The funny news is this: this Sunday morning in Lagos, President Jonathan genuinely baffled us with the statement that, without the backup activity of prayer warriors, Nigeria’s security status would have been even more screwed up than it currently is. Now, we know that you, our readers, are prayer-addicts and good luck—no pun—with that! But when a democratically elected President makes such a statement on public safety, you have to—as they say in England—shine your eyes well-well. Although, on the bright side: at least you know the President has a security plan in place.
Now, reliance on prayer is not so shabby a security blueprint, (although we consider it totally ass-fucked), considering that it seems to work well enough for the Vatican. The problem is, while the Vatican has Angel Michael on speed dial, someone in the Ministry of Defense forgot to obtain VIP pass for final approval from God—or whatever witchery you have to perform to get your prayers working—for, no sooner had the President finished his statement than Boko Haram flipped him a finger and pulled another dick move—in what has to be the most astonishing case of conflicting reliance on divine instructions.
Now, of course, Boko Haram isn’t a new issue in the country. In fact, every well bred Nigerian—unlike us—knows that a situation stops being a “pressing issue” after three days of non-resolution by the government. And, after two weeks it stops being an issue altogether. And accordingly, the most successful public policy of Nigerian governments has been: “Hang on guys, let’s allow this one to blow off by itself.” And if the particular public official ranks high on the asshole scale—they may even pass it off as an unsolvable spiritual problem.
Common sense says Boko Haram isn’t going to blow off by itself, and an offering-load of prayers will not resurrect one dead victim. But this is Nigeria, and we love to screw around with vital situations, and that’s why the government is committed to investing prayer into public issues—and that’s why religious leaders have tried to re-brand the president as some Old Testament king.
And as long as the Nigerian government continue to muddle personal spiritual issues with public policy issues they will continue to screw the job they are given. But, naturally, the government has always responded to social criticism by mistaking unhappiness with discontent: but Nigerians are not merely discontent with the half-assed attitude a government that relies on magic—miracles, if you wish—they are truly unhappy about it.
But GEJ is a sly dog. Instead of facing his critics on the continued Boko Haram insurgency, it is plain easier for him to file the problem away as a “God vs Satan” affair, and leave Oritsejafor and his book club members to sort it out. Afterall, no “sane” Nigerian really expects Goodluck Jonathan, Mortal, to do all the work when it comes to waging war against the damn Devil.
And when the majority of Nigerians are wired to think this way, then the government wins the lottery. And here’s the lesson for today: the Nigerian government counts on your approval to a spiritual argument. Even more, it counts on your inability to detect when your brain is being messed with. You see, GEJ isn’t just appreciative of your prayers, he’s also appreciative of your tendency to forget the underlying issues by the time you are done reading this line.
We apologise to our long-suffering readers. We’ve been away for too long that we have no idea how to craft an appropriate apologies without sounding like clingy, readership needing, page-view counting blog. Which we totally are. But you see, the Nigeria’s madhouse effect is gradually beginning to reflect on our carefully maintained schedules and we’re also going topsy-turvy. Really, there’s been lots of fun activities going around in the past few weeks. It’s a combination of : million dollar rewards, romance in the banks, wars and rumours of wars, killing of the gays, and the most important of all—Big Brother Africa.
But of course, it’s no real concern to you what assholes are waging wars, and which farmer’s ox is gored as long as you continue to have your three square meals and DSTV subscriptions. After all, life is short and fleeting, and the essence of getting up at unholy hours and going to bed at unholier hours, commuting to work with the suffering of a martyr, is to be able to be as happy as as practicable in this up and down world. that agreed, why then do folks get all riled up over issues that, when all the cards are down, neither takes a morsel of food nor cancels their right to watch that sweet African Magic?
And this brings us to the story of Lilliput (and Blefuscu–which is unimportant) and the issue of the Lilliputian Big-Enders and Small-Enders. These names would sound familiar to those of you who actually sat up to listen to the boring drone of that damned literature teacher (we will pray for your wasted childhood) instead of fantasizing over the potential response to the love letter hastily scrawled on a sheet of 2A Onward Big Exercise Book.
