Where the mind is without fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls
Where the words come out of the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arm towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom my father let my country awake.
This poem by Rabindranath Tagore feels like a plea for perfection, a plea to God to deliver his beloved country to the Promised Land: an ideal world where all would be free from oppression and war. Where no one would be bound in chains, where all would be free to exist in harmony: The mythical world of utopia.
There is a vast continent which has seen little progress over the years. This huge mass, which split into many tiny fragments, over coffee: at the Conference of Berlin. This caffeine- induced “sharing of loot”, as it were, by the colonial masters, created a disorder, of which consequences still reverberate across this continent today. There will be no prizes for guessing, this continent is Africa.
There is no doubt that the scramble for Africa was the beginning of Africa’s woes. Africa was, “broken into fragments” and “narrow domestic walls” were created. Families, villages, clans and even whole tribes were broken up: brothers started turning against one another, fathers murdered their own sons, husbands beheaded their wives, it was chaos, total chaos. There was fear everywhere. The repercussions of which still reverberate today, across the continent.
Then came the slave raids: more chaos and even more fear. It was impossible for one to walk with his head held high. Africans were made to feel inferior by the oppressors, and in fact they were made inferior.
Strong men, beautiful women, the young, the bold, in single file, down were led on winding dirt paths to the shore. There, like sardines were they packed, to be shipped off to the new world of the Americas. Where under the blazing heat, they toiled on huge swarming plantations.
Once again, families were torn apart. The incredible pain, such sorrow and fear you couldn’t fathom, those were dreadful times indeed.
This was the story of Africa, one which pertains to this amazing poem. And even more amazingly, it still pertains to this continent, both in good ways and in bad.
Even though enormous progress has been made, some people still live in fear across the continent. There have been devastating wars in Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia and more recently in the Ivory Coast. People still cannot walk with their heads held high. But it is comforting to note, leaders across the continent are realising the need to try to bridge these differences and do something to prevent further wars.
In another breath, not living without fear could also mean standing up against tyranny and oppression: spectacular examples of which we are currently witnessing across North Africa. An oppressed people standing up for their freedoms and fighting for their rights even to the death.
This poem, to the people of North Africa is a war chant, a cry for freedom, an end to oppression; the
As the gallant men, on the hills of Legon would tell you, “Truth Stands”. Rabrindranath Tagore seems to concur: “where words come out from the depth of truth.”
This seems to be a call to the politicians of Africa who, truth must be told, have not been known to be really truthful, well most of them anyway. There have been a few exceptions to the rule, but…
We must learn to tell the at all times because, “truth stands”. Our politicians should learn to be sincere and honest towards those they serve and represent.
Like the hardworking termites and the industrious bees in their hives, let us work hard and tirelessly towards our ultimate goals as a country; our goals of development, peace, harmony and wealth: where tireless striving stretches its arm towards perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit: Reason is indeed a clear stream, for the one who thinks deeply and philosophically is indeed an asset to his nation. Sadly we as a country have been overrun by so many negative habits; we are sinking slowly, sucked down bit by bit by this quick sand of dead habit. Our surroundings are littered with filth, our people are overcome by laziness, hatred for one another, disunity, it is against this dreary sand of dead habit, Tagore prays against; where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action.
Tagore seems here to be appealing to a higher authority, a spiritual deity, to the Supreme Being. We must be reminded from this that though all may seem lost, we must not despair. After all, we as a nation have been down darker passages; there were times when it was unimaginable that we could be where we are now. We must continue to strive for that perfect peace, the serene world where all will live in harmony, where none must live in fear, where all can hold their heads high, that perfect Utopia.
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake…