Looking for Alaska
The Book Thief was written by Markus Zusak. It is about Leisel Meminger, a nine year old and also about death, who narrates the story. Yes, the story was narrated by death
According to the Merriem-Webster dictionary, rape is unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.
There are two crimes which I think deserve capital punishment: Rape and Premeditated Murder. Unfortunately, in our world, rape isn't even considered a crime in many places. I read an article in an old newspaper about a man who, after being detained because he raped a woman, was released on bail and went straight back to rape the same woman. He got out of prison three months later, and you don't need to be a genius to know what will send him back to prison in another few months. We read these things on the pages of newspapers and they feel so distant; but they actually happen close to us and the frequency with which they do are a major cause for concern.
Here's a scary statistic:
"A United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries.
The attitude of the police in many countries often discourages victims from reporting rape: one study in Turkey (1999) found that 33% of police officers agreed with the assertion that "some women deserve rape" and 66% agreed that "the physical appearance and behaviors of women tempt men to rape."
This past week on Twitter NG, a story surfaced about a rape case where the victim alleged that the accused took advantage of her love for him and didn't just rape her, but also got his friends and family to do same. It was a very detailed account and very many times it was gory and unimaginable. Of course, as expected, the accused has come out to deny it and has said he is not and was never a rapist and whatnot.
I'm interested more today in talking about reactions than in trying to figure out who is a rapist or who is not. I read some tweets and my heart broke. Even though it is difficult to imagine a human being do those things to another (underaged) human being, we need to understand that some human beings are not human beings, some human beings are monsters.
The thing most people seem to be forgetting is the fact that the victim at the time was just a little child: gullible and stupid and impressionable like all children are. How a man, an adult man has sex, consensual or otherwise, with a seventeen year old is beyond me. I don't intend to go into the illegality of having sex with a girl who cannot give consent because she simply does not have a consent to give. It really does not matter if she agrees or not, you are raping her because she is seventeen years old. But I digress, let's look away from that.
There were a series of particularly disturbing tweets from an individual who claimed to be the wife of the accused, these tweets were disturbing because it was difficult to come to terms with a woman wishing that another woman would get gang raped. There is something very sad about it. There's a lot of talk in this century about making conscious efforts to attempt to subvert the patriarchal paradigm, but with thoughts and then tweets like that from a woman, I fear for our generation.
There's also been a lot of talk that the victim is concocting this rape story, that it all happened inside her head. Because of the antecedents of this victim, this is quite a powerful argument. However, tweeting about a JAMB score or jewelry is one thing, writing a detailed account of serial rape is quite something else. It shouldn't matter just yet whether she's fabricating her stories, that is not for any of us to decide as none of us were actually there when it happened. Or when it did not happen.
This past week, the drama in Kogi state happened. There was a lot politics involved, and that meant a lot of people didn't really grasp the whole idea. It was mostly sentiments flying about. And a little stupidity as well: like saying the best option for replacement is the son of the candidate who died; to borrow the language of a friend, that's quite daft. If we decide not to be sentimental about it, we would find that the situation is really not that complicated. The Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country, already decided in 2007 during the Amaechi case that electorates vote for parties and not individuals, and we know that in order for the constitution to be adhered to, every governor of every state has to first contest in a primary election within his or her party and win. It is not hard. The problem Kogi has is perennial. And it stems from the fact that we are extraordinarily one-dimensional. Our thinking is conveniently contained in 'the box' and it doesn't bother us.
I can't see any serious change happening in Kogi state unless we make conscious efforts to change ourselves and our thinking first.
My grandmother's was tranquil, even at the end. She was like a person walking in calm water; for some reason the sea couldn't bring itself to hurt her. When my aunt took the same path, the waves broke over her, they attacked her, which is how the Fates respond to a true spiritual nature. My grandmother was cautious, conservative: that's why she escaped suffering. My aunt's escaped nothing; each time the sea retreats, someone she loves is taken away.
When Aunty Meimu told you that she was getting married, you were happy for her because it is normal to be happy when your older sister is getting married; even though Aunty Meimu happened to be 12 years old. That day she told you, you had just returned from the football field and you had still been wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey, and your small toe had been hurting because a boy who was wearing boots had stepped on your shoeless feet. She was standing by the door and wearing her purple hijab. You asked her when and she said in two weeks and then you asked her who she was marrying and she said she did not know and even though you thought that this was very strange, you did not ask her any other thing.
