Study War

I’ve never been in a war situation. Never woken to the sound of bombs and wailing of mothers and the wretched rage of men left with absolutely nothing to show for all the years they spent raising families.

I only remember waking up to the sound of birds and the vastness of blue skies, the sudden tropical downpour that made a muddy wonderland outside for our little feet to play in. And creamy porridge with sugar, eggs sizzling on the worn silver shine of a skillet with its charred black bottom.

I was born and raised in rural Africa within an ordinary family and all my years I never knew what war meant or felt like.

Later on in becoming an adult, I began to experience the wars that came without bombs. In my college years in Kenya, I began to understand the bombs that were deployed from abroad – policy bombs called Structural Adjustment Programs launched from the World Bank/IMF boardrooms that caused economic strife and anxiety and the shrinking of the happy adult.

Still, I did not have to run with a torn limb and hide from flying bullets and hear the cries of a loved one buried under rubble. This part of war must be the deepest depths of hell crafted by the most insidious gods man ever made. It defies description.

I have never known this kind of war, yet my life’s journeying led me to rooms in which I teach about war, about the narratives that sustain Systems in times of war, about the hidden players in the theatre of war, about seeing the plot and the stage clearly.

I speak about a thing my body has never experienced, but I have never felt inadequate. I have always felt prepared and well-equipped speaking in front of those who make decisions on war.

To date, perhaps, the most searing terror I ever felt was looking at the image of 148 college students mowed down by Al Shabaab bullets, lying dead in a Garissa University hall. Something about it stretched beyond the absurd, beyond all measures of the tragic.

I wanted to know who writes these scripts. I set off on an academic pursuit that gave me immense confidence in speaking on the theatre of war.

Now I prepare again for that class as I have done many times before. Only this time, I feel a different weight of urgency to transfer the memory of a war-free African childhood on to a syllabus that studies war no more.

In that field where fire rains down without mercy and hope dies in a thousand violent ways, the plot must shift. We must become human again. I am a student of narrative. All possibilities starts there.

*Ramadhan kareem to the people of Palestine.

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