Sunday, July 31, 2016

Grief, Faith, Acceptance of God, Religions and Fundamentalism (An Excerpt of "The Union Moujik")

       “Grief does a lot in our lives, Comrade Andrei Yeremenko. We cannot ignore the effects of grief.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “Grief, my friend, forces us to search our souls and find answers to issues that constrain us from becoming better human beings.”
     “You are right,” Yeremenko said with a reflective look on his face.
     “Actually, the unfolding of events in their destructive form at the end of 1991 made me reconsider my outlook on life. I’m no longer an atheist in the sense that you knew me before you left for Israel. I know I’m not far away from being considered an agnostic. Nevertheless, the important thing is that I have become a believer in a Supreme Being.”
     “That is a surprising development. Yes, Comrade Boris! Believe me, I ’m happy for you.”
     “You are not flattering me, are you?”
     “Why should I? I meant it. It came from the depth of my heart.”
     “I thought you would laugh at me, that I have become a believer.”
     “I won’t do that, my dear friend. I know it takes a great deal of strength to have faith in a Supreme Being that you cannot see or that you cannot feel directly with your other senses.”
     “And you? How developed is your faith?”
     “Comrade Boris, something monumental happened to me during my second month in Israel. My cousin persuaded me to accompany him to Jerusalem. He was going there with his family and they virtually dragged me for a visit to the Wailing Wall. Remember, I told you several times before that I considered myself a deist. Yes, I was practically a deist. Well, I finally went to the city of my forefathers with the intention of just having the fun of it.”
     “You never took people who are inflexible in their ideas or religious faith seriously.”
     “You remembered well, my friend. I went with my cousin and his family to the Wailing Wall, all right. It was all fun until my grandnephew gave me a piece of paper to put in one of the crevices that abound there. Believe me, I felt something getting hold of me only after that action. A supernatural sensation swept through my body as I confined his words to the mysteries of the wall that perplexing afternoon. I went on to supplicate like the other true believers all around me. The whole experience was a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turn-around for me because it marked the first time in my life that I fully accepted the existence and the might of a God. I wonder if I looked comical that evening as I poured out my feelings in front of the wall like other Jews. I must have wailed in the same manner that believers in our faith have done over the centuries.”
     “In a way, I felt like I let out not just my anguish, but also the anguish of many generations before me. Believe me, there is a God who is demanding and has provided us with ways to worship him.”
     “I guess you are wondering about the religious establishments,” Boris offered.
Yeremenko nodded. “Faith is one thing we must not question, or else I would have doubted mine after realizing the weaknesses of our religious establishments.”
     “Ah, Comrade Andrei Yeremenko! There is a God; there is an all powerful Lord we should take seriously,” Boris said with a sigh, “He is the ultimate maker of history, the weaver of our lives and the fear of our wisdom.”     
     “You are right, Comrade Boris.”
     “Imagine for a second that back in the summer of 1991, you or I went to sleep in the same manner as Rip Van Winkle, and then only to wake up a year after to find the changes that our land and the world have undergone. Do you think we would have believed our eyes, ears and minds?”
Yeremenko shook his head no, dimming his eyes in the process. “Certainly not, Comrade Boris!”
     “Oh, Comrade Andrei Yeremenko! Who would have thought a decade ago that there wouldn’t be the Soviet Union today?” Boris carried on.
     “It is a sad memory!” Yeremenko acknowledged.
     “Well, to the question of faith, my dear comrade,” Boris began in a pondering manner, “I have been haunted by this question of man’s belief in the Supreme Being. I have struggled a lot with it and still can’t find a clear answer to my doubts. What is the highest thing for mankind to have faith in if we want to attain peace and happiness? The unavoidable answer is always God. God, God, God! Our minds will settle for nothing other than God. Yet as communists, we rejected God and chose the path of atheism, when you and I know that communism’s goals and ideas make it the human philosophy for peace and happiness. In fact, the ideology is the closest thing to God’s directives for humankind as far back as the Noahide laws. I think our rejection of God contributed enormously to the failure of communism.”
     “How?” Yeremenko asked with dimmed eyes.
