They say the world is not ruled by laws or words but by symbols. I would like in my own humble way, to pay some small homage to one symbol. Just one symbol we streetsiders employ on a regular. You may have heard of it, you have been burned by it; you may even have sat on it. It is known the world over. It is an internationally acknowledged gesture of disdain. It speaks louder than any trumpet, more eloquently that any voice. It says quietly and simply, ‘I don’t care for you, go to Hell!” it is the refuge of the helpless, the final stand of the defeated. It is a noble and beautiful thing. It is the finger, the middle finger, and for it I write this tribute.
The finger is not a crude obscenity, though some have used it as such and for that may heaven forgive them for I cannot. The finger is a symbol, a metaphor. A metaphor for that most worthy of human passions, defiance! Defiance is what a man is left with when all else has been taken from him.
When you have been robbed of family and wealth, honor and health and happiness, the finger gives dignity, a chance to look death in the face without flinching.
When that small Jewish boy lay in the gutter, bloody and unseeing, detested by men and deserted by God. He raised the finger in the unbelieving faces of his Nazi bullies; his spirit had not failed him.
When the countless battalions of the Persian army stormed the Pass of Thermopylae, they met the dauntless faces of 300 Spartan heroes and the backs of 300 erect middle fingers, defiant to the end.
When in 1964 Nelson Mandela stood in that dock, he looked into the pale faces of his oppressors and declared, ‘the ideal of freedom is one for which I have lived and one for which I am prepared to die!’ He gave them the finger that day, and the world shook its head in fear and admiration.
And when Christ was nailed to the cross, he looked down upon his tormentors and raising his eyes to heaven, thought, ‘I shall not give them the finger. I shall forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ He lay his spirit and his defiance as an offering at the altar of the Father and thus made his sacrifice complete.
The finger, as I have said before, is a metaphor. A symbol. An expression or face for every unyielding feeling that stirs men to stand boldly in the face of coercive odds. In itself the finger is nothing .The symbol should never be mistaken for the thing it represents.
And so I give homage to the finger, the bird, the Hawaiian Good Luck Sign (for it goes by many names) and I declare that the finger shall never pass from the earth. So long as men have the courage to gaze with contempt at the end that towers over them and say, ‘I don’t care for you, I don’t give a DAMN!!’ the finger shall live on and never die. For men will never change though civilizations rise and fall and cities grow and waste away.
So my children do not forget my words, always keep the finger dear in your hearts, learn its history and cherish its usage. It is a gesture that has held your race in good stead.
By Daniel Streetsider <The Writer is an Urban Legend from Kampala >
This Article was originally published in 25th issue of the WorkZine . Available for free download here