Its another cheery Monday, and therefore, a very fine time to throw punches at our cherished social norms. So, let’s start off with this insignificant news item from last Friday that still has many Nigerians mystified: the President paid a surprise visit to the Nigerian Police College in Ikeja, Lagos.
But, as the constant readers of this blog will tell you, we try not to take things at face value on this blog. Accordingly, we are intrigued that the President’s sudden visit to a long forgotten institution has to be—for want of a more appropriate term–-coded. There shouldn’t be anything to hide, really. But the nature of the visit, the suddenness of its occurrence, and the general distrust we have for our leaders suggest that the President’s visit has more to it that meets the eye. In fact, it must have involved a very very pressing matter.
Of course, the President must be worried sick about the consistent welfare of our beloved police force. We all are.. Worried sick, that is. But, however innocuous his visit was, the fact is that the simplest governmental gesture cannot be trusted. So, we cynically listen to Abati’s praise of the event and draw our own conclusions: maybe the President went for a private meeting, at best; or at worst, someone is angling to for a major police college contract.
This reasoning itself is a consequence of our government’s attitude towards information feedback and appraisal. To translate that into blog English: the government doesn’t give two fucks about letting the people know what it’s up to. Policies, activities, decisions: there’s always something, somewhere, left unaccounted and unsaid. Instead, we have plenty hidden agendas and public denials. Therefore it becomes hard to trust the government. Turn on the TV and listen to a public officer speak, and you just can’t be sure he is saying the honest truth.
But we have little time to waste on government talk today. It is generally agreed that our government is fucked-up. The real problem is this: a fucked-up government is merely a composition of fucked-up individuals who have emerged from a fucked-up society. The people whom we elect into government publicly feed us with the same kind of crap we like served to us, hot and steaming, in our own private lives.
We are quite comfortable with deception—either in the name of government policy or spiritual authority. We lie to others and other people lie to us. Hereabouts, we are all public saints. Oh yeah. Especially when it comes to morals. We are all fine religious folks: we abhor masturbation, reject foul language, condemn abortions, ban porn, criminalise homosexuality, censor Big Brother Africa shower scenes, strongly oppose nudity in the media, crucify pre-marital or extra-marital sex and lie through our teeth with a straight face.
We have all managed to consistently project the hypocrisy of being so good and nice and saintly and Christian, without vice or sin or blemish. We are so spiritual, the situation would be outright hilarious, if not for the social implications. Especially when the evidence around suggests we are not. And yet, we all know the truth: we love the nasties. So, here’s some unsolicited advice: instead of clinging stubbornly to a false spirituality, why not just embrace the reality of the sin?
That ability to say: “Yes, I did it” takes some magnificent balls, but it can go a long way to making your life more peaceful. Cut out the crap and let the world know what you are, a character quite separate from what you hope to be. Tell the world boldly that you’re not above natural human desires and instincts, including drinking inappropriate amounts at the local nightclub and spilling it out all over the toilet seat.
And this is the moral for today: honesty is refreshing for the mind. You have no one to fear when you are an honest sinner, you have everyone to fear when you are a dishonest saint. And when we are done removing our individual self-deceptions, then we can then take a broom to our shitty government and clean it out properly.
The old testament is full of killings and genocide. Whole tribes slain, women raped, towns and cities pillaged. From the killing of Abel to the captivity of Israel, it is a continuous story of sin and retribution. And the wages of sin was death. Literal death. No kidding.
One of the stories tells of a bunch of kids dissing Elijah the Prophet. The man summoned a bear to devour the kids. Just think about it and let a shiver run through you. Kids, man! A bear! To eat them? For calling you names? A “prophet” who tosses children at wild animals today will be lynched by angry parents.
But Christians, and many other non-Christians don’t shudder at the bloodletting of the Old Testament. The tragedies and deaths in verses and chapters seem far too remote for them to worry about the details. Instead they pick up the moral lesson to be learnt and continue to the next story. But the death of Jesus is the theme of almost 27 books. A situation best explained by the the words attributed to Stalin: “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.”
This is not just a Christian predilection. Its all too human. We ignore large numbers and focus on the smaller ones. However the death of one man is as tragic as the other–and you shouldn’t fault him for dying with company. The Rwandan Genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, 9/11, Biafran Civil War–we bunch up all sorts of individual deaths in one mouthable phrase. But we go haywire over a singular event: Anita Smith, age 24, a banker, single, was murdered.
And that is why I refuse to mourn individual tragedies any more than I mourn collective ones. I am sober about the death of a single person, but life goes on for me within the hour. The statistical death is as tragic as the single one. The fact that I know someone’s name does not make his death more important than the one whose name I do not know. The death of the people of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah is as sad as that of Michael Jackson. And when I read of those two events, I read them with thoughtfulness–not indifference for one and sorrow for the other. Statistics are tragic too, and the tragic is also statistical.