It’s amazing the currency of rhymes and songs that we learnt as children. As a child, I learnt this poem:
If all the seas were one sea*, What a great sea that would be!
And if all the trees were one tree, What a great tree that would be!
And if all the axes were one axe, What a great axe that would be!
And if all the men were one man, What a great man he would be!
And if the great man took the great axe, And cut down the great tree,
And let it fall into the great sea, What a great splash that would be!
Over the past week, in response to the discovery of the corpse of young Andrea Bharatt, who was laid to rest on Friday 12 February 2021, I’ve seen quite a convergence in Trinidad and Tobago. Voices from all sectors of society have been raised. Indeed, ‘all the men were one man’ this week, crying out for justice and an end to violence against women.
I am deeply troubled by the recurring stories of loss of female life in gruesome ways. It’s a serial thriller that affects not just my country, but also the world. Global campaigns by the UN and other bodies underscore just how much of a global problem this is. So, if the world has recognised that this is a global problem, a problem that affects huge economies and small, why is it still with us? Maintaining the vein of the poem, all of the men have become one man; all of the axes have become one axe, but yet this one great man is still unable to chop down this one great tree. Have we ever pondered why that is?
In my perhaps narrow view, maybe it’s because we’ve been swinging at the wrong tree. While most segments of society call on governments, the Church and other arms of society to do something about the gruesome abuse of women – through legislation, law enforcement and other noble measures – there’s been little attempt to face the real elephant in the room: ourselves.
Over the years, we have become comfortable looking to everyone else as the reason for the depravity in our society. Some one else must the culprit. Do we ever stop to consider how much our own mouths condemn us and our own lips testify against us?
How many of us have complained about the toxicity of the work environment, but then settle into hours of denigrating the leadership of the establishment, or co-workers? How many of us have decried adultery, but then say ‘It’s none of my business’ when we have an opportunity to confront it? How many of us have looked the other way when a crime was being committed, even if it meant simply calling the police? Let me make it more personal: how many of us have complained that ‘people are difficult’ not realising that we are effectively describing ourselves?
Friends, my argument is not intended to free from their responsibility those who have the authority to act. Rather, it is intended to bring us to the point where we realise that those who lead us come from within. Therefore, if at the individual level, we repeatedly relinquish or deny ownership, what ‘crise de conscience’ will prompt those whom we produce and who rise to positions of authority to do differently? Indeed, it is said that it isn’t what goes into a man that poisons him, but rather, it is what comes out of him. Therefore, if as individuals we practise denial, how will we produce leaders who accept ownership?
In this age of men (and women) coming together to point a finger and lay blame on someone else’s shoulders, I want to encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone. While we wait on our leaders to do better, let’s also take a look inwards and find that light in the darkness. Let’s reach inside and find a way to be the light in the darkness. Let’s draw out our candle and be the light that we seek.
And, if we each do that, then, and maybe then, would all men take that one great axe and chop down that one great tree and create that one great splash that washes away the filth for the light to be seen.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts…share your comment in the comments box.