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.
Here’s the good news: we’re bringing you an Idlemindset article. The bad news? We’re still assholes—and not the good type either. We’re the evil kind of asshole—the ones who just won’t give a fuck. Not even after you’ve set it up all oiled and ready to go, eventually driving you to mocking insanity for your inability to get that anal you’ve always fantasied about…. Wait. How did we get here?
Okay, let’s just focus. Especially on the positive aspects of what you’re doing right now—using your employer’s time to read this absolutely work-unrelated post, and getting paid for it at the end of the month. Think about that. Wow, right? A life of free money.
We’ll that’s why we have unions, democracy and traffic lights: so we can protect the weak elements of society against the caprices of the stronger ones. Especially if by “weak”, you mean “poor, struggling, downtrodden masses” and by “strong” you mean “rich as fuck.” And so today, you can do absolutely nothing at all and still get paid like hell for that nothing. And this works very well, generally, because some people fought for your right to wank during office hours a long time ago. And that recognition of human rights is part of why more countries are shifting towards some form of democratic government.
Democratic ideals are good for political business: you see, when the people are happy with their lives, families and jobs (or at least, when they think they are happy: which is also generally acceptable) then the government is happy. But, democracy can be just as terrible as a dictatorship when mishandled by the people and their government. And more so when the people forget the whole point of the democratic process: freedom. And that’s why Socrates had to call out the fuck-ups of democracy by distinguishing between democracy for the purpose of dealing with “shallow issues” and democracy for the purpose of dealing with “urgent human questions”.
Now, we’re not saying Socrates is the smartest of the bunch—afterall, he chose to die by drinking poison rather than lose what was essentially, a twit-fight—but, the dude had a fair point. You see, democracy as a game of numbers is good for making decisions about the allocation of communal goods and resources: these are, ultimately, “shallow issues”. But when it comes to decisions affecting rights, justice, fairness and equity—aka “urgent human questions”—you just can’t leave it to a game of numbers and the will of the people. Especially when those numbers are out to kill you.
Rights—however defined—transcend numbers. But when some clever politician argues that the “will of the majority” in a democratic setting makes an action okay, then this fallacy is certain to get a fair number of people confused. But anyone who has ever seen a violent “majority” mob knows that the argument is absolute nonsense. A mob, whether legalised or not, doesn’t care about “urgent human issues”.
But by definition, a mob is irrational. Democracy is not—and shouldn’t be—a license for the majority to destroy the opinion of the minority. Or vice-versa. No matter how reprehensible the other side of the argument is to you.
It’s a simple idea, really, but most people fail to see it—because humans are essentially wired to be assholes. And here’s the moral for today: if the discussion is about roads, airports and election timetables, democracy works fine; but when the debate shifts to the repression of the minority, then the fact that the majority are all for it still doesn’t make it right. And if you’re really convinced that everyone has to compulsorily share your opinion—then get an island.
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.
Today, we want to take a look at one of our national psychological deficiencies. Of course, we do that a lot on this blog—taking looks, that is, not that we are psychologically deficient (although many of our readers will disagree with that claim). For instance, we’ve talked about our misguided idea of heroism here, made fun at our love for “food” here and then risked inciting your anger here by curling up our noses at your constant lookout for divine favour.
You see, we could talk about politics and yab the government all day long, its easy to do. But in reality, we won’t be able to change the mental state of the government until we change our own mentality first. And what better way to inspire change than through well tested fables? So let’s start with a well known fable, certainly familiar to our readers who had already contracted puberty before the invention of the world wide web. Its the classic story of the farmer, his son and his donkey. We said “his donkey” and not “his ass” because we don’t want to offend some of our more sensitive readers.
Now, here’s the condensed version of the story. A man and his young son are on their way to town, and the two were accompanied by a donkey, for no clear reason. Father and young son started off the trip to the mall by walking beside the donkey—but folks criticised them for being damned hypocrites and urged them to ride the blasted ass. So, the father rides the ass and the boy runs along. But this solo ass-riding by the man doesn’t sit well with some other people, and they tweet comments accusing the father of child abuse. So the son rides the ass instead,but the family have to contend with twitter critics who sub the son for lacking respect for the elderly. Frustrated, both men ride the animal, but folks post pictures on facebook showing them as being cruel to animals. Frustrated, the father and son tie the donkey to a pole and they carry it on their shoulders— and inspired a perfect LOL moment for generations to come.
The ostensible moral of the story is, of course, that you can’t please everybody, and, also, that donkeys are bad for business. But there’s another lesson we can extract from the story which, for the purpose of our discussion we will call: “The Danger of Spinelessness.” This moral, though connected to the moral of avoiding trying to please everyone, is also distinct in itself. Essentially, the Danger of Spinelessness states that when you lack principles, you will be shifted right and left by every change in circumstance.
The story illustrates the life of a man who has no principles. Here was a farmer who had no clear definition of why he had a donkey and what he expected from the donkey. His attitude to the donkey was dependent on the current fashion trend. He was inspired, not by an innate principle of life, but by kowtowing to the wishes of everybody— a way of life more aptly described as “Mission Impossible”.
Unfortunately, quite a number of folks around us—and ourselves too—are without defining principles. The principles of a clown are not necessarily a socially acceptable norm, but they define the clown well enough. As we’ve pointed out before, if your principles are definite, you will spend more time achieving your goals and waste less time defending yourself to people.
And that is why heroes are getting rare—too many people prefer to swim with the circumstances rather than being principled. In this sense, “principled” does not mean disciplined or harsh, it simply means staying true to one’s philosophies irrespective of the circumstances in which one is. But what if you have no principles? Well, that’s awesomely unfortunate. What do you want to achieve in life? How do you intend to get it? What will you do when you meet an obstacle? You should be able to coherently answer these questions or quietly close this page now.
Take a look at one of the daily instances that shows how people can be one thing somewhere and the opposite elsewhere. The bossy team leader becomes subservient when reporting to the MD, the usually irate MD becomes a sniveling lackey when discussing with the Chairman, the ordinarily arrogant Chairman toadies up to the Minister of Commerce, and the disciplinarian Minister is a “yes man” to the President. A man is confident in one place and a sycophant in another. A man is all for the truth in one place, carefully editorial in another.
Of course, philosophies change, and people abandon some principles and take up new ones. Russia moved away from the communist mindset and America is gradually moving away from absolute capitalism. But a change in principle should be more like the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly—which is fundamental, and not like the “change” of the chameleon—which is circumstantial. When reality proves a principle to be wrong and unworkable, by all means abandon it and fashion out a better one. As Lowell, said, the foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.
And that’s the bone of our beef today: developing the ability to decipher between what is principled and what is circumstantial. Circumstances will always change. Life has always been cyclical. Your philosophies shouldn’t be defined by who you are with, what position you occupy or where you are. Your principles should be identifiable and persistent. Because, at the end of the day, what matters is not the circumstances that surrounded you, but the person you were. But, we will make no attempt to judge you on this blog, because after all, we say “ass” when we promised not to say it, and that’s just unprincipled of us.