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Ancestors and victimhood

No matter how many times I’ve been jumped, robbed, humiliated or any tribulation for that matter: I have never thought of myself to be a victim. The reason for this begins 57 years ago. 

In 1964, a revolution in Zanzibar took place where the Sultan was overthrown by local revolutionaries. The numbers are disputed, but anywhere from hundreds to 20,000 Arabs were killed. 

My grandfather was jailed in subhuman conditions. Upon his release, his property was taken away from him. The language of Arabic was forbidden to be spoken and the language of Swahili was converted from Arabic letters to English letters. My grandfather lost the lives of his relatives, robbed of his language and had his property taken away from him. 

It was no doubt a dark time and the tragedy took a toll on many. Yet, my father tells me how despite the atrocities that took place my grandfather persisted. He stood tall, unwavering in his resilience, composure and presence. 

In his old age, my grandfather would go for a long walk every day. He took his cane, kufi and a German knife strapped to his leg. 

It amazed me that despite his age, his circumstances and his past, he remained calm, cool and collected. He never saw him self as a victim. He saw himself as a man that is proud and ready to defend himself. He passed away before I could meet him, but I live through these stories to get to know him better. 

I really wish I could have seen his strength, resilience and fortitude even for one second. And all though I have not met him, I carry with me his memory and his impetus to keep marching forward, no matter the storm. 

My troubles pale in comparison to my Grandfather. There’s no way any of my issues even come even close to what he went through. And it’s for that reason I refuse to spiral into victimhood, no matter my circumstance. If my Grandfather preserved through tougher problems, then so can I.

I’m not here to say that suffering doesn’t exist or that there is no such thing as a victim. What I’m saying is that perhaps by learning more about our ancestors we might learn a little more about ourselves and about life itself.

It is hubris to think that solutions will come solely from ourselves, a new Western ideology or the endless wellness solutions sold to us.

In order to look to the future, sometimes we have to look at the past. You might be surprised what you find.