Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When sheep and goat need to unite

When rain fall, sheep and goat does have to mix. (Trinidad and Tobago)

Dear Zayda,

Sometimes we need to get together with others even if we don’t like them or agree with them. We may need to join with them because that is our best way of dealing with a crisis.

Many of us get caught up with who we are, what family we belong to, what schools we attended, and where we happen to live. :Too often we find reason to stay divided even when we need to come together under one umbrella to shelter from rain. Jamaica has a history of being divided, starting with the plantation where even slaves were divided among themselves. Some slaves worked in the house and they thought they were better than those who worked in the fields. Those who were light-skinned with less curly hair and straight noses thought they were better than those who were darker-skinned with more curly hair and broader noses. Some of us continue to find it hard, even today, to come together on matters we need to stay alive.

Yesterday we had an example. Jamaica’s leaders met yesterday to discuss whether the State of Emergency should continue. When they met a month ago, both sides voted to continue the State of Emergency. Yesterday, the orange side was not sure about continuing. People on that side said they needed more information to be sure they were doing the right thing for the Jamaican people. The green side said the police and soldiers said they needed to keep the State of Emergency for another month, because it was working to reduce crime.

Now, the orange side said they would not vote for the extending the State of Emergency just because the green side wanted them to. They said they wanted to see reason to take away the rights of people. You see, the police held about four thousand persons on one side of the divide (those who were poor and uneducated). Most of them were let go after they spent days or weeks in filthy jails, and it was not clear whether the police had charged any of the others.

Well, the sheep and the goat just could not mix, even though the rain was falling. They could agree that crime was a problem, but what to do about it? The orange side offered a way out of the rain. They would vote for the State of Emergency to continue for 15 days instead of 30 days. During that time, the green side could give reasons to keep the State of Emergency. The two sides could then discuss the crime problems, and decide what best to do.

The green side said it had to be 30 days or nothing at all. That side didn’t have enough people to vote for 30 days, so they lost the vote.

Well, it is hard to say who won and who lost here. Green and orange blame each other, as usual. Both sides could try to discuss a plan to deal with crime, but that seems unlikely while each side decide it is right and the other is wrong.

My grandniece, no matter how strongly we feel, we need to be open to discussion and perhaps even change. In our own interest. And in the interest of others. Humility goes a long way.


Your shangazi


Fronse Pellebon Smith said...

In South Africa before 1994 elections the political parties' mantra was 'let us agree to disagree'. Their point of unity was Ubuntu, the union of a nation. Nations develop and move forward when people, not politicians work together.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...


Thanks much for your comment. I admire the Ubuntu philosophy, and agree that the best way forward is for the people to work together.

I do think, however, that leadership (such as you had from Nelson Mandela, with spiritual focus from Archbishop Desmond Tutu) is critical in nudging a divided people toward unity. What do you think?



Anonymous said...

All I will say is this, "We need more rain." lol

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Thanks for your comment. More rain could well be the answer to keeping us united in our efforts!


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at