Saturday, 26 November 2016

Maybe We Should All Be Feminists

I wanted to blog about a poem by William Ernest Henley called Invictus until I found (and read) an essay I had always wanted to read by the legend Chimamanda Adichie titled We Should All Be Feminists. In this essay, Adichie discusses our society, in a most candid way, as it reacts and relates to males versus females. She describes the way society treats men and compares it to the way it treats women. I have never gotten up to the point of describing myself as a feminist. I see feminism exactly the way I see human rights, they are brilliant ideas, but the problem is I am Nigeria and the truth is Nigeria will not robustly achieve feminism, or human rights, in my children’s generation. Adichie paints a beautiful picture in her essay that I want everybody to see. For this reason, I would quote a tiny portion of the essay here for you, however, the essay is in public domain and you can easily get it if you want. This portion tells about marriage and how society sort of ‘drives’ (action word) a woman into marriage. Her readiness is inconsequential. Her ambitions are inconsequential. Her feelings are inconsequential. Ultimately, she is just an inconsequential side effect of society’s disregard and disrespect for the idea of womanhood. More often than not, because society is in a hurry to get rid of every single young lady out there, many single young ladies are driven into the hands (or life) of men who care nothing about them and would treat them like garbage.
A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all—it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.
Still, I was struck by this. Because I am female, I’m expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Marriage can be a good thing, a source of joy, love, and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, but we don’t teach boys to do the same?
I know a Nigerian woman who decided to sell her house because she didn’t want to intimidate a man who might want to marry her.
I know an unmarried woman in Nigeria who, when she goes to conferences, wears a wedding ring because she wants her colleagues to—according to her—“give her respect.”
The sadness in this is that a wedding ring will indeed automatically make her seem worthy of respect, while not wearing a wedding ring would make her easily dismissible—and this is in a modern workplace.
I know young women who are under so much pressure—from family, from friends, even from work—to get married that they are pushed to make terrible choices.
Our society teaches a woman at a certain age who is unmarried to see it as a deep personal failure. While a man at a certain age who is unmarried has not quite come around to making his pick.
It is easy to say—but women can just say no to all this. But the reality is more difficult, more complex. We are all social beings. We internalize ideas from our socialization.
Even the language we use illustrates this. The language of marriage is often a language of ownership, not a language of partnership.
We use the word respect for something a woman shows a man but often not for something a man shows a woman.
Both men and women will say:  “I did it for peace in my marriage.”
When men say it, it is usually about something they should not be doing anyway.
Something they say to their friends in a fondly exasperated way, something that ultimately proves to them their masculinity—“Oh, my wife said I can’t go to clubs every night, so now, for peace in my marriage, I go only on weekends.”
When women say “I did it for peace in my marriage,” it is usually because they have given up a job, a career goal, a dream.
We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do.
We raise girls to see each other as competitors—not for jobs or accomplishments, which in my opinion can be a good thing—but for the attention of men…
See you next time!

