Philosopher’s Corner: Re-examining our humanity as Somalis


Not too long ago, we Somalis knew that we were a colonized people; a populace that’s barred from humanity.

Tethered by a white world, and trained to obey the tone and temper of white faces, we nurtured a hatred for our white captors.

Not too long ago, our identity was burned by white societies, and our captors forged a new soul for us; a soul that was born in the cradle of colonial violence.

As colonial objects, we knew that we were not human beings; for the keys to the kingdom of humanity belonged to Europe. Indeed, not too long ago, we knew ‘who’ and ‘where’ and ‘what’ our enemies were; we knew that we were under siege, and we found unity in pain and security in our will to survive.

Now, we believe that we are human beings who are members of humanity; and we believe that we’ve progressed as an independent populace. Twenty years of direct-violence and structural-violence have led to the generation of a neutralized nation and a disenfranchised Diaspora. Plus, everywhere in the western world, the majority of us have been registered as the new lumpenproletariat, the worst of the underclass.

We believe that Somalia is no longer a colony, and that we are no longer colonial objects, and yet unrealized potential, mutilated minds, and pained existences have been our lot on every scale. We believe that we are members of humanity and yet our potential remains simultaneously freed and fixed.

I wonder, then, when will we begin to re-assess our beliefs? When will we examine this illusion that we call reality? Are we always going to be captives in this malicious matrix of colonial violence?

I have no response to these queries, but I’ve intuited that the signals that systematize our reality are rigged; for the world is not what it pretends to be. Yes . . . once again . . . we’ve been deceived; and the age old tête-à-tête between reality and illusion, truth and falsehood, and fact and fiction, has been dismissed without due process.

So, as I assess this matrix-like reality of ours, I find myself astounded and yet drowning in anguish; for the proposition that we must re-examine our status (in this world) and beliefs (about this world), requires me to assess my beliefs and status as well.

Indeed, the question, are we (as a Somali populace) part of this humanity? Comes with the question, am I (as a Somali person) a human being?

When I look at my reflection in the mirror, I (far too frequently) ask myself, am I a simulacra, an image rather than reality?

Yes . . . am I an image of an image; a mimicking object that’s fashioned itself as an authentic subject. Unable to answer this question, I begin to search for the meaning of authenticity.

I know that the path to authenticity entails skepticism, and I also know that a skeptical attitude could lead to nihilism, but sometimes I feel authentic because I am a nihilist. Other times I feel authentic because I am a skeptic. Chasing an elusive authenticity, I’ve learned to never believe too quickly, and to question ad infinitum.

Sometimes I question my beliefs, but then I feel uncomfortable. Like spirits being extracted from a body, buried questions leak out of me. Questions such as, what are you afraid of? What do stand for? Who are you? What is black? What is Somali? What does it mean to be a black-Somali in this 21st century? What will your legacy be? What lies are you willing to believe as truths?

These questions rush to my consciousness far too rapidly; and as I ponder upon these queries, I realize that the comfort of familiarity is too precious to abandon. Deep down inside, the child in me desires to cling on to this comfort.

But . . . No! I will not cling on as a coward; for burning inside me is a will to encounter the non-discursive elements that condition our existence; and this desire posits the abandonment of comfort as a necessary step. Yes, I must garner the courage to slaughter my presuppositions?

But what are my presuppositions? What do I take for granted? I believe that I am Muslim. I believe that I am a human being. I believe that I am Somali. I believe that this existence is life. I believe that I am free. I believe that my beliefs are mine.

Now, can I really ask myself, what makes me Muslim? What does it mean to be Somali?  How do I know that I am a human being? What is this thing we call life? What does the signal free signify? And finally, what makes my beliefs mine?

These absurd questions force laughter out of me; this is nervous laughter. Yes, I am scared of digging too deep; I am afraid of discovering the answers to my questions. It seems almost as if these thoughts reside at the limit of my mind; for this limit is the blind spot that I’ve deliberately ignored.

A voice in my heads tells me to be careful. Another voice says that only an insane being would raise these queries. A third voice asks, is this world not itself insane? Yes . . . this world is insane; so I embrace this zone of the unknown, wherein the Socratic dialectic unfolds between me, myself, and I; and I forgo everything.

Still, I know that this assessment of my beliefs is dangerous because it requires me to suspend my beliefs; and as a result, one could end up suspended in-betwixt worlds in perpetuity.

Saidiya Hartman, in her seminal text “scenes of subjection”, asserted that “the recognition of humanity held out the promise, not of liberating the flesh or redeeming one’s suffering but rather of intensifying it”.

Is it possible, then, that our so-called independence merely signified an impending and imminent incineration? Could it be possible, that ‘freedom’ was nothing more than a term that signified the intensification of our subjugation? And if this is the case, then what is our status (in this world) and how do we alter our beliefs (about this world)?

These are the questions that we ought to ask ourselves; these are the question that I’ve asked myself.

Yes . . . there is no way around this, if I’m still a colonial object, then I am not a human being; and if I am not a human being, then what am I? Here, a voice tells me to stop probing.

Internal turbulence fractures my fixed posture, for I am told (far too often) that I question too much. Still, I tell myself (everyday) that I haven’t questioned enough. And here and there, I am reminded that questioning, rejecting, and dismantling are easier than creating.

Yes . . . it’s easier to critique that to construct. So, I’ve sharpened my destructive tools and now I desire to design. But this world might not be ready for me.

No . . . maybe I’ve arrived too late!! Certainly, my predecessors haven’t paved a path for me to destroy and design; so I engage here in a creative-destruction and a destructive-creation at the same time.

And in this engagement . . . I dream of an unrealized and yet possible state of internal and external peace.

Mahad Hori lives in Toronto, Canada. Follow him @Mahad_M_Hori.

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