On the day she got married, you did not go to the field even though your friends came to beg you to go. You wanted to see Aunty Meimu get married so you told them to go without you. Aunty Meimu did not have a wedding, she just got married. One man, whose face, like a child’s drawing book, was full of lines, came and took her in his car after he had given mother a bag of rice, some tubers of yam and a basket of tomatoes. You waved at Aunty Meimu as she left. She waved back and smiled. She was forcing herself to smile because aunty Meimu’s normal smile was full and showed all of her black gums, but that day, her smile did not even show her teeth.
It was exactly the way Aunty Meimu told you she was getting married that she also told you that she was pregnant. She was standing by the door and and wearing her purple hijab and was not really looking at you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friends wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. You did not hear her the first time so you said ‘ehn,’ and she said, ‘Hamid, I said I am pregnant.’ You did not know what to say so you did not say anything. You went inside and fetched some water from the pot and then went into the bathroom made of roofing sheets at the backyard to take a bath. Before you finished bathing, Aunty Meimu had left and gone back to her husband’s house. You decided you would go and visit her tomorrow.
The man with the face full of lines’ house was very big but also very crowded. He had four other wives and they all had many children and so the big house was, in a sense, very small. Aunty Meimu’s room was a small detached one behind the main house. It was a single room with a small bathroom. You sat on a chair and watched her. ‘How is the pregnancy?’
She smiled. ‘It’s just two months old.’
‘I think I will name him Hamid.’ She said.
You smiled at the prospect of having Aunty Meimu’s son named after you. ‘What if she is a girl?’
‘He will be a boy.’ She assured. ‘But if she is a girl, she will be called Hamidat.’
‘Aunty Meimu, how are you, really?’ You did not know what else to say and you had wanted to ask her that yesterday before she left.
She smiled that smile that did not show her teeth, the smile that she smiled when the man with the face full of lines was taking her away months ago; the smile that was not a smile. ‘I am fine, Hamid.’ Then she began to cry. You did not know what to say. You went to the bed where she was laying and tapped her shoulder. ‘Sorry, Aunty Meimu,’ Tears had gathered in your eyes, too.
The man with the face full of lines came into the room and asked Aunty Meimu what she was doing and Aunty Meimu quickly cleaned her tears with her wrapper so that the man would not notice that she had been crying. ‘Nothing,’ she said to him.
He told her to go to the kitchen that he was expecting his friends, so aunty Meimu got up and went to the kitchen in the main house and cooked. When the friends of the man with the face full of lines arrived, aunty Meimu served them. But the man complained and said the food was too salty and screamed at aunty Meimu in front of all those people and said aunty Meimu lacked home training and could not cook a simple dish for him and his friends. You tasted the food; there was nothing wrong with it. Aunty Meimu went to her room and cried some more.
It was mother that told you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friend wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. She said Aunty Meimu’s husband came while you were away and you asked if aunty Meimu had delivered little Hamid yet. But mother only shook her head the same way she shook it the day she told you and Aunty Meimu that your father had died. And you asked mother what happened and mother began to cry and again you asked mother what happened and mother said through her tears that the man with the face full of lines had said that aunty Meimu had died from childbirth. You did not know what else to say.
After years of pondering and wondering and thinking about this thing, I have come to a reasonable conclusion and that conclusion is that I am not an introvert because to be an introvert, one needs to like one’s own company more than one dislikes the company of others. I have found that I dislike company a little bit more than I love the company of myself. I just feel that people want one to be like them too much and if one is unlike them the judgement is that one is weird or strange or wicked. Lol!
I am the type of person that can stay in my room for weeks, as long as I have everything I need in that room. During my Service Year, my neighbour and fellow corps member concluded that I was strange because if one is not strange, how does he stay in a room in the company of things like a TV, a DVD, a laptop, a few CDs and immense heat for one whole weekend, without coming out for as little as a good morning to his outgoing, extremely extrovert neighbour? The problem I have, actually, is what is the point of saying good morning to a person when the very next thing you will say to that person is another good morning some twenty four hours later?
