He worked in Congo, The Congo. He would go into the jungles unarmed, they said. On a shoestring budget, they said.
The backbone of his diplomatic philosophy was weaving a story into a story. The premise of this belief being the Congolese militants, bent on continuous violence, believed in a nostalgic myth of what was once was and what then shall be if they are victorious. Utopia. A Saudade people at the core. The weaving this activist undertook was a new chapter.
Under the banana tree, they said. A creative approach to diplomacy, they said.
in these moments, storytelling beneath the banana tree, this activist would tell the story of the undoing of the Congolese culture.
Illiterate children at home, he would say. A generation of the ignorant prepared to become slaves by their neighbors. Slaves, he would say. The choice of words was intentional, they'd say.
And with this storytelling, a new narrative would unfold, a new chapter taking place in the minds of military rebels. Teach the children, it said. A victorious surrender out of the forest.
But the president won't leave. To expensive to hold and election, he says.
I remember once a performance I insisted we all go to in Leuven, Belgium. A Dutch village run almost completely by college students, nuns, and monks on humming bicycles.
The Republic of Congo was once a Belgium colony. I had a teacher from South Africa explain this once as we approached the historical context of WWI. Divided up Africa they did. This performance by Congolese artists consisted of considerable suffering and inter-communal strife between people. So much hurt. Cringe faces. Claw hands. A strange puppet sat on stage, guided from time to time by the players. The face often turned towards the audience. Turning from the intermingling strife onstage to the audience. Pulling the eyes, from what was happening to the audience. The audience. Us. The eyes of the people of stage were drawn to Us. Until, at the end, all the performers were staring at Us.
We had tipped the scales. We were the cause of the pain. Us.
They found the storyteller in the jungle. A shallow dugout, they say. Or so I recall. Him and his translator or guide laying side by side. I think he was American. Money from the Norwegians allocated to Syrians, they say. Shoestring budget.
What is this storytelling power? I wonder. What power is it to snuff it out? An adherence to the utopia. The continuity of the utopian is the death of the undoer of these stories. The march is the whispered words over firelight. The bullets in our guns. The bite in our jaws. Words beneath the banana trees unwinding our myths. The war over these seductive moments of openness. Beneath the banana trees we speak, We are heard. We unravel.
What would be. What dies with us is our version of the story. This is worth killing, I imagine, more than the human. To alter the narrative is the seduction. The story is God. The telling is divinity. Words are arrows. They have a way of singing and stinging, a power more elegant and alluring than the black and white of life and gone.
Someone saw this man who came into the jungle unarmed had the power to undo the telling. Slave, he said.
Or maybe they were bored with the story. I hate that version.
The version where they knew the power of his words, when they killed him with full knowledge of the undoing of the myth.
Nick once told me, if something is destroyed, something must take its place.
The balance of the fragile earth is at stake.
Humans again and again laughably try to do this. No, I'm not laughing. God is, maybe. Our attempts are laughable, our schemes, in some realm. When we try. We don't really try. It's not funny. Is God laughing?
This activist, he changed the narrative. This is why some gave up the fight and left the jungle. He said this method was possible with neo-nazis and other groups.
What narratuve is my undoing? What chapter might he add to make me put down my guns?
Or what banana tree stories can I tell to make Them give up their guns? What story do they have to tell?
Michael Sharp, I just looked it up. He was just a little older than me. A storyteller.
Nick told me, if something is destroyed, something must take its place.