The locus of evil

I find mob violence a very alarming facet of human behaviour. How communities deal with a member that they may or may not know, especially persons that commit social infarctions, those that they feel are beyond redemption, who cannot be fixed, who don’t toe the line, the kind of person whose antisocial behaviour vexes them as they tire of him/her, is of great interest to me as I try and understand human proclivities. It was an anecdote recounted by someone I knew in Tanzania, of a case of mob violence they had witnessed in Kariakoo market once, in Dar es Salaam that inspires this poem. The paper referenced below [1] , sheds light on many forms of community violence in the country and the reasons behind such violence. It also discusses how a community or a family deals with the loss of a relative so assaulted or lynched by a mob. The traits of persons at the receiving end of mob rage appear to be that of an individual bereft entirely of social capital or even of investment in the communal purpose.

Process: I had written about mob violence earlier, inPrimal‘. This poem here, has undergone countless revisions and it is still far from finished. Written in the narrative style, it has no meter yet. Let it be considered a work in progress.

A millionth of a millisecond is marked in millet /  Gunny sacks of Wimbi in Kariakoo market, line up like hours in the day / Seeds, fine as mustard that will constellate a bubbling porridge in blinking stars /  the molten lava of uji served for breakfast / They sieved it through their fingers like sand / these women draped in soft cotton kanga / negotiating  a banter / with men selling millet //
Over there, glass beads on the counter, simply seconds in the day/ fine as Wimbi, colour of blood / for a ceremonial collar / Maasai men buy beads as fine as millet / for women to  thread unity in community / in a necklace called Umoja / in blood beads / on a market day like everyday, the pulse of an economy / the flow of goods through a vein of commerce // 
He is here too / spiralling through millet like a singular wind / faceless in a crowd of millet / one of millet / he seeks time like all of millet / The seconds gush forth, a rolling river of communal hunger / to survive to another day /  
Community couldn't mend him, regiment him or shackle him / to the amalgam of a communal self serving/ so he is simply Mwizi today / He thieves time in a shiny watch, a magpie stealing luck / spiriting it away like hours in the day / Is success longer in stolen seconds ? The sleight of hand, a practised art / In a movie, we would have rooted for him / 
But today someone screams Mwizi ! Resounding chorus of voices in a cascade of Mwizi, Mwizi, Mwizi ricocheting through the chaos of sweaty passions / surging seventh wave in the stupor of a dying day / women heaving empathic bosoms for a thief assaulted their collective breast /his dagger thrust at a united Manhood  // 
Mwizi makes men of a mob,  warriors all in symphonies of death cries /  communal body rises as one against one / furies raging in whirlwinds / as fear submits him to clay in the hands of children / Mwizi, a  soft dough of resignation / simply kindling to a spark of communal rancor at the festival of burning daylight / a human torch, burnt to ashes, burnt to ashes, burnt to ashes //
Sixty seconds make a minute / do sixty people make umoja ... unity ... The hours gather in day and rage in bile / A shiny watch marked in fleeting moments, mere existence / When the clock strikes, does the hour exist ?  When a mob forms, where then, is the locus of evil ?

Wimbi ~ finger millet, Kanga ~ cotton fabric draped by women, Umoja ~ unity, Uji ~ porridge , Mwizi ~ thief (kiswahili).

Further reading:

[1] Community violence in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: A mixed methods study by Anne H. Outwater1, Edward Mgaya, Jacquelyn C. Campbell (retrieved on 19/apr/21)

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