Outlive the dollar

Those who migrate across dangerous seas do so because of the utopia they’ve been sold by their brethrens in the West, through social media. ¹
I see we still have our nomad tendencies. Nomadic determinism. A myopic view of the world that somehow always comes back to currency. Not the currents of the turbulent waters that kill our brethrens. Currency, as in money.
We still act like the nomads on the arid plains of Somalia; here when there’s greenery for our cattle to eat, gone when there’s none. You see, in Somalia money *does* grow on trees. Or at least on grass. Our money is not paper. Money is anything that can act as a substitute for the inner freedom we lack. Any problem in life, we solve by throwing money at, treating life cheaply like a stripper. How can we blame the diasporians for selling a capitalistic fantasy, when in the same breath we try to convince others to come to Somalia by using the same capitalistic fantasies?
Sheeps are now dollars. Cows are cars. Camels are houses. The Somali man’s power is not his resilience or his courage or his honesty or his creativity or his altruism. It’s his money.

Sometime between pre-history and independence, the Somalis have surrendered their inner freedom, their psychological agency of creating, their capacity to change the course their lives are taking. Somewhere along the way, we’ve associated wealth with self-agency. We’re good at rebelling, I think we’ve proven ourselves to be quite fierce in that realm. But like Rollo May said:
Rebellion acts as a substitute for the more difficult process of struggling through to one’s own autonomy, to new beliefs, to the state where one can lay new foundations on which to build. The negative forms of freedom confused freedom with license, and overlooked the fact that freedom is never the opposite to responsibility. ²
So in the face of invisible tragedies, we turn to wealth to get us out of the situation. The nomad never paid any attention to his environment beyond the grass that his cattle were feeding on. Cattle were everything; they created wars, they settled wars, they formed new families by way of dowry, their meat fed, their milk complemented the tea served to noble guests, their fat cured, their hide offered stools and shades. The nomad was too busy tending to his cattle to think about cultivating the land, to think of any long-term solutions.
Going abroad to escape poverty started with people going to the oil-rich middle east to wire money back monthly. When your neighbour rebuilds their house, send their kids to school, when you hear the clinks of their golden bangles as they come up the road with fresh meat from the market — you don’t want to be left behind. Money did that right? So, I gotto vest my all in going where she went. I gotto make others feel what my neighbour made me feel. I gotto feel important.
We felt that ‘the only vestige of freedom left to him is the opportunity for economic aggrandizement. ³
We ask, constantly ask, why do we have corrupt politicians who sell our people and our land for dollars? Why are our people dying of thirst? Why are foreigners murdering our people? Why oh why oh why?
That question is always followed by a deafening silence, an uncomfortable pause that is pregnant with information we just don’t want to know yet. We shift uncomfortably in our seats in front the computer screen. Social media is like a broken record, the same argument the same story the same heartache, ad nauseum.
Our hustle for money has done away with the one thing that could rebuild our country, that could replace our politicians, that could replenish the rivers, that could rebuff our enemies: self-efficacy.
“Perceived self-efficacy is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes. They include cognitive, motivational, affective and selection processes.
A strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well-being in many ways. People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided. Such an efficacious outlook fosters intrinsic interest and deep engrossment in activities. They set themselves challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to them. They heighten and sustain their efforts in the face of failure. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or setbacks. They attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills which are acquirable. They approach threatening situations with assurance that they can exercise control over them. Such an efficacious outlook produces personal accomplishments, reduces stress and lowers vulnerability to depression.”
There are no quick fixes. If you were reading this for a punchline or for a perfect solution, I’m sorry to disappoint you. The truth is often disappointing. Do we want quick fixes or do we want long-term solutions? Do we really want change or do we just want to get rid of our guilt? No one is a hapless victim, though decades of trauma and tragedies makes it easy to believe so. Life is part what happens, but other, more important part is how we choose our narratives. Where are we going to fix our gaze; on the mud or to the stars?
We have a lot of work waiting us. It’s ugly, I’m not going to lie. The only incentive is intrinsic. You probably won’t see the Somalia you envision in your lifetime. But if we build character in ourselves instead of cheap approval, we might, just might be able to extend that character to a paradigm shift.
Our country is a house whose very foundation is built of sand, and we keep repainting the outer facade, we keep fixing the cracks and we keep putting back the parts of the house that crumbles. Waking up to the truth that the problem is much bigger than we thought is frightening, but it’s the only way we can do lasting work. We have to find a way to endure our failures. We have to find a way to sit with our anxieties, resentments, cognitive dissonance, and the overwhelming urge to just run away from it all.
It’s the only way we can save our grandchildren from asking the same questions we are asking today.
¹ “Facebook Sells ‘paradise on Earth’ to Young Somalis.”
² May, Rollo. “Man’s search for himself” pg.116
³ May, Rollo. “Man’s search for himself” pg. 118

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