It’s a funny thing – if you look back over human history, the great and the terrible things all start with one incident.
Sure, there’s usually a witch’s brew of underlying issues, but it’s one argument, one decision, one shot fired, one tank rolling over a border-post that sets off the big thing: the world-changing thing.
The problem with living in 2014 is that we have no immunity, no skin – no isolation to keep us focused on our own day-to-day grind – when an outrage happens we’re unable to be, well, outraged.
Instead, we live in a crowded place where the lights are on 24/7 and the noise never dies down.
In another age this would be called torture, but in our era, this is the information age. Don’t get me wrong: this will be posted on WordPress, a link put up on FaceBook and Twitter – I’m one of the friendly 3 billion people waterboarding both you and myself as we speak.
While I was chatting, an outrage happened
The point is: we’re stunned, we’re numb – we only have the capacity to react to things that hurt us very personally. And, if we’re not the parents or family of the 234 girls abducted from their boarding school in Nigeria, then we don’t really know what to say.
It emerges that the students, aged 16-18, had been recalled to school to re-write a physics exam: if I were a clean cop in Nigeria, I’d be having a long, long talk with whoever called them back. Why? Because it’s so handy that BHaram were in the neighbourhood, all ready for this surprise exam rewrite. (links to the stories below)
Most importantly, we don’t know who to say it to
Who in the world has any jurisdiction over an out-of-control armed gang that passes over borders by bribe, bombs embassies, shoots up shopping centres and has (more than twice) abducted groups of schoolgirls to use and impregnate in the forest?
If Nigeria didn’t have oil, the West could intervene; if the East gave a damn, it could intervene, and if the AU valued the law and human rights, it would intervene.
But Nigeria has oil, the East doesn’t give a damn and the AU – well, who knows what the AU does? We know that they are, apparently, into PanAfricanism, but not in any way that benefits individuals on the ground.
So, back to human history
This abduction should be the starting point for an incredible groundswell of public cohesion across Africa. Not useless rage-venting , but a pulling-together of all Africans in every nation who simply want the most basic rights to stay alive, learn, work, have children who stay alive and get to have choices.
But I’m sending this message out into a room full of strident voices – the chances of it being heard over the din are almost zero. Thing is, should this turn out to be a defining moment in the history of this part of the world, I want to have recognised it.
I wasn’t asleep in my time.