Of course the word ‘recluse’ is always there for me to describe myself as but I am not a recluse either – I am not withdrawn from society, no. I relate with society even though I do this more for the purpose of finding new holes through which to mock it than because I actually want to associate and stuff. I think I found myself more during my Service Year than any other period of time in my life (thanks, NYSC!) Again during that year, I discovered how easily I could make friends but how much I resented doing that. I really do not think it is wrong to be my extrovphobic self, I just think people are different and we as society have a responsibility to respect these differences.
Also, I think modernisation is making society as introverted as it has ever been. In a social gathering, you find people fingering key pads and if you are like me and you were forced, in the first place, to go for that event, you start wondering ‘what the actual *&%’ we could have all just sat in our houses and had a group chat instead, right? I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and I was asking why he did not have his birth date on Facebook and he said he disliked the one day-ness of it all. You are the only person in the world for just one day and after that day, it is over, no one remembers you. And it was such a deep thing to say that I was thinking about it for weeks. How is that friendship? How are you, the extrovert different from me, the extrovphobe when the only time you speak to me, the only time you remember I exist is on my birthday and it’s not even like you remember me in the real sense of the word, it is Facebook that reminds you and even at that all you do is type some abbreviated shit like HBD and GGB and MHR and WULLNP and MMTYC and all those other variants of crappy abbreviations that I am in no mood to remember? Do you see?
You grow into these things, I guess. The other night, I ran into a friend’s mother and after pleasantries, she told me that my friend is back from school and I said ‘ok ma, I will see him tomorrow.’ And at that instant I felt displeased because I knew that tomorrow I was going to be on my writing chair throughout. We had been good friends, her son and I, and I guess we still are, the thing is it is difficult for me to just go. These days, honestly, I would rather you come. The same way, my cousin came to visit a few days ago and it was great. I want people around but not in a way that is clingy like button to shirt. I want you to invite me but I want you to be fine with it if I say no, I cannot come because I have something (nothing) to do somewhere (nowhere). I am not an introvert, really, because though, my company is interesting to an extent, there are companies that are way better than mine but I just would rather not have.
*Extrovphobe and Extrovphobic are not real words. *
Once upon a time, in an unfortunate State, there lived a bleaching ex Governor with a round head. Nobody had seen a single strand of his hair before, however suspicions were rife that he was balding. So he was a balding and bleaching ex Governor with a round head. He was a funny looking man, this ex Governor. He was short and round and overweight, so that he looked like a balloon with legs.
He was desperate, this man, to be Governor again, rumours had it: he had forgotten something important to him in the government house. The last time he was Governor, he was not an ordinary Governor, he was more or less a 'god-governor', god-governor like he needed not just respect from his citizens but worship also. He needed these citizens to sit on the ground if they could not kneel. They (citizens) immensely resented this fact and therefore voted him out the very first chance they got, and in his stead, they voted for a carpenter who had lingual challenges. This carpenter turned state Governor was at the helm for 8 years during which time, he executed a grand total of three (III) capital projects. i.e., in 2922 days, he successfully started and completed 3 'things'. But even at this immensely unattractive, undesirous and underachieving statistic of this carpenter Governor, he was still very much adored and praised and revered by the people of this unfortunate State as the most hardworking civilian Governor in history.
Once upon a time, in the same unfortunate State, there lived a short pilot who had white hair in his nostrils and white hair in his chin, too. He became Governor after the carpenter and, along with his utterly hairless deputy, did absolutely nothing for the State throughout his first four year tenure.
It turned out, as things always do, that the short pilot full of hair wanted to be Governor the very same time the balloon with legs ex god Governor also wanted to be.
People got confused because they were stuck with a choice between a pilot full hair who did, to put it mildly, nothing in four years and an ex god Governor who would probably sack everyone who refused to bow down and praise him and bloat his overinflated ego. An ego which, strictly speaking, had no right to be overinflated in the first place.
Some people wanted the god Governor because 'at least the infrastructures in our beloved state would improve', while others wanted the short pilot full of hair because 'why should we go back to the past where we would have to worship our Governor as if he is God?', and so they insulted each other and called each other names like 'wailers' and 'chainji', whatever the hell those meant.
