From my writing journal

from My Writing Journal

I recently read Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Man’s Path.” The story is about a man who was recently promoted to Ndume Central School’s Headmaster.

Naturally, the man, Michael Obi, is proud of his accomplishment. One day he sees an old lady crossing the grounds of the school. Apparently the land sits right on top of an old path that has been used as long as there has been a nearby village named Ani. Headmaster Obi reacts decisively and erects a fence at the entrance and the exit of the path.

The local priest visits to try to persuade a compromise, one that would preserve ancient traditions. One of these traditions includes the use of the path for the dead as well as babies that are born in the village.

Headmaster Obi, blind in the arrogance of newly found power tells the man that the school is there to rid the young people of such ignorant notions. The priest is dismissed.

SPOILER ALERT!!! (Okay, Achebe wrote this in 1953, but I thought it would be funny if I said that)

 In the village, a young girl dies. This occurence is blamed on the fence and a riot of the villagers destroys not only the fences, but the grounds and one of the buildings as well. It is the day after when an inspector comes to see how the new Headmaster is doing. Well, you can imagine that he wasn’t pleased.


So, what can we learn from a 1,500 word short story written half a century ago on a continent half a world away.

First, I think you could easily replace the names and the characters may as well be Chinese, Arab, Israeli, American, Indian, Native American or any other situation you could dream up. It necessarily puts a spotlight on society at a crossroads. Here, a New School wanting to teach ‘Modern’ ways gets in the way of (literally) old paths.

Secondly, I would like you to consider where we are today. One could easily make the modern vs ancient, old vs new, man vs nature, way of analyzing this story. If that was all I had to say, this wouldn’t be worth reading.

Where are we? We are at a crossroads. The priests of global warming are preaching doom and gloom and at the expense of hard-working people. The hysteria over the environment is so high, I can no longer wash my car in my driveway: this simple act of pride of ownership is illegal in Clark County, Washington.

But it’s more than that. You see, in Achebe’s story, the inspector at the end says it all: “tribal-war situation developing between school and the village, arising in part from the misguided zeal of the new headmaster.”

In hindsight, Micheal Obi could have struck a compromise. He could have made the path part of the landscaping. The solution really was that simple.


What I’m saying is when environmentalists blindly make their rules, their laws, meant to defend the environment; when these laws, rules and regulations have the economic impact of loss of jobs (guess where those jobs go: overseas), higher prices for staples such as food, and all this has the further effect of burdening the taxpayers (for who is the government but the taxpayers) to the extent that no one can afford to eat, then I suppose, there will be that institution called environmentalism that will be torn down by such pent-up violence. This violence is avoidable and we must find that compromise.


We the people are that old lady and the priest wanting nothing more than to care for our families and follow our traditions. You are the modern school trying to tell us how to think and live.

We must find a balance. For when man-made global warming has been discredited and the scientists that had purported such falsehoods are finally recognized as the charlatans and snake oil salesmen that they are, the people, real people will be left with reality: the need to care, clothe and shelter their children and elderly. Because even those that look to the government for a hand up will find the well has been dry for a long, long time.

They may well need the environment then to provide their families’ sustenance.

Just food for thought.


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