By Nehru Odeh
Do not clothe him in golden apparels now that he is no more whereas when he was alive you were as dumb as an ass even though you were in the know of all the things he did and didn’t do. Do not say he did this and didn’t do that whereas when he was alive you didn’t care whatever he did or didn’t because in the first place you felt it wasn’t your business. Whose business is it anyway now that covid 19 is ravaging our world. Now that we are veritable food for thought.
Do not say he was the best man that we never had, even though weddings still go on as we beat funeral drums to the grave. But where are the grooms and brides anyway in a world where weddings are breeding grounds for more deaths? Do not say he was a nationalist or an ethnicist in a country where a thin line separates ethnicity and nationalism, where all the lines are blurred by selfish interests? Who needs nationalism anyway in a world where it is patriotic to be an ethnicist, in a world where ignorance is bliss and bravery cowardice.
Do not say he wasn’t corrupt but can the dead ever be corrupt? Can the dead return all the stolen funds stacked abroad? Can the dead come back and defend himself in a country where corruption is patriotism and patriotism corruption? Do not say he wished us well or never wished us well when wishes are mere abstractions in a world that needs the milk of human kindness, where wishes are just the silent stirrings of a turbulent heart?
Do not wrap him in a gilded box when mice have invaded the barn and ravaged all that we held dear. Do not, I say do not, say he had the best interest of us all in mind in a country where the rich get richer and the poor poorer, in a country where the poor are dying everyday from diseases and hunger, in a country where the poor can’t access power because power doesn’t belong to them, because power is another word for darkness.
Do not say he was a saint or a villain because we are at war and the front lines, the fault lines, the differences, are blurred by the blood of those who have died and are dying everyday, killed not by the devil this time but by our own acts of wickedness, our own acts of greed, our own acts of nonchalance. Who needs sainthood anyway in a world where everybody is a villain and the barns have been made desolate by greed and corruption? Who needs sainthood in a world where banditry is chivalry and chivalry banditry?
Do not say he was evil you say because we shouldn’t speak Ill of the dead in a country where everybody is sick and a candidate for the grave. We shouldn’t speak Ill of the dead you say because as the poet says the dead are not only those who are dead. They are well out of it. The dead also consist of us the living dead, of those left to mourn not just the dead but their own deaths and a country in comatose and on life support
Do not say he was this and he wasn’t that because you didn’t say that when he was alive in the first place, even when he breathed down heavily on us all. Do not say he was a patriot when patriotism can easily be interpreted to suit selfish ends, when patriotism and goodness are tools used by power holders to hoodwink the masses while they stack stolen money in foreign banks.
Do not say he meant well for us when he only meant well for himself, for his pocket. Do not say he meant well for us in a country where everybody is sick and there are no public health centres to treat the sick and the fatally wounded. Do not say he meant well for us when even the public trust couldn’t save him because he never built any; he never left any. Do not say he and others meant well for us in a country where there are no public health centres and he was left in the care of private hands till he met his death.
What is the difference between public and private anyway in a country where both could easily pass for, and dovetail into, each other, in a country where it is better and far more enriching to be private than public, in a country where wealth is worshipped at the altar of corruption, in a country where it is better to die rich than to die poor because when you die poor you are only moving from one hell to the other, while the families of the rich are left to enjoy their inheritance in paradisaic bliss? But can there be bliss in a country where the majority are poor, in a country where the rich do not leave any inheritance for the poor?
Now this is for those who mourn the other dead. Do not say you miss him or you are sorely pained by his death because why miss him now that he is dead when his life never meant anything to you? Why miss him now that he has gone to the great beyond when while he was alive, you never had any dividend in a world where the word, dividend is as corrupt and banal as governance itself?
So put on your sack clothes, bath yourself with ashes, as it was done in the days of yore because, as the poet says, the dead are not only those who are dead. They are well out of it and we the living dead are left to mourn not just the dead but other living dead.
Nehru Odeh, journalist with TheNEWS, is the author of The Patience Of An Embattled Storyteller