Decisions, decisions, decisions. Do I, do I not? Shall I choose this university or the other; shall I take up this or that job offer; should I start a small business selling vegetables or join my uncle’s transport business; should I really sell mandazi to get school fees or should I just join that cool gang – they seem to always have money; should I move to the city or stay in my town; where shall I get money to pay my debt; should I buy this jacket or not! …….......on and on and on. Ordinary, everyday decisions. Invariably, we navigate through them, and life goes on.
Of recent, a new type of decision has sprung up that is much more complex. Do I or do I not accept to become a hero by killing people; do I or do I not join this group that is planting bombs in crowds; do I continue or do I stop meeting that guy who is telling me that I have a mission to kill; shall I give up my dream of becoming an engineer and instead take up the gun as my bosom companion; shall I or shall I not inform my family that I’m leaving to become a messenger of death; shall I accept the four hundred dollars, give it to my family, and put on this suicide vest for a secret mission!
Complicated decisions, and all relatively new on the scene. For those having to make such decisions, there is no peer review, no parental advice, no exchange of notes, no dictionary of wisdom, nothing. Only the video showing someone brandishing a gun. Often, your decision has to be made in some corner, secretly; just make up your mind, then take the plunge. You may of course manage to navigate through, but even if you do, you may not be able to say ‘and life goes on,’ because life may, in fact, not go on. That is the hard truth.
The only piece of good news, if we can call it that, is that currently, those facing such decisions constitute a minority, not a majority. And of these, even fewer choose to go down that path. We may not know the actual numbers, but we do know that they are still a minority. However, if we rest on our laurels, we shall eventually be talking about many, not few.
We are trying to prevent people, especially young people, from going down the road that says violence is the answer to the difficult questions of our time, such as: how do we create employment for our young people - how do we narrow the gap between the rich and the poor - how do we create more social and economic justice - how do we get our leaders to understand that they are servants and not masters of their peoples - how do we create confidence among our young people that they matter - how do we ensure that all our citizens are able to live in dignity?
While we are struggling with these issues, trying to find answers, the violent extremists tell us they have found The Answer: Kill, kill, kill….. kill everyone you can find: man, woman, child! destroy, burn, break down, break up, cut down, blow up, hack, decapitate, hang, rape, enslave!
Right. And then what? Well ….. aaa…… well, then you’ll have a better world; yes, a better world, a better life, a better future.
I’ve been thinking about the people of Mogadishu after the recent bomb blasts that killed about 300 people and wounded another 500. The horror, the totally unimaginable horror, the trauma for those who survived, their families, their friends, an entire people, the Somali nation as a whole. I try to imagine how this is “The Answer” and I’m failing to discern even the smallest sign that it could be, only questions: Why do this? How can this be The Answer?
We may not have the full answer to all the challenges we face, but we do know what is Not The Answer. The path proposed by violent extremists is simply Not The Answer.
So, if you have to take those decisions, it may be wise to first ask yourself: If I choose that path, will I even be alive a year from now? And if I’m alive, where will I be, how will I be, who will I be with? Will I really be a hero? If I die while killing others, and I meet my creator, will I say: I did good, Sir; just look at my bloody hands. When you have answered these questions to your satisfaction, make your choice. In Africa we say: Every bird flies with its own wings.