Here is the the story of Kwame, and with it: the problems facing men in Africa today…

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” my mother and father would ask when I was a kid.

My reply was just like any other kid who could not be bothered with the thought of future responsibilities. “I don’t know.” When I grow up…that “when” felt so long from now. I was not an idle fortune teller reaching for some distant future.

“Chill out,” I would tell my parents using some imported slang. “No doubt, I’ll figure it out when the ‘when’ gets here.”

But the question persisted. That nagging question filled silences in between bites at the dinner table and stretched over long drives to and from the village. Eventually I felt compelled to deliver an answer. The when growing ever nearer.

“I could build a nuclear weapon.”

“—Why on earth would you aspire to such radical behavior?” my father interrupted.

“It’s not radical,” I insisted. “Ghana doesn’t have one. Nigeria doesn’t have one. No African country does, I think. Even in the Caribbean and in South American there’s not a nuclear weapon in sight—”

“—What are you, a troublemaker?”

“Me, a troublemaker?” I didn’t understand. The countries my father talked about, they all had men dedicate their working lives to create nuclear weapons. Their men used those creations to protect their country men and women, to protect their freedoms. I thought my father would be proud if I replicated their inventions.

But he shook his head. My mother pursed her lips and released the kind of hiss that stung my ears. Accordingly, I changed my tune.

“I could build cars.”

My dad snickered. “Son, the car has already been built a hundred times, over and over, again and again. And the cars we have now work just fine.”

“My Toyota is very reliable,” my mother chimed in. “BMWs and Fords are alright too.”

My parents shot down my every response. “So all those people in Japan and Germany and America—they can build cars but I can’t?”

This time it was my mother who chuckled. “What kind of son did I raise? Did I fail you?”

“What if I built homes?”

My mother curled her lip. She could not hide her dissatisfaction. “School fees are not cheap. Why don’t you put your brain to use?”

I disagreed, “It’s not easy building homes. Architects and construction workers have to draw out plans and calculate measurements. That new mall over there isn’t standing because no one thought about it.”

“Help me, please! Someone!” My mother threw her hands up in the air, in what was either a plea to some invisible force or total exasperation with what she felt was my nonsense—or both.

“Why don’t you just be a doctor like your sister? We can never have enough doctors in the family,” said my father.

And that was how it went. Every conversation about what I wanted to do when I grow up morphed into what I should do—be a doctor or a lawyer, wear a suit and tie, sit in an office, work with computers or robots but never with my hands. Presumably mother and father were trying to be helpful in their own way, which was not particularly helpful it turned out.

At some point, I had to come to the conclusion that my mother and father had no clue how the world worked. Don’t get me wrong: they are my parents and I love them dearly.

Only they talk as though cars were birthed from car lots and not from actual machines with thousands of parts created and designed, and to some extent assembled, by human beings.

They talk as though all kinds of consumer goods, from toilet paper rolls to bottle water, just appeared on shelves which replenished automatically from the back of unmanned storerooms.

They talk as though the world was a jovial playground with revolving carousels, where only bad people committed violence, where the world’s policemen were democratically appointed by unanimous decision and worked on altruistic missions to keep us all safe.

They talk as though violence only happened in the distant past, during video games, or during war time—as if every time was not war time.

They talk as though nuclear weapons were landline phones, a collective good that was available for anyone in the building to use at any time.

Many African nations live in a world about production where we do not find value in producing. In a world about national defense where we do not find importance in defending.

I love my parents. That being said, my parents are incredibly naive about the world in which they have spent several decades. And to our chagrin. The naivety of whole generations leaves entire countries extremely vulnerable.

“When you grow up, you need to get a job,” my father would say.

“Not any old job, but a good job,” my mother agreed.

I smiled and nodded. But really I thought that when I grow up, more than to get a job or a good job or a really good job, more than anything I wanted to gain awareness. I wanted to end the naivety.

I do not want to lead the next generation into the open jaws of the ravenous conqueror. I want to give the next generation the courage to do something, to create something, to build something.

Sometimes age deceives us. In fact, I should have asked my parents their same question.

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Nefetiti is the Chief Editor at Grandmother Africa. She holds two Bachelor degrees, a double major in Chemistry and Physics. Since 1997, Nefetiti has authored several reports on Democracy and the state of Republics in the African Union. She became an African Reporting Fellow in 2007. Before joining the Definitive African Record, Nefetiti trained as a Digital Media expert. If you enjoyed this essay and would like to support more content like this one, please buy me a cup of coffee in support of my next essay, or you can go bold, very bold and delight me. Here's my CashApp: $AMARANEFETITI


  1. “If there is an inferiority complex, it is the outcome of a double process: —primarily, economic; —subsequently, the internalization—or, better, the epidermalization—of this inferiority.” (Black Skin, White Masks).

