IMAGINE having just walked out of your yard to go for a run at the beach or in your neighbourhood park and, just as you were leaving your place, noticing some strange characters loitering nearby.
You do not remember ever seeing them in your neighbourhood, and their demeanour makes you uncomfortable. You fear they might be up to something; you feel you might know them from elsewhere, or have heard of them, but you still find their presence rather strange.
Worried, you decide to abandon your planned run and stay around to keep an eye on your home and surroundings. Nevertheless, the strange characters remain in the neighbourhood, seemingly waiting patiently for the right moment to carry out whatever mission might have brought them there.
Unbeknown to you, the characters you see in your neighbourhood are not alone. They’re part of a large and growing network of like-minded and connected individuals whose infiltration of your neighbourhood began some time ago, without anyone noticing.
Some of the homes with big safes containing valuables, especially cash, have already been compromised; the tenants might be aware of it, or not; but those who do are scared to speak out. They’re aware of the extent of the network’s reach and the dangers that might visit them if they were to say a word to anyone.
They’ve also become aware that some of their employees have long been captured by the network and turned into facilitators. They take orders from the network, divert community resources in its favour, and compromise established ways of working on its behalf.
None of the tenants own the houses they live in; some have been given very short-term contracts that might be terminated anytime if they refuse to be at the beck and call of a man whose name they’d rather not mention.
They say that he has eyes and ears everywhere, throughout the neighbourhood. Whenever he acts against anyone, he never does so directly, using his own hand. But his signature is known by all who are captive in his vast network and know his ways. Even when he acts against perceived traitors, he never loses his contagious laughter.
Over time, you also get to know that at the apex of the network sits the same person whose name many would rather not mention. He also turns out to be the one person in whom all the neighbourhood's trust and fortunes have been placed, and who is expected to be the embodiment of the community’s carefully crafted social contract; the one contract meant to keep the formerly divided community together.
The contract also contains all the checks and balances that the man has managed to weaken systematically by employing pliable and fearful individuals to manage it - people who lack sight of the bigger picture.
They also have no memory of the sacrifices that were made and the bloody precipice from which the community was pulled before all sides came together and agreed to turn the neighbourhood into a home for all.
The neighbourhood vault
As you become more aware of what is really going on, it also becomes clear that the unexplained assembly of the strange characters in your neighbourhood is because one of the homes houses the neighbourhood vault.
The one whose name shall not be mentioned has men and women hard at work – day and night - trying to break into the vault but they keep being blocked by one who was expected to be of them and with them; the only one with a good memory of how the community got to be where it is, and of where it would have been had there not been an intervention of the sages, in a not so distant past.
Let’s call him the sentinel. The sentinel holds the keys to the vault and he knows that should the man at the top and his network manage to get into it, it would spell the end of the neighbourhood as we’ve known it. Its shared dream of building an inclusive community would also be shattered forever.
Somewhere along the journey one, then two, then three and more individuals get tired of their fear. This happens when they realise that their fear is a key ingredient in the destructive arsenal of the one whose name shall not be mentioned.
Empowered by growing community support and a general reawakening, more individuals come out from the houses allocated to them to openly tell the community about the acts they had been made to commit against its interests, or about the fear that had kept them captive for a long time. They tell the community that they too have been used and that they’re tired of it.
They tell of how free they suddenly feel to reattach their colours to the shared community mast and to save the neighbourhood from total capture and collapse. They often do so at great personal risk, aware of the possible deadly kicks of a horse that might be nearing its death.
Some might be doing it for selfish ends, of course, having realised that the end is nigh and that the tower on top of which sits the one whose name shall not be mentioned is beginning to show cracks and will be toppled.
They come out clean in order to avoid getting engulfed in the inevitable dust that will cover the network. Behind these two groups will remain a few die-hards who know that their entire fortunes are forever tied to those of the one whose name shall not be mentioned. They are prepared to perish with him because their complicity has been too deep; or they’re blinded by incurable greed.
Our neighbourhood finds itself in such moments of reawakening. Much remains at stake, the last miles in such journeys are never the easiest, but the unravelling is now with us. The canaries have found their voices again.
And that run along the beach or in the neighbourhood park has been worth putting on hold; a small price to pay.
* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley. Views expressed are his own.
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