Friday, 18 November 2016

On Lynching and Rationalization

I have a friend who argues that the average person, in a subconscious way, likes to see the blood of someone like himself: this means that, for example, the average poor Nigerian likes to see another poor Nigerian bleeding. Her explanations for this argument are usually very expansive. They involve ideas that the mind of an average person is not kind: a person is not kind by default, he is not good by default, he learns these things, but at the same time, he is not bad by default or wicked by default either, he learns this, too. And since the world tends to lean towards wickedness than towards kindness, he is more readily taught to be wicked than he is taught to be kind.
It is an interesting theory especially if you consider how very carefully she lays and concretizes it. I was of the opinion that as children, we are born innocent and innocent often means good. But I have had cause to rethink the whole thing and now I do not know what to think.
There was another lynching that was recorded and shared on social media during the week. God only knows how many lynching occur on a consistent basis and do not make it online. Firstly the story was that that the young man who was murdered was 7 years old and all he stole was garri (cassava flakes). After that there was another story that he was not 7 years old and it was not just garri he stole it was a laptop, he also stabbed the person he was stealing from. And he was a chronic conman because this was not his fist time.
I do not know which of these two stories is correct, I do not care which of the two stories is correct.  I could not watch the video, same way I could not watch the Aluu4 video. There are so many things unsettling about watching those kinds of videos. There are also so many things unsettling and incorrect and devilish about choosing to bring out your phone to record people who are in the process of killing other people. And so, yes, if you are reading this, and the first thing that occurs to you when you see a lynching happening is to take out your phone and record, you are no better than the murderers and I don’t know how you sleep at night.
I saw the news trending on Twitter for the first time on Wednesday, I think. I resolved in my mind that I would ignore it. There were already people talking about it and it was not as if I could talk about it better than they were and also, I thought I had reacted to enough sadness and negativity in the month of November already and I was not about to react to anymore. However, on Thursday, I read some tweets about the incident that were very disturbing. The camp that believed that the person who was lynched was a bad guy and laptop stealer and a person stabber etc were attempting to defend the lynching and they tweeted things like ‘reasons why you shouldn’t feel bad for the way they lynched that guy…..’
I would love to understand how the mind of someone who attempts, even in the mildest of ways, to justify a lynching works. The word Lynching is said to originate from a slave owner who lived in the West Indies sometime in the early 1700s, Willie Lynch. He devised an impeccable method of controlling the minds of his slaves. And so when the slave masters in Virginia were having problems with their slaves, they called for him to teach them how he was able to get the best of his own slaves. (Here is a Link to a speech said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch to the slave owners of Virginia.)
The following paragraph is a gory read.
Single out the most stubborn, most chaotic, most annoying slave in your farm. Take off all his clothes and make sure that he is completely naked; also, make sure that this is happening in the presence of all the other slaves. Tie each of the stubborn slave’s legs to two horses facing opposite directions. Set the stubborn slave on fire. and as you do that, beat both horses until they begin to move, to the point that they tear the stubborn slave in two parts. Beat all the other slaves brainless. Put fear in their minds. You control them. (You may want to read John Grisham’s Sycamore Row if you want more of this twisted, twisted, twisted analysis of slavery)
That was painful to write.
So that’s where the word lynching comes from. The idea is to control, to torment, to torture. So when you see somebody getting lynched and you decide to rationalize it as probably a good idea, maybe it will be wiser of you not to share your stupid thoughts with the rest of the world because once you share that thought, you are propagating the devilishness of Willie Lynch.
Also as you attempt to rationalize the devilishness by whether the guy who they killed was a garri thief or a laptop thief, an innocent young man who just happened to be hungry or a human being stabber, a 7 year old child or a 30 year old adult man with a childish physique; Let me assure you that all of it is your mind trying to think of excuses to make something that is wrong on every level conceivable not so wrong. It is like the staring very attentively at a white wall to see if it could be turned into black. I have nothing to say to you. Just pray that you don’t fall a victim of your own rationalizations one day.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Love trumps hate

The world has become a significantly suckier place to live in since the US elections on Tuesday. Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States of America. The man basically bullied and insulted his way to that office. I do not care what you think, it is not okay to be a provocateur, it is not okay to be a bully, it is not okay to think and preach that some human beings are better than other human beings. I do not care what you think. All these characteristics were manifested by the next president of America, not once, not even twice, but over and over and over. Yet he won.
I saw that election, in a most elementary form, as a battle between good and evil. Evil triumphed. But don’t get me wrong, I personally do not like Hillary Clinton, and I do not and will never see her as good; however, in many cases, there is so much you can tell about a person by their utterances. Trump’s utterances were nothing short of uncouth. I am not sure I care so much about what his administration and actual governance would look like, I care more about the fact that he was able to win after being such an asshole to so many different people from so many different works of life; the fact that he was able to win an election after saying so many vulgar, unimaginable things unbecoming of even an eight year old child. Things that if your eight your old child had said you would have been ashamed and would have to scold him.
What the hell do you tell that child now–? Do you tell him that he cannot be a bully? So what happens when he responds, ‘but dad, the president of America is a bully’?  Do you tell him to respect women? But the person who would become the most influential man on earth by January 2017 thinks women are objects who can be grabbed by their genitals: his precise words are too disgusting to be repeated. What the hell do you tell your children?
There has been arguments online about the fact that his opponent was not a suitable alternative and about how leftists were very one dimensional in their reasoning and expected so unwaveringly that they would get victory. At a point in the second debate, Hillary was so upbeat: jiggling her shoulders and laughing at this man who she probably thought was going to get zero vote. I think this goes beyond leftism. Americans were faced with a tough choice but one of those choices, to a large extent, seemed to be doing everything to lose, but still, he won.
He made fun of the disabled. It was disgusting to watch. He hinted that veterans who got PTSD were weak. It was disgusting to imagine. He said that when you are famous, you can assault women: for this, the man he said it to lost his job, but, he, Donald Trump still ran for president (and won.) The New York times made a two page spread of the people and organisations and ideas that he had insulted or dissed since he announced his candidacy (that is two full newspaper spread of insults.) he has called women ‘dogs’ ‘slobs’ ‘pigs’. He said about a woman, ‘you could see there is blood coming out of her wherever;’ and another woman who ran against him in the republican primaries ‘Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?’ even Pope Francis got a dose of this retard’s idiocy. And finally, because I am Nigerian, I have had a few friends ask why it concerns me so much. I find that a fairly irritating question. We are talking about a man who thinks that climate change is a hoax. Who tweeted that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” How does it concern me?
It is shocking that people would rather have that retard lead them. But I have learnt that you cannot judge people based on their opinion as everybody has the right to an opinion. (Except when you are being an asshole, you can keep them to yourself.)  Therefore, no, I have nothing to say to Americans who voted him. My trouble is that having ran such a vitriolic, disabled-shaming, non-white-shaming, Muslim-shaming, Islam-shaming, women-shaming, campaign, the fact that he won means that there is so much more wrong with the world than we thought.
America, I wish you the best. 
No matter what, love trumps hate.

