The Bob Dylan inspired number was an anthem of change for a generation that felt the old ‘established’ order was out-dated and unconnected with the aspirations of the youth.
The irony now is of course that I am part of the established order, and some may feel that the ‘old ways’ that we refer to as our culture, are similarly past their ‘sell by’ date.
But my column sets out to balance the best of the old with the realities of the new in an attempt to see how ‘Traditional Wisdom’ can be made relevant to today’s society.
The older generation had developed powerful ethics concerning child protection that still proves relevant today.
It is such a tragedy then that we seldom pause to sift through their value system in order to pick out what we may still lean on.
This week’s case is a particularly poignant illustration of what I mean, coming as it does in the week that we celebrate Mother’s Day.
Faith had been married to Bawo for over ten years in a steady relationship that had produced three children.
Little had rocked the solidarity of their union in the decade that they had been together.
It therefore came as something of a shock to Faith to discover that her man was seeing another woman.
His days of coming home inexplicably late where at first met with little explanation other than anger at why his wife should question his movements.
But when the trend continued and she persisted in asking questions, Bawo eventually admitted his unfaithfulness.
He promised that he would change his ways and stop seeing the other woman.
But whilst the spirit may have appeared willing, the flesh remained consistently weakand Faith had to bear the brunt of his guilt.
In return for her concern she received punches on the face that made her blue and black and as the trauma intensified, Faith chose to go back to her mother’s house leaving the children with their dad.
The arrangement persisted for about six months with Bawo allowing her to phone their housekeeper and chat about the children and even to stop by and do homework with them.
Then one dark day Faith received an sms that shook her to the core.
It was a cursory, dismissive message that said -“Mma o emise go tsena ka ntlo yame which basically translated as: ‘I need to move on with my life, so stop coming to my house.’
Faith gathered courage and decided to call the number she had called so many times, but the reassuring baritone she usedto love hearing now sounded like the roar of an angry lion.
The least Faith expected was a mature and comprehensive explanation as to why she may not visit what she still considered not only her home,but also a place where her treasured children were housed.
Instead all she got from the man she had loved all her life were cruel and angry words that rolled out of his mouth in a stream of vitriolic abuse.
That day she called her mother in-law who had been very loving for the entire period of their marriage, but sadly now in her moment of need it seemed she had no time for her daughter.
Faith started making visits to offices where she thought she would find a solution to her crisis.
But the best she could get was advice to make an application to the High Court through a lawyer – this despite the fact that the poor woman did not have two thebe to rub together.
Faith shed tears that could have moved mountains but had little effect on Bawo’s immobile heart of stone.
When the distraught woman eventually brought her sorry story to me at the customary court I phoned Bawo, and after several unsuccessful attempts eventually got hold of him.
When he finally answered it was obvious that he was not prepared to listen or attend a meeting of reconciliation.
If I wanted to talk it would have to be to his lawyers was his curt reply.
Although Bawo closed the door to reconciliation, the issue did not rest there.
Although traditional wisdom lost the opportunity to sit down will both parties, there remained much that needed to be resolved in a case where a father has suddenly and arbitrarily decided to lock a mother out of the reach of her children.
I wanted him to explain how his actions settled with his role as a father to nurture and protect his children and with a husband who had pledged to love, honour and obey until death. And no lawyer could tell me that.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
In truth there was not much the customary court could do in the face of Bawo’s refusal to discuss the matter at the forum offered.
Faith believes she is entitled to visiting rights all the time.
She feels her in-laws who have become her new family culturally through marriage, have let her down.
Her husband’s decision has thrown her life into chaos as she searches to understand the mind of a man who has ceased to think rationally – at least where their children are concerned.
The family house has also changed from what was their home towhat Bawo now refers to as “my house.”
Faith does not only co-own the house but all she ever worked for is in the house she called home.
She had left with only an overnight bag with the assumption that the elders would meet to sort out their differences- as should be the case culturally.
One can only speculate on the trauma and frustration that the children were going through without their mum in the house.
But the question remains over who would heal the minds of innocent children of this emotional dent to their lives.
It would not be a question Bawo’s lawyers would be at pains too ask, nor would they openly wonder why their client would drag his children into his differences with Faith.
No legal advice would prompt Bawo to reflect on the thought, “What if my kids never forgive me?”
Nor would his lawyers ask if he cared at all for the pain he had caused the woman he used to call his ‘beloved.’
There are many cases where unmitigated anger has driven individuals to inflict pain on their perceived opponents.
In this regard not only Faith and the children are being subjected to frustration, but Bawo too is the victim of his own anger.
He may escape the accusing finger of authority, but the consequences of his actions will catch up with him even if the law of the land does not.
Faith’s tears might appear to be a discordant note on which to wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.
But whilst Faith shed a lot of tears on the day, she is also a woman whose strength and courage has been put to the test.
Perhaps after ten years of marriage these are the more enduring qualities as the light of love flickers and fades.
For whilst the times they might be a’ changing –basic human values should not.