“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, from On Self Reliance.
I first read this essay in my teens, from something called The American Reader published by the United State Information Agency. It was my first introduction to America.
This essay, this part, has always given me something akin to goosebumps. Perhaps in my writing, I think, I shall someday touch the essence of Life in the way Emerson has done here? I think, if one manages this, how can it matter the things we are wrong about and the things we do wrong?
Suddenly, you can’t do it anymore. Playlists are sentimental spaces. This one is from just before a stormy period. All the damage is done now, all ways. The wind and the rain owe me nothing. Yet, beyond the devastation, there is half of hurt and sadness beyond what words can say.
I was just on NTA Network Service’s Good Morning Nigeria show, alongside a cop, Saidat Musa, from the Police Gender Unit, with a psychiatrist in Benin, a criminologist in Kaduna and an NGO activist in Lagos linked in. The subject was “intimate partner violence” and I tried to give a legal-oriented view of it, tying in the nature of crime and its constituents. However, because of the limited time and the full house of panelists, there are two things I wanted to say which I had no time to.
In northern Nigeria, we have this saying “wa za aura bazawara?” It’s meant to be a wisdom and also rhetorical–who marries the divorcee, who dares marry a divorcee, who is foolish enough to marry a divorcee, why would anyone marry a divorcee? All captured in one four-word fatwa. This leads to the stigmatization of divorced women in our society, and I’m told this is common in other cultures and regions, nationwide. To avoid this stigma, women have put up with a lot of abuse and internalized a lot of violence. This is changing as more women fight back in several ways, including violence and psychological counter-abuse. All lead to misery. Intimate partner violence. We should stop stigmatizing women, especially, but men also increasingly, who escape from toxic relationships.
Related to this. I favor an all-of-society approach to this issue of intimate partner violence. The educational curriculum, the latest learning from psychology and psychiatry and criminology and sociological sciences, as well as law and criminal justice, need to be scaled into a cocktail of interventions that will prevent intimate partner violence and at the same time change perceptions and punish perpetrators.
Can’t recap all I did say (because I wasn’t listening to myself 😌 ) but this is in addition to what I said on air, and I felt to put this out there as well.
Sorry I failed to give a heads up on the program.
‘Lastly, there is, of course, the issue of the media trial, and its attendant reality TV type dramatizations of opinions and remorse. Forgive this African but the West is looking increasingly like a continuum of tribes, this time based on what they call “communities”, and with tribes witch hunts are as natural as is blood feud and ordeals. I see this every week and I am worried. But this is our brave new world.’
I’m answering emailed interview questions. Very good questions. I write, wondering if my answers will be published. As a writer, the interview is one of your most important tools. You use it, where the questions are good, to clarify your thinking. You use it to plug the work of your friends you’re certain deserve to be looked up. You use it to find your own truths which, often than not, provoke others by questioning their neat little worlds. An uncensored interview where interviewer and interviewee are competent and matched can disrupt worlds.
That’s why I enjoy them. That’s why I do so few of them.
1. Today’s youth irritate you because, often than not, the height of their engagement with anything Nigeria is a sneer. How sophisticated and worthy!
2. Beyond Nigeria, they have only engagements so-called. Slogans and cliches and outright naïveté.
3. The effect is a generation that’s certain someone owes them something, who imagine that being young and uncertain are values positive.
4. One acknowledges that these kids are thermometers of all that has come before. What I do not understand is the sense of entitlement arising from thoroughgoing complacency.
5. My generation came of age in the noughties. Arriving in a dislocated space, for the immediate generation were in Diaspora mainly, we self defined and self generated ourselves. We are on the wane, of course, and the point of the decline is fittingly 9/11.
6. Behind me, I see next to nothing concrete, the effects of points 1 to 4.
7. The generation prior to mine found themselves in strange encounters with exile. It just may be that, for mine, exile will be chosen because we have lost the language of experience and cannot seem to get across to the younger. Perhaps it is in the space of our absence that today’s young will finally look themselves in their society’s eyes and see their arms and legs and brains for what they truly are.
8. Perhaps, then, we shall have more than a sneer as the height of engagement.