Thursday, February 27, 2014

With Power Comes Big Responsability

I am writing this after 7 weeks in Burkina Faso:

During my stay in Burkina Faso i have been rewatching a series. It  is both popular with the volunteers and indeed the nationals who watch it with french subtitles. The TV series was inspired by George RR Martin, the author and creator of Westerns, (the world in which the series is set). His world mirrors medieval Europe with castles, knights, kings and dragons. Both the books and the series cover a number of themes ranging from religion and theology, to family and the family legacy. However, the reason I mention the series is due to an ongoing theme that, on second viewing, i thought relevant to our lives and specifically our lives out here in Burkina Faso.

The theme is that of personal value and the meaning we search for and live for, in other words where we place importance. In the face of war, tragedy and conflict each main character on the series reveals to the audience their true values and where, for them, meaning and purpose becomes apparent. Some characters uphold honour, their family, equality and chivalry while others swear by money, power and influence. Parallels may be drawn with how, in the face of difficulties, the nationals and indeed the British volunteers must rely on their loved ones to support them in upholding a community spirit that drives them forward not as individuals but as a collective group.

Westerns are infested with corruption embedded deep within in its culture from the highest to the lowest in society. We also see this in Africa. I can recall a long conversation I had, and continue to have, with a few Ghanaian friends over a cup of tea, as only an Englishman can. They complained bitterly at the state of African politics, where many politicians are corrupted, acting with  their own interests in mind, ignoring what the people want and need. When questioned, they could only really think of Nelson Mandela as the shinning light in the darkness. I agreed with them that he was one of the few that stood out, adopting a philosophy of forgiveness that was  honest, a rare doctrine in a predominantly bleak outlook on politics. This sounded remarkably similar to the narrative in George RR Martins books with the plot centred around power hungry and corrupted kings who were happy to see their people burn and suffer without any remorse.

However, there is still hope, both in Westerns and in Africa. Among the corruption, greed and selfishness are glimpses of morality. Glimpses that are so rare that they become precious. They may only be seen for a fleeting moment in years of darkness, yet that moment has the capability to shape the future. Nelson Mandela was a glimpse of what could be, as was Martin Luther King. These people, and many like them, had power beyond imagining. Power that would not die with them like it does with dictators, but power that steps over the grave and marches on and on and on. This power, this force, this wave has now caught up with us and we have a choice, or even a chance. Do we ride this powerful wave of hope or do we wait for the next to come, or forget it all together? Though riding the way we may suffer injury or be struck with fear but it is common knowleage that sacrifice is part of dedication. The power is with us, and with power comes great responsibility.

Mark Birkett

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