Sunday, July 4, 2010

B&B: Monuments and the Unmaker

If you fly into Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, in Africa, you will soar over a most spectacular statue.  Towering over the Ouakam suburb of town is a bronze structure, depicting three humans, a man, woman, and child, with the baby pointing towards the sea, westward, towards the distant horizon.  The woman is being held by the man (assumedly man and wife), and is clothed only in a loose tunic, with her breasts exposed, as well as her muscular legs.  The man seems to be coming to life from the stone mountain structure that was piled up around the construction.  He wears simply a cloth around his waist and is bare-chested.  The muscular build would remind any science-fiction fan of T'ealc, of StarGate SG-1.  In reality, the face resembles that of Senegalese president, and creator of the statue, Abdoulaye Wade.  Read about it at the Wikipedia site for it.

When first I saw the statue on Yahoo as it was formally opened in April of 2010, the 50th anniversary of Senegal's independence from France, I was awestruck by the beauty of the statue.  It struck me as the statue of Dominique Francone would have stood, unabashedly naked and glorious on the ground floor of Roarke's Temple to Mankind.  It demonstrates the exaltation that man, in his finest hour, should be looked upon, as a creation of God and as a creator of his own destiny.  It is a shining beacon for the rest of Africa, and the world, to look upon and dream about what future we can bring to this globe, and beyond.  The statue brings about thoughts of Tenneyson's "Ulysses," or the United States flag hanging resolutely on the moon, or Voyager's  golden disc that contains a welcome to all who would find it.  That says, "We are a race of truly excellent beings who, given the odds and the uncertainty that anyone else might be out there, would send out a message for others to find."  There are very few times in human history when we can say that we have reached our full potential.  I have talked about some, and I believe that the statue, meant to represent the rising of the African continent into an era of scientific, philosophical, and economical power, is the first step in realizing that dream. 

But as I looked for information about the statue, all I could find is how controversial it was.  How, in the vanity of constructing a monument to himself, Wade squandered the country's resources and funds to construct this "monstrosity" using a construction firm, not made up of his own countrymen, but rather a company from North Korea.  (Of course, if you look at pictures of North Korea's capital, a similar building protrudes from the skyline, that of the Hotel/Office building that, having suffered through economical troubles, stands barren and alone in the middle of the city.  Most government-approved images of the city actually photoshop it out.) I read of critics who slammed the statue as a waste as the Senegal people starved and slaved for a few pennies a day. How that money should have gone toward helping the citizens of that country, for social causes and the general welfare. Why would a president do such a thing when the money and power is more important than some idea of an "African Renaissance."   I read of religious clerics who thought it to be an abomination because the people were not clothed, or that the face didn't look Islamic, or whatever.  I read of people who were offended that a North Korean company constructed it.  But nothing on the sheer beauty of the statue, or of the idea that it represents.  It is as if the media and the other forces of the world want to blank it out of existence.   For if the statue is never seen, save by those who despise it, then there is no use for it being there.  As beauty is in the eye of those who see it, and this statue is certainly worth seeing.

There are people who would revel in destroying this statue, and in the ideas it represents.  And mob mentality usually does prevail.  In prior blogs, I discussed the idea of the yin-yang, of good and evil being two sides of the Eastern philosophical symbol.  I equated both sides with the individual and with society.  Think of the symbol as a magnet, with poles on both sides of the figure.  Each person has a compass like yin-yang symbol that is inside them, and some have greater pull toward the positive side, and others toward the negative.  The curious aspect of a large crowd of people is that it makes it very easy to demonstrate malicious intent where restraint, self-control, and virtuosity, is much harder.  Mob mentality, as it were.  It makes a crowd suddenly become violent, for no reason at all, or stampedes to happen in soccer matches overseas.  And people who would use the Unmaker's power for themselves (Hitler, for instance) make it very easy to use mob mentality to get everyone to do the exact same thing, and to make it entirely justifiable to those involved.  This is what I want to pursue in this section.  The Unmaker's power (the power of violence, decay, maliciousness toward man and nature, Entropy) is so much more efficient when a large crowd is involved.  For no one has to think; rather, they simply follow the Unmaker's lead, and destruction reigns.  Would the storming of the Bastille have resulted in so many deaths if anyone could have controlled the powers of destruction and terror that plagued France during the late 1700's?  Or would the Salem Witch trials ever have taken place if someone had realized that hanging so many people outside of a mob (the girls) was reckless, and without solid proof?  Fortunately, there are some leaders who attract the good side of the Yin Yang, those that believe in the Maker's desire to build mankind up and achieve the glory that is possible as individuals working together on creating something.  The most obvious occasion for this is JFK's speech inspiring us to reach the moon before the 1960's was over.  The dream was fulfilled, with many creators involved, with sweat and blood and the lives of astronauts.  But it was achieved, even as the Unmaker's workers were complaining about using the funds for the NASA program for more social programs, for helping the poor and the hungry.  

