Who Do We Say We Are?


Before Jesus of Nazareth dwelled on earth in His new mission to redefine human relations in the world, and communed for three years with no more than twelve people in his organisation, there was no church and no Christians on the planet as we know them today.

There were other faiths and religious practices in different parts of the world. In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Matthew, is an account of the foundation of the Christian church based upon the life story of Jesus Christ, or Hebrew Yeshua, the son of Mary and Joseph.

In this narrative Jesus probes His disciples to give Him feedback about how people are speaking about Him in the context of His mission in the lives of the people who experienced Him in their neighborhoods. They tell Him that people assign different identities to Him, all of them closed to one of the prophets already known – John the Baptist, Isaiah, Elijah and the like.

The essential ingredient of the muted talk in the synagogues was a vexing question about who this man was who was disturbing the peace and stability with his teachings and accompanying unusual events called miracles.

Instead of giving his followers an immediate reassurance about who He was, Jesus threw a direct question at them: ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter, perhaps the most confident, answered: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’. One would have expected Jesus to give Peter credit for coming up with the correct answer. Instead Jesus almost rebuked him by saying: ‘You answered correctly but not from your own head, but from my heavenly Father’.

Then comes the most crucial moment in the conversation, perhaps in the entire Christian Church history. ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock, I shall build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I shall give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven’.

It would appear that the Afrikan nations are facing the worst challenges of building themselves compared to others of the world. While others are moving closer to what or who they are and what constitutes their identities as nations, and while they reforming their political governance systems to suit their people, we in Afrika are moving further away from ourselves, thus making inner peace, stability and national cohesiveness more and more elusive.

We speak with more confidence when we are outside than with ourselves. Our shadows and reflections in the mirror bother us because they do not resemble our true likeness! India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Turkey, China, and any of the new states doing better have emerged out of difficult circumstances not unlike what Afrika had gone through.

They emerged out of the past in search of a better future – and sought to (re)discovered their own foundations, and went about recreating the world in their own image. Singapore, a tiny city state started with nothing and is now a leading beacon in socio-economic development and national stability.

Their rock, Prime Minister Lew Kwa Yew, was so committed to the wellbeing of his nation that he did everything to recreate a new personality of Singapore from different ethnic groups, tribes, castes and economic classes. Singapore, 1 183 times smaller than Namibia, started with nothing. Today Singapore is a serious economic hub of manufacturing, shipping and air transportation.

It was all due to visionary leadership under Lew Kwa Yew, later revered to the extent that even in his retirement years as a man of advanced age, the government system of Singapore retained his services as Minister for Mentoring.

America is where it is as the leader of the free world today, for better or worse, because its foundations are solid. The American Declaration of Independence of 1776 enunciated who they were and how they wanted to talked about in the world: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, and that they endowed with unalienable rights, amongst them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

It is this foundation of and commitment to equality and birthright that would make it possible for a person with no historical credentials and pedigree and whose father was not an American citizen to be elevated to the seat of president — Barack Hussein Obama. Nowhere else in today’s world is this possible!

America is in one of its darkest moments in history right now as it grapples with finding a steward to take the nation forward. America’s saving grace is the strong foundations which now rests on its institutions, systems and laws and indeed the acceptance that the democracy is the project of the common man and woman. When and where there are strong foundations, individuals who come and go do not matter, as the system stands.

Closer to us is South Africa. Monstrous and scary as things look like in that great and exemplary country right now, the South African nation will certainly weather the storm better than other Afrikan states. South Africa has stronger shock absorbers to help the people to manage the difficult shocks in the system.

The phenomenon of Nelson Mandela as the rock upon which institutions and national morality and its laws ad precepts are based. Enemies on both sides of the fight invoke and evoke Mandela as the reference point. He said on 20 April 1964 that he was against white domination, he was against black domination, and he cherished a democratic society wherein all citizens had equal opportunity – and for which he was prepared to die.

This is the burning fire to which all South Africans return in times of darkness such as this. Hence South Africa has strong voices in civil society, the church, the private sector and the media as factors that are more durable compared to Namibia where fear and total insecurity rules.

In most Afrikan states, the whims of the President, or what people think will make the President like them, is what determines national behavior, not institutions and not what is in the best interest of the nation. In the absence of that burning fire, we find ourselves rejoicing in Schadenfreude (the feeling or satisfaction or pleasure when something bad happens to someone else), which is very common in Namibia and many Afrikan nations. No development can take place under such state of affairs when mere survival is success, to paraphrase Julius Nyerere.

The painful truth is that Afrikans need to be governed by others. How else do we explain: the Guptas state capture, the tenderpreneurs’ hold on our leaders and Heads of State with whom they are in cahoots to do business while governing states; our preoccupation with being certified as good leaders by foreign agencies rather our own people; our preoccupation with titles; our reliance on donor money which we use on ourselves instead of developing our nations; the recycling of people in government positions while we know too well that these people have run out of time, out of ideas and out of shape, just because they are still around; the retention of bloated government bureaucracies when we all know that the practice is incommensurate with the size of the populations or do account for services that are needed.

Let us make it simpler and worse to register our sad reality. We try too hard to be other than who we are, and expect to be respected as leaders. For instance, how does a small Afrikan girl in Othikutshatshipya deep Uukwambi see herself when every black political leader who visits her community or school has longer hair than the white people she sees in the books?

Obviously she starts life with a deep inferiority complex that God created her ugly and for failure. Our leaders impose this negative reflection of the Afrikan personality day in and day out. With the energy we spend in the mornings working on our fakeness, do we ask ourselves what it is that we are saying about ourselves and to the children who are too small to see their likeness in the mirror? How can we expect others to have respect for us when we present ourselves as caricatures of who we are? How do we expect a small Afrikan child to believe that he/she has a language when she hears NO leader speaking his/her language, but speaks the worst English in the world? Can such a child strive to be best?

Until and unless we in Afrika search for and find our own ideology as the rock of our own consciousness about how we want to see ourselves and wish to be spoken about by other people, we remain in the whirlwind of imitation. In this desert of false-consciousness we are caught up blaming everybody else but ourselves for our shortcomings, and our inability to appreciate our own strength and power to create a new world. Both the strengths and the weaknesses we have are ours.

Change will happen when we want it. When we start to look at things differently, the things we look at begin to change. We are the agents and agencies of change, not the victims all the time, and not because other people (must) like us. We need to start investing in ourselves, not other people in us. I speak of an ideology of self-definition, self-affirmation and self-direction that will assist the Afrika child to recover from the deep psychosis we suffer from, namely of self-doubt, self-pity and self-hate. The start might be as simple as answering the question: Who Do We Say We Are?


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