But back to literature class, the aforesaid Lilliput and Blefuscu were two neighboring island “kingdoms” in Jonathan Swifts book, Gulliver’s Travels. (Insert appropriate expression of recognition here.) Now, Lilliput had been at war with Blefuscu for a while, principally because the trouble seeking Blefuscu encouraged and supported some errant Lilliputians who had refused to toe the generally accepted beliefs of Lilliput. You see, it is a religious belief of Lilliput that a boiled egg (yep, religion does talk about food) should be broken “at the convenient end” before it is eaten, so the scripture said. Traditionally, “convenient end” had been interpreted as the “big” end of the egg—until some folks decided it actually meant the “small” end of the egg. The Small-Enders eventually converted most people to this religious thinking and gained the rulership of the kingdom. But some die-hard Big-Enders, now the minority, would have none of that shit. They got reinforcement from Blefuscu and a series of religious civil war began in which “…one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown.” Yeah, it was that bloody, they took that egg-breaking business very seriously.
But you see, it’s easy to make light of this story when you are unable to apply it to current realities. There are lots of Big-End and Small-End issues that cause unnecessary friction in real, everyday life. Of course, it is proper to hold a belief and stick to it, but it is improper to force that belief on others. Even more improper: taking violence or the threat of violence in order to force that belief on others. Because, as someone said, beliefs are like big swinging dicks—it’s good to have one, but bad to wave it in someone’s face. Only a club, tribe, cult and other exclusive societies requires that everybody must maintain the same beliefs. But in a complicated, admittedly fucked-up world, such as we have today, beliefs have gotten to complicated and numerous that everyone had better share the damned space together or simply blow up the world in the process of determining which belief will survive and which one must die.
And that’s the lesson for today, folks: the world doesn’t belong to anybody. You meet stuff here, you’ll leave stuff here. And all the stuff you think you’ve built up forever can be blown off in the puff of a madman’s nuclear bomb in a part of the world you didn’t even know exists. But as long as you’ve got to share this tiny portion of Space with other people, history has proven that any attempt by any majority to dominate a minority for the purpose of forcing everyone to behave in a particular direction always results in disastrous consequences. So you see, it boils down to everyone having a peace out or everyone having a piss out.
Please follow our brilliant handle @idlemindset on Twitter so we can keep Boko Haram away from Nigeria! 🙂
Today, let’s start with weddings. Or more accurately, let’s start with wedding rings. Now, this is just a random starting point, but wedding rings will do for now, seeing as we love nothing better than to upset your Mondays. Of course, you know what a wedding ring represents: that joyous circle of golden happiness symbolic of the pure and everlasting mushiness between a man and a woman (or between any other combination of gender you prefer). This ring is anticipated by most women (or any other gender you prefer) as the most profound gift a man (or any other gender you prefer) can give as a sign of true love. Right?
Wrong. Well, partially wrong. The historical origins of wedding rings are a whole distance separate from their current perception. The wedding ring wasn’t a romantic exchange between a man and his love. Hell, no. It was simply the symbolic gift from the groom’s family to the bride to indicate final payment of the agreed price. There was nothing romantic and mushy about the ring giving—it was simply an exchange of valuable goodies for the wedding.
And by “exchange of valuable goodies”, we mean: the dude got the intact virgin in exchange for the gold ring and the other jewelry his family gave her family. Of course, the modern symbolism of the ring has changed from that historical origin. The idea that the wedding ring is a symbol of “eternal love and devotion” is a newer idea; men didn’t even start wearing rings until the 20th century, presumably after unbearable pressure from the female rights movement to the effect that, what’s sauce for the goose should not be a three-course meal for the gander.
Now, where are we going with this excursion into marital traditions? Nowhere, really, like we said earlier. Except to point out the lesson to be learnt from the difference between one’s perception and actual reality. You see, prior to your opening this page, your perception of the wedding ring and its origins was, probably, that the ring has always been some sort of sacred romantic bond, instead of a sacred economic one. But this is irrelevant now—seeing as the whole job has been corkscrewed into a new meaning today. What is relevant, however, is that not all that glitters is gold.