The most curious thing about this curious State was hardly the fact that they alternated between mediocre, underachieving, sometimes outright failed, leaders, but that even at this glaring fact, they refused to demand for more than they already had, they refused to elope from their immense, epic docile and compliant nature. It was therefore all too obvious that the real failures in this unfortunate State of theirs were not their leaders but the citizens themselves.
N.B. This story has absolutely nothing to do with Kogi State.
It is 2.30am and this is not poetry. I still suck at poetry. It is curious, this my sucking at poetry, it is curious because I actually love poetry. I love it the way cattle egrets love cattle, the way umbrella loves rain. I read poetry these days more than I read prose (I suspect though that this has more to do with my laziness than my love for poetry, but that is not the point.)
I've been imagining things.
I imagine that the only way true happiness can be found in this unfortunate world of ours is if every man marries a woman smarter than he is. I admit that could be hard but still. I dated an extremely smart young lady once. Our relationship did not last. She liked Robert Frost more than she liked me. Let me tell you something, The only thing worst than competing with a poet for the love of a lady, is competing with a dead poet for the love of a lady.
The day we broke up, she texted me a link to There is Another Sky by Emily Dickinson and then fifteen minutes later, she texted me, 'what do you think about the poem?'
I texted, 'I think it's brilliant.'
She texted, 'Yea. But what do you really think?'
I texted, 'I think it is really brilliant.' I had not read the poem. In hindsight, I maybe should have at least tried to read the poem, or at least be honest with her about having not read it. It is a fairly simple poem and, more than anything else, I think it is about hope, and that, I guess, was the answer she was looking for:
There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
The poem goes on.
She texted, 'You don't have to lie.' And I think the rest is history.
There is something about smart ladies that defies life as it is, that defies status quo. The world, just the way it is for rich people, is also for men. It is indeed a man's world. It is for this reason that I am impressed by women who are smart and make no attempt, subliminally or otherwise, to mask their smartness. I do not think of marriage too many times, but when I do, I absolutely cannot imagine myself being stuck with a woman who is not at least a little challenging. It will be like being in a prison where the air is slowly being suctioned out. It will be like dying very slowly.
I've been imagining things.
I haven't really written about this next thought anywhere other than on Twitter.
There is an increase in the number of light skinned girls and a decrease in the number of dark skinned ones in this new world of ours. I wrote this, Of Skin Bleaching and Bleached Minds, sometime ago, the idea was that ladies who bleach their skin were not psychologically confident enough in their own skins. I basically still agree with most of the argument I made there, however, I no longer think it is wise to blame ladies for bleaching. Many times, as controversial as this may seem, it is difficult to blame the bleacher for bleaching. It is society's fault. It is the society that erects walls for dark skinned girls because they do not measure up to the accepted standards of pigmentation. It is the society that tells dark skinned girls consistently, brazenly that they are not good enough, they can never be good enough because their complexion is dark. It is the music videos that glorify light skinned girls and vilify the dark skinned ones. It is the movies where the light skinned girl is the good person, the angel, but the dark skinned girl is the devil, the witch that poisons the hero with a love potion because she is not cute enough to be capable of holding a man's attention without a potion. The dark skinned girl, society tells us, is not beautiful. You cannot be beautiful and dark skinned. Think about it, who is the most extraordinarily beautiful lady you have seen in your life? Is she dark skinned? Is she? Do you think your idea of beauty has been skewed by popular culture? By society? Is your definition of beauty your own or society's?
Do you understand? Do you see how this colourism thing is a huge problem? This discrimination of the dark skin? Can you blame a person for preferring not to be discriminated against and so hurting herself to look acceptable to you and your society? Can you blame a non Roman individual living in Rome for trying to act like the Romans?
I will write more about this soon.
I've been imagining things.
The last fiction I published here was titled The Standard of Morality. The last two sentences were something like, 'Hate is not hate to everyone. To a few, it is only the proper thing to do.' I was reading through it again and I realized how true those statements were. Of course some people do not regard hate as hate. Some people regard hate as the right thing to do. Take Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel and his hate towards everything Palestinian and The Middle East other than Israel and Islam in the broader sense. He does not consider it to be hate, he considers it to be the only proper thing to do: Kill Them All. Kill the children and the women that cannot defend themselves. Netanyahu considers himself the Moses of the 21st Century. But what he's doing, it's hate, it's genocide, you cannot define it differently, no matter how smart you are or how hard you try. Do you see?
