NTOABOMA—I write you with love from the best place under the Sun in my estimation, Ntoaboma. Dear all, I have inherited the Parable of the Cunning Dog from my great grandmother, Mama Su, who inherited it from her great grandmother, and who inherited it from her great grandmother. The rest of the family tree is a long line of great grandmothers dating back almost one thousand years or more. I share this parable for the first time because I think the time is right.
It has become apparent that we live in times of great hypertensive misunderstanding. We ought to understand who we are—whatever kind of African or Black that we are—and by that we must understand those who are against us and why they are against us. Those who can read this parable can now actually understand the challenges we now face in many parts of Africa and the African diaspora; unique challenges that we have faced in the past three or four hundred years and counting.
To overcome our collective challenges requires a careful look in the mirror while one reads this parable. To overcome our collective trauma as a result of the terrorism of the West and the East that we face even today, we must identify the source of our misfortune. The Parable of the Cunning Dog is a great classical African parable that teaches us about the character and inclinations of those that come from without.
Here is the parable of the Cunning Dog. Otherwise known as the Parable of the Ayevu (in Ewe).
It is said that two friends set out on a long journey to gather immense wealth. One, called Ame, had a talisman of a man, and the other, Vu, had a talisman of a dog. Ame had dreamt of distant lands of untold wealth where he could truly become what he seeks to become. The other Vu had had sleepless nights about distant lands of unpardonable riches where he could truly become what he seeks to become.
On the way to wealth and riches, they came to the first wealthy town in all the world, called Gbadomli. There the chief of the town greeted Ame and Vu with a feast amid drumming, singing, drinking and dancing. At the feast the chief and people of Gbadomli had several conversations with Ame and Vu. They found Ame to be particularly knowledgeable and talented about many things: politics, herbs, music, economics, hereditary, history and so on. For instance, Ame and Vu were asked by the chief to show off any skills they had in drumming. Ame excelled, beating the crowds into a frenzy with talking drums. The people of Gbadomli also realized that Vu was terrible at drumming. He could barely hold rhythms together, especially on a drum. Ame was extolled. The chief and the people of Gbadomli gave the whole town and its belongings to Ame. Vu was not pleased. But instead of carrying it away, Ame decided to leave behind the riches. Vu asked Ame why he would leave behind such riches. Ame told him, “In the hope that I can find something bigger and become who I truly want to become.” Vu replied, “Stupid Ame.”
On the way to wealth and riches, they came to a second wealthy town in all the world, far wealthier than the first, called Gbadosen. There the chief of the town greeted Ame and Vu with a bigger feast than they had enjoyed in the first town. After the two friends had eaten to their fill, the chief presented Ame and Vu with all the riches of Gbadosen. These included books on different topics, gold, diamonds and music. But before the chief presented the riches he asked for a duel between Ame and Vu on topics varying from the knowledge of the ancient texts to the interpretation of talking drums. Ame once again excelled. The chief and the people of Gbadosen gave the whole town and its belongings to Ame. Vu was not pleased. Instead of carrying it away, Ame decided to leave behind the riches. Vu asked Ame why he would leave behind such riches. Ame told him, “In the hope that I can find something bigger and become who I truly want to become.” Vu replied, “Stupid Ame.”
On the way to wealth and riches, they came to a third wealthy town in all the world, far wealthier than the first two put together, called Gbadojen. There the chief of the town greeted Ame and Vu with a bigger feast than the first two previous feasts put together. After the two friends ate to their fill, the chief presented Ame and Vu with all the riches of Gbadojen: oral literature, written literature, gold, diamonds and music. But before the chief presented the riches he asked for a contest between Ame and Vu to find out who was more knowledgeable about the riches of Gbadojen. Ame again excelled. The chief and the people of Gbadojen gave the whole town and its belongings to Ame. Instead of carrying it away, Ame decided to leave behind the riches. Vu asked Ame why he would leave behind such riches. Ame told him, “In the hope that I can find something bigger and become who I truly want to become.” Vu replied, “Stupid Ame.”
On, and on, Ame and Vu left one wealthy town to another. Each town even wealthier than the previous ones put together. Each town greeted Ame and Vu with a bigger feast than all the previous ones put together. Each town held a competitive contest for Ame and Vu on the wisdom, rituals, customs, traditions, literature and sciences of the people. Each time Ame won the duel: from drumming, to singing, to dancing, to wrestling, to martial arts, to testing their knowledge of the diseases and their herbs, to examining their understanding of current literature, to testing their knowledge of mechanics, building of boats and houses; anything one could think of. Each time Vu lost the contest.
