I sat by the window & thought deeply about the people and how they have adapted to the weather. For a few days, we hadn’t left the room, leaving was on a needs basis and we had nowhere that important to go to; how could it be so cold I wondered. I thought the freezer was cold but you know that a fleeting moment to get something from it is not quite the same when the whole place is as chilly as the freezer. Although, the Apartment had heaters & heated floors yet somehow I could feel the depth of the cold. No wonder people without adequate clothing and heating froze to death. Then I wondered about the first settlers and how Winter must have shaped their lives.
A large contingent of people traveled North, I imagine they saw a land filled with wonder and beauty & then winter came. I hope they got to this beautiful land in Summer and then gradually descended into Winter. If like us on this trip, they went from the Summer of Africa to the Winter of Europe then it would have been a disaster. Many must have died in those primitive conditions of ancient times.
To survive they must have been forced to cooperate, work and warm together. No one could survive all alone; even if one had the means to keep warm, he was compelled by compassion to help others otherwise, he’d end up all alone before Winter ended.
Over time, these people learned that they must work together to survive. Not just in Winter but also in the other Seasons when they must gather food & work to adapt their environment to cope with Winter later. ‘Winter is not your mate’, forget how economic issues have driven us to migrate to these parts, nothing beats the warmth of the West African weather.
For these folks, a system of cooperation & hard work to adapt to the environment ensured. That became their purpose and hallmark; got internalized & has been embedded in their DNA, passed on to children & future generations. That is the only way they have survived & thrived. They must band together & cooperate or die as competitors. Thus Winter shaped the narrative for them. Even today we see how it affects their decisions.
Not us. The weather is friendly. Summer is all year round. A man can make a home under a tree and live there in raffia palm fonds and fend for his family all year round. Lots of games to keep the stomach filled. He doesn’t even need to farm. If he ate corn and threw the cub outside, any remaining maize will sprout and give him plenty of yield in the next few months without any effort. Trees abound that gave various fruits and there are edible vegetables growing wild. He doesn’t need neighbors and in fact, he considers others as intruders and would do anything to keep them away. Unlike those who faced Winter and learned to cooperate, his forefathers thrived in competition and strive. His DNA reads mine, mine, mine, topped up with a large helping of greed.
I read a story once which really illustrates our situation. During Winter, a man put out crumbs of bread for wild birds. The birds ate and generally shared with other birds. Then one day the man left a whole loaf, and then he noticed a change in behavior. The stronger birds dominated the scene and even after they had eaten, they prevented other birds from having a share of the bread. In the same vein when there are scarcities, people share the little they have with their neighbors. But when there is an abundance, people hoard and work to become rich. This reminds me of the saying: Humans are wired to sympathize with others when adversities strike, but to know your true friends, let good things happen to you.
Instead of being a blessing, our land that is filled with rich resources has proved to be a curse to us, unfortunately. The great weather has turned out to be a clutch stunting our growth due to a lack of cohesive cooperation. Now we compete endlessly and unnecessarily, in everything, significant or otherwise.
I looked through the window again and as I saw the young man handing out thick jackets to people I presume were indigent, I knew I was right in my assessment that the weather is a critical reason why we fail. We can not wish Winter into our sphere to force us into a union, but knowing we need to cooperate, can we begin already? We face hard realities as dire as Winter so “we must either learn to live together as brothers, or we are going to die together as fools.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Picture Credits. Winter Street: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/476185360580224407/; Cooperation: https://hbowie.medium.com/patterns-of-human-cooperation-a73398a4cff7; Africa: https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-50-most-beautiful-places-in-africa