And this relativity of morality is something that can never ever change. Morality is not uniform, it cannot be uniform as long as there are so many different types of people in so many different types of places. People who think differently, who see differently, who behave differently. There is no uniform morality. There is no Standard Morality. And it is best to recognize this. What is wrong to you is right to others.
However, it is important to say, many things, many other variants of hate are plain wrong and there is no other way of looking at it, an example is terrorism.
I will write more about this soon.
It is 4.45am and this is still not poetry.
You were seven and in primary two when you heard the word freak for the first time. You were in a secluded part of the playground and a football rolled towards you. You picked it up and you were tempted to begin to juggle it when a boy in Primary Six shouted from a distance. ‘Throw it,’ ‘go on, throw.’ Then, as if enraged by your slowness, he shouted, ‘Throw it, freak.’ You did not know what freak meant but it pierced you. It pierced like a hot knife would pierce skin. ‘Freak’ seared you. You threw him his ball and went to your class.
Your difference was a cloak that grew on you like age, that you had to wear everywhere you went. Schoolmates called you ‘albino’ and then laughed as though there was anything even remotely funny about the word. You grew up being called a freak; it did not annoy you as much as it enervated you.
You met Bimbo in SS1. She was, in terms of complexion, the stark opposite of you. In my former school, she had said to you, a boy as handsome as yourself would not be admitted, on account of your extreme, everlasting good looks.
You did not know how to respond. You did not know whether to be angry at her because it was an insult or to smile and say thank you because it was a compliment. You learnt, over the years, to understand Bimbo as that type of person, one whose compliments could be perceived as an insult, and whose insult could be perceived as a compliment.
I don’t get you, you said to her on an occasion.
I would feel extreme anguish if you did, to be honest. I am a monumental book of enigma, nobody ‘gets’ me. She said and smiled her half lipped smile. For Bimbo, everything was perception.
In Biology class when the teacher was discussing genetic disorders and he mentioned albinism and inexplicably said something in the lines of: You know, albinos exist; their skins are... The class thundered to raucous laughter. You did not know where to look. You felt like being swallowed by concrete, by quicksand, by anything that could swallow you, anything that was willing to swallow you. You finally looked ahead and saw Bimbo looking at you. She was smiling her half lipped smile and you hated her for that and then she winked a wink of camaraderie at you and you loved her for that.
The chief antagonist joined your class in SS3 on account of how he was unable to pass his finals in his last school, his name was Daniel. He was big and intellectually disabled, two qualities which were by no means mutually exclusive. He was told, on his first day, by the class master, Mr Olayemi, a man as skinny as twine, to put his locker next to yours, and quite openly and remorselessly, he said, No sir, I cannot sit next to an albino. Of course Mr Olayemi was hardly man enough to defend himself, talk littler of defending a poor albino like you. He said nothing and watched Daniel mount his locker where Daniel wanted to mount his locker.
Daniel settled in quickly, as people like him often did. The day after, you heard him talking to the class monitor: You guys better find a way of getting rid of that albino before he infects all of you.
The class monitor laughed. The boy is not that bad. He will stay out of your business. He is good at that.
I hate albinos, Daniel said.
I am here, you heard yourself say, stupidly, in hindsight. If you have a problem with me, I am right here.
He punched, he blew, he kicked, he kneed; he did so many things at the same time that you were on the ground before you knew that you were being beaten up. Yes, I have a problem with you. Daniel said before spitting a rich emulsion of phlegm and saliva at your cheek.
It was more painful because, in Secondary School, reporting a person was something that nobody did, it was regarded as sacrilegious, in fact. Of course, to you it made no sense because what if, like yourself, a person was consistently being picked on? It was Secondary School though, a place where nothing ever made any sense, but everything seemed just fine that way.
You found comfort speaking to Bimbo. She was ever-present and so you were immensely fluid with her. It therefore did not take long for Daniel’s angst to reach Bimbo. It was as though she was object of his rage by virtue of her association with you.
One sunny Thursday morning, a few weeks to your finals, everything changed. You got to school late on account of how you could not join the school bus because the new bus driver acted as though he did not see you waiting at the bus stop.
