What Came Before?

what came before

Incidentally, in a conversation just a little while ago I had to explore some history to try to reach some clear understanding of a cultural matter. The culture of people are a practical demonstration of their identity. A loss of their cultural history often results in the kind of vulnerability that we witness in Africa today: a vulnerability that shows itself in our embarrassing efforts to acquire and display foreign accents, in our dash to buy all things Western, in our speed to bad-mouth Nigerian ways and things. It is easy to sell any narrative about Nigeria to Nigerians today especially because we have no idea what we once were and where we once headed. We are like sheep without shepherd without our history.

In a personal experience I saw another side to this issue. History may not be lost but it may be so painful that you wish that it was. Every time you come up against it you want to avert your eyes and pray that by the time you look up it would have dissolved like mist before the rising sun. And yet without facing that history squarely and bravely but intelligently dissecting it, that fear that it always inspires will be the baggage you carry everywhere with you.

My secondary school and university days carry their share of history. I can often hold my own when embarrassment comes at me in public. I don’t know where I picked up the skill but I actually know how to take an embarrassing moment and make it a memorable one. Or at least I used to. But memories are a whole other bucket of fish. Sometimes you remember and shudder at what you did and hope nobody else does. History may be embarrassing.

How we understand the past is the most important element determining the future — James Carrol

But without history, how can we know our own selves and plot a course for the future? What you do not face squarely and clearly sort through is likely to haunt you into repeating the same mistakes. History says a lot about who we are. As a matter of fact, without it, we are ships adrift on the sea. We need it to guide our paths into the future.

The question “who am I?” begins its answer in “what came before?” History may be scary; it may be embarrassing or it may be unknown but it should never be ignored. Discovering it is key to discovering ourselves, understanding it is key to understanding the decisions we have to make and the paths open to us. Owning it takes the power of definition away from possibly malevolent or dubious elements and gives it back to us.

 

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Odii is an entrepreneur. Figuring life out and sharing his discoveries is business he enjoys doing. You can find him @ Panorama

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