     “How, you ask me! How?” Boris chuckled, “The answer is simple. In our effort to implement the noble ideas of Marx and Lenin, we communists resorted to reasoning only. We failed to have God on our side because of that. Yet in a subtle way, we were trying to do the job of the Almighty Lord. Yes, my dear friend and comrade! We wanted to eliminate the crimes, mistakes and other injustices of hundreds of generations before us by relying on reasoning only. The ridiculousness of it all is that we actually thought we could achieve such a feat within a couple of years. In the end, the vulnerability of human reasoning led us to make more mistakes and to commit more crimes than we had ever imagined. That was how we too lost our way to peace, harmony and happiness.”
     “Huh! So you are blaming everything on Stalinism and the other distorted forms of Marxism that have been practiced in the name of communism?”
     Boris nodded. “That is how we lost our purpose, and today, communism is a spent idea. The vanguards of communism made mankind to lose faith in humanity’s highest psycho-social philosophy by failing to embrace the essence of religious feeling, the unquestionable belief in a Supreme God. That is how we failed. That is my strong conviction, my dear friend and comrade. I arrived at it after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, I’m trying to believe. I’m making an effort to reconcile my faith with God.”
     “Yes, Comrade Boris,” Yeremenko muttered, struck by a sudden thought. “I’m also trying to develop a deeper faith in God. I’m even trying to pray fervently. It is a difficult thing to do, but I know I’m getting there. I even try to understand those who profess so much faith in God, yet go about committing crimes in his name. A Muslim kills a Jew or a Christian in the name of Allah and gives a reason for the action. Protestants kill Catholics and vice versa, but they always have a reason for our ears as to why they did it. Why do Shias and Sunnis kill one another when you and I know that they are both Muslims? Yes, Comrade Boris; they kill for the sake of reasoning—a reasoning that distorts faith. They are even worse than the atheists who got lost in their noble intentions because they lacked faith. Yes, my friend! A person who tries to use reasoning to explain faith gets lost in the wilderness of incomprehension.”
     “You must have given a deep thought to this issue of man using reasoning in his effort to define his obligations to his faith,” Boris said.
     “Yes, Comrade Boris. If you look at it deeply, it becomes clear that those who force their reasoning on others in a bid to propagate or enforce their faiths are advocates of the devil. I consider them the devil’s advocates whether they like it or not. As a matter of fact, those fanatics are actually cursing God.”
“You mean those who kill, plunder, rape, oppress, discriminate and even steal in the name of a religion?”
     “Yes, my dear friend. We can call them the quasi-faithful. Faith goes hand in hand with the belief in a supreme purpose that includes everybody, a purpose that is for mankind’s ultimate peace, harmony and happiness. Those who try to use reasoning to explain faith and base their reasoning on the rejection of other groups that also happen to profess faith in a Supreme God, should be considered the worse enemies to all believers, irrespective of their religions or creeds. These rejecters of the supreme purpose are implacable enemies of humanity. They are worse in their criminality than the criminals who have made peace and happiness elusive for mankind during its entire history. Yes, my dear friend and comrade, I have a fear—a rising fear, I must add. These quasi-faithful are growing in strength. They are the fundamentalists today, and they abound in all the religions. Before, they were united with others against the atheists. They were united against us. That’s not the case today. You will even find them slitting one another’s throats tomorrow. In fact, they are the curse of our children’s age.”
       “That is deep.”
       “Ah, Comrade Boris; let’s avoid talking about that age of the apocalypse. We need some cheering up in the tavern,” Yeremenko cautioned.


Friday, July 29, 2016

A Vision for the Post-Soviet Space—Russia and the other former republics of the USSR (Excerpt of the book "The Union Moujik") Literalized

The Union Muzhik

…..“That’s what I meant. Your plan was mind-boggling.”    
      “That was my vision—a vision to create a new Soviet people to be called the Union-Muzhiks.”
      “The scope of your vision is certainly breathtaking. You must have canvassed political support from numerous camps,” Taidje said with a bewildered expression on his face.
     Boris smiled dolefully and clenched a fist. “The last comrade who presided over Kremlin affairs endorsed one of the plans before the uncertainties of the late 1980s, the August coup and finally the demise of our great country killed the plan.”