You knew there was something wrong that morning when you saw that some students, mostly juniors, were peering into your class through the glass louvers. In class, trouble was brewing. There was an extremely loud argument between Bimbo and Daniel, voices were being raised, passions were being stirred. And, most nightmarishly, the argument was about you. Daniel was holding a long plank and you wondered what he wanted to do with it as you went closer.
You need to stop defending that freak of nature, Daniel was saying.
The irony is the real freak of nature here is you. Bimbo shouted.
The next thing that happened was gory. Daniel raised his plank and threw it aggressively and everything stopped for a while, then there was a shrill of ‘Jesus’, palpable silence followed, the type that you could pick from the air and mould into whatever variant of horror you wanted and then there were cries and then the junior students who were standing by the windows vanished like smoke from exhausts of vehicles, only then did it occur to you that Daniel had hurt Bimbo.
You ran to her. Blood was dripping from her temple to the ground. Her eyes were opened. She saw you and smiled her half lipped smile then shook her head in disappointment, before she closed her eyes. Even then, even as she was dripping blood, even as incertitude was slowly diluting the idea of her existence, she was still that Monumental Book of Enigma.
Bimbo survived. She was back in school in time for your finals, although with a white bandage bound around her head. As for Daniel, he was expelled from the school in a story that quite quickly became popular school lore. On the assembly ground the day after, yourself and Daniel were called out to the front. The principal went on and on about how the school would no longer tolerate any sort of dis, no matter how minuscule, against you on account of your ‘pigmentation’. He narrated what happened the previous day to the whole school as though there was anybody standing on that assembly ground who did not know the story even better than he did. He said the school administration had decided to expel Daniel because he did not measure up to the school’s ‘Standard of Morality’. You imagined, with extreme certitude, that had Bimbo been standing on that assembly ground, she would have burst out laughing. What the hell did ‘Standard of Morality’ mean? You wondered. Who set this Standard of Morality? Was there anybody standing on that assembly ground who could boast of being morally up to standard? Yours was a morally relativistic world; Daniel’s loathe for albinos would not change, could not change irrespective of what they did to him here. If anything, in fact, he would loathe more. You realized that the school’s Standard of Morality was but an unintentional burlesque. The Standard of Morality talk however worked wonders for you because, after that, the hostilities towards you muted into whispers. In life, you learnt, everybody considered everything differently. Hate is not hate to everybody. To a few, like Daniel, as unfortunate as it is, hate is only the proper thing to do.
I don't understand many things. I don't understand smoking, I think it is unintelligent and obtuse. Intelligent people do unintelligent stuff.
I don't understand hide and seek, it makes no sense, there's no point to hiding because eventually, no matter how long it takes, you will 'un hide'.
I don't understand screaming. In my mind, there are only two valid reasons why anyone should scream, 1. You're dying. 2. You're being born.
I don't understand fashion, fashionableness, as far as I'm concerned, is relative. No one can possibly tell me what looks good on me.
I don't understand being cool. There's something not very smart about the idea of being cool. Cool, like fashion, is relative. Cool is something that appeals to kids, teenagers. If you are over 20 and you still go about hustling to be cool, please accept my condolences.
I don't understand Kim Kardashian, I don't understand people who sit in front of a television screen and watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians and actually enjoy it; then go on Facebook and add it to list of shows they like. I imagine that people like that are very likely to have issues with trust, weight, food and life.
I don't understand Rugby, overweight men jumping on each other so that, at the end, another overweight man can run with an oval ball and slide, like 5 year olds trying WWE moves 'at home'.
I don't understand gift wrapping, it just does not add up. I mean, what's the point of wrapping gifts when the singular purpose of gifting is to tear up the wrappings. I think it is unfair to 1. The gift 2. The wrappings 3. The unfortunate individual whose job it is to do the wrapping 4. The unfortunate individual whose job it is to do the unwrapping 5. The environment 6. Whatever it is that gift wrappings are made from.
And finally, I don't understand Instagram, and of all the things I don't understand, Instagram is the one I intend to talk of a little today.
