Posted by: Viola | March 20, 2015

To combat injustice: READ and WRITE!

It’s frustrating, knowing that there is so much injustice in the world and feeling powerless to do something about it. How to tackle oppression or corruption when it runs so deep? How to stop violence when it threatens and destroys so many and so much? How to simply face the fear of succumbing to the injustice? Cameroonians, most likely universally, want to make sure that terrorism does not have any shade of a chance to take root in Cameroon. And that is a good thing because terrorism does not correct injustice. It only piles more of it onto an already unstable situation in a country or region. Terrorism doesn’t count as a valid way to resist any kind of domination or hegemony. The victims of terrorists wind up being the innocents, the people least responsible for whatever injustice exists. Terrorism also destroys the sources of hope and power for the downtrodden and marginalized, by taking away basic rights and critical opportunities for education and advancement and empowerment. It only makes poor people even poorer. Then there is the subtle but very real terror citizens live with, when their legitimate leaders (so-called, anyways) simply neglect to provide for people and look out for their citizens’ interests, opting to embezzle and lie instead. In the face of overt and covert terror, what can people do, how can they empower themselves, how can they combat oppression and adversity? For many Africans, and for many Cameroonians, that fight takes place in schools and classrooms and study halls and universities and academic institutes and libraries. An education, in Cameroon (since that’s the reality I can speak to most confidently), means everything; an education means the difference between having a meal and slowly starving. Hard work, hard manual work is great, but for many, to truly break away from a life of hardship, education and (yes) entrepreneurship are the key. But even the most successful business person in Cameroon will, without hesitation, want to see his or her child educated, before all else. A century ago, Cameroonians sought education, as a way to fight colonialism and talk back to power. Cameroonians continue to choose education, continue to talk back and speak against injustice, even when the financial benefits of an education in Cameroon seem limited and even when talking back makes no dent politically. Still, Cameroonians know that the mind is where freedom begins, and we cannot afford to live in a world where we do not think for ourselves. This is why terrorism has no place in Cameroon. Cannot be allowed to nest in Cameroon. Or anywhere in Africa. Or anywhere in the world. The continent has seen enough of the horror of terrorism, at the hands of many oppressors…and it continues to see horrors, at the hands of foreign powers and African dictators and militias out to destroy lives. In a context of so much political and economic frustration, I think one of the most powerful and liberating things a person can do is READ. Just read whatever is at hand–newspapers, books, textbooks, blogs, anything, and keep on reading. Terror wins when we stop stimulating our brains and minds. Because the mind is always a target for terrorists, reading is one way to fight back, reading to cultivate our abilities to think through anything and everything that comes our way, as best we can. Reading gives us the knowledge to face oppression head on. To question things. To speak. To gather the words to speak truth to power, to tell our stories and let our voices be heard. Things might be bad, hard, scary, but they would be worse if we did not read, if we did not learn about the world around us and learn about our own minds and hearts, if we did not have the freedom/choice to be educated. Without books, there would be a lot less hope and possibility in the world, and in Africa, a history of injustice would reign far into the future. I can nitpick about what kinds of books, what kinds of literature, what kinds of learning, but at the end of the day, it’s important to simply have the freedom to read and expand one’s horizons through books. When in doubt, READ. Read about what you need to know. Keep reading and helping others to read. And agitate to retain that freedom to learn, that incredible and crucial right to participate in the act reading. The right to own and read books, that’s a right worth fighting for. And next, advocate for the freedom to WRITE. This is the peaceful way to fight for justice, the way that doesn’t harm and destroy, the way that opens more ways to freedom.

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