      “That man was a flop. Mikhail Gorbachev could not stop the disintegration of the Soviet Union, despite the fact that he had the full powers and the means to prevent it from happening. I feel oppressed each time I reflect on his last days in power, scarcely believing that he failed to stop the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine from signing the Soviet Union’s death warrant over bottles of vodka in Belavezha, and then waking up the next morning unconscious of their actions,” Taidje said with bitterness.
      “Please don’t blame him,” Boris countered with a sad note in his voice, “He was the rare type, one of those leaders that are too advanced for their age.”
      “He was a flop, short and simple.”
      “Think of him as someone who became a leader half a century too early, at a time that the mentality of our people had not fully evolved. Yes, Comrade Taidje! He is in the class of leaders who perform miracles when leading rational minds. Not a people like us, my dear friend. Our people are either too angry or they are too happy. You and I know that emotions like those overwhelm reasoning.”
      “You are recalling,” Taidje said.
     Boris smiled ruefully and clasped his hands. “Why shouldn’t I recall?”
      “Ach, ach, ach! Comrade Boris knows deep in his heart that it is not good to dwell on the past.”
      “Ach, Comrade Taidje! It is obvious you won’t agree with me on this. Even so, I will go ahead and express myself. I think it is sometimes good to dwell on the past, especially when the present is so depressing and the future holds little or no certainty. The memory of past joys and achievements gives us the outlines of the path to a state of happiness. That memory is a treasure that can never be taken away from us. At least we know where we were, what we have lost, what we miss, what we really want and what more we need to add to our experiences.”
      “I disagree with you.”
      “Not on everything though. I beg to differ with you only on the subject of Mikhail Sergeyevich.”
      “He is a flop!” Taidje cried.
      “I pity Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev in many ways and make the effort to comprehend his sorrows and regrets. Let me say this before you make your point.”
      “Go ahead!”
      “Mikhail Sergeyevich would be remembered in history as the man who did the most to kill authoritarianism in the world and allowed mankind to dwell more on humanism than on ideologies for the first time in our long and turbulent history. However, the world will also remembered him as the leader whose noble intentions, advanced ideas, progressive direction and liberalizing rule brought about the demise of his country.”
      “He is a whim,” Taidje said with a note of disgust in his voice.
     An enigmatic spread smile across Boris’s face as he sat back in his seat. “It is people like you who make us pity him all the more. What else was he supposed to do? The constitution gave the union republics the right to secede. Even our revered Comrade Lenin wasn’t altogether against the idea.”
      “Please don’t go there. Comrade Lenin is way, way up there.”
      “Why shouldn’t I bring Comrade Lenin into this?” Boris asked.
      “Comrade Lenin had great intentions. His actions were calculated responses to the challenges he was facing at the time. He was for humanity, but he was equally humane. He made mistakes that he admitted as errors in his quest for good judgments during life and death moments in the history of our people. His was of a different time. And he acted out of the exigencies of the time.”
      “Comrade Lenin was humane, that’s for sure. Comrade Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is like him in so many ways. Believe me, Comrade Taidje! Comrade Lenin advocated for Finnish independence years before the revolution, and today he is respected in Finland because of that. He was even against Stalin’s brutality in bringing Georgia under full Soviet control.”
      “But he was strong and wise enough to determine when the general interest of the majority superseded the whims of egomaniacal nationalists.”
      “I know, I know,” Boris agonized, and then sighed.
      “To be candid with you, not even a single republic tried to secede from the Soviet Union while Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev’s predecessors presided over affairs in the Kremlin.”
      “Ach! Comrade Taidje, Comrade Taidje, Comrade Taidje!” Boris muttered, shaking his head in a thoughtful manner, “That was because past Soviet leaders were intolerant to dissension. They dealt harshly with any form of disruptive nationalism. Their big sticks, and not their persuasive tongues and noble intentions, were what actually did the job of cowing potential agitators into compliance.”
      “That’s how Mikhail Sergeyevich should have ruled,” Taidje cried.
      “You make me sad.”
      “Please bear with me on this one. The majority of our people do not doubt the goodness of that man’s heart. But truth be told, he lacked a certain force as a leader. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev lacked the resolve to use a stick after failing with words.”
     Boris shook his head in disapproval. “He is one of those rare and gifted men with the great ability to draw from reality. Using a stick over legitimate, though irrational claims, would have only aggravated the tense situation in the Soviet Union at the time.”
      “He was afraid of using the stick, that’s all!” Taidje cried again.
