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.
This is to inform the general public that…. No, no, that wouldn’t do. That’s the kind of prelude that sends a shiver up your spine. There’s something terrifying about information to “the general public” that makes a person nervous when the words are spoken. We can’t put a finger on this, but we know it has a lot to do with growing up under the era of government-owned TV stations. You just know that any information for the “general public” is going to be detrimental to your welfare.
So instead of that “public service” crap, we will just proceed with our usual flair. Today, on Idlemindset, if possible, we will discuss some less controversial issues. There will be no politics, no religion and no Arsenal.
You see, as clearly stated in today’s title and hinted in the first paragraph, we have a minor announcement for our constant readers. Brace yourselves, folks, our announcement is coming—we are dumping this blog in search of greener pastures.
Just kidding. This is the real announcement: for a while, we will be updating Idlemindset fortnightly instead of weekly. Why? Because we are currently working on a book—and we have gotten to that stage of production where the slightest distraction can set every plan off tangent. Of course, your weekly dose of polite sarcasm and social irreverence is important to us, but we have to give up some of our pharmaceutical duties. So, you can close this page now and get back to work.
But if you’re interested in little details such as the title of the book, what kind of book, and how often do we brush our teeth, well here’s a little information. Its a collection of sorry tales and so the title is, unimaginatively, Sorry Tales. We could try and tell you more now, but publishers and editors being such assholes, we never really know what’s going to come out from the printing presses. But here’s a tip on the book: plenty people get blown up, others get shot, some folks fall in love, others plot strategies and build empires, lots of very exciting things. What we lack in imaginative titles, we make up for in imaginative stories.
Meanwhile, instead of twiddling your thumbs and waiting for us to post something more stimulating than a book announcement, you can check out some of our earlier posts (there’s plenty excitement in there too!) and also subscribe for notifications of new postings by clicking a button somewhere on the left side of this page. If that doesn’t really do it for you, or you think we’re really, really just being idle, well, you can write a book too. 🙂
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.
Good news everyone: this is our last blog post for the year! Difficult as it is for some of you, our admiring readers, to believe, we don’t actually sit crossed-leg on the writing table, smoking profoundly on a kick-ass pipe, while the Good Lord inspires us with all these awesome posts. Hell, no! We work at these things, bro! These freaking blogs are actually brow-sweating work, just slightly below being forced to watch a Nollywood video for 12 hours without a toilet break.
And that’s why over the months, we’ve been chuffed at your appreciation, admiration and even the rare insults too. In fact, we wake up on mid-nights just to re-read your comments and count the page views one by one.
That said, today’s post, in the usual end-of-the-year fashion, is a quick introspection and an opportunity to ponder on all those missed calls we had during the year from unknown phone numbers. Who called us? Why did they call us? Would they ever call back? Was it some new business or a secret admirer? We may never know the answers to these most intricate of life’s questions. But what we know for sure is this: for those of you who have been brave enough to keep checking out our weekly editions—congrats—the size of the FG’s recurrent expenditure got nothing on your balls! And that’s even more true for you, ladies!
Unfortunately, though, your continued approval of our blog, dear readers, means our divinely inspired mission to annoy the hell out of every Nigerian, until we get banned in not less than 30 states, is becoming less and less realistic. Accordingly, this increase in page views is very sad news for all of us here. However, while we think up new strategies to get you raving mad until you smash your internet devices against the wall as you scream for our heads, we will continue to bring you our best combination of polite sarcasm and social irreverence. Meanwhile, our lesson has been learned: Nigerians have a high tolerance for boolsheet.
This tolerance for the most insipid and transparent of political, social and religious lies is more painful than a triple cockscrew wound up the anal cavities. It is even more painful this year, 2012; because, when in January, the country’s masses and not-quite-masses came together to protest the dumbfuckery of Goodluck Jonathan’s fuel subsidy removal, there was, quite almost, the possibility of a welcome change in the affairs of the country.
For a brief, but clear moment, the Nigerian people actually held political power—and the machinery of government was clearly submissive. But that moment was lost as soon as it came, because, when you have power without a plan, you will either lose the power or lose your life. So we lost the power, no thanks to the trickery and cowardice of the unions—as well as our own clueless stance—and went back to our freaking everyday lives: solidly grounded on Omotola’s Twitter verification and D’banj’s “Oyato” fiasco.
And what were the costs of January? What were the gains? Some people died, the rest of us live on. In retrospect, the protests could easily have been an imaginative and adventurous post on Omojuwa or Ekekee for all the difference it has made so far. The union leaders are alive and well, Diezani is yet to die zanily or otherwise, fuel has been scarce for several months, the reform in electric power is on paper only, Jonathan has publicly ascribed the January protests to the work of paid brigands, Abati’s apostasy has become even more sinful and Karen Igho is still getting slapped by security guards.
Of course, as we’ve pointed out before, we are also to blame for a lot of our woes. December is almost over, and a new January is around the corner. The oracles have been evasive on where this country is headed or how it should even be headed. And maybe, that’s the problem—maybe there are no fucking oracles and maybe we hold the key to the next year in our own hands. And like all those missed calls from unknown numbers, maybe you shouldn’t just wait for a call back—sometimes you gotta go out there, stalk and kidnap a phone company employee, torture them till they agree to trace the unknown number for you, and then you find out who the hell was calling you. It’s your call, baby. But it’s also too much work (like these blog posts), so while we sincerely wish you Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year, we are quite sure we’ll be back on this blog together, in the New Year, yarning the same old gist.