    The problem with Kwame’s parents is simply that they have epidermalized their economic situation as blackness in direct relation, and in direct contrast, to whiteness. This way, “the white man is sealed in his whiteness. The black man in his blackness.” (Fanon) Kwame cannot escape this dual narcissism of his parents and the motivations that inspire it, unless…

    And this is the big unless…. He kills his parents. The way for a Kwame to do this is to assume his parents no longer exist, and then he must proceed to bear as Narmer Amenuti will put it, the direct consequences of his own actions. Kwame must be brave and assume once again that he is the first man on the planet.

  2. I wonder though that this is not just a sign of a world in which one can no longer find the sense in the non-sense. For instance, nuclear weapons are a bad idea. If no one has it. They put the planet and its various inhabitants at great risk. But why live in a world when one group of people have the weapon and others preach sainthood?

    The saints in Africa position themselves in this double jeopardy. If the planet is going to be destroyed, Africa(ns) will be destroyed a long time before. The sense then in the non-sense of a boy aspiring to build a nuclear weapon for Ghana lies herein. Consequently, there’s very little about the world that is saintly.

    The fact is turned on its head. It is no longer that the Black man wants to be white (build a nuclear weapon), while the white man slaves to reach a human level.” (Fanon). It is exactly that the White man slaves to reach a human level and the Black man must cautiously guard the white man there without being scared of the risks involved. The goal is the key. And that involves taking risks like building nuclear weapons in African nations. Else, the white man’s slaving will be in vain.

    • Even the Kingdom of Heaven was won through violence. The threat of violence, within a limited time frame, sometimes begets the peace needed to force others to reach humanhood.

  3. The direct consequence of African societies delinking themselves from their hitherto ancestor worship and the embrace of “Christ” as their adopted ancestor and “saviour” god had the effect of severing their social ties with both their past and present and by extension became rudderless. In this state of having loosed their social bonds they could now only seek individual fulfilment that was duly promised by the missionaries on adoption of their faith and attainment of their “education”…and the same went for their offsprings until now when it becomes vivdly clear that neither faith miracles nor academic papers are able to reverse the momentum of social malaise that the African population increasingly finds itself…

    Indeed, the two most prominent religions of our time – Christianity and Capitalism – seem to be aggravating the social disorder; in accordance with their feudal origins, they are bound to create privilege for the minority ruling elite and serfdom for the majority of the socially dispossessed labourers… this is the reality that the first and second generation beneficiaries of missionary (mis)education; that took the reigns of African leadership and became the backbone of the clerical workforce either could not to see or chose to ignore…

  4. No Kingdom Like Ghana.

    There’s no Kingdom that was built with a pen. Pens are useful but they don’t build kingdoms. Kingdoms are built with the sword. You either build your own kingdom or you will belong to somebody’s kingdom. Another way to say this is that you can wield a sword and control your destiny or you can allow someone else to wield one and control your destiny.

    Now, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled is to convince you, or throw dust into your eyes, and assure you that kingdoms are built with pens. That the pen is mightier than the sword. That you should lay down your sword and wield a pen.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, you will be sorry. No kingdom was ever built with a pen. Pens are useful, but kingdoms are built with swords. Pens may be used to help the sword. Pens may be used to cheapen the people for the slaughter. Pens may be used to entice, enrage and to fortify the minds of sword-wielding people.

    There’s no kingdom in which the warriors wield pens. There’s no kingdom in which the greatest asset is a pen. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled is to convince a great group of sword-wielding Angels to lay down their swords, and strive to become pen-wielding Devils. The greatest mistake Angels ever made was to accept the Devil’s terms and ditch their swords for pens.

    Swords are irreplaceable. Pens are. With enough swords you can find many pens. Pens cannot build swords. Ghana trains pen-wielding Devils who strive to become better than the Devil himself at wielding pens. Ghanaians will not build a kingdom. They will belong to someone else’s kingdom; the USAFRICOM Kingdom.

    Why? Ghanaians are busily training their children to become the best pen-wielding Devils in the world. Worse, Ghanaians are busy teaching their children that the greatest kingdom ever is the one in the skies; the one no one has seen; the one that has never existed but will one day exist; the one no one can see; the one you might see when you are dead. Ghanaians are under the curse of the sword-wielding pen-evangelizing Devils.

    When will this snare be broken. When shall we escape?

  5. But Narmer Amenuti don’t you think that the pen wielders, in fact and to the contrary, are the ones who have so ingeniously given us the Bible, Quran, and Torah to inflict even deeper wounds than any sword can inflict? Haven’t they conjured sword wielders out of mere farmers, fishermen, and merchants? Maybe I misunderstand your analogy.

    • In this way the pen is made powerful by the sword that gave it blood. No matter the power of the pen, real men, with swords understand that its power is underpinned by the sword. Farmers who become warriors out of a love for this savior or that savior are not looking to words for inspiration: they look to Moses, Joshua, for instance, for inspiration and leadership. Those were great sword-wielding generals who wore a backpack of pens but wielded head crushing swords. Pens help the sword-wielder in mind, body and soul. But the body must be ready to wield the sword. The body must be ready to do the pens work. The sword is irreplaceable.