The argument against this line of thinking, the biblical stories of the Good Samaritan, is somewhat valid.  But consider this... the moon launch, and subsequent missions into space, provided the United States with immeasurable technological breakthroughs, added jobs to the industrial sector, and scientific discoveries that will help the human race for years to come.  Likewise, monuments such as the statue at Dakar do provide jobs, limited as they are (and the one negative to this is that they did employee North Korean workers instead of their own) What needs to happen is for Senegal and President Wade to invest the money they receive from tourism and such to educate the people of Dakar (and Senegal) to pursue occupations that will make Senegal stronger as a nation.  This investment will fulfill the goals of the African Renaissance Movement and propel the country into a more prominent position in the world's economy.  Perhaps Senegal should join with Gambia and the rest of the African states to find and harvest the natural resources that are assuredly present underneath the rocks of Africa.  This, along with the education needed to make doctors, scientists, and with the proper legislation to entice companies to invest in African nations, they could very well enter into a new era of African prosperity. 

The Unmaker, however, would rather not see this happen.  To them, Africa should continue to be mired in Social states, with AIDS epidemics spreading throughout the countries. The poor, the hungry, the children born to parents who cannot afford them, this is the downfall of a once rich continent.  Power hungry tribal lords and leaders of small gangs of people take power grabs and continue the corruption widespread in most all countries (see Somalia's recent events).  It would be truly a shame if the funds coming from the Dakar statue would simply be filtered into the hands of corrupt politicians and terrorist groups. It is up to Wade to make sure this does not happen, else he should destroy the beautiful statue and leave it as a reminder of failed dreams. 

The wonders of this world, the structures that stand, demonstrating the reaching of a dream, why do they attract the minions of decay and destruction?  Napoleon used the Sphinx's nose for target practice, destroying part of a once powerful empire.  The Parthenon was used to store ammunition during the recent wars. And let's not forget the World Trade Centers, a symbol of Capitalism and Democracy, that were destroyed by terrorists. 

The one thing, as I leave this subject, that I can't quite figure out, is how to separate the monument from the maker and his beliefs.  Wade, upon further research, is the head of the Senegalese Populist party, or for us Americans, he's a member of the Liberal party.  I don't know the platform of that particular party in Senegal, but the president seems to have an interest in bringing Senegal into the 21st century and involve itself in world affairs.  According to, Senegal has worked hard in the fields of human rights, and is one of the few African countries not to experience a coup d'etat, or military takeover. As it was a Socialist country prior to Wade's taking over, the freeing of capitalism in the country is slowly taking place. 

We make bread, or write blogs, or build monuments to ourselves or mankind, in a futile attempt to become God. Let us build our monuments to ourselves, our creations that imitate God, and try to reach him, as in the Tower of Babel, but realize it is not to be Him, but be like Him.  Let us strive to go ever forward, upward, onward, to make ourselves the very best we can be.  God would want nothing less.  In the next blog, I want to turn to an article I read in The Economist (of all places) that describes the recent creation of life through empty cells in a laboratory.  Mankind's destiny is to create Frankenstein's Monster.  Will it save us, or kill us all?

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