Documenting our social ills can't be left to politicians

Image: 123RF/Yulia Grogoryeva

The kind of books and art produced by a society gives its readers insights into the history and the different cultures on our planet. It expands our horizons and and opens up our minds to think differently about concepts such as love, war and justice.

Homegoing by Yaa Gasi, one of the greatest books ever written, is a holistic and technical story of the British-American slave trade in Ghana in the 1800s. It strives to trace a familial lineage to show how that trade displaced families.

One of the most significant things about it, for me, was how it is centred on the conversation and actions of the leaders of that time and how they directly impacted on the success of the slave trade through their greed.

Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah, follows the same theme. This book tackles the effects of slavery on everyday people. It zeroes in on the brokenness that remains when something like slavery comes in the night and takes loved ones away.

In the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the state of our country and these books keep coming to mind. I feel that there are two conversations to be had, and they are both necessary.

Much like in Homegoing, there is the technical conversation about the reality of the economic situation. What does it really mean for the country - for business but for me as well as a normal person on the street? What impact does it have on my bank account and my economic future? We all need to understand how our country got to where it is now, and where it is probably going to be for the next few years. This is conversation one.

There is a strong case to be made for the role a particular 'younger' party has played in the advancement of politics here at home. They have managed to conscientise a lot of us around the hefty issue of politics.

But they are politicians at the end of the day and will ultimately mine the situation to advance their political standing and proximity to power. It is up to us to dig deeper.

Have our politicians turned us into modern-day slaves? Have they sold us? We need to know for ourselves how we got here. We cannot leave it to the people responsible to explain it.

The second conversation is on the impact that has had on us as a society and our everyday lives. Who is going to write the honest, unbiased account of what is happening to us? Will our descendants have literature to gather from us? By literature I really don't mean the many books floating around that ought to have been a newspaper exposé.

We will need to write truthfully about the time when we could have stopped black families from breaking further. Because every time this country goes through hardship, it is the black people who feel it the most.

Who is going to help explain our societal ills to those to come? We will have to, but before then we will need to read as widely as possible. We need to arm ourselves with knowledge and reasoning capacities. We can't trust the politicians. That much is clear.

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