You know what comes to my mind when I see some of the things that are happening? A bag of tools. Yup. I know that’s a little bit harsh. However, that’s the whole truth and nothing but.
“A Bag of Tools.” That’s the name of a poem by R.L. Sharpe. In 1973, reggae group The Heptones turned Sharpe’s two-stanza poem into a song called, “Book of Rules”. As a young man who loved and studied reggae lyrics, this hard-hitting dissection made me to think deeply about societal issues. As an older and wiser man whose stock-in-trade are words, the song is a soundtrack to a movie titled: “A nation of clowns that caper in sawdust rings.”
Here’s what Sharpe points out in the first stanza: “Isn’t it strange/That princes and kings/And clowns that caper/In sawdust rings/And common people like you and me/Are builders for eternity?”
Y’all know who the princes and kings are. They are the rulers. The folks who call the shots. Literally works are subjective. We can draw myriad deductions from one poem. To me, “A Bag of Tools” speaks about the high and mighty versus the hoi polloi. Royalty versus the common people.
What’s worse than being a clown for princes and kings? Capering in sawdust rings for princes and kings. That’s what. Why? Because you have reduced yourself to a being treated lower than animals that perform in a circus. You have robbed yourself of every shred of dignity.
In a circus act, sawdust rings are poured on the floor for the performing animals to defecate on. This makes it easier for the circus staff to clean up the floor. Now, picture this. Clowns – common people like you and me - dancing for the audience, composed of princes and kings, while covering ourselves in sawdust rings.
Do you know how messed one has to be for them to caper in something as messed up as sawdust rings? It means you can’t think for yourself. A clown is someone who puts on silly acts for the audience to laugh at. The audience doesn’t laugh with that clown, but at him. The clown is the butt of jokes. In this act in “A Bag of Tools”, instead of being hit with the golden buzzer like in the Got Talent show, the clowns are hit with sawdust rings.
That’s why, while princes and kings prosper, common people like you and me will be watu wa mjengo – figuratively and literally – for eternity ... and a day. Unbeknownst to us – (or it’s because we’ve drank CoolAid from our tribal princes and kings) – we will build dynasties, while being lied to that we’re bringing down repressive dynasties.
It’s only in a nation of clowns that caper in sawdust rings that – at the instruction of princes and kings, or thinking we are fighting for princes and kings – we can embark on a wanton spree of looting and destroying property.
We are a nation of clowns that caper in sawdust rings in churches and have no second thought in making an utter mockery of everything that is sacrosanct. The word sacrilege does not appear in our dictionary, as thirsty clowns capering in sawdust rings in stuffy pews build generational empires for princes and kings lounging in luxurious pulpits while sipping mineral water.
As a nation, we should have a civilised discourse, regardless of our political affiliations. When someone criticises your princes and kings, and you threaten the critic (and their mother) with death, it is because the mess in the sawdust rings has infected your mind.
What sayeth the second stanza of Sharpe’s epic poem? That’s your civics homework for this week.