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Tony Onuoha: Dying in the postmodern age

August 25, 2007

by Makis Karagiannis

“The angry reaction of African immigrants was caused by the death of a Nigerian CD-vendor, who fell from the first floor of a café in Thessaloniki. In his effort to escape, thinking that he was pursued by police officers in civvies, he jumped from the first floor, with the result that he lost his life” the report said.


On Sunday afternoon I was observing his fellow-countrymen, who transubstantiated their grief and anger into a wailing song around the few flowers, which they had left to the place of his fall. The same morning, while I was browsing through the newspaper I paid attention to the conclusion of an article of D. Tziovas:

 

“the truth is meant as a considerably relative and unstable notion, while Kazantzakis doesn’t seem to believe in its substance but as post-modernists he constructs it…”

Indeed, in front of me the cameras of five TV networks were working continuously recording witnesses and points of view. At the same time, due to the overwhelming need to cover the forthcoming elections, the broadcasting networks gave the least attention to this tragic event, while contradictory points of view, the version of the police, the shopkeepers’ complaints about the broken seats and the use of tear- gases by the police, were being heard. So, there wasn’t enough room left for the “25 year old immigrant”.

The police denies that the two men were police officers. As usual, it does its work ‘well’. “He saw two men in civilian clothes and he mistook them for policemen” the reports say similarly, without mentioning any other version. His brother told me that two police officers arrested him last summer at the same café, broke his leg and after putting handicuffs on him they took him to the police station because he was selling CDs illegally.

Who was really Tony Onyoha?

He was selling CDs. “Did he have to steal in order to live?” a friend of his asked me. He was also giving out leaflets. His father hadn’t seen him for five years, since that morning when Tony left his small village near Lagos of Nigeria. Now he is asking, even this way, his son’s dead body. If he were Priamus, he would beg Achille on his knees. But in postmodern age who do you have to beg, so as 8000 euro, for the transportation of the body, to be found? The intention fades away into the chaos of incompetent institutions, ministries, flying companies etc. And Tony lies thousands miles away.

 

I was encountering him every day selling his CDs in the streets but I was avoiding his glance so that he wouldn’t tire me with his questions. In his eyes you could see the story and the expectations of every immigrant. I had the curiosity to find out who he was, but I didn’t bother to ask him.

His friends told me that he was always smiling and had a keen sense of honour. He soon intended to get married. The rest – his dreams, his love for his parents and younger brothers, to whom he was constantly sending money, will never be known to us. He took them with him in this fatal fall to the pavement which proved to be his own Promise Land.

 

It wouldn’t be so much my concern but his last words: “leave me, leave me …” a desperate cry for life, didn’t let me calm down. I’ve got the sense that this pleading cry that seems to address to all of us, is hard to reach our ears and if it is heard by us, who is willing to pay attention to him? His cry will be covered immediately by our indifference and the political slogans of the pre – election period.

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5 comments

  1. I wrote about a similar story which happened in Geneva. It has a different kind of view and the involvement of the police might have been quite different.

    If someone dies in Switzerland, he is buried for free in the place, where he died. I do believe it is not the job of the government to spend the tax-payers money to send a corpse half way round the world, just to burry him in the place he was born.

    http://funfactfiction.blogspot.com/2007/08/blame-police-for-everything.html


  2. IF HE WOULD STAY WHERE HE CAME FROM THAT WOULD NOT HAPPENED,EVERYBODY HAS THE RIGHT TO BEHAVE THE WAY THEY WANT IN THERE HOMES.
    STOP WITH ALL THIS BULL SHIT ABOUT RACISM TOWARD BLACKS, LETS TALK ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE GETTING KILLED IN ZIMBABWE OR THE 3 ITALIAN WOMEN GOT RAPED AND SMASHED WITH STONES IN LIBERIA,OR THE FOREIGNERS GETTING KILLED BY BLACKS IN SOUTH AFRICA OR KENYA. STAY WHERE THE F*** YOU ARE AND EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT, I DONT PAY TAXES AND WORK MY ASS OFF TO FEED YOU, I DONT OWN U NOTHING, I AM NOT UR SLAVE SO IF I DONT WANNA TAKE YOU TO MY HOME IS MY CHOICE, MY HOME MY RULES, VERY SIMPLE GET THE HELL OTTA HERE


  3. You are a very big m******


  4. dear albatross

    I’m afraid your racism indicates the typical modern day white supremacist’s argument that some people’s lives are worth more than others…I can’t change this…I cannot change your lack of compassion …but dear mr albatross the reality is that a human, is a human, is a human regardless of their race, color or creed and their value is the same (sorry to break this to you)…and the other reality is, is that Tony Onuoha and any refugee of any period in history has not left his home willingly…my migrant mother who left Greece in 1956 to come to an unknown country (Australia), left because of a war not of her making…her land was invaded and raped and pillaged against her will…she always said “No-one leaves their motherland willingly. Who willingly leaves their land, their family their friends to go to an alien country??”

    …Tony left because of white man’s policy in Africa…white man’s policy that raped and pillaged their women, land and resources…perhaps mr albatross you and your sadly ignorant brethren need to read a bit of history to understand the causes of your own dissatisfaction with the present…as Bertrand Russell said: “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd”

    perhaps your racism is the albatross around your neck…i recommend you get it seen to mr albatross…it could be fatal!


  5. Dear Norman

    Apparently, sending dead bodies half way across the world by spending the money of the taxpayers is not a duty of the state. However, when dealing with pain, as Sophocles has taught us in “ Antigone” for over 2500 years now, we must have in mind that apart from the laws of the state, there are the human laws as well.

    dear albatros

    Furthermore, racism and injustice haven’t got frontiers and they occur similarly in New York, Liberia, Thessaloniki or Paris.
    Tony was a friendly boy, who had never hurt anyone. He had a work permit and used to do different kind of jobs in order to live.

    The culture of a society is reflected in the way it treats the weaker people. For me Tony’s cry actually meant “ Let me live…” . Everyone who wants a society of solidarity and humanity, or a society based on mutual understanding among its members, was obliged to offer his or her hand to Tony.

    This depends on the values we all choose to live with.
    Obviously, we belong to different civilizations



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