Marijuana, Fear and Ayi Kwei Armah


ayi kwei armah

“Wee can make you see things that you might perhaps not really want to see. It is not a question of non-existent things being conjured up… it is just that just that all through life we protect ourselves in so many ways from so many little things just by managing to be a little blind here, a bit short-sighted here and by squinting against the incoming light all the time…that is what the prudent call life…truth is the deep dangerous kind of truth that can certainly frighten you into a desperate act if the life you have been living is of itself deeply gloomy and desperate.”- Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

In 1968, renowned Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah used the Ghanaian society’s perception of marijuana as his means of undertaking an exposition on fear and truth. Forty-eight years down the line, the possession of marijuana is still a criminal offence in Ghana, and our fears corrode our souls with a new intensity. In his Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the author established a relationship between fear and truth; about the natural human inclination to bury our fears beneath masses of taboos and prohibitions.

Conventional wisdom tips the scales in favour of those who choose to be a little blind here, a bit short-sighted there. The prudent are those who succeed in burying their fears like they would a deranged cousin, deep down the in the family attic. They know how to squint against their uncomfortable truths. It is they who choose the comforts of their fears over the terrifying uncertainties of their lives.

With his Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Armah chose to become that voice that was unafraid of facing truths that had the potency to crippling him. He chose the alternative of fear- the ability to look within oneself long enough to confront the demons that tear at one’s soul. Such a choice will be considered prudent and it isn’t an endeavour by men and women of straw.

Preening into the abysses of ourselves in search for truth can be frightening.  Armah says that such self-examination can ‘certainly frighten you into a desperate act’, especially if the life you are living is already gloomy and desperate. But isn’t being frightened into a desperate act a better option than living a gloomy life? If your desperate actions don’t harm you, they will give you strength to fight your demons tomorrow. 

By Dede Williams

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