Monday, 5th June 2023

Message from cry, the beloved country

By Martins Oloja
31 July 2022   |   4:11 am
“There is not much talking now. A silence falls upon them all. This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country.

[FILES] Martins Oloja

“There is not much talking now. A silence falls upon them all. This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country. Sadness and fear and hate, how they well up in the heart and mind, whenever one opens pages of these messengers of doom. Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.” 
— Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country

“We do not know, we do not know. We shall live from day to day, and put more locks on the doors, and get a fine fierce dog when the fine fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously; and the beauty of the trees by night, and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things we shall forego. We shall forego the coming home drunken through the midnight streets, and the evening walk over the star-lit veld. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives, and knock that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution. And our lives will shrink, but they shall be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown. And the conscience shall be thrust down; the light of life shall not be extinguished, but be put under a bushel, to be preserved for a generation that will live by it again, in some day not yet come; and how it will come, and when it will come, we shall not think about at all.” 
— Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country
 “Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who indeed knows why there can be comfort in a world of desolation? Now God be thanked that there is a beloved one who can lift up the heart in suffering, that one can play with a child in the face of such misery. Now God be thanked that the name of a hill is such music, that the name of a river can heal. Aye, even the name of a river that runs no more.

Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who knows for what we live, and struggle and die? Who knows what keeps us living and struggling, while all things break about us? Who knows why the warm flesh of a child is such comfort, when one’s own child is lost and cannot be recovered? Wise men write many books, in words too hard to understand. But this, the purpose of our lives, the end of all our struggle, is beyond all human wisdom.” 
— Alan Paton, Cry The Beloved Country 

 “I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good for their country, come together to work for it.
I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.” 
— Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country
I WAS reflecting on what to write this week when a ‘small still voice’ nudged me to write another message of hope to our people who have been confounded by the incompetence and cluelessness of most of the leaders we elected to manage ‘security and welfare of the people as primary purpose of government’. Yes, they have all failed us and so it is already too late to raise any redemption songs. Their rampaging incompetence has overwhelmed them. And so we need to focus on how to encourage our people to conquer one weapon of mass discontent – fear of the unknown. Yes, fear. We need to say to our people: ‘be not afraid’ at this time. A time to say to our people: do not run away because of Buhari-nomics that has gone awry. Separate the man from the country at this moment and recall that ancient word, which tells us that, ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant…’ 

I mean my spirit man tells me to encourage our people with inspirational stories from a 1946 classic by a South African, Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country. It isn’t a book of lamentation, which isn’t a strategy to conquer evil, anyway. I would like to deconstruct the book as you have seen some inspirational words on marble above from the literary work that can speak to our situation at this time. Even the excerpts above are worth reading repeatedly if you can find the time. Why do I say so?    

Fear is a prevalent theme in ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’. The fact that ‘fear’ appears in the same passage as the novel’s title phrase testifies to its importance: ‘Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply…’

It tells the story of a father’s journey from rural South Africa to and through the city of Johannesburg in search of his son. The reader cannot help but feel deeply for the central character, a Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo, and the tortuous discoveries he makes in Johannesburg. Just as remarkable discoveries we make now in Lagos and Abuja. 

The author, Paton depicts that social problems plague every generation and even though the circumstances change, society continues to suffer from the same problem that plagued us thousands of years ago. Paton explains that these problems lie rooted in the nature of individuals, and to achieve lasting change one must change how people approach and react to these problems. In that Paton’s 1946 social criticism, Cry, The Beloved Country, he uses imagery to emphasise the social problems of broken families and tribe, consequences of poverty, and the repercussions of racism just as we can see clearly in our society today.  

In the opinion of the author then in South Africa, the destruction of earth and the family in the enclave is a major problem for the advancement of society. Paton repeatedly describes the intricate relationship between the tribe, earth and man. Paton describes the conditions of Shanty town as “narrow” and “forgotten”. The use of these qualifiers to help build the picture of poverty faced by the black people of South Africa is remarkable. Poverty is difficult to describe and understand if you have not seen it first hand. Paton describes the “tragic” and “sad” situation in a way we can understand because, he understands poverty is a problem faced by every generation and we can only fix poverty by stopping it at the source. That source of these problems is a broken family and a society with no morals. Arthur Jarvis, a white character in the work communicates Paton’s feelings toward the family with his papers “It is not permissible for us to go on destroying family life when we know that we are destroying it.” Paton tells us that we know in our hearts what causes poverty, but we are often ignorant and reluctant to change it. We must change ourselves to have a chance at changing the society we live…This is important to those who would like to succeed today’s leaders tomorrow ‘if tomorrow comes.’ 

According to various reviews, one way Paton connects the reader to the racial tension in the novel is through the repetition of the thematic title throughout key events in the novel. He often uses the wording of the title within the text to express the pain inflicted by South Africa’s moral conflict, racial segregation and oppression. Paton uses the repetition to connect events in the story with the overall theme, altering the context slightly each time. At one point, Paton expresses the anguish of the broken African society and the transformation and assimilation into a white man’s society of hatred and separation. He pleads, “Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.”

The Paton’s creative work has been hailed as one of the greatest South African novels. ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ was first published in the United States, bringing international attention to South Africa’s tragic history. The novel, which captures the extremes of human emotion and Alan Paton’s faith in human dignity in the worst of circumstances, is poignant and uplifting. The novel shows the brutality of apartheid but despite its unflinching portrayal of darkness and despair in South Africa, it still offers hope for a better future. 

The novel itself is a cry for South Africa, which we learn is beloved in spite of everything; a cry for its people, its land, and the tentative hope for its freedom from hatred, poverty and fear. And so the great Madiba (Nelson Mandela) manifested to represent a glimmer of hope that has made South Africa as Africa’s most significant nation at this moment. I also see hope of a great Nigeria from this present debris and darkness. Where is my optimism? 

In a country torn by segregation and hatred, one man seeks to rebuild his family and his tribe. ‘Cry, the beloved country’ is a tale of forgiveness, generosity, and endurance. In the story, the main protagonist is helped by a number of characters. A South African man Stephen Kumalo loses his young son, but is still determined to improve the life of his people. In this black man’s country, white man’s law had broken the tribe, divided the people and corrupted the youth. How could these wounds of hatred be healed, when would the youth realise the immorality of their actions, and when would South Africans achieve unity. Father Vincent said, “Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arriving…” That is why I said we must banish fear of even election riggers at this time and work hard to elect leaders instead of dealers.  

One must be thankful for what one already possesses and work hard to improve. In the classic, Kumalo gets Absalom and the girl married and took the girl home. It also helps him realize Absalom’s condition when he committed the crime. Msimangu said, “I see only one hope for this country and that is when white and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country come together to work for it.” 

I also see only one hope for Nigeria and that is when Christians and Muslims desiring neither power nor money but desiring the good of their country, come together and work for it. 

South Africa was also plagued with problems of poverty, apartheid, and crime. Kumalo realises that to find some solution people must forgive each other for what has already happened and make a joint effort to provide a new life to the country. Mourning about the past helps nobody: It’s a better future that peoples should strive for. That is another message of hope from Paton’s ‘Cry The Beloved Country’ for all of us who should work and pray for a better and more united country after President Buhari’s eight years of mesmerising us into acting ‘Waiting for Godot.’    

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