I have never really 'gotten' selfies. I mean the 247 ones, when the only times you're not taking selfies are the times you are thinking of taking selfies. I understand how our minds need memories, and selfies, sometimes, some places, are fantastic ignition for memories, but still I don't get it. It is one thing that my mind has not been able to fully wrap itself around. I haven't been able to, on my own, figure out why people love selfies so much. I suspect, although I am not sure, that it is for purposes of self gratification more than anything else. I mean, there's probably nothing as self gratifying as one taking flattering pictures of one's self, lips pouted towards the heavens, for reasons best known to God, hips outstretched apart from the body, as if it is a separate entity and has a separate existence from the body. Narcissism, in my mind, is the mother of the selfie.
Now, Instagram takes selfie taking to a-whole-nother level. I joined Instagram at some point during the last year, I deactivated the account a little over a month later. Apart from the immense, absolutely unapologetic level of fakery that the Instagram app basks in the glory of, I feel it is also harming us, gradually but steadily.
These days an act of kindness is incomplete until it has found its way to Instagram. You are not yet a good person until you have taken a photo or a short video of you being a good person and have posted it on Instagram and have embellished it with thousands of hash tags and have gotten a hundred oohs and aahs and 'you're such a kind heart' and 'it's so beautiful what you are doing for these poor children who can't do anything for themselves.' in the comments section. The danger in this trend is that the children who are being born into this Instagram and generally, social media generation will grow up imagining that kindness and thoughtfulness is incomplete without pictures on Instagram, without pictures on Facebook, without announcements. The moment one announces one's kindness, it stops being kindness, it becomes something different.
The next reason I don't understand Instagram is noise. Do you remember how in Primary School there was always this boy or girl who, during the holidays, had travelled outside the country and would not shut up about it? The constant waylaying of your eardrums with absolute nonsense about Shanghai's sunset and the people who do not speak a single word of the English language, remember them? Remember how they made you feel like tearing out your ears and keeping them in a safe place until you got home? That's exactly how it feels when Instagram users post a million pictures of arrant nonsense a day, each bedraggled in a million hash tags that have nothing to do with the stupid pictures anyway.
Fakery is important. It is important because the filters that remove all the blemishes on your face and in your life only exists on Instagram. If you are a shitty person, you are a shitty person. Instagram would only be able to change that on its app, not in real life.
Finally, therefore, more important is what you do in real life, what you are in real life than the make believe life that Instagram enables you have, that Instagram has created for your egoistic pleasure.
N.B. If this write offends you, if it upsets you, good. It's probably directed at your ego anyway.
The truth is, as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, one cannot blame the poverty of the poor on the wealth of the rich. Except in the rare cases where the politicians get rich at the expenses of the citizens of a nation, but that's a separate conversation.
The hash tag, #NigeriaIsForRichPeople, trended on Twitter this morning. I was interested in it because I have spoken/written a lot, on this blog and everywhere else I have gotten a chance to, about Social and Societal stratifications, the immense disadvantages of the rich people being so extremely rich and poor ones being so extremely poor, and both existing within the same space, and breathing the same air, and walking/driving the same roads.
In Abuja, where I have spent a lot of time in the last year or so, I find that the only sets of people that social stratifications occur to, that are conscious about 'classism', are the poor ones. The rich people do not pay attention to the fact that such a thing even exists. They mostly just drive in their exotic cars with their windows raised and honk their horns so the boys hawking air fresheners and handkerchiefs and breath enhancers or mints could get out of their way.
It is not actually intentional, this nonchalance, this unawareness of the rich. It is not something they wake up in the morning and decide. No millionaire wakes up at 6 in the morning and goes, 'You know what, today, the woman in the market who sells a bunch of bananas to me at 100 naira, will sell them to me at 80 naira even though I can afford the extra 20 naira and I am very much aware that she needs the 20 naira a lot more than I do.' No one wakes up in the middle of the night and says 'In the morning, I will not slow down where there is a puddle of water because I intentionally want to splash muddy water on the unemployed young man by the side of the road, who is looking to flag down a taxi because he has a job interview with a multinational company in thirty minutes; a job interview that I know he will not be successful in because my son also applied for same job and I'm friend's with the company's Director.'
Do you understand?
