Do nothing: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson


Do nothing: Message from the Morning Man

By Kojo Yankson

1st September 2015

Mrs Fordjuor was a Class Three teacher in a posh private school in Kumasi. She had been trying for weeks to get little Marian to participate more in classroom activities, but the girl remained reserved and distant, always sitting in the corner of the room and observing.

Whenever the teacher called her name, the little girl would flinch as if someone had burst a balloon. Last week, during P.E, Mrs Fordjuor noticed some nasty bruises and welts across the little girl’s shoulders. She almost asked Marian how she had hurt herself, but on second thoughts, she decided not to. Children hurt themselves all the time.

So she did nothing.

Esi was Marian’s best friend. They sat next to each other in class, and at lunch time. Esi wanted to be a movie star one day, and had already started demonstrating some promising traits. For one thing, she loved to talk about herself. That was probably why she liked Marian so much – the quiet little girl hardly ever said a word, which meant Esi had a captive audience to listen to her endless stories about herself. Last week, Esi was talking endlessly about how she had dropped the brand new pencil case her father had bought her, into the gutter behind the girls’ washrooms.

“When he hits you, don’t cry. It will only make him angrier”, Marian said in one of her rare contributions to the conversations.

Esi was startled – and rather irritated by the interruption to her epic, dramatic retelling of The Case of the Soggy Pencil Case. But she was even more confused by the suggestion that her father would hit her for ruining her pencil case. “Don’t be ridiculous, my father would never hit me”, she snapped.

It did make her wonder though. Did Marian’s father hit her? Should she tell someone – a teacher maybe – about what had just happened? It seemed like the right thing to do, but she was just getting to the best part of her story, and Marian was such a good listener. Besides, lots of parents smack their children.

So she did nothing.

Auntie Ama had lived next door to Marian’s family for ten years. They were a strange lot – especially the little girl. She never saw her playing with the other children. She was always walking home from school on her own, with her oversized bag slung over her little shoulders. On weekends, she would sit on the doorstep for hours on end, not moving – just staring into the distance, until her father shouted her name. Then the little girl would jump like someone had burst a balloon, and run into the house.

Auntie Ama suspected that the little girl had a mental problem. “Someone ought to report it to social services”, she would often murmur to herself. But on second thoughts, it wasn’t her problem. If the girl’s parents were too busy or too dumb to notice their daughter was loopy, then it wasn’t her problem.

So she did nothing.

Lena was Marian’s mother. She couldn’t bear to watch when her husband got drunk, lost his temper and took his frustrations out on their little daughter. But she also felt sorry for him. Impotence must be a very difficult thing to deal with. But was he really impotent? The other night, he didn’t know she saw him coming out of their daughter’s room, buckling his belt. She didn’t even want to consider the possibility that he was… anyway, he was her husband – the breadwinner of the family. What could she do – report him to the authorities? Who else would have her if she became single tomorrow? No, it was better to stick it out, dress poor Marian’s wounds and keep praying for a change.

So she did nothing.

This weekend, Lena had been out grocery shopping and had lost track of time. She had left Marian at home with her father, and didn’t feel very comfortable about it, so she rushed home as quickly as she could.  With hands full of shopping bags, she fumbled for the front door key. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed weird little Auntie Ama sharing at her out of her upstairs window. She half-waved with one hand while she unlocked the door with the other and stepped into the house.

Auntie Ama watched the Lena woman from her upstairs window as she battled with her shopping at the door. Why wouldn’t she just set them down and unlock the door. People are so stupid, she reflected. She turned away from the window and continued her sewing. Thirty seconds later, she heard a scream.

Esi was shocked to hear the tragic news on Monday morning. She couldn’t believe her quiet friend would never be returning to school. The whole thing was just too shocking to imagine. Poor little Marian. She couldn’t help remembering their weird little conversation from last week. She realised now she should have said something. But she didn’t.

Mrs Fordjuor couldn’t stop crying. Poor little Marian. How could such evil things have been happening to the innocent little girl right under her very nose? And why did she not intervene earlier? The signs were all there. The injuries, the withdrawn behaviour – of course, the poor girl’s father was abusing her. And she had done nothing. Now, look what had happened.

According to the police, the father had beaten her to unconsciousness with his belt buckle before unzipping his trousers and raping her on the kitchen counter, just five inches away from the sharp kitchen knife set. And now look what’s happened.

How is a little girl supposed to live with the fact that she has stabbed her own father to death?

My friends, this is a true story. And the message is simple: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph over good is for good people to do nothing. So if you’re a fan of all the injustices you see around you every day, then do nothing. If you like living in a filthy city, then when you see someone littering, do nothing. If you like corruption, then when you see politicians from your party spending money they can’t account for, do nothing.

If you are an advocate for evil, then when you have information about a crime, if you know the identity of a paedophile, an armed robber, a terrorist, please do nothing. Your silence is the loudest way to cheer for evil, and if you cheer long enough, evil will win.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I will NEVER stay silent when the wrong thing is being done. If you disapprove of that, then you know which side you’re on.