The Beginning of our Time

By Tarnue Johnson

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 25, 2004

I have written that Liberia is at an important historical crossroad at this particular moment. And accordingly we have two stark choices that confront us. We must either consolidate current gains on the path of national reconstruction through the assistance of the international community, or choose to fall into the abyss of darkness. These choices demand active and unrelenting discussions as to how we move forward as a nation. I share the views of not so few writers in this magazine and elsewhere that there must be far-reaching constitutional change before the next elections. This will be an effort to reconfigure and reengineer the pattern of the very metabolic process that gives the social system its lifeblood so that we may evolve solutions that are tenable, just and forward looking. It is impossible to envisage how we could ever get things strict in our part of the world without a complete overhaul of the methods and techniques we use in managing our public and state affairs. These methods and techniques of mediocrity, low expectations and selfishness have failed us miserably and it is now time for change!

Everything will have to be revisited and eventually readjusted including those portions of the Liberian constitution that relate to the prerogatives and overbearing powers of the president. We cannot afford once again through our silence to aide and abet the sowing of the seeds of autocracy in our land. This is an opportunity and that opportunity must be seized. If there has never been a time to contemplate systemic change for our general good, it is now. For our people have seen too much unnecessary suffering and despair. The United Nations must manage the disarmament process with the requisite tactfulness and due diligence that such delicate process demands. There have been too many wrong signals and lapses and these must stop. This two-year window of opportunity is one that should not go wasted. The future must be discussed and new paradigms articulated to avoid the temptations and weaknesses of the past. The cleansing of the current political environment will require the foremost attention to issues of justice and a new social and institutional dispensation codified in our laws and social attitudes.

This poem is intended to provoke debate and introspection as we ponder these most difficult issues and challenges that confront Liberia. It is a recapitulation of what has happened and what I believe could happen cetirus paribus (all things being equal). This poem is not a meta-interpretation of the world. Like all poetry and interpretations, it is a one-dimensional interpretation that is invariably incomplete without action. On this score I concur with Marx when he says that philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. But what is required, and I dare say of fundamental and historic importance, is how we as a people endeavor to change this world so that it can suit our imagination and hope of social progress. This is the historic and epochal challenge that we must meet with humility, patience and perseverance. We can build elaborate temples and pyramids under the rubric of a society of plenty in the future, but for that to happen the present must be linked to the future through contemplative and all encompassing social and institutional action.

The Beginning of our Time

The beginning of our time
Once upon a time there were sounds of gunshots
Once upon a time the morning was short
The not so timid sun intercepted with less than usual vehemence
We were told that day would be memorable
We were told that a new chronicle in the pages of history had begun
We were told that the time of the people had come

It seems there was feeling of excitement
How sweet were the songs of enchantment
How short our new heavens had lasted
How fickle our new heroes were
The almost broken stick was stronger than this tide
But there was also a feeling of leaping into the unknown
I can now say where have we been?
My God, was this the beginning of time again?
A new time that would see the long walk and thirst and great longing
for food and other simpler amenities and basics of life

The story began with a big bang
Heard about that other explanation
Of how the universe began?
Everyone is hesitant now to describe the whole dimensions
The Master Sergeant turned Machiavellian, turned a bit of Nero,
turned a bit of all that is not so good and so kind in our midst
The self-professed redeemer turned into a paradise lost and naked promises
Promises we have heard a thousand times
Remember the times?

The roosters have not come home to roost
The children of the universe deserve their justice!
As we learned from the history pages
Someone once said Liberia was like a mosaic
That for it to blossom, all its different colors must be made manifest
Is that the destiny of a people so long neglected by their land folk?

Perhaps this is all in the past now
Perhaps there are better days ahead
The earth must move for everything else to move
Hopefully this will happen
Perhaps not so sudden but once again, and, at
last the earth will move

One thing I must say!
The digestive system is what needs cleansing
There is too much rubbish stored in its bowels
There is too much unwanted spaces occupied by unwanted flowers
There will be different kinds of flowers
There will be as was!

Once upon a time there will be a different kind of noise
And a new kind of silence!
The morning will be long again and not intercepted by loud bangs
The power of the sun will make us move
The power of Africa’s sun
To build the temples and pyramids that we have not yet seen
Once upon a time there will be a different kind of noise!
Once upon a time there will be a different kind of silence!