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The Purpose of Order




Childhood is a sweet time, so sweet that the relevance of the ageless adage, “Good ole days…” is both universal and quintessential to all human beings growing up under normal circumstances. That the days of childhood are full merrymaking and mirth, that they somehow embody the human perfection Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry sing of in their 1990’s classic ‘Seven Seconds, and that the true epoch of human innocence, the age of innocence, is found in the days when days do not really matter, and the only thing that counts is playing field, the next place of adventure where boys like I was thought of first thing in the morning. Breakfast, and lunch could be forgotten because, in the school holidays, the girls would cook for us at the playground where we played house; because girls were really good at being ‘mothers’ in their little houses without walls, and any male boy who broke any of the ‘house’ rules would never get any of the food cooked in the thrown-away canned food cans. It was the girls who played ‘mother’ or ‘wife’ to any of the boys lucky enough to be invited to the mantloane (house) for meals, the unlucky ones were either not allowed for being rowdy, or, they were forced to go herd livestock on the weekends. The girls were handed their liphehiso (food cooked at the ‘playhouse’) by their mothers, or they just stole the cooking oil, the salt, and all the other condiments related to the art of house-keeping: I guess their mothers knew that the girls would someday be mothers to their families, and so, it was best that they gave them the essential lessons in playing family early.

Women do get the upper hand early, because they are (were) not scared of each other. From an early age, women are all about arranging everything and putting it in order; from the combing of their hair and that of their dolls, to decorating those ‘houses’ without any real walls at the playground, and the major role of selecting which boy will be the ‘husband’, who will be the rooster crowing in the ‘early morning’ of an afternoon at the playing field, and who will be the ‘baby’. The order at the playground is an arranged system, governed by you know who calls the shots when it comes to determining the early memories of the system that governs exactly 98% of this world (the family) with its children, and dogs, and cats, and neat little houses. At the playground, it is the little queens that rule, they control the living patterns and the systems of order, and they can run as fast as we boys do, fight as hard as we can do; and they never forget their role as matriarchs: it is only when they reach teenagehood and begin walking in those 19inch heels that they become sluggish and lose pace.

When the order is reversed and male hegemony takes over, and then the world becomes a rat race to the little boy whose days of innocence are erased by the fact that he has to chin up, bear the weight of the world on his shoulders, and be a testosterone fuelled automaton whose main command at reveille every morning is ‘man the … up’, “be a man!” And then all of the old order fades in haze of endless deadlines, goals, targets, scores, plans, strategies, and all of the other often virtual realities of the rigmarole roles in the world “The Man” created for the mental enslavement of the masses. The systems for maintaining order in this world are ruthless, and order begins to take on a merciless tone to whoever infringes its acts and statutes. Order…

Human order, with its varied structures cannot easily be defined in simple terms. The human being is a complex creature, but borrowing from the brief glimpse above, it can be figured out if one chooses to take on aspects I find definitive, and these are the family, the state, and progress (civilisation). Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) defines human order from the point of view of the state:

…As the State was formed to make life possible, so it exists to make life good. Consequently if it be allowed that the simple associations, i.e. the household and the village, have a natural existence, so has the State in all cases; for in the State they attain complete development, as the nature of anything, e.g., of a man, a house or a horse, may be defined to be its condition when the process of production is complete.

That I choose to discuss the state before the family is due to the fact that lately, the state seems to have usurped the latter area of human society in our world. Where parents used to chastise their children, the government’s social services now fill the role, and in an era where chronic diseases are the term of the day, relatives of orphans seem to have disappeared and in their place are matrons in centres and homes for the destitute. All of these new institutions are controlled and sponsored by the government, and it has come to a point where, entire family structures have been dismantled to a point where they cannot be salvaged, and instead of ensuring that family structures remain intact, governments across the world put their focus on futile issues such as social welfare, and benefits for the ‘marginalised’ or the ‘vulnerable’.

The state seeks to take on the role of the parent, and the parent soon forgets their role in the family, and the children grow up not knowing who the real parent is, and at the end of the day, lose the sense of order because they are presented with dualities when they should choose which path to follow in a single lifetime. Order stems from being mentally arranged in a clear pattern, if the mind is presented with stimuli that emit double meanings and signals, then the mind chooses a pattern with which it is comfortable; whether such a pattern is right or wrong is not the main concern. Lost in mind, the individual child is forced to choose, and due to inexperience, the necessary choice is not selected because it is considered uncomfortable.

