Today I was listening to the excellent Capleton song, Alms House, when I was visited by a flash of ingenious thought, a sure-fire recipe to resolve the current conflict in Kenya. And, in fact, all future conflicts world-wide.
Human beings have a truly astonishing capacity for stubbornness. The smallest little disturbance can cause two of the bestest friends forever to cease all communication for years. In fact, and with respect to both, I have two friends who no longer talk to one another because of their differing ideologies about Web 2.0. Amazing.
But something as equally astonishing as our capacity to be stubborn is our ability to hug, make up, let bygones be bygones, and return to bestest friends forever status. Women are especially skilled at this. One day: “I hate her, I’ve lost all respect for her, I’m never going to talk to her again.” The next day: “we had such an amazing heart-to-heart. She really means so much to me. I can’t imagine my life without her.”
It’s happened to all of us right? There’s some person who we were sure we’d never ever speak to again. But then something happens. Some magical night, some change of perspective, a sudden love for the world and everyone in it. So we make that visit or that phone call and we say, “you know what, I still want us to be friends.”
And, usually, that’s all it takes.
On a larger scale, this phenomenon is even more impressive. Come to Colombia and walk around the neighborhoods where the violence was the worst (Comuna 13, Santo Domingo, La Sierra) and you’ll find the friendliest and most inviting communities you can imagine. I’ve been told the same thing about Rwanda – that Rwandans are the kindest, most gentle people you’ll ever meet and that when tourists visit the country they simply can’t comprehend how so many Rwandans were capable of such brutal violence. That same question, of course, applies to Indians during The Partition, Germans during The Third Reich, and on and on.
But let’s get straight to the key question: what is it that causes the impetus for an individual to pick up the phone and make that call to say, “let’s still be friends.” And what is it that finally causes an entire society to say, ‘ok, enough violence, time to move on”? Of course, there are experts who dedicate their entire lives to this question, including my friend Aldo Civico. I can hardly count myself among them, but I do have my own theory. I think that when you’ve been socialized to treat a group of your neighbors as your enemies for a long period of time, it takes something drastic to change your perspective and see everyone as humans once again.
So, two questions:
1.) Have y’all ever been to an amazing concert … that is, the perfect concert? Not only do you know the lyrics to every song, but everyone does. People are smiling. The sound quality is incredible. Everyone is dancing. There is an unbelievably positive energy in the air. Music is a potent thing. It puts us into a trance and we forget about the outside world. Especially when enjoyed by large numbers of people, music speaks to us in a way that words simply can’t. And it brings us together in a way that words simply cannot.
2.) With my insincere apologies to all for advocating the occasional use of illegal drugs in such a public space, have y’all ever tried hallucinogenic mushrooms? The experience is one of a kind. Like music, the use of hallucinogens allows us to communicate and sympathize with one another in ways that transcend traditional forms of communication. Everything around you becomes so aesthetically pleasing that you’re filled with a sense of tranquil elation that somehow lets you empathize with the rest of the world in a way that our normal state of being simply doesn’t allow for. Try a small amount of mushrooms with your neighbors and you will feel closer to them than you ever have with anyone.
Of course, I’m not advocating a 1960’s-like “turn on, tune in, drop out” druggie revolution. We live in a non-hallucinogenic world and that’s a reality we all should learn to cope with without regularly resorting to any sorts of drugs (including prescriptions and alcohol). But for certain occasions – and I would count near civil war among them – I absolutely would encourage the one-time use of mushrooms.
So, here is my plan. I’d like to organize a series of three concerts with some major international headliners. Who knows: Black Eyed Peas, Damian Marley, Capleton, and other feel-good pop stars. The concerts would be in Nairobi, Naivasha, and Nakuru – three of the places where violence has been the worst in Kenya. They would obviously be free and security guards would check everyone at the entrances to make sure they weren’t bringing in anything that could be used as a weapon. And mushrooms would be made freely available to anyone who wanted them. Go ahead and laugh, but I really think those three concerts would put the whole country back on the path toward peace. True story.