Crisis In The Soul

By H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.

The Perspective

Posted March 11, 2002

The historical consequences of collective amnesia are so damaging for a nation that one can only shudder at the fate of a people who allow themselves to be consciously afflicted by this scourge. One of the most tragic results of this blight is the spiritual debility of a people that manifests itself in revolting hypocrisy. The recent sacrilege in Monrovia is a case in point.

There is something about the Liberian psyche that has nothing to do with pigmentation or environment. It has more to do with the crisis in the soul that lends itself intermittently to a form of neurosis that can be termed conscious debasement. An offshoot of this is that duality of character that makes it difficult to distinguish between pretenses and genuineness, honesty and dishonesty, sycophancy and loyalty, piety and profanity when dealing with Liberians. There is always a façade that has to be maintained--behind which are concealed pretenses, lies, conceit, hypocrisy and spiritual emptiness.

A brief survey of our recent national catastrophe will show our collective amnesia and expose the unsettled psyche that hovers between the debasement of the spiritual self and the cowardice of the hypocritical weakling. This is not to argue that there are not well-meaning and conscientious Liberians who have done great deals and are capable of doing greater things provided the circumstances and conditions are present; nor is it to say that in the desert of collective amnesia there are not oases of consciousness, courage and the nobility of character.

Let us start with the fancy dress parade in which our people donned “white” apparel in the ‘Liberia for Jesus Crusade;’ or was it a Crusade for Jesus in Liberia? There is a fundamental difference here. The former has political overtone. Since Liberia is a multi-religious society, a Liberia for Jesus crusade would mean an attempt to bury all other religious inclinations under the pervasive sweep of Christendom. It would indicate a frantic effort to appeal to the religious right in America and hypocritically bring in the Islamic bogeyman as a factor to be identified and neutralized in the light of the calamity of September Eleven. This opportunistic exploitation of religion is dangerous, destabilizing and divisive in a multi-religious society. On the other hand, a crusade for Jesus in Liberia would mean an attempt by Liberian Christians to acknowledge that they are spiritually debased because of their ways and attitudes and thus they desperately need Jesus Christ in their lives to heal the crisis in their souls. This is an acceptable plea because it deals with Jesus Christ as a Saviour purifying the hearts of man. This is a religious calling that others with different religious inclinations can understand. It is the same as a Muslim calling on the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Unto Him) to direct him/her in this world of trials and tribulations. No one can have any quarrel with a crusade for Jesus in Liberia as it pertains to the cleansing of the crisis-infested soul of the Liberian Christian. In the same vein, no one can have any qualms about our Islamic brothers and sisters calling for the purification of their hearts by doing obeisance to Allah through the preaching and upholding of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Unto Him). It is in the acceptance and appreciation of the multi-religiosity of our society that we learn harmony. It is in the synthesis of our different religious values that we can find the catharsis for the crisis in the Liberian soul. But let us get back to our fancy dress parade!

It was obvious that the entire orchestration had to do with politics and thus our people were stealthily led into a ‘Liberia for Jesus Crusade.’ The utterances from the scoundrel Charles Taylor and his minions in the weeks preceding this jamboree focused on the so-called ‘Muslim threat’ to ‘Christian Liberia’ manifested in the ‘predominated Muslim LURD’ supported by a Muslim president in neighbouring Guinea. This was what the cabal in Monrovia sold to the Liberian people and some of those in the Bible belt in the United States. It was a ruse, tawdry and unconscionable, but for a regime without credibility and reputable friends internationally, the religious card is a desperate throw of the dice. Taylor and his cohorts know that the LURD has nothing to do with Islam or Jihad. If anything, the LURD represents what has happened to Liberia and most stagnant African countries over the past twenty years: the emergence of courageous hoodlums and ambitious neophytes who see state power as the most effective instrument of enrichment. The LURD is a reflection of Taylor’s NPFL and therefore this phenomenon should be easily understood by him!