      “What if he had sent in the tanks to crush the spoilers, those who were trying to tear the Soviet Union apart? You have no idea of what the outcome would have been. Think of the disaster that befell the former Yugoslavia after its disintegration, and then multiply it by fifteen.”
      “That’s a baseless assumption,” Taidje groaned this time around.
     Boris heaved out in exasperation, and then hit the arm of his seat. “Your judgment of him!” Boris muttered, shaking his head, “You are so wrong, Comrade Taidje! Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was an exceptional man. He talked so cleverly and proposed such good ideas that the majority of our people, who are simple-minded folks with irrational desires, could not discern his good intentions. He initiated his reforms to bring out the best of the Soviet system, correct the errors and introduce new values that would have advanced humanism and enhanced our welfare.”
      “He brought about chaos and nothing else, all because he was incapable of controlling the pace of his reforms.”
      “Ach, Comrade Taidje! We had chaos because we misinterpreted his intentions. Maybe his reforms were not clearly spelt out. Perhaps he allowed the worst to happen for the truth to reveal itself. Whatever the case, our people could not make the best out of his reforms. They thwarted his progressive plans in their efforts to cripple him, in their hatred and resolve to weaken the Soviet Union that millions of our compatriots fought and died for.”
      “You can’t rule our people without using an iron fist. Catherine the Great or Czar Paul must have said those words. Even Ivan the Terrible began as a reformer, only to become an autocrat later in life out of necessity. We are basically a people driven by an urge to test the limits. Yes, Comrade Boris; we are extremists in our emotions. Such people cannot be led by soft men who may even be soft in the head.”
      “That’s exactly the line the conservatives used in their bid to cling to power by taking advantage of the ideology they derailed. Yes, Comrade Taidje; they gave Communism a bad name by adhering to the methods of the days of Stalin,” Boris said with a nod.
      “Please, Comrade Boris. Don’t feel insulted if I tell you that you are allowing yourself to be gripped by anxiety. You are evidently losing your composure,” Taidje said with a note of concern in his voice.
      “Ach, I blame them,” Boris growled, threw his hands up in the air in a dejected manner, and then muttered a deep sigh, “Yes, I blame those conservatives, the Stalinists and the dumb-witted. I blame the stupid republican leaders. I also blame our people, who in their moments of feebleness betrayed the Soviet Union when they got carried away by their nationalist sentiments. I also blame people like you who give victory to the narrow-minded nationalists by not being steadfast in your love for the lands you free-heartedly called home back in the day of the Soviet Union.”
      “You misunderstood me, Comrade Boris. You are wrong again, my dear friend,” Taidje cried, “I never stopped sharing your union-nationalist ideals. I’m a committed socialist in the deepest sense of the word. I’m not a prostitute in my ideas like those conservatives in black and gray suits. You know the depth of my heart; you know how flexible I am when it comes to applying the ideas of Marx and Lenin. I always factor in the changing times. I know the ideas of those geniuses are the only hope for the cheated, the discriminated, the oppressed and suppressed people of his world. Comrade Boris, don’t you think it is time to come to terms with present-day realities and accept the fact that our past leaders betrayed the noble ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin?”
      “You have a point there.”
      “I know I do. Am I expecting too much by asking for realism in whatever judgments we make?”
      “Realism, pragmatism, free will, et cetera, et cetera. Ach my dear friend! People use those words all the time as if we shall become better human beings at the mere mention of them.”
      “Comrade Boris, the majority of our people crave liberal socialism because it is in our true traditions and our culture to care for one another. We are concerned about our neighbors and consider the times we enjoy with other people as our best moments in life,” Taidje stuttered as he tried to put more sense into his words.
      “Go ahead. I’m listening,” Boris offered.
      “Now, wouldn’t you agree with me that we are instinctively a communalist people?” Taidje cried with more earnest in his voice this time around.
      “Ach, you mean liberal socialism, which never got implemented. That should be reformed communism as we all know it today.”
     Taidje nodded and closed his eyes. “It is sad. It is sad. It truly is sad, Comrade Boris,” he said in a resigned tone.
      “Everything around us is sad,” Boris said with a sigh.
      “Perhaps things wouldn’t have become so bad had people like us with genuine intentions, with concern for others and with liberal views asserted ourselves and imposed our wills for the sake of the Soviet people.”
