It’s impossible to force yourself on others. That’s the trick, isn’t it? The only way, is through control of the levers of government – which is why the fight for those cavemen’s clubs is so vicious, the better to beat each-other with.
And so what do we have, instead – bereft of the club, or any desire for it? The work of our imaginations, thrown into the void in the hopes of making a difference. Empathy – that is the greatest casualty of our age of unrest. It was murdered upon the sacred altar of, oh maybe we’ll call it the eternal quest for victimization.
But your victim is somebody else’s oppressor.
Apropos of that, my best work – “I, Charles, From the Camps” is the story about a young man who joins the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Written in first person, my way to empathize with those who have so few options in life.
Last week Uganda had elections again – and Chairman Norbert Mao (former Governor of Gulu District, birthplace of the LRA and somebody I consider a friend) lost, again, to the dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni. The quasi-eternal frustration of those who would challenge dictatorship; but you’d never know it. Mao has charm, humor and aplomb as he fights his tyrant. Would we were all possessed of the same character.
Here’s what Mao said of my novel:
“I have read through the book, I Charles. It is very well written. I take this as your wreath to honour our people who perished in the tragedy visited upon us. Thank you for writing this heart wrenching story. Yes, heart wrenching even for those of us who saw it all. I lived through this dark episode in our country’s history and can testify that this book is painfully honest. It tells the kind of truth that can only be told through fiction. The bizarre story of human cruelty and the triumph of man’s soul over evil is emotionally and intellectually captivating. Addressing you personally, let me say this also. To me this is a continuation of your mission to shine a bright light on certain events that some people want hidden. This is a story written in blood. It is a lyrical lament and a testimony crying out for a verdict from an indifferent world. A gem of a book…witty, wise and rueful. It is heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful. It outrages as it teaches. This is not just a book. It is a testament. Nobody should miss a chance to read it.” Norbert Mao, former Chairman of Gulu District, former Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Party of Uganda
So I invite you, buy my novel and find a way to make common cause with the trials of people an ocean away and living in desperate poverty. I can’t force you, nor would if I could because it would not change you, if I did (isn’t that refreshing, in these days of the cavemen’s club). And anyway heck – what will it cost you – for a dose of empathy; $4? Price of a cup of coffee, or half a beer? Compare that to what it cost me. I lived in Africa for 10 years, fighting to stop five wars; and the novel took me years — to write down what I saw for you too to experience it. And my friend Mao? He continues to fight on. I feel like $4 is a fair exchange for that all that and what is, quite simply, my best work which just might change your life. It certainly did mine.