Thursday, July 23, 2015

Acknowledging the pain of Others

This is one of those articles that sound really naïve and unsophisticated; but it’s undeniably necessary and true. I posted a video on my Facebook page a few days ago and some of my Nuer brothers and sisters were enraged. While their anger wasn’t unfounded, I do believe there should be a safe, necessary manner in which anger needs to be exercised within a larger context of societal, national future. However, I’ve realized the short-sightedness with which we configure our anger and its resultant consequence.
We’ve become a population that focuses on the satisfaction of our immediate visceral reactions without the need to consider the potential effect of our anger, and what we say at the height of our polemical fancies…after all is said and done. No matter the intensity of our anger, hurt and loss, it is crucial to remember that the noble way to mourn and honor one’s lost relatives is to engage in a discourse that’d frustrate any repeat of the past. However, what we seem to care about now isn’t the dreadful past and the possible bright, promising future but the here and now and what we feel.

“I feel anger and a sense of hatred and I’ll make sure I satisfy that!”
The more we cultivate our hatred, magnify our pain and deny the pain of others, the more the hurt we feel becomes entrenched as a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, talking about the potential for future inter-tribal cohesive coexistence sounds like an untenable joke to some people given the magnitude of the anger they feel now. But none of us has a choice: living together is the only choice, the end gain! Regardless of what we feel or think, togetherness is the ultimate end.

But there’s one thing South Sudanese need to remember. In any sociopolitical conflict, healing or the possibility of living together as a multi-tribal country rests on acknowledging the pain of those who’ve been hurt. And it’s no secret that the following are acknowledged facts:

1)    The conflict started due to President’s mishandling of intra-SPLM problems

2)    SPLM leaders overestimated their influence and underestimated the power behind the president.

3)    Nuer were targeted after the mutiny in Juba by President’s militia.

4)    War is concentrated in mostly  (not exclusively) in Nuer areas.

In spite of these accepted realities, it’s very crucial for the Nuer brothers and sisters to remember that non-Nuer members have also suffered in the senselessness of this conflict. The more we deny that others have suffered the more we foment the entrenchment of hatred in our nation. As long as others don’t deny that Nuer were massacred in large numbers in Juba, It’d be ideal for Nuer to advocate for the loss of their loved ones while acknowledging that others too have suffered and continue to suffer. Denying the pain of others is not only dishonest, but also detrimental to the future of South Sudan.
The culpability story doesn’t end at the point where we come to the conclusion that the SPLM and the President started this war. We have to remember that we also exacerbate the problem through evangelism of divisive language and policies. No one is going to live in comfort if we instigate or fuel inter-tribal hatred. Satisfaction of one’s anger feels good at the moment but all conscionable people should consider long-term effects of that state of mind when anger creeps into our sociopolitical consciousness.

It’s undeniable that corrective measures geared towards finding out structured, conscionable and remedial methodologies are unequivocally necessary. However, focusing our fancies on the immediate delight and enjoyment of anger geared towards others will only position us perpetually in the same sea of hateful stagnation.
The only road to reconciliation is to make sure that others acknowledge our pain while taking the necessary initiative to acknowledge the pain of others. Failure to do so will only have us drink from the sea of bitter reality: perpetual insecurity. Let’s grow up!

Truth...but responsibly!

Kuir ë Garang lives in Canada. For contact, visit

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dignity to all not just terrorists like Dylan Roof

Perhaps it's time for African-Americans to dominate the police like Track and Field, NBA and NFL. If you see the way the police arrested Roof, the Charleston terrorist killer - that a suspect is to be treated humanely until a court of law proves the case - you wonder why African-American suspects are not treated the same way by European-American police officers. But we all know why!
People get surprised or even horrified by the behavior of these police officers. Yes, it's wrong! In Africa, we call their behavior, tribalism. No one - may be a few - in Africa treats his tribesmen the same way he treats people from other tribes. This is basically what these police officers do. They treat their own gently - in most cases.

This of course doesn't make it okay. But if you don't expose these people to see others from other tribes or races not as a threat but human beings with dreams like theirs, you can't blame them. A mathematician can't blame a historian for being afraid of mathematics unless a mathematician explains to the historian why he should think otherwise. A physicist will argue that philosophy is a waste of time but he'll quote a philosopher when he wants to appear wiser, or when he wants to relate to his audience. A European-American will despise Chinese in America but he doesn't know that Chinese make about everything he uses in America. He goes to a grocery store and smiles at a African-America clerk but he thinks less about the fact that he[the clerk] looks about the same as that young man he sees on the street and assumes a thug only to realize that that kid with a hoodie, headphone and baggie pants, is a Masters student in a local university.

We live in a world where we want others to know us but we don't want to know them. But when they act in a manner that shows they don't know us, we start to wonder. Jieeng people want Naath people to know them but don't want to understand Naath people but when Naath people refuse to know them and assume wrongs things about them, they start to wonder. Simply know one another!
Whether it's in South Sudan with tribalism or racism in the US, the key is let-us-know-one-another. The history of the African peoples is not taught to people of European descent yet we expect them to appreciate the humanity of African people in America. You can't blame someone for something they don't know. And the judge in whose court Roof was arraigned treated Roof with dignity when he [the judge] is known to have used racial epithets in his court. He asked people to treat the victims’ families and Roof's family in the same manner.

I doubt he’d do that if the killer was an African-American. He’s just identifying with his kind, the kind he’s familiar with.

If African-Americans dominate the police, then European-Americans will think twice before acting with heavy-handedness on African-Americans. African-American police officers who stereotype their people would start to change if good officers start to treat African-Americans with the dignity that was shown to a terrorist: Dylan Roof. Don’t expect good treatment from people who can’t identify with you if they don’t know you or are not comfortable with you.