Vu became aware that if Ame carried all the riches he was given in all the wealthy towns they visited, Ame would undoubtedly be the wealthiest man alive, even the wealthiest man who had ever lived. The thought of that enticed Vu. How could one become the wealthiest man ever? He asked himself. By beating Ame at the duels in the next wealthy towns they visited. However, Vu was aware that there was literally nothing under the Sun—from the import of history—that he could become better or more adept at than Ame. So Vu devised a strategy.
In all the wealthy towns they would visit next, Vu must convince the chiefs that duels—even testing on such things as the knowledge of the diseases and their herbs—were not important. Vu must convince the chiefs and their peoples that what was actually not important was important. For instance, in several other rich towns Ame and Vu visited, Vu managed to convince the chiefs at the feast, before any thought of a duel could take place, that eating sand was important. So in some of those wealthy towns, Ame and Vu were put to the test to see who could eat the most amount of dirt. Ame would never even begin the contest. Vu would win and the town would bequeath all their riches to Vu.
In some of the wealth towns they visited next Vu convinced the chiefs at each feast that counting the drops of water on the leaves in an entire forest was more important than interpretations of talking drums. In fact, Vu convinced so many that counting water droplets was the only important thing to do in life. Hence in such contexts, Ame opted out even before it started and Vu was bequeathed all the riches of those towns.
As time went on, on the one hand, Vu became satisfied with the idea that what mattered didn’t actually matter. That it was not worth believing in things that actually mattered, particularly if one lost actual contests in those things. In fact, Vu became confident that in order to win, one must not believe at all. One must not believe in what was important. One must not believe in Truth. For instance, if the world believed that knowledge in the diseases and their herbs was important or true, one must teach the world to believe that rather counting the water droplets on herbs in a forest was actually more important or that this was the only truth to curing the diseases. More, one must teach the world that counting the water droplets on herbs in a forest was the only important thing worth doing, the only truth.
On the other hand, Ame quickly realized that Vu, who carried his riches with him everywhere he went became more and more powerful in every town they visited. Yet Ame had still not found what it was that was bigger and what it was that would truly help him become who he truly wanted to become. Although in order to do it he must first contemplate defeating Vu at his new games. In order to do that he must become better than Vu in the things that didn’t matter. Ame began to practice the things that didn’t matter. For instance, he practiced eating dirt; he practiced counting water droplets on leaves. He practiced eating the most amount of food in the shortest possible time. Ame practiced lying, he practiced discarding the truth and fabricating stories instead. Ame begun to practice the belief that there was nothing that was actually true. Nothing that actually mattered, except what helped him win. Except what got him riches. Ame begun to think that perhaps this might lead him on the right path to discover who he truly must become.
In one such Vu contest in another wealthy town Ame and Vu visited, Ame beat Vu at eating dirt. Even though Ame was given the riches of this town, he became aware that he couldn’t take the riches with him. There was a part of Ame that couldn’t drag bags of riches from one town to the next. Ame found the thought of this attitude silly. And again, Ame left behind the riches still looking for what he said was “something bigger” in order to become who he truly wanted to become. Ame realized that there was a part of himself that he could not change: Who he truly wanted to become!
However, Vu was once again peeved when Ame left behind untold riches. Vu had lost another duel he did not see coming. Vu had lost a duel on something that didn’t actually matter—eating dirt. More, Vu had lost riches he could have gained. Vu convinced himself that he had lost something he never had. So Vu devised yet another strategy so that he does not lose riches that he never had. Since Ame had become rusty at the things that mattered, Vu must practice those things that didn’t matter so that he can beat Ame at something that didn’t matter now. To do this Vu must once again convince the next wealthy towns and their chiefs that the things that mattered now—like eating dirt—didn’t matter any longer, and the things that didn’t matter like the wisdom, the rituals, customs and knowledge of the diseases and their herbs, actually mattered.
