The Big Tree

“Be kind to all, at all times,” an adage my father says whenever he advises me on what brings blessings to one’s life. He also says that, regardless of how poor he may be, and what little possessions he boasts of, what is priceless, is his good name. “They can call me anything, but they can never call me a thief, ” he would proudly add. So I was brought up to be kind to all at all times, and never to take something that doesn’t belong to me. Virtues better suited for utopia, you’d think! For here, kindness is a weakness readily exploited by even the closest friends and allies. To not take what’s not yours is equal to stupidity. Better yet, taking what’s not yours is camouflaged so well, that you’d think it’s an entitlement.

So I am supposed to be kind. I am supposed to give of my marrow to those in need, even to the leeches that won’t hesitate to drain me the first chance they get. This madness of pacifism in the name of a messiah is insane! I wish we could rewind to our olden days. Days when honor was all that a man or a woman possessed. Once soiled, your name becomes tarnished for generations, and your seed perpetuates with the shame and dishonor you’ve bestowed upon them, without end. You’d have to self-exile to escape the eternal ramifications of your blemish. Herald me back to those days when cieng was the standard, and songs of praise and shame would echo in the individual and communal psyche as a constant deterrent. An uncle that often recounts those days says that if a young man passed gas in the presence of young maidens, he’d run to the bush and never return to that village. For surely he would be a topic across all age groups, and his mishap immortalized in songs. Imagine his plight, should he be someone who takes what is not his, or someone who kills without cause!

So I am supposed not to take what doesn’t belong to me. I am supposed to earn my stripes and my toys, where to have, is a virtue regardless of one’s dubious means. Honesty is a vice to be swallowed up in the quicksand of expediency. To think of it, it’s the egalitarian in us. All are equal in dignity and worth, and therefore entitled to equally benefit from the commonwealth. An excellent thing, you’d think! However, everything is a commonwealth. The leader, the big tree, is entrusted to administer the commonwealth so that his purse is the people’s purse. The big tree must provide shade for all without distinction, or else the big tree must be chopped down.

Don’t get me wrong, what is mine, is mine, however, remember the first adage, “be kind to all, at all times.” Everyone who is in need, and their extended line of dependents, are entitled to “assistance.” So, if we extend this logic further, then the biggest purse is the commonwealth to which everyone is entitled. Since the big tree is entrusted to administer it on behalf of “the people,” some of whom are constantly on his/her heals, desk and house, demanding their share; taking from the purse to feed “the people’s” hunger is not taking what is not yours. What a plausible justification!

It doesn’t end there. The big tree has a certain prestige, and there are certain standards. Once baptized into that lot, leadership becomes divinely bestowed in their person and inheritable by their seed for generations to come. That is akin to the traditional process of perpetuating a good or bad name. To be sure the big tree is not stripped of that prestige, for he/she may be if he/she descends to the lowly position of the small trees. The big tree must tower higher and higher than all the surrounding trees.

Moreover, he/she must give more favors to the prostrating kith and kin, the subjects, albethey illusionary. These subjects, keep one eye sharp to ascertain the degree of the commonness of the big tree. They look for anything that will strip of the clouds encircling the highly favored and blessed one. So if they spot it, the big tree is diminished and finished.

Very few at the caliber of, and status akin to, the big tree, gain their stripes and toys through ingenuity and industry. Many, however, extend their hands deep into the commonwealth’s purse to consolidate themselves in the eyes of their subjects. However, they are seldom called thieves. To do so, we’d be soiling their names, when we’d instead celebrate them. Although, we are supposed to be kind to all, and not take what doesn’t belong to us. “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the kingdom of God!” Damn this pacifism! Ingenuity and industry is the way, but who will uproot the wayward?

© Apuk Ayuel Mayen 2018. All rights reserved.

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