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Warding off the circling corbeaux
Sans humanite” is our most identifiable cultural refrain, crossing centuries with its compelling, swaying echo of dark humour, stoicism, lament, and aspiration. The cry expresses a desire for recognition, and seeks audience identification with lyrical sparring with pain, for to be a victor in conditions of defeat is to hold your humanity like your bois, and to be seen defying forces that thrive off breaking its strength.
Just to stay on your feet, answering back, fighting, insisting on the fact of your existence is to make demands which matter on the larger collective watching, cheering or calling for your head and blood. It’s a big deal; a call for acknowledgement that you are human too.
Such insistence is fundamentally important, even when it will hardly change dominant institutions, structures and elites, because in the skies between heaven and earth are ever-circling corbeaux, and you might not reach that holy place that honours the God in you if, before your final ascent, your spirit first gets torn apart limb by limb.
How to be a victor in conditions of defeat? How to hold your humanity firm as a bois? How to escape that oppressive shadow of corbeaux following you?
Insist on fairness and refuse advantage by setting humanity as our first ground rule.
Long before conceptions of rights formally established the terms of our still unjust order, notions of fairness trod the land, wafting like breeze against curtains, warm like the smell of homemade bread; carrying in the last notes of rum shop conversation, evaporating in the cool night along with salty tears; and dusting off fruit and vegetables like remnants of garden soil as police and vendors negotiate the informal line between committing a minor crime and making an honest dollar.
Legal scholars will tell you that people are more likely to accept judgments against them, with which they may still disagree, if they feel they have been treated fairly in the process of administering justice. People will turn their lives around if the opportunity they are given is truly fair, with all that encompasses.
Women will stay rather than leave if the deal they are asked to accept truly honours their sovereign and independent humanity, and offers only what is fair.
Enemies might find a middle way out of senseless killing if a sense of fairness can establish just enough mutual trust and co-operation. Elites may act out of greater social responsibility if they recognise that that there is wider profit in fairness, and putting people first.
On this new day with its invitation to a new year, there is no solution to our troubles ahead if “sans humanite” remains the best description of our state and our selves.
Lawyers will continue to debate the crisis in the judiciary and create no greater fairness for those most experiencing its injustice. Cabinet will shadowbox with financiers, contracts and corruption, hitting the public below the belt, while telling us to tighten, tighten. Women will continue to die while state agencies avoid those changes necessary to give them a fair chance at love and life.
Keep refusing such advantage. Fairness is the one ideal we all understand, which can make us more humane, which might still save us from ourselves.
I could talk about necessary resolutions, reform and implementation, civic values, and programmes to nurture something other than the crushing of integrity under government boots.
But, still on our feet, our bois is the smooth, hard weapon of fairness, and its power to hold us accountable to each other as individuals and across institutions. Without fairness, advantage, with all the deaths that it brings, will continue to rule.
“Sans humanite” may be our most identifiable cultural refrain, but corbeaux are circling, and their shadow is filling us with terror and doubt. Fairness and humanity must be our answer from today. They are strengths neither our society nor spirits can live without.
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