New Uncertainties for Old Certainties
By Kwaku Dua, The United Kingdom
Remember your Creator in your youthful days….. These are the opening words of wise counsel and pious instruction offered in Ecclesiastes 12. If one reads the whole chapter carefully, it provides sober reflection for the meaning of things and indeed life and it therefore makes sense to apply the advice in planning for one’s old age. We give wider meaning to the advice conveyed than we realise. The book of Ecclesiastes is therefore an unseen instructor to the African in the diaspora.
You could be from
Every African is born a twin, themselves and uncertainty, however pleasant which we sometimes rush to swap for the unpleasant certainties of cold, wet, dark winter months, alienation, and insecurities and a new kind of fear, even though water and energy supplies are guaranteed all year round. And although we find ourselves in the midst of bountiful supplies of foods of all assortments, we hunger and thirst.
Yet these unpleasant certainties do not deter us and future generations from dreaming of escaping the pleasant uncertainties of our homeland. Those of us in
This is where the words of Ecclesiastes kick into action to remind us not only of our Creator but of our old age and mortality. We scrimp and save to build modest three bedroom houses in
When Americans retire to the sunnier climes of
Old age can be very lonely but it is a condition that cannot be cured in a conventional hospital or in one’s home without good company. It is also a condition that cannot be postponed. Money can buy you company but what kind of company.
I have heard many a diaspora Africans say with firm and youthful certitude that they would not spend their old age in a care home. What is conveniently ignored in this proclamation of youthful brashness is that no one goes into a care home by choice, and sometimes the decision to be placed in a care home is not one’s to make. Those who make such a boastful promise or indeed declaration have only one certainty in mind: that mansion and dollar reserve to match. This is a fault certainty. Further inquiry tends to reveal that what underlies this certainty is nostalgia and the conviction that certain old certainties still exist back home.
And here is the paradox! The world has become a small place, yet we see less of each other. Distances have reduced, yet we have become more and more isolated from one another. This will be the future that awaits us when we retire back home. There will be less frequent generational interactions at weekends; all we will have for company will be the memory of times enjoyed with our own grandparents when we were growing up back home in
There is nothing sadder than a lonely old man or woman with no one to visit and to talk to. Our offspring could not be accused of neglect. Distance makes it impossible for them to visit us every weekend as they, their children, our nieces, nephews and their children will all be in foreign lands, and the only relatives, who may not even know us and who live in towns and villages far from our mansions in the big city may also be busy eking out a meagre living or planning to join the African diaspora.
So who will speak for us when we are old and frail and our voices are weak? Currently, we are all so busy chasing that dream home, that dream lifestyle after retirement that we do not envisage anything going wrong. Certainly it must occur to us that our physical capabilities will dwindle and in some cases, our mental faculties too? It is therefore prudent that whilst we are young and putting up brick and mortar structures, we also seek to influence the policy process that would help to draw up a framework for care of the elderly in Cameroon or in Ghana or in Gambia. We need advocates for the elderly and let us not leave it till we are too old to raise our voices. Viva!