Friday, 14 October 2016

...that Utopia is Inexistent

I have been wondering about sad books for a little while now. I think it started sometime in August when I finished a novel called My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult, a novel which just shattered me into a million pieces. Currently, I am reading a book called If I Stay by Gayle Forman and I am hardly fifteen pages in but I am already getting heartbroken. I am just going to share a paragraph from it here to give a feel of the first few pages of the book:
“I see Dad first. Even from several feet away, I can make out the protrusion of the pipe in his jacket pocket. “Dad,” I call, but as I walk toward him, the pavement grows slick and there are gray chunks of what looks like cauliflower. I know what I’m seeing right away but it somehow does not immediately connect back to my father. What springs into my mind are those news reports about tornadoes or fires, how they’ll ravage one house but leave the one next door intact. Pieces of my father’s brain are on the asphalt.”
Here’s something else: the narrator is not ‘intact’, she’s also extremely hurt but I will leave it at that for the time being.
So why do we like sad books?
I feel it is worse for me because I tend to seek out sad books. I make conscious efforts to search for and find sad books. On kindle I search for the tag ‘sad’, I go on and search for books before buying, I look for quotes that seem sad, I find sad taglines and such things. When I go to bookstores, I read blurbs for hours of a plethora on books to seek out which ones I envisage could be the saddest and buy them. I am a sucker for sad stories. And here is the thing, I am not alone. Many people prefer heart-wrenchingly, paralyzingly sad books to the happier, sugary ones.
I have a few things to say on this.
There’s a Greek term in the field of dramatic art called Catharsis which basically describes the effects that tragedy (and comedy) have on the audience. The dictionary defines Catharsis as I would like to describe it for the purpose of this post: ‘the act or process of purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art.’ For me, I see it as this: We come to sad stories because we want to be relieved of something even if that something may only exist in our minds or in our thoughts. I read sad books because they tend to have this ability to cleanse me of infirmities that are only emotional in existence. I am purged when I read a sad book. It is a somewhat difficult concept, I must confess.
Also, when things are too happy, they seem unreal, unnatural. A sad book is something that is likelier to happen in the real world because the world is actually a sad, messed up place where bad things happen to good people. Life is not a bed of roses and sad books remind us of this. Happily ever afters, most of the time, only ever happens in fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White and Rapunzel (and Shrek).
I enjoy a book that takes my emotions on a rollercoaster journey. I need characters that are flawed, just like me, broken, just like me. I want to be able to sympathize with a character in a book because life is happening to him, because life is happening to her as it happens to every other person. I want to be able to question the things that I have accepted with open arms before and I want the writer to give me a fantastic reason to question those things. I want to be told by a good story that many times, life is no utopia: that utopia is inexistent, that happiness is not a butterfly and that it is okay for things not to be perfect.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Happiness Is Not A Butterfly