      “You are almost beginning to sound self-righteous, my dear friend.”
      “Hmm, Comrade Boris!”
      “Don’t dwell on the failures of the past, and don’t allow yourself to live on your regrets.”
      “No, no, Comrade Boris! I am trying to judge from it, that is all. I’m trying to revive a hope and expose the hidden light. Perhaps a time will come when our people shall realize their errors, and then decide to come together again. After all, the different nationalities of the former Soviet Union share a lot in common with one another than with others beyond our borders.”
      “You mean others who care little about our interests, others who now consider our current plight as evidence that they defeated us in the cold war?”
      Taidje nodded. “They don’t trust us. In fact, they don’t want us in their midst. And why should we trust them while they snub us, even though we are on our knees, begging them to become our friends?”
      “Foreigners or people from the Far Abroad think former Soviet citizens have little to offer the world other than raw materials, women and crime.”
      “You know that is not true! Comrade Boris, our scientists are contributing enormously to the technological advancements we see in the West today. Israel is leaping forward because our Jews are leading their technological inventions,” Taidje quivered.
      “You are right. But we lack people who can sell those points to the rest of the world.”
      “Leaders you mean!”
      “Comrade Taidje, our people have been hijacked by demagogues who claim to be leaders. The buffoons I am talking about are making irrational efforts to consolidate independence, dwelling on rhetoric that stress on the differences among our diverse nationalities. They are failing to build on our mutual compatibilities and our shared history and interests.”
     Taidje nodded dolefully and closed his eyes. “Comrade Boris, I’m still trying to hope.”
     Boris cleared his throat. “What are you saying, Comrade Taidje? Are you hoping that the disintegration virus that gripped the different nationalities of the former Soviet Union be cured soon?”
     Taidje nodded. “You can tell me. You have traveled far and wide. You have met most if not all of the different peoples that resided in the lands that were within the borders of the Soviet Union.”
     Boris shrugged, and then muttered a sigh. “I was always a maverick. My party comrades even called me a utopist behind my back. The truth is that none of them had the temerity to say it in my face because they dreaded my fist.”
      “I remember people talking about your memorable days as an amateur boxer.”
      “Yes, Comrade Taidje; I could make use of my fist back in the day,” Boris said with a smile and a proud nod.
      “Are you reminiscing?”
      “I don’t know what you mean. But I know for a fact that I have some memorable technical knockouts in my record. I even flirted for a while with the idea of becoming a professional boxer, until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, forcing me to put that thought to rest as the entire country mobilized to stop him.”
     Taidje nodded again to show that he understood. “Still, I need your view on that,” he said.
      “You can’t mean it. What is there for you to learn from my opinions, being the maverick some people thought I was?”
      “A maverick they called you! That was because you defied their negative intentions, which they tried to justify by clinging to the laws of Marxism-Leninism, laws they had perverted for their selfish and egoistic ends. You had an outstanding mind of your own, Comrade Boris. That is why you distinguished yourself from the heartless conservatives and party apparatchiks who discredited the noble ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Every single muzhik respected your mind back in the day when Soyuzgrad held so much promise.”
     Boris sighed and closed his eyes. “Ach, you bring me back to those beautiful times. Well, you can see the way I’m built. Genealogists will call me a mongrel. Hmm! That doesn’t mean a thing to me. I’m proud to say that the Boris Petrenkov sitting in front of you this very moment has several nationalities in him.”
      “Count that aspect of your genetic makeup as a plus.”
      “A plus you said. In other words, I can speak from within the deep reserve of their feelings.”
      “Say something then, Comrade Boris,” Taidje urged with a broad smile on his face.
     Boris rubbed his brows, sighed, and then shook his head. “You want to know if it is possible for our different peoples to forge their destinies together again. Well, those nationalities that stretch across Republican frontiers are the bonds that can be strengthened to reincarnate our union. These frontier muzhiks need to do something to compel their obstinate governments to budge in their divisive policies. They would have to force their governments to start engaging their brotherly neighbors in a practical manner that recognizes their shared history, culture, language and their intertwined economies.”
