By Debbie Olujobi
Freedom is one of the most talked about attainments or achievements in the history of man. It presupposes that at one point in time everyone goes through some form of captivity. We can be held captive by all sorts of situations and limitations and yearning for freedom is a goal most ideal.
When there is unity of purpose in a person or among persons, a struggle begins to fight captivity and its desired end would be true liberty. The black race knows first hand what it is to live in captivity as we are the ones who were carted off to the western world to become the slaves whose sweat built civilisation.
South Africa is a still recent memory of the beauty of freedom after apartheid was booted out in favour of a government that was inclusive of the black indigenous population. There are many instances where people are captives; slaves to their location, religion and situations but in my mind the greatest captivity is not physical or situational, it’s psychological.
Locking a man in a cage is not captivity if his mind is bigger than the cage. Carting away generations of a race is not captivity where there spirits are not broken. There is a common story told of the denominations of slave in the southern states of the USA.
There were two sets of slaves; the house slaves and the plantation slaves. On the surface the slaves in the house seemed to have an easier time of it. They enjoyed benefits the plantation slaves could never dream off. They dressed the same as the masters, ate the same food, and slept in accommodation that was comfortable.
Their relatives in the plantation, had to make do with produce that was barely enough for food, lived in shanty huts that were uncomfortable and dressed in rags barely enough to cover their modesty. It would seem that they had drawn the short straw and doomed to a life of hardship.
The plantation slaves were shot regularly and even hanged for trying to escape their oppression and captivity. They gave their masters the most trouble while their counterparts never tried to escape; they had a pretty easy life. Of the two groups one would assume the plantation slaves were the real captives, after all they were in chains but that would be a pedestrian conclusion.
It would be pedestrian because it would suggest that it was fine that they were content to be treated as less than equal to the slave owners; no better than the house dog or cat. The house slaves were the real captives because their minds were smaller than the cages that held their counterparts who toiled in the plantations. The house slaves were used in any capacity at the pleasure of their masters.
The women were raped at will and they often gave birth to Mullato children who bore striking resemblances to the Lords of the manors. They became less than they were because their minds were lost to their masters and there is no worse human than one who believes the opinion of others about themselves or even others; they are lost to captivity and it could last for generations.
Lately I have come across a lot of captives; people who are slaves to opinions other than their own. People with no truths or integrity; whose world views are founded on hear-says, superstition and fables. They are those who never break boundaries because they live a life of expectation based on values inherited or imbibed by popularity. My mother almost convinced me never to whistle.
She said whistling in the mornings was confirmation of laziness and future alcoholism, whistling in the afternoon would bring small pox and whistling at night would invite snakes into the house. I initially took it as gospel but i would whistle periodically and earn her wrath till the day I decided to question these very suspicious truths!!!
I had asked her to tell me when was the appropriate time for whistling since the mornings, afternoons and evenings were according to her not right. She took her time to answer and her reply is proof we should question all beliefs, inherited or otherwise.
” Your noise is too much and you are terrible at whistling; the right time to whistle is when you are not in my house”
I had been right to question the supposed validity of that truth and it turned out my mom just wanted some peace and quiet. Bridling the mind is captivity and to answer a few readers, criticism and false accusations are irrelevant issues that are best left to people who are the level of house slaves.
Accepting any thing as true, especially when origins are not questioned is a different type of slavery. Any truth that is too sensitive or volatile to be questioned is a lie. The fact is that truth is constant, remains the same and affects different people in different ways.
In my twilight years I would like to think that I confirmed every truth for myself and had the integrity of opinions that were mine. Gossips and liars are pedestrian birds; they are those whose minds are caged with the locks welded short. They are birds that should fly but don’t.
Like the house slaves, they have been moulded to subhuman status; they repeat falsities and are relevant only by their noise. The rest of us are less captive because we are in the plantation of life working to make ends meet, struggling to survive, our minds are free because we question status quo and we want more.
We risk all to get more; some of us die in the struggle but we are free because our minds strive to do better, live better, that is true and abiding liberty.