In the last wealthy town on Earth left for Ame and Vu to visit—which was said to be the wealthiest, the richest, the most powerful, and the most influential town that the world had ever known—Vu was sure to win. The wealthy town was called Gbado. Which meant “limitless wealth.” Both Ame and Vu were convinced that this was probably it, the wealth they both needed. Like all the previous towns they had visited in their long journey, Ame and Vu were greeted with the most elaborate feasts the world had ever known. The chief and people of Gbado held a contest in order to present either Ame or Vu with the greatest riches the world would ever comprehend. Vu won. Vu beat Ame to the duel in a test of the diseases and their herbs. Vu won another contest on convincing the world that what didn’t matter mattered and what mattered did not matter. Vu was so happy he could barely leave the town. He was made the new chief of Gbado. Vu was carried in a palanquin, celebrated and worshiped. Vu would never again need anything. Not even the generations after Vu would need anything.
Ame was left to ponder alone as he made his way out of the Gbado back to his hometown without any riches to show for his long sojourn. Would everyone laugh at him? Then a thing or two occurred to Ame. Ame realized that there was a part of himself that he could not change: Who he truly wanted to become! He became aware that in order for Vu to defeat him at the duels, Vu’s strategy was one of non-belief, belief, non-belief, and belief, which altogether sum to non-belief. Vu was cunning. Vu had devised a strategy that convinced the world to accept what didn’t matter (eating dirt) and discard what mattered (knowledge of the diseases and their herbs). And then when it suited Vu he again convinced the world to accept what didn’t matter then (testing in the diseases and their herbs) and discard what mattered (eating dirt).
Thus Vu became known as Aye-Vu. In Ewe, Ayevu translates as the “Cunning Dog.” Hence the Parable of the Cunning Dog. Ayevu’s strategy is to convince you, and in fact the rest of the world that what matters (especially to you) doesn’t matter at all (especially when it suites Vu). In fact the Ayevu strategy is to convince you and the rest of the world that what matters doesn’t matter and what doesn’t matter matters. And if you are not careful he might convince you that wanting to become who you truly want to become does not matter. The Ayevu philosophy does not believe in truths. It cannot win at truths. Its survival can neither rest on truths nor on what matters to you. Ayevu’s survival strategy rests squarely in convincing you that he is like you, and cares about what matters to you (wealth), when in fact he believes nothing, cares nothing about nothing, and does not believe in anything that matters except to beat you, and win himself insane riches.
Vu doesn’t appreciate the difference between a lie and the truth. He is worse than a child. He is yet to mature. He is yet to seek the things that matured people seek. He is yet to appreciate “meaning.” What drives the Ayevu doctrine is primitive accumulation and with that what makes him happy is primitive worship: power in defiance of all that is good and sound from a moral perspective. Ayevu philosophy doesn’t believe in morals or the lack of morals, except what bestows on him, insane riches.
“Aha,” Said Ame to himself. “I have found that which is bigger than all the riches in the world.” I understand better who my dear enemy actually is. I completely now understand the Ayevu, the cunning dog. And I am sure I do not want to become like him. Ame realized that there was a part of himself that he could not change: Who he truly wanted to become: A man of “meaning.” A man closer to the character and inclinations of the Gods. A man needing nothing, requiring nothing, not even food. A man that is incorruptible by riches or material wealth, a man indestructible. Ame realized that he wanted to achieve sentience and become completely indomitable. Ame wanted to become a God!
For this reason, Ame realized that he must appreciate truths and not take them for granted. Years later Ame saw Ayevu on the streets of his hometown. He asked Ayevu what he was doing back in town. Ayevu told Ame that he was there to have some fun. “Aren’t all your riches in Gbado enough? A lot of fun?” Inquired Ame. Ayevu replied, “not really, it’s actually very boring.”
“Aha,” said Ame once again to himself. Ayevu had succeeded in breeding a generation of Gbadoans like himself; people who believed in nothing; people who could not tell males from females, the old from the new, the young from the old, the sick from the healthy, the poor from the rich; people who told truths as lies, lies as truths; people who mismatched lies and fabrications as half-truths; people who believed that nothing actually mattered unless it went to enrich themselves; people who didn’t care about others or themselves unless it enriched them; people who didn’t care about the poor and the sick unless it enriched them; people who didn’t educate their own children on the customs, rituals, music and literature unless it enriched them; people who came together and bore children and took care of them only when it enriched them; people who only made art only when it enriched them; people who helped the elderly only when it enriched them; a soulless people. An immature civilization. A civilization stooped in the childishness of primitive accumulation. A people stuck in the backward indulgence of childishness. A people who do not want to become anything. Zombies.
“Aha,” said Ame to himself. “For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” This is the Parable of the Cunning Dog. Know yourself well, and your enemy better. Do not become a zombie: die a God for this is the only way that your resurrection is certain.