Friday, 12 October 2012

Thought Picnic: Our Jungle Colonies of Mob Justice


Our jungle colonies
We need to reassess what we have become as a people. That has been the opinion of many with regards to events that happened in Nigeria over the last week.
For me, the news broke on Twitter that 4 students suspected of theft were lynched by a mob comprised of the people from a community that harbours a university – the same university that produced our President.
If the news was not harrowing enough, the fact that someone stood by to record the event on video and post it online should elicit much more debate about the victims, the lynchers, the community, our country at large and the impunity that allows for such acts without restraint.
A people devoid of culture
Sadly, what it suggests is that we have lost the sense of community that allows us to live peaceably with each other in civilised settings enabling law enforcement to take the lead in terms of dealing with suspects, crimes and criminality.
When we speak of our culture or value systems, we honestly must begin to wonder if we have any left that we can identify as our own.
The commonality of traditions we have once shared in respect for authority, accepting diversity without accentuating the differences, the respect for elders and the voice of reason have departed for something rather bizarre.
We are not civilised
When we attempt to compare ourselves with other supposedly civilised societies that we imagine have no culture or traditions, some things are evident in those societies that we struggle to exhibit.
Their communities have over time developed rights and freedoms that are protected by the force of law and yet they have not stagnated but have progressively found new causes to espouse and confer rights and freedoms on. From our somewhat sanctimonious perspective we agree amongst ourselves that those societies are decadent and that their values are un-African. Yet human rights should not be defined by anything but our humanity.
However, every person born into those societies is treated with dignity, respected and protected; they can seek and obtain justice and fairness from the cradle to the grave and where there is abuse, society acts decisively to seek redress, punishment and compensation.
Our detrimental cohesions
There is separation of religion from the state, everyone has the freedom to have a faith or have none at all and yet respect the fact that difference does not mean we cannot be agreeable. That is the fundamental of civilisation.
We have used our diversity to accentuate our differences, we coalesce into tribal Bantustans ready to be called into mob action than be inspired by reason and reasonableness. The ends of religion we adhere to border on the fundamentalist feeding a seething intolerance of blood-letting bigotry – No, that is not civilisation, it is language of the primitive and the expression of the savage.
Even in the most conservative interpretation of the foreign religions that have swept away the core elements of our value systems and mythologies, none recommend death as a sentence for death; yet, the call to mete violence out to fellow human beings is heard and responded to without flinching, we participate explicitly or voyeuristically through justifying those acts and pretend to a civilisation we do not possess.
Where we must go
It is empathy borne of civilising ourselves that will usher in the rights and freedoms we so desire for ourselves but rarely defer to others in our prejudices and judgements. Starting with the right to life, the right to justice, right to fairness, the freedom to pursue happiness individually and communally, the freedom to practice the faith of one’s choosing and the absence of fear because the government stands up to its responsibility to secure life, livelihood and property whilst enforcing extant laws.
We have to ask ourselves that question whether the union that is our nationhood is united in our minds and we must learn that our safety, freedom and security can only be assured if we attempt to walk in the shoes of the victim and strive above all else to be one another’s keeper.

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