I’ve noticed that the Somali diaspora, especially the under-30’s, are divided into two factions; those who don’t like to think about what happened to their country of origin or why it’s still almost three decades later, and those who are heavily vested in the politics. I’ve been a part of the two camps at several points in my life, so I understand their standing points. For those who numb themselves, it’s like what people do when they hear about humanitarian crisis in Central Africa or the disappearing habitat of the polar bears – they shut down because they are overwhelmed by the implications of what they are seeing, and right now they’ve got one too many bills to pay and figuring out a life that is only valid from Friday evening- Sunday evening. How is one to deal with problems on a macro level when the micro problems have proven to be too much?
The other camp is very rowdy and it’s abuzz with life. There’s always a convention, a blog, a video, an article going on calling out for something to be done about an issue. Sometimes these efforts accrue in modest success, but it often falls flat and becomes tangled up in a bunch of perfectionistic red tape.
Of course, there’s the favourable middle ground where effort and intrinsic motivation meet. But the point that I was getting to was the second camp in the Somali diaspora and how their zealousness crushes through the barriers that need to be carefully peeled back.
It’s all too easy to tell the people who live in Somalia and who have done so ever since the Civil war; You’ve failed. You know nothing. You are incompetent. We know better. Now leave us to fix what you couldn’t.
It’s easy to seethe with anger and frustration listening to the 9 p.m. BBC Somali news about yet another suicide blast in Mogadishu, or a famine in Baydhabo, and blame this on the people. It’s easy to use flawed humans and outdated traditions as scapegoats. It’s easy to do so because we don’t have to deal with the insecurities of a war-torn region. We don’t have to deal with a constant ringing of bomb blasts on a weekly basis. We don’t have to deal with PTSD being a common illness. We aren’t the ones that have to find order in disorder. We aren’t the ones forced to be resilient and try to thrive in a maelström of panic.
Very often, it becomes a power struggle and a way to fulfill unlived fantasies about grandeur and accomplishment. Many want to become ‘the’ person to bring order back to Somalia; ‘the’ person the world would give a standing ovation for having done what is so easily discernible from where we sit on our fancy leather sofas in Birmingham, in Ohio, in Stockholm, in Dubai. Though it might seem like a noble and altruistic aim, the ulterior motives soon seep through the banners held up for the world to see and disfigures it entirely. Soon it transforms it into the founding gremlins of the war; hatred,selfishness,envy,insensitivity.
Far fool ma dhaqdo.
That’s a Somali proverb that means that a finger cannot wash the face. Each finger is imperative, but one needs a hand to efficiently wash the face. Likewise, we need every nomad, every biibito– owner, every dugsi– student to repair a nation. To repair a nation, we must repair every thread in the collective fibre; we must mend every broken capillary that burst due to the wrenching heartache; we must arrange for a O+ blood transfusion ; Optimism+ . We must see everyone as significant in their own way. Every person carries a thread, a piece of the puzzle. We must revive the flames of hope lodged in the embers of souls across the globe. It’s the tiny steps that are overlooked that eventually make the mile.