      “You sound very hopeful, especially since you and I know that the presidents of the republics are destroying the things that our different peoples shared in common during the times of the Soviet Union as if the West will come in and fill the vacuum with new factories and infrastructure. Hmm, Comrade Boris! I might be wrong about this, but I think the West only needs us as a source of raw materials and a market for their goods.”
      “Don’t blame the West all the time as if we are innocent victims, as if we don’t have a hand in all the ills plaguing our lands. Look, Comrade Taidje! In life, there is a tendency among friends and even among brothers to strive to have an edge over one another. So, why don’t you expect something like that to be the case in a situation involving former enemies or opponents? That is what competition is all about. Please, let’s stop blaming others when we are responsible for failing to defend our interests.”
      “You have a point there, Comrade Boris.”
      “Now, let’s talk about ways of picking up the pieces of the fallout of the Soviet Union, so that we can recover and catch up with the rest of the world in the race to make this world a better place for man.”
      “Tell me, Comrade Boris.”
      “Let’s begin with the nationalities of the Russian Federation still suffering from Boris Yeltsin’s manipulation. The citizens of Russia became disgruntled because they were made to believe that they were bearing the brunt of the sacrifice in maintaining the Soviet Union, which is one of the many reasons why many of them resented the control of the Soviet central government. Comrade Taidje, Russian citizens have come a long way. They have come to realize the important role the Soviet Union played for the Russian people. There are about thirty million people residing in the other former Soviet republics who trace their ethnic origins to the Russian Federation. That is the equivalent of about twenty percent of the population of the Russian Federation. Russia has a lot to gain from forging closer relations with her sisterly and brotherly republics, especially if Russia intends to guarantee the interest of its population living as a minority in the other republics.”
      “The Near Abroad, you mean?”
      “Why not call it ‘The Other Motherland’. In fact, some Russians feel a lot more at home in the other republics than in the Russian Federation. Take the case of Andrei Yeremenko―”
     Boris did not complete his analysis of the situation because just then, the trained hissed to a stop at the Nargonyy station.
      “Why did the train move so fast?” Taidje asked in a barely audible tone, muffled by the sound of the whistling train.
      “Comrade Taidje, my dear friend! We must see each other again and talk our problems over as compatriots,” Boris offered with a note of desperation in his voice.
     A wave of emotion swept over Taidje, and he nodded effusively without being conscious of it. Then he stood up and embraced his friend. “Tell me, Comrade Boris; how many of us are still left?”
      “You tell me. That is a question I’m incapable of answering, for now.”
      “Ach, Comrade Boris! The fact that we must separate so soon depresses me deeply. Believe me, the only time I found solace talking about the demise of our Soviet Union was during our wise discourse today. You made me see hope in the horizon. Your great ability to help people reason in a positive manner is an asset we need. Yes, Comrade Boris; you epitomize the worthiness of the Soviet Union.”
      “We shall see again,” Boris promised.
      “Of course, we shall spend time together in the future. As a friend and comrade, I can give myself the pleasure of baring my heart to you. I will do so because I know you won’t think I’m soft in the head.”
      “You make me laugh, Comrade Taidje.”...


Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Game of World Domination as explained by the Good Frenchman (An excerpt of "Flash of the Sun")

Flash of the Sun

....It was a Thursday evening that Clement, Delphine, and their little boy waited at the Douala Airport to board a plane for the flight to the United States of America. Jean-Pierre Ribery was there with his wife and two children to see them off. The Frenchman could see that Clement was still agitated, even though take off was an hour and a half away. He knew why the US defense attaché Peter Atkins was taking so much time with the Cameroonian and French security and customs officials in the police commissioner’s office inside. The bureaucracy in the new country was cumbersome and greasing the palms of government officials was getting to new heights since January 01, 1960.
Clement thought he would have been able to facilitate things with the local authorities by being by the defense attaché’s side, but the American official had turned down his offer of assistance. Diplomatic protocol forbade that; he had explained in concise words. Now, he was sure Peter Atkins did so not understand the nature of Francophone bureaucracy. 
It is going to be a learning process for the naïve American, he thought.
He snapped out of his thoughts to find his wife Rachel whispering into Delphine’s ear and a broad smile spreading across the young woman’s face. It was the first time he was seeing her unfettered smile, unencumbered by the worries of her daily life as a target in Cameroon. His nine-year old son Jean-Jacques was playing with the baby on Delphine’s back, and his older brother Marcel was swinging Rachel’s arm. They cut such a happy image that he took some shots of them with his camera.