‘I hate you, I wish to never see you again,’ she said the words as though they were meant to leave her mouth and transform into a machete and slash your throat.
The day you met her, the rain began suddenly. The clouds became dark and saturated like cotton-wool dipped in iodine. You were walking back to your off campus apartment from class and she was walking back to somewhere from somewhere. You scurried for cover when it began to rain – you found a shade by the Social Science Lecture Theatre. She joined you seconds later, she was drenched already and you wanted to ask her what the point of finding a shade was since she was already that soaked, it made you laugh.
‘What is funny?’ She asked.
‘Oh I’m sorry. It has nothing to do with you.’
‘It better not,’ she hissed. Apparently, the rain, apart from having soaked her, had also enraged her.
‘You don’t have to take your anger out on me,’ you said, ‘it’s not my fault that you got drenched.’
‘But you were laughing at me.’
‘I was not laughing at you, I was laughing at something I thought about.’ You lied.
‘Yea, right.’
‘Would you like a handkerchief?’ You said, extending your napkin to her and for the first time, getting a glimpse of her face. She looked like an October afternoon, the way her hair made a bun behind her head and the wetness glued a strand to her forehead, the way her Indigo coloured T-shirt had “Mobile Orchestra” written over it and a set of trumpets painted beneath the writing, the way her nails were polished purple and the way her black jean trouser stopped just before her ankle and her yellow, watermarked sandals had red sand on them.
She collected the handkerchief, ‘thank you.’ She wiped water off her arms and then off her face, very gently, so that she would not also wipe off her makeup, then she adjusted the strand of hair that had been plastered on her forehead so that it went behind her ear.
‘You look beautiful,’ you said. She looked at you and suppressed an urge to smile then returned your napkin. ‘How do you do that?’
‘Do what?’ She asked.
‘Suppress a smile so effortlessly.’
She laughed. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
‘Really, you should not do that. There are probably a million scientific researches that prove that doing that is bad for you. What’s your name?’
‘My name is Jake; short for Jacob.’
Your first date was to the cinema where you both saw an action movie. You thought it was gory and violent and had too many guns and had too many people killing people, and she thought it was awesome. Your second date was to the zoo, you liked the baby possums, their cuteness was affective, she liked the lions and she recorded the sound of their roars and used it as her ringtone.
It was after you had spent three months together that you knew she was special and so you needed to breakup with her: You were both seated on a bench under a neem tree in a park and a butterfly, the variegated colour of a snail’s shell, landed on her lap. She smiled. ‘Someone once said that Happiness is a butterfly; if you try to chase it, you may never catch it, However, sometimes, you could be sitting under a tree, chatting with the love of your life and minding your business and it comes and alights on your lap. You are my happiness, Jacob.’
You smiled because you did not know how else to react. You did not want to be anybody’s happiness the same way you did not want anybody to be your happiness. She was becoming everything, but nobody could become that because you had promised yourself that you would never let anyone get so close to you that they could hurt you. When you were eight years old, your mother left. She took off with a rich man and left you with your father. You never recovered because she was everything, she was heaven in the most golden, glorified definition of the place; she just up and left you alone and cold like a chewing gum whose flavour had been chewed off of it. Years later, you decided that life was better lived without attachments.
That morning, when she called to ask if you were home because she wanted to come over, it took you a minute to say yes, you were home and she could come, you knew you had to do it that day.
‘I’m sorry, Grace.’ You said after she had said that she never wanted to see you again and she had stood up and had picked up her bag and had faced the wall and had begun to sob.
‘Do you know what your problem is?’ She asked and you wondered if the question was supposed to be a rhetorical one. ‘You think you are immune to love. You think you are impervious. But you are not, you see? Nobody is.’
You wanted her to leave; you did not want to hear those theories of hers that she choked people with: This person thinks too little of himself. That person walks as though heaven and earth was created only for her. ‘I am sorry,’ you said again. ‘This just can’t work, you are a good girl, Grace. You deserve way better than me.’
She finally left. She left the way twilight leaves at dusk: the way darkness usurps the lavender: even though you would rather not have it, you cannot stop the darkness from taking over and so you have to let go.
Happiness is not a butterfly, you said to yourself after she left. You do not sit down and wait for it because you may be served with something that you do not want. Happiness is the prerogative of each individual. You find your own or you let your own go, maybe someone else would find it.