Let’s look at another example of misguided perceptions. If you are an avid explorer of twitter bios—like most of us jobless people around here—you must have come across the anomaly of folks who seem to know absolutely nothing about themselves, describing themselves in superlative terms that tells a huge lesson in the boundlessness of the human ego. And this falsity applies both to their location—and you’ll be surprised how many people confuse “London” for “Lagos”—and also to the simple fact of their own self-awareness.
And that’s what Socrates and the ancient Greeks meant when they said, “Gnōthi Seauton” or in a more lively language: “know yourself.” This same idea is continued by Shakespeare in Hamlet, when Polonius says to his son: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Or to put it in proper English: if you understand your own nature well enough, you won’t suck up to other people.
And that’s the moral for today: the ability to define one’s self accurately is the starting point to achieving one’s goals. You should know the difference between one thing and another for as the effing philosophers put it: A = A and nothing else. A society in which perception and reality are confused with each other is going to be a damned inefficient one. Today’s society, stimulated with the religious idea that faith is a key to achieving anything, has gone gaga on this principle, even way beyond the intentions of the original teaching. And so, for faith, we substitute a confused misrepresentation of reality and define our circumstances through our perceptions instead of the facts. But in the smart words of Jesus, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Now, that’s a thought on being realistic.
You know we are asking for trouble on Idlemindset when we reference God in what is clearly an irreligious blog. Now that its virtually becoming Nigerian law not to take God’s name in vain, we really can’t predict the response of you, our dear, religiously sentimental, readers. Nigeria is a religious country and no one screws around with their God or Gods or gods. No one, that is, except us. Of course, when we use the word “God” on this blog, we expect you to fill in the relevant, itty-bitty details by yourself: e.g. gender, looks, musical preference, number of angels and tolerance level for bullshit. In fact, for our own purpose, and because we love women, we will consider God as a kindly ageless woman with plenty angels (three of whom will die shortly), listens to Afro hip-hop and has an unlimited tolerance for the bullshit we do everyday.
But today’s post is not geared towards a psychoanalysis of the nature of God, nor is it about defending the independence of God—She is perfectly capable of doing that Herself, otherwise She would have resigned the title “God” long ago. Instead, we’ll focus our precious time on examining that alarming, and almost specifically Nigerian, culture of invoking God in every half-assed achievement scenario, however irrelevant. And the latest of these infatuation with spiritual controllers is the relegation of God to the role of a favoritism prone, country partisan, asshole of a football official who lets one team win and double-crosses the other team.
Here’s an example of how prevalent that mentality is: at a barbershop yesterday, during the match against Ivory Coast, a Nigerian watching the play had a near heart attack when someone playfully suggested that some juju must have been involved in the seemingly improved performance of the Super Eagles. This cardiac-prone gentleman, like a desperate defense attorney, seriously began to rebuke his fellow fan for ascribing to Ifa what was clearly the handiwork of the Christian God. “This match belongs to Jehovah” he said with profound insight, and three angels collapsed and died on the spot (we warned you).
You see, playfully ascribing a football match to juju is one thing, seriously ascribing it to God, instead of hard work, practice and random factors, is another. The uncomfortable truth is this: God is freaking indifferent to the African Cup of Nations. And the Barclay’s Premier League, and the World Cup. But apparently, Mr. Keshi clearly thinks God is a Nigerian, because during the press conference after the victorious match, he confidently proclaimed that “God is wonderful, the boys showed character.” In fact, he started the conference with the verbal equivalent of tossing the ancestors a libation before commencing a social drink: “First of all, I want to thank God….”
Now here’s the crux of today’s post. Its okay to thank God in everything. But superstitious belief should not be confused with a personal thanksgiving. In a country where religion precedes common sense and folks are convinced that supernatural forces, and not human factors, decide what happens, we should not hesitate to fight against that mentality wherever it pops up. We will achieve a great deal more if we thank God less and work harder, than if we thank God more and work less—and it doesn’t matter what your religious leaders tell you. In any case they will be the first to abscond if this country crashes from the weight of their superstitious influences.