“I will post some of the pictures to you next week,” Jean-Pierre said.
Clement replied with a nod. “Thanks for everything. I look forward to your visit with your family.”
“I try to live up to my promises.”
“Be careful.”
Jean-Pierre nodded. “Rachel wouldn’t let me venture anywhere close to danger.”
“You have got a good woman.”
Your Delphine is good too. She would do anything to make you happy. Now take my advice on this one. Take some time off your routine of the past years and enjoy the ride of being a father and husband. And above all, stay out of trouble.”
“Advice heeded,” Clement said. “After experiencing the joy of life that reigns in the family you and Rachel created, I came to the conclusion that happiness can also be found out of our culture, out of the setup we have always known. All we need is our sense of humanity.”
Jean-Pierre grunted and rubbed his brows, nodding thoughtfully as he did so. “Let me confide in you about this experience I had with my father and brothers. Perhaps it would explain something to you," he said and licked his lips.
"It was the summer of in 1937. My father took my brothers and me to a village in the south of Cameroon, a village not far from Sangmelima in the Betiland, in the Bulu area precisely.  It was a place he had been paying frequent visits to over the years. That was where I met a pigmy for the first time.  The man was in his forties and he was walking around practically naked except for the scanty material covering his manhood.  My youngest brother Jacques, who had just turned eleven, thought the fellow looked and acted funny, that he was behaving like a clueless child. My knucklehead brother who didn’t know any better, made known his perception to us with a chuckle that had an insulting ring in it. He drew an immediate ire from our father who yanked him away to the edge of the village, cursing and threatening. My other brother Jules and I were initially taken aback by the rapid developments, but then I remembered that our father always thought highly of Jacques. So this sudden idea that my father taking his anger on the knucklehead would be fun after all, had a wonderful appeal to me at the time. We knew our father could become unpredictable in a hurting way when his adrenaline level got high; so we trailed him and Jacques with a great deal trepidation and awe, if not curiosity. My old man was breathless when he finally came to a stop. In fact, he had to take a deep breath before he mustered the words to address my brother:
 ‘I never want to hear or see you run down or undermine another human being again, do you hear me?’ he told Jacques in between gasps in the most threatening voice I had ever heard him coming from him.
My brother nodded, still lost for words, looking like he was about to pee in his pants.
‘That man you just insulted is the best native doctor I have ever known. He knows the right herbs for the cure of so many ailments that he deserves to win the Nobel Prize in Psychology or Medicine. The good fellow is even far better at curing than me or any other French doctor alive. And guess what? All this while, he has been showing the herbs to me and giving me other useful knowledge without asking for anything in return. Can’t you see?  I have learned much from him that can make us rich for the rest of our lives if I decide to put the knowledge to use in France or if I decide to commercialize it.’
If he knows so much, then why is he so poor and miserable-looking?’ my brother stuttered with a look of stupefaction on his face.
Mon Salopard!’ my father raged, shaking his head incredulously, ‘Young man; he is what he is today because he attaches no value to wealth as we know it. The good fellow is happy. And he doesn’t derive his happiness by depriving others of theirs,’ our old man said, looked at my brother for a moment, and then at us before adding in an incongruous voice. ‘Boys, follow me.’
We did. He took us for a short walk into the forest, into the jungle to put it plainly. The sun was up and very bright that afternoon, but it was somehow dim down there. In fact, we stopped close to a small river, and I noticed that the vegetation lining the river bank was not only very dense but very lush as well.
‘Do you know what the tallest tree in the world is called?’ he asked us finally.
‘The sequoia in California,’ Jacques replied with a smirk on his face.
It is good to know that as an adolescent, Jacques had this knack of saying and doing unbearable things. Anyway, the walk must have affected my father on the positive side because he responded to his answer in a gracious manner. ‘Good, good, good, Jacques! Now tell me: why is this forest dark; why is it dark in here?’
‘Well!’ Jacques muttered, turning his head around, apparently to get our input.
‘Well, what?’ my father asked.
‘I think is because of the canopy.’
‘And what is the canopy?’
‘What do you mean by this?’ my father asked in a teasing manner.
