"Ilegheanamnañaadeadiaélia (Not all who labor reap the yam harvest)"
The cultivation of yam was labor-intensive and required several hands to have a good harvest. Among the Annang before colonialism, wealth was measured by the racks of yams that the individual had and titles and class were conferred based on such output. Thus the individual with seven racks (iseeriaitiaba) held the idio title named for the god of the farm, those with twenty-one assumed the Enang title and those with forty-nine racks (seven times that of the idio) held the inam title. To produce the yams, required for the procurement of the titles involved lots of hands and often, hired hands were needed for planting and tending the yams. The Annang observed in this practice that not all those who labor in the farms were entitled to the harvest. Some were hired hands and some were distant relatives whose presence was only required during the planting season. In effect, the saying brought out an important element in what philosophers and we social scientists refer to as distributive justice. Who gets to enjoy the benefits available to humans and how do we share available resources of the society? Who should get what, when and how much? As my former professor, James Childress used to asked, “Who should die when all cannot live?”
The idea of distributive justice among the Annang was simple, yet as in other cultures, it was problematic for distribution does not always follow a straight line based on need. Those who labor are often left out of the distribution process and those who have, become the “have-mores” in the words offorner President Bush. Some times our lives seem as if we are witnessing this practice where we constantly work but with nothing to show for it. The days and weeks go by with the same routine without the rewards of our work. Many live from one pay period to another hoping that better days are coming, yet the better days become farther and farther out of our reach and we seem to agree that we are simply hands to oil the engines of industrial capitalism or the wheels of corruption depending on where you find yourself.
Kevin Eikenberry wrote these words: “This is how hope works: it looks for the good in people and situations, rather than finding the worst; it discovers what can be done instead of throwing up its hands at what can't; it considers problems large and small, as opportunities to move forward when it would be easier to quit; it makes us human, helping us find the very best in ourselves for those around us and the situations we face.” You see, it is easier to quit and to rationalize to ourselves why we should give up. It is easier to see that labor does not bring about a proportional return, but we defeat ourselves when we give up. The American evangelist, Billy Graham, once said that the problem in our post-modern world is to look at the perceive injustice and throw our hands up in the air and exclaim “what is the point!”. We can see many reasons to respond this way, but it is when we look beyond the here and now that we find hope. Yes our forebears saw the injustice in our world, but they also saw hope and that is why they said that when the neck is alive it eventually gets decorated with beads. (Itöñamaaluugwomaköñönkwua”)
No one should labor with nothing to show as a reward, but sometimes we pay more attention to the journey and forget about the destination. To avoid disappointment, ask first where you are going before asking “who will go with me?” Choose your partners well. When the order of the question is reversed, it can lead to problems. May the new month bring you reward and cheer, and may you not labor for others to reap.
Adede (Dr.) Ezekiel Ette
For Annang Writers Association (A division of Annang Heritage Preservation Inc.)
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DISCLAIMER: Views expressed here are solely that of the author and do not represent the official position of Annang Heritage Preservation Inc. or any of its affiliate.