It is not intentional, this nonchalance. It is not intentional that a woman wearing a newly made fashionable, female agbada and too much make up, and who has car keys dangling from her over-bedazzled hands, and who is on the phone commanding someone to be at a certain place at a certain time, would walk right past the long queue in the banking hall, straight to the cashier; and the cashier, who has been ordering people not to break queue all day, would smile dumbly, like she has been tranced by some exotic potion from the fifteenth century, and do everything for this woman and have that miserable smile plastered on her face throughout the transaction. It is one of those things that exist because it is the way it is, because it is what it is. I am not defending over exuberance, I am not defending the wealthy, but the world is setup in a way that allows money to speak much more than the mouth ever can. Where there's money, the mouth becomes useless. We have setup society so that the poor are condemned, not reckoned with in any instance.
Solutions? Of course, there are always solutions, but the solutions to this immense degrees of inequality would mean tearing down everything we have built, would mean unlearning everything we have learnt. Would literally mean 'CTRL Zing' the world as we know it. Nigeria is not for rich people, the world is for rich people.
This is why I keep hammering on the next generation. We cannot afford to have them think the same way as us. It would be a travesty for social inequality, in such brazen manner, to continue up until the generation that comes after ours, it would be a disaster of giant proportions. We have to change things. We must.
There is blood on these streets if you look carefully. Those who do not look carefully step on people’s blood as they walk. I think it is bad to step on people’s blood especially since they are dead. There are lots of dead people in this country: I think about that sometimes when I have not had food to eat in days. Thinking about it helps me not to feel too sad about having nothing to eat. How can I feel sad because I am hungry when people are dead and their bloods are being stepped on? This clime smells like smoke, like something that is burning, but we are used to it. Almost always, there are houses burning, cars burning; many times with people in it. Things are not too bad, although. On alternate days the big, white ‘UN’ truck that has a couple of blue feathers drawn under a net-like ball, bring us food.
I learnt about the UN from school. Our school is not the same as it used to be. A missile landed on it two months ago. On that day, I did not go and that is why I am alive. Everybody that went died. Their bodies were seared, melted as if they were wax from a burning candle stick. Talatu’s mother could not identify her. She and her husband packed an amount of debris into a wooden casket and buried it to represent her amidst tears and unbearable pain. My mother said that was also how my father was killed and was buried. She said some white people from countries faraway sent a plane with a missile where my father worked. The missile landed and even though it killed many rebels, it also killed many civilians, like my father. She could not find my father’s remains so she packed some debris into a wooden casket and buried it.
Our school is under a Neem tree now and our teacher is a woman’s voice from the radio, she calls herself Miss Kimberly. She teaches us English language and French sometimes and she tells us that the UN, who she works for, is trying to help us. But I don’t like this method of teaching because there are no rooms for questions. She has funny pronunciations and so it is difficult to understand some things she says. I wish we could get our old school back where we can ask our teachers questions and understand their pronunciations. I prefer our old school.
Today, for the first time in my life, I saw fear. It was sadness mixed with anxiety and then somewhere underneath, mixed with hope also. It was not exactly what I expected. I have heard a few times that fear is a bad thing, but when I saw it today, it did not look bad, in fact, it looked quite the opposite. It looked as though it had no choice, it looked natural, it looked pitiable, even. I saw fear in a photograph; a photograph of some girl. She was young, maybe four or five. They said she lived in one of the camps somewhere with her mother close to the border. The border is where the rebels and the soldiers exchange bullets and bombs on close to a daily basis. She probably thought the cameraman was one of the soldiers or one of the rebels or an assailant of some unknown variety. She raised her hands up in surrender and the look on her face was fear, defined. I wanted to cry not because of fear exactly, more because of what she had become due to fear, of what fear had turned her into. At first, she reminded me of myself a few years ago when I was her age. But I was never so fearful. It is not that I was more mature at her age than she is now. It is that the war has ravaged us so much that these days, our constant companion is fear in its most unadulterated form. It is that when I was her age, I did not know fear in the immense degree that I know it now. It is that those years ago when I was five, we needed not to fear cameramen imagining that their cameras were weapons to hurt. It is that our peace has disappeared and war has taken its place. It is that there is blood on these streets and children stepping on it.
The pictures above had such profound effects on me. I had to write a story on. It truly is unfortunate what society is doing to the children.
Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!