My brother shrugged, moved his body around, looked at us, and then turned around again and faced my father. ‘Isn’t the roof of the forest made up of its largest trees such as these mahogany, iroko and sapele trees?’
‘Is that all?’
‘I guess so,’ my brother replied with another obnoxious shrug.
‘Listen to me, Sons! Listen to me very well because this piece of information is going to be very useful to you in real life. If you fly over this area, your aerial view of this forest would be dominated by the tall trees forming the forest canopy. From that picture, you are likely to think that the forest is all about these imposing trees when they are just a decimal of the forest ecosystem, of the plant life if we need to be precise about it.  As you  fly over this forest, you are most likely to fail to take the other three layers of the forest structure into consideration, layers  like this forest floor with its sparse vegetation and smell of decay caused by the less than two percent sunlight it receives,’ he said sweeping his arms around, ‘You are also likely to  miss the understory layer over there which is  made up of small trees, vine, shrubs, and herbs whose heights cannot amount to a quarter of those of the canopy trees because they hardly receive more than five percent of sunlight,’ he added with a nod, ‘Now, let’s get out of here.’
“My father must have wanted us to reflect a little because he did not utter another word to us throughout the short walk that brought us back to the edge of the forest. I wasn’t the only one who found it odd, but we decided to leave him alone for a moment to grapple with his thoughts. Believe it or not, if we thought that was all about the matter, then we were badly mistaken. We were close to our destination when he stopped, held my shoulder and then gestured the others to stop too. ‘Sons, do you see the few large trees over there that are sticking out above the canopy?’
‘Yes, Papa,’ we responded in unison.
‘They form the fourth layer. I consider them the movers of the forest since they prevailed over the others, since they managed not to be suppressed by the canopy. We Europeans and the West, in general, are like the canopy that dominates the forest and prevents light, the source of energy, from reaching other forms of life occupying the forest floor and the understory story layer. Our actions cause decay or stagnation for some and force others to scrape an existence that is nothing more than a fight for survival. That is what we the colonizers, the imperialists and the capitalists have done to the rest of the world we dominate, to the rest of the world that are like the forest floor and the understory layer. The status quo prevails because most of the deprived people of this world are unconscious of or are indifferent to the machinations that have led us to the top of the power chain and that have been maintaining us there. They are unaware of the schemes we perpetuate in order to emerge as winners in this rat race of world domination. Now, I want you to know that of all the survivors I am talking about, the pigmies are the best equipped.’
‘And what about the tallest trees, the emergent layer?’ I asked my father.
He looked at me with a sweet smile on his face, and then nodded.  ‘They are the true winners in the forest; they have the best survivor instincts. If given the opportunity to grow, they end up towering above the canopy. Imagine our pigmy friend becoming enlightened or imagine him getting the exposure I was privileged to be born and raised in. He would be considered a genius; he would make tons of money. If given the room to maneuver, the underprivileged people of this world who never allowed their will to be broken will dominate like the emergent layer which you find so puzzling. Now, is our world ever going to give these natural survivors of life the room to exploit their potentials, the room to maneuver?’ my father said, more as a statement than a question,” Jean-Pierre intoned and took a deep breath.
“That was intense,” Clement said, realizing just then that he was holding his breath and must have done so throughout the narration.
“I couldn’t think of an answer to that question at the time, Clement. My brothers did not offer a response either. I even doubt it if my father had one for us. All the same, he did not brooch the topic again and I never forgot that day at the forest. Whenever I ponder the developments in France and its former colonies, especially the things that Charles De Gaulle and his group are implementing in Africa today, I get to understand even better what the old man was trying to tell us that day. The Colonial Pact  my country imposed on Cameroon and the other peoples of Francophone Africa through the puppets the venerated Charles De Gaulle and the furtive Jacques Foccart put in place in France’s former colonies before granting them the so-called independence is a crime against humanity because it deprives the people of those countries of the means to live up to their potential like the canopy deprives the other forest layers of light and life. The truth is that the pseudo-independence is meant to keep Africans in perpetual bondage. The whole scheme makes France parasitic on its former colonies like the canopy trees that feed on the nutrients of the decay of the forest floor and even the understory layer.”
“Huh!” Clement exclaimed with a contemplative look on his face.
“Don’t fail to have that in mind while writing your book.”
“I wouldn’t.”