Order is not a simple process if executed to its fullest potential, it is reminiscent to ironing out the creases in a piece of fabric; the ironing should be hot enough to remove the crinkles in the shirt, otherwise the whole process fails and one walks around with a shirt or a skirt that looks like spat out cud. Human progress and its patterns never wait for anyone; they keep a constant movement forward, like the weathering of a rock or the ticking of the clock. However, this does not mean that one cannot maintain (law) and order, because there is an innate need to maintain the arrangement of the structure as is suitable for the sustenance of the peace of all human beings in a society. That the ‘revolutionary’ of the present day adopts the tactics of an age long gone into the mists of time to ‘effect’ change, is a misconception which can at best be described as nonsensical. If a foe stabbed a relative in the back a few centuries ago and it caused chaos in the community or greater society, adopting the same tactics they did is disorderly: it disturbs the peace we need to exist as sensible beings.

The common argument of the day is ‘change we need/should make’, and the question that comes to mind is; do we really understand what change is, do we really know what revolution means? Change is a turn of the wheel of time, but change should not come in a manner that will break the axle that supports the wheel, that keeps it in place so that the wheel can carry those who ride the carriage to their destination. The cartwright applies lubrication in between the axle and the hub to prevent wearing of the two metals as they move one over the other. Order in any society is the grease that prevents the hub (the people) and the axle (government or authority) wearing each other to nothingness.

It is necessary for progress to occur, as it is necessary for the fruit tree to mature so we can taste of its fruit. But progress should not be sought as a honey badger would, that is, by forcing oneself upon the next/other because they know that the other party cannot retaliate. The marauding honey badger will just force their clawed paw into a beehive and take all the honey because it is immune to the stings of the bees in the hive. One finds scenarios in modern states where given groups will burn and loot because they feel they are being denied services. In the mêlée, property is destroyed, lives are lost, and precious time is lost, and it brings the question; what will tomorrow be like when all the resources that ensure that such a tomorrow is reached are destroyed in the thick of the demonstration and the revolution? It is a basic right to express oneself, and it is a basic responsibility to present any qualms in a peaceful manner.

Resorting to violent means to express dissatisfaction is at best the tantrum of a spoiled brat who does not understand that the candy he is being denied, or, is temporarily prevented from consuming will bring about the decay of the tooth. There are ideal needs that benefit all, there are also gross felonies that seem to be the preoccupation of a generation that understands not the righteous spirit of Patrice Lumumba, the commitment of Alberto Guevara de la Serna, the vision of Thomas Sankara, the tenacity of Ho Chi Minh, and universal harmony of Nelson Mandela. All of these figures fought their private wars for the sake of the welfare of all, some fired guns and planted landmines, but in their actions, there is one element that stands out: all were committed to seeing order acted out and not just being clichéd as would the revolutionaries of today that read only the pirated edition’s introductory section on the life of a true revolutionary. It would help to fully understand what revolution is, for then order can then be truly understood.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) contends that those moments in history where great sacrifice was made, where the masses prayed and toiled for freedom and progress, are often misconstrued to the detriment of society by those who have the power but are not noble enough in spirit to acknowledge that peace is more essential than the power they wield. Think not that I am referring only to one side; I am referring to all the citizens of any state, who, I believe should be more concerned with maintaining the peace than just putting their entire focus on having their views heard or their visions implemented at the expense of the peace within the state. He argues:

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.

Order in itself is not sufficient, he states further; but the need for new ways and ideas is necessary if we are to change the present circumstance. Resorting to ways of resolving conflict that, for example, got us out of colonialism and apartheid is at best outdated and archaic. If some someone those long years ago or in some recent season past used a certain overzealous method to get their view across, adopting the same procedure to deal with a current problem may just prove to be as nonsensical as getting a team of carriage horses to pull a fully functioning auto-mobile.

Sometimes, using an old way to solve a present problem may prove unsuitable, because the conditions of the new problem may be totally dissimilar to those of the old one (for though playing mantloane is reminiscent to and mimics the structure of the real home, some of its practices are best left in the days of childhood because they are not applicable to the real life situations of adulthood). Oftentimes, I think toyi-toying or demonstrating where there are available means and open channels for amicable communication to be conducted, is in plain terms toying with the future, and leading to the loss of the little time you have in the present which could be used to build a better future. Some days, I just think of the beautiful order on the playground, where the queens would cook and scream and play in peace without losing the basic human essence of orderliness in their playhouses without walls. This is ideal, it is the ideal, it is structured, it is ordered…  

  1. S. Mothibi, Esq.

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