Undoubtedly, Taylor understands this phenomenon, but in fighting to stop his replacement by others of his kind, he has to appeal to the emotions and not to the rationale. And what is more emotional than religious zealotry? Thus, the people in ‘white’ (a symbol of purity?) cease to think. They revert to the emotional instincts of tribal loyalty. Before them at the stadium, dressed in white, prostrating himself and conning them with the verbiage that “I am not your president, Jesus Christ is” was the embodiment of all that is evil and tragic in Liberian political life. We know people can change, but with this consummate con artist called Charles Taylor, the question is: when did he find Jesus Christ? From Butuo to Luguato to Gbarnga and to Monrovia, this trickster held the Bible in one hand and dollar notes in the other while butchering countless numbers of citizens and foreign nationals in the drive to satisfy his greed for wealth. Even after he was given power by an exhausted and financially damaged ECOWAS, he ogled after the diamond resources of Sierra Leone. Then followed on a grand scale mutilation, maiming, massacres and the psychological battery of the fraternal people of Sierra Leone. And while dancing on the graves of these brotherly people, this mass murderer, avaricious and reckless, decked in the riches from the diamonds looted from the victims’ patrimony, turned his gaze and sticky fingers to the land of the legendary Samory Toure.

The people of Guinea, nurtured in militant African nationalism by that heroic stalwart against the betrayers of Africa’s interests, Ahmed Sekou Toure, mobilized under their gallant armed forces (which have always been the advanced vanguard of the armed people) and routed the tribal bandits and parochial irredentists who were supported by Charles Taylor. It did not matter to this shallow political pimp that those he supported in the invasion of Guinea were predominantly Muslims. For him, the end would justify the means. If Muslims in his service could take possession of Guinea and lay bare its resources for the satisfaction of his insatiable greed, all the better. But he miscalculated!

Guinea was not Sierra Leone. What Ahmed Sekou Toure had done for his people, no leader of Sierra Leone has ever attempted throughout forty years of independence and that was to infuse the Guinean consciousness with a burning patriotism that made them eager to sleep with a machine gun by their beds in readiness to defend the motherland at anytime, regardless of the sacrifices demanded. And through all of this, with guns in almost every bedroom, different ethnic groups inhabiting the same space and struggling for economic betterment, there was never a case of armed robbery! And these are the people Taylor thought he could frighten with his adventurism!! We now know what political stupidity can do in the absence of historical knowledge!!!

With the collapse of the reckless adventure against Guinea, the imposition of sanctions against the criminal cabal in Monrovia, the possibility of an indictment by the forthcoming war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone and the unresponsiveness of the American administration to frantic overtures from Monrovia, Charles Taylor, bad boy from the hood in Brooklyn, killer of political opponents in gangland style, lover of money and bimbos, unscrupulous liar and business associate of international criminals, witch-doctor of primitive rituals and black magic, political hoodlum par excellence and crude opportunist without a scintilla of moral compunction has now turned to Jesus Christ to help hoodwink a people suffering from collective amnesia. But then Jesus Christ is not in such business and thus after the fancy dress parade with the phantom army of Jesus shouting “hallelujah” and “Amen,” the reality is still there.

Charles Taylor is a rascal who has run out of tricks. His army of Jesus lovers is a phantom one because the Liberian psyche thrives on hypocrisy. The majority of those people in white apparel carried within their hearts mocking sentiments no doubt. This is the Liberian way! They will smile and kiss one another but are prone to backstabbing and treachery. They pontificate about uprightness and piety, but are dishonest and blasphemous. They know Charles Taylor has murdered people who took sanctuary in the House of the Lord, but they follow him in this stupid ritual of religious mockery. They shout “Amen” at his pretended supplication but know he practices witchcraft and like some of his predecessors engages in the primitive practices of ritualistic killings. They know that for him the Church, religion and Jesus Christ are fronts to conceal his destruction of God’s children and the spoliation of the natural habitat for self-aggrandizement, but they gyrate to his cynical whine of “I give myself to Jesus.” And they wonder why they are beset by so many tragedies!

