What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Done reading that one...

So I finished a long way gone last night at about 3 am.  Any book that can keep me up at night has to be pretty profound!!  lol.  I thought it was a great book, and my only thought of critique was really as with my second post on it about the clarity of such a horrific time.  The drugs, the killing, the life he was living, he talks of it as such a fog, yet remembers and describes it so vividly.  But that may just be the critical analyst/theorist in me.  I would think that I would remember much of it all and probably be able to write about it as well (but I'm not 15), and of course the writing about it would bring a lot of it back.  Otherwise, It might have ended a bit abruptly, as if a time line had been met when the book had to be done.  It also probably isn't a great introduction into Sierra Leone either, not because of anything in it, but that it does not have any context about what is going on within the country and the war.  That was my mother's observation, as it was her 'first introduction' to the country.  

As for the end of the book there were two parts that I wanted to mention.  I thought it was a truly profound and illuminating statement when he writes of returning to Sierra Leone after a short trip to NY.  He says:
"My sixteenth birthday was eight days away, and throughout the flight back home I still felt as if I was dreaming, a dream that I didn't want to wake up from.  I was sad to leave, but I was also pleased to have met people outside of Sierra Leone.  Because if I was to get killed upon my return, I knew that a memory of my existence was alive somewhere in the world."
The sad thing about this statement, is that conflict after conflict, "the world" is still forgetting millions of people just like Ishmael every day.  We know what is going on in these countries, but we let it happen and condone it by our policies, business practices, and general disinterest.  Yes there are a few people he had met that would have known of his existence, but everyone else has forgotten all the other people of both Ishmael's and other war torn countries.

The final passage of the story is one that is so truly important I can't even put words to it and is a viewpoint that I have had a great deal of trouble in life for having.  Ishmael discusses a story that he had heard numerous times when he was younger.
"There was a hunter who went into the bush to kill a monkey.  He had looked for only a few minutes when he saw a monkey sitting comfortably on the branch of low a tree.  The monkey didn't pay him any attention, not even when his footsteps on the dried leaves rose and fell as he neared.  When he was close enough and behind a tree where he could clearly see the monkey, he raised his rifle and aimed.  Just when he was about to pull the trigger, the monkey spoke: 'If you shoot me, your mother will die, and if you don't, your father will die.'  The monkey resumed his position, chewing his food, and every so often scratched its head or the side of its belly...  What would you do if you were the hunter?"
Every year they told this story, with parents and children present, and the children were supposed to answer the question.  Ishmael said no one ever did, but that the children later spent hours trying to figure out how it could be resolved.  Hunting other things, whatever.  But Ishmael had a thought that he kept to himself until now, and it underscores both why I think he went through the pain of writing this book, and more importantly, what the world really needs.  He says:
"When I was seven I had an answer to this question that made sense to me.  I never discussed it with anyone, though, for fear of how my mother would feel.  I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament."
That is what the world needs.  A view that is not all about he self, but that is in fact selfless.  If my death or my mother's death means the lives of a thousand people, is there even a decision to be made?  A thousand people can do so much more than one person.  The sad thing is that there a billions of people in the world, we just can't seem to find a way to focus them and/or for them to work together as a team.


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