Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Countries

It is the best of times, it is the worst of time, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the autumn of despair, we have everything before us, we have nothing before us, we are all going direct to Heaven, we are all going direct the other way - in short this period is so far like any period that only the most rambunctious ego will insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There is a supervisor with a suit and a tie in Washington D.C., there is a supervisor with a suit and a tie in Dakar. In both cities it is clearer than crystal to the Lords of the Desk that, as has been generally settled for ever, the righteous production of numbers is the quintessence of felicity.
Such is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal. Spiritual revelations are conceded to Senegal, at this, one Amadou Diallo, in between enchanting and disenchanting SIM cards, had heralded the sublime appearance of Muammar Gaddafi enjoying his living exile in the lands of the Touaregs. And all other respected authorities on the supernatural build their respect - and their very personal fortunes - upon the daily efforts of their pupils, who learn more about begging and stealing three meals a day than about any book - holy or not.
The United States, not much less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual, is rolling with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. The repeated likes of Charles Manson preach Peace by murder, and so do a few pro-life Christians too. Armed authorities descends upon yet another frenzied sectarian ranch while mere messages in a few media come to the American people about the recent virtual dissolution of the 4th constitutional amendment: which, strange to relate, will prove more important to the Human race than any doubts consumed by bovine America about the birthplace of their president.

It is certain enough that, rooted in the fields of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbour, in 1961 there were seeds growing, already sown by one Sargeant, Gravitas, later to Shrive by way of the service to Peace, singular in history. It is certain enough that in the rough compounds of some tillers of the lateritic lands adjacent to development, there were crude huts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed by pigs, and roosted by poultry, which the Volunteer, Pride, has set apart to be the abode of his sacrifice. But the Sargent and the Volunteer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heeds them as they go about personal and international development with muffled tread: the rather for as much as to entertain any suspicion that they are active, would be boisterous and uncouth.

In Senegal there is scarcely any amount of gumption to justify much national boasting. Begging talibes are occasionally to be found giving money and sugar to one unlikely volunteer; one boat owner in the dark is volunteer in the light, and, freed in his character in his calling of "Captain," gallantly sails the Tropics as he is afforded; the single public boasting of the use of mercury in gold mines, and the associated work potential made for an impressive display of widespread interests, particularly regarding institutional liability; that magnificent entity, Mr. Ambassador of the United States invites for business lunch and does not provide for his guests; Gendarmes go into Casamance to search for contraband arms, and the rebel mob fires on the Gendarmes, and the Gendarmes fire on the rebel mob, and nobody thinks any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, roaming sheep eat acacia saplings, roaming goats eat corn sprouts, roaming donkeys eat mango sapling, roaming cows eat moringa saplings, roaming baboons eat millet sprouts, and all the people are at a wonder why nothing can grow in this country.

All these things, and a thousand like them come to pass as normalcy for such is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal. Environed by them, while the late Sargent and the Volunteer work unheeded, those of the suit and tie trod with stir enough, and carry their bureaucratic right with a divine hand. Thus is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal conducted with Greatness, and myriads of small creatures - the creatures of this chronicle among the rest - along the road that lay before it.

Disclaimer: This entry is sole responsibility of the present author and does not reflect in any way the thoughts or views of Charles Dickens. If this author took upon himself the sacrilege of plagiarism, and especially that of a particularly magnificent piece of literature, it is in the hopes of conveying in poetic terms an experience that cannot be conveyed. Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.

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