And God doesn’t mind your focusing less on superstitions, really. That’s why She gave you that pound of meat contained inside your skull—so get the fuck out and use it. And just like a fish doesn’t wait for God before using its fins, or a bird before using its wings, you shouldn’t sit on your sorry ass, praying, waiting for meat. Unless, of course, you live a zoo. Otherwise, you just have to work for your own goals. God is awesomely indifferent to your football matches, your fixtures, your players or your coach. And the same applies to a lot of everyday life and activity. The supernatural realm is very, very indifferent to a lot of things you consider very, very important.
And so what’s the use of religion and spirituality? Religion is an internal influence, not an external one. Your religion is a personal spiritual business, its not a physical force that will change things for you. Your religious beliefs will not change the laws of nature, logic and human psychology. Whatever your religion, either primitive ancestral worship or the more advanced Christianity, Islam and their several counterparts, if you jump from a skyscraper and fall on a rock below, you will break something. If you work studiously towards a goal, you will get it. Religion could give you knowledge, but it won’t give you resources. Religion could give you enlightenment, but it won’t give you progress. Religion could give you inspiration but it won’t give you success. You just have to do that freaking work yourself. And with that said, get off this blog and go do something useful.
P.S. Remember to order my short play “Death in the Dawn” here. It will not change your life, but it will entertain you some. 😀 😀 😀
Let’s take time to laugh at ourselves today. And what better way to light up the laugh lines than with the hallowed traditions of this country? You see, there’s this line of the Nigerian national anthem that’s obviously there for shit and giggles. Actually, every line of the anthem is for laughs, but this line is particularly extra comical: “The labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”
The hilarity here is not that we have no heroes in the objective sense (we do, seriously) nor is it that we have consigned the labours of these heroes to the recycle bin (we have). The real joke is that our problem is much more serious: we have no freaking idea what a hero is or who our heroes are. These days, a number of odd figures show up on the hero radar, the word “hero” has lost all meaning and the criteria for selection has become quite jumbled.
So here’s a quick test: if you’re able to identify Uti in the picture above, but not Saro-Wiwa in the picture further above, then congrats! You’re the fucking problem with this country. But before you jump off the nearest bridge—a solution which we highly recommend—its not entirely your fault that Uti is more recognizable than Ken.
The creepy value system most of us were bred with has blatantly encouraged us to regard winning a million Naira in an effortless venture as a more worthwhile life achievement than fighting social injustice without pay. Even worse, our moral and religious systems have encouraged the idea that a good spiritual life is necessarily rewarded with riches.
That is why our leaders keep getting away with corruption. Because deep down, we value those leaders who cram their mouths full much more than those who go hungry for us. In the latest installment of materialistic hero-worship, lots of folks went gaga over the fact that some Nigerian woman took Oprah’s place at the top of the dollar counting scale. In typical Nigerian fashion, this was enough reason to be proud to be a Nigerian. Worse, this non-news was taken seriously by a lot of people.
Of course, it is irrelevant to most of the Alakija hero worshipers that Oprah’s influence over the years derived from what was basically community service, and not from the number of dollar bills in her wallet. This inability to discern what is worthwhile is why the prayer meetings are going to speed up like an expressway on drugs, as pastors get new material to feed their congregation. And all over Nigeria, folks will keep on begging God desperately for their chance at mouth-watering riches in a misguided attempt to involve the divine in material aspirations.
Now here’s the lesson today: a people are defined by their heroes. Heroes are ordinary people who manage to do extraordinary things. Extraordinary things such as defending the weaker and battling the stronger. We used to have such heroes; some kickass awe-inspiring heroes that stood their grounds before teargas and gun bullets. We used to have men and women who stood and died for what was right.
From the days of the Aba Women’s Riot to the nights of Occupy Nigeria. We had voices that spoke without fear or guilt. Yes, Superman and Batman used to live among us. But they are mostly gone now. What we have today are bratty guys who win reality shows and silver-fed women with oil blocks. These are our freaking heroes. Well played, Nigerians. You messed up in heroic proportions.