were full of precious stones, toward all passers-by, and calling to them, saying: ‘Have pity on me. Take these jewels from me. For they have made my soul sick and hardened my heart. Pity me, take them, and make me whole again.’

As you sharpen your cleavers to carve your triangle of the victory gateau think of us, we the walking dead who have risen from our prayerful camel’s knees up to a posture of hope; the people who have rolled away the stone for our rising and who now are anxious: Who among the jockeying knights in robes or tailcoats will lead us out of this awesome darkness of clawing greed, this walling and fencing by name and by tongue?

Remember, we the poor know how to forgive but forgetting is harder; not because we do not want to but because the cicatrices won’t go away. At least when my father died we buried him in a simple black suit. Other fathers were wrapped in the filth of their mattresses and in the shirts they were last seen in. This plagues our dignity; this insults our silence, because what bloody pages of a mangled book shall we bequeath posterity?

The zipped throats now stammer again and Truth continues to itch all over to the threat of toxicity. But how, with the noise of the marketplace confusing The Decided into not trusting where to intervene — at what level, at what intensity, at what decibel— in the face of the elephantine task at hand and the many Cascas, all of them honourable men, but whose mean and hungry looks paint a gallery of unchanged hearts itching for a turn.

John Adams: “Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honour or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.”

The people rest, M’Lord.