Many of the religious leaders who watch the daily play-acting in Jesus’ name are too craven to shout to high heavens for an end to this blasphemous absurdity. Most of them turn a blind eye to injustice and ignore the Biblical implication of being redeemed by feeding, clothing and housing their brethrens which by extension is the same as doing these things unto Jesus. For he said that in so far as you have done these things unto your brothers, you have done them unto me. Here we say Amen!

I remember a religious leader who was my deputy at the Ministry of Education. He was beaten savagely by one of the PRC members and thrown into the Post Stockade. I was out of the country at the time but returned a day after the incident. He had been released the morning of my return and came to the ministry. He showed me his bruised backed, lacerated in many places by the electric wire used to beat him. I was incensed. With rage boiling in me, I took him to the Executive Mansion and stormed into Sergeant Doe’s office. I asked the deputy to remove his shirt and told Sergeant Doe to look at what some of his councilmen were doing to Liberians who were giving their best efforts for the betterment of the country. I told him that such brutality could not be tolerated in a civilized community. He apologized to the deputy and immediately rang the vice chairman of the council to investigate the matter and send the result to him.

Today, this religious leader works closely with Charles Taylor and has never condemned any of the atrocities against the people. He is content to be with a regime in which secret killings, molestation of innocent people, displacement of the hungry and weary, beatings of students, incarceration of Journalists, Lawyers and humble folks are the norm. This religious leader has forgotten that injustice done to one is injustice done to all. He is like that proverbial Christian who out of fear and depravity turned a blind eye to the atrocities meted out to the victims of Hitler’s insanity until he was himself victimized. In life, it is our duty to fight evil because injustice does not befall one man!

With our collective amnesia, we repeat the mistakes of the past, hoping that somehow we will benefit. While the people wear white apparel and pray for the protection of a hopeless scoundrel, older men who should be wise are calling for a meeting with those who see banditry as an instrument of recognition and access to public office. Whether the people in LURD represent a fringe minority does not come into the calculation. For a long time to come, banditry and warlordism will haunt Liberia. This is because Sergeant Doe, Charles Taylor and the many warlords who emerged in civil war Liberia discovered the way to instant recognition and wealth. Thus, any government that believes in the people must be resolute in defending their interests and this means primarily providing security. This dangerous trend of giving political respectability to any group of disgruntled vigilantes who take up arms could spell the end of a united polity. Why are these older men—many of them sincere nationalists—calling for a meeting with the LURD? What will happen tomorrow if after the people have selected a democratic alternative to the barbarism of the Taylor era, a group of malcontents take up arms? Will there be another meeting to accommodate them in their fanciful notion of being politically relevant? It is an historical necessity that the people, in placing premium on their security, should bypass political weaklings and put power in hands that will not tremble in defense of their interests. The Taylor regime is irrelevant because of its inability to provide security for the people. Those who are calling for discussion with the LURD risk being made politically irrelevant not only because of a demonstrable shortsightedness in discerning the fallacy behind the exaggerated claims of this group, but also due to a penchant for unsavoury compromises at the expense of the nation and its people. Political weaklings in history are the grave-diggers of the people’s interests. This is where Charles Taylor, with all his ruthlessness, greed, flamboyance and cunning, has shown himself as a pitiful political weakling, unable to provide security for the people because he is bereft of the rudimentary political conception of popular security and consciousness building. This was also Sergeant Doe’s failure and he paid dearly for it.

We need redemption, not only from our national tragedy, but also from the crisis in our psyche. One cannot claim to love Jesus and yet follow slavishly one who blasphemes with impunity. Also, one cannot claim to be honest while engaging in trickery for one’s advancement. A people cannot join in a mockery of Jesus and then take refuge in the House of God every Sunday and expect to be blessed. One cannot close one’s eyes to massacre, oppression, injustice and robbery at home and then say to the world that one believes in justice and human dignity. It does us no good to sit at the same table with men whose hands are stained with the blood of the innocent and yet show no compunction for their numerous crimes. We cannot use political expediency--or should we say cowardice--to promote an agenda that intends to reward murderers and criminals and yet claim that we want to build a democratic society. With what human material are we going to construct a democratic culture?

There is a major crisis in Liberia, over and above the obvious national calamity and it is to be found in the soul!!!

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