  6. Narmer Amenuti Perhaps you are correct. But then again your assertion, while definitely being evident in this past 2500 years, seems to be categorical and lacking the consideration of previous eras. There are no caveats nor disclaimers giving it context which it seems would be a more even handed approach to your observations/reflections.

    For instance, I can’t seem to overlook some of the initiatic stories that speak reverently and near singularly to the introduction of pen technology by the first Sesh ni Neteru (Scribe of the Gods) Tehuti, who helped establish humanity’s original civilization (Kingdom). I don’t wish to romanticize the civilization of Kemet but, while keeping that in mind, I am reminded of the Pharaoh Inus who was the first to form a military to fight against other humans in defense of the Nile valley civilization. So before this, how were kingdoms established, if your postulation is to hold water?

  7. Narmer Amenuti check this out
    No swords. They’re being conquered out of their sheer misfortune. The “kingdom of christ” is upon them, soon to be followed by the schools and then the big box stores; monuments to God’s capitalist kingdom on earth… just what every one of us are entitled to. Still one of the most effective tactics of the kings of modernity. But the east (Chinese, Indians, Syrians) have chosen primarily economic tactics, no swords either, and they together with our irredeemably corrupt politricktians are slowly turning our continent into a series of vassal states, satellites of their re-emerging empires; besmited colonies from which to extract the final vestiges of life in their bid to catch up with the standard bearing west.

    We cannot pick up a sword against this kind of attack when it is our open wound that is exposing us and making us know that flies have teeth, as the proverb goes. We have to heal our wounds by transforming our thinking and this can only be done with the pen (meaning on the level of the things that can be transmitted by writing).

    The problem with your assertion is that swords are now nukes and drones, so how far are we going to go with this ‘kill or be killed’ ideology and do we really want a kingdom that must be built and or sustained by bloodshed?

    If this is what you are saying then every indigenous society is already subject to the countries with nuclear weapons and their only hope of true sovereignty is to join the arms race.

    I couldn’t agree less my bro. This is just whiteman’s barbaric logic that has even robbed us of the advantage of history beyond his persistent meddling. First we must think of what a king is, from which we form the word “kingdom”. In the traditions, before the more recent invasions of Arabs and Europeans, the king as you know was a representation of divine authority. In even earlier times before the decline of Kemet there were three basic levels of kings: the village/small king, the regional/big king and the king of kings/Pharaoh. Disputes that could not be settled locally or regionally from across the Kemetic world, would be sent to be addressed by the Pharaoh whose job it was to resolve the issue with Ma’at as the guiding principle under the authority of the Neteru. It is this epoch of over a hundred thousand years that we should be looking to for how kingdoms are established not the animalistic ragings of these 2.5k year old infantile Gerkau (Greeks).

    At our heights, kings had ‘two ears and no mouth’ and were even called HenSuten (servant king) whose main priority was to stay in alignment with the purest aspects of nature by taking on the role of their responsibility with absolute devotion so that he/she would have the support of the Neteru manifested as power. These do not sound like the kind of rulers who could or even would establish true kingdoms with murderous swordsmanship, but with knowledge and wisdom i.e. the pen.
    “It is the writers who will change the world.” ~ Maakheru (true of voice) Naba Lamoussa.

    • I do not disagree with anything you said. You are not wrong. However, consider this: If it takes swords to destroy what had been built up over hundreds of thousands of years, then it seems pragmatic to me, at least, that what has been built up for hundreds of thousands of years must be protected also by the sword.

      Once West Africa, en masse, had writing, culminating in some of the first modern universities of the world. But the sword brought all that development down. Once Kemet was great, but it took barbarians from outside to destroy it. Whatever is built up can be destroyed by the sword. It makes sense to me, at least, that whatever it being dreamed up to be built must also include the protection of the sword. The sword is not bad, it is he that wields it that matters. The same can be said of the pen. European Christians wield a pen that paints the African as savage, to be saved by their angels.

      Which brings me to the final point: Africa’s idea that swords cannot be good is self-defeatist. It is not even pragmatic especially when you live in a world surrounded by barbarians. Perhaps we will achieve total consciousness by thoroughly educating the rest of the world, but that remains the pipe dream of the moment. Until then, we must defend what we build with the sword, until we have reached total consciousness with the world. Else how do you build up when it is constantly torn down by swords from the outside? Swords are good when we wield it and bad when the other people have it.

      • Indeed the Chinese have not forgotten the opium wars and hopefully the Indians still recall the chopping off of the fingers of their skilled weavers to allow for the dumping of British calicos…

        The military blows renderred these two nations back to their dark ages and it took 7 decades of meticulous planning and execution for the Chinese at least to catch up militarily…which ultimately was only possible because the Chinese leadership did away with Western economic and religious doctrines… Something I do not foresee happening with our deeply Western engrained African leaders and even when they are not they face the scarcity of resources needed to reeducate and redirect their populations… And perhaps Africa is also lacking panafrican leaders like abdel Nasser who coordinated regional initiatives to realign African nations with their real economic interests…


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