Monday, December 06, 2004

Cowards’ Paradise

“In our inherited milieu, individual fears regarding unknowns find expressions in the collective worship of the gods. However, it is our anxieties regarding uncertainties in getting daily needs of survival that influence our decisions most.” ....Al-fade

Let us begin on a cautionary note about opinions that will be encountered in the following paragraphs. “I would not be confident in every thing I say about the argument: but one thing I would fight for to the end, both in word or deed if I were able---- that if we believed we should try to find out what is not known, we should be better and braver and less idle than if we believed that what we do not know it is impossible to find out and that we need not even try” so says Socrates (THE MENO)

Now. The other day I was in heaven, God was seated in all his majesty. To his right seated the choir of angels which had a black-man with his saxophone in the front pew. I moved closer to the choir, only to discover it was our very own Fela doing his thing on the sax. What a relief this was. I was almost being led to believe by my “New-day-saints” acquaintances that this our “bastion of authenticity” was destined for hell. I spurn around, “ha ha”, there goes that “Evangelist”, he is up to his whispering antics again. “What is he trying to do?”, “Maybe trying to convince God to send Fela to hell”. I moved closer to listen in. I heard God Say “Fela lived his life, and what did you do with yours?”. The Evangelist replied “I won souls for you my lord”,
“For me “said God “Not for me my son, You won souls for your ego and your pocket”,
“How would you know that my lord?”
“Well, I’m God your lord. Your query shows you lack belief in me”
“No my lord, hem...hem...but being a Nigerian, it is so difficult been totally convinced about your existence. There are so much sources of doubt”
“But Fela did believe”
“I thought I believed too, I thought I heard you speak to me”
“You couldn’t have heard me. You never listened. You only heard what you wanted to hear”
“I’m so sorry my lord”
“What should we do to you my son?”
“Forgive me my lord”
“, I know what we shall do, you shall go back to Nigeria”
“Thank you my Lord. ....Thank you....Thank you”
“Don’t thank me my son, Nigeria is hell”.

The engine of my time capsule was still running idle when got back to heavens garage (no reverse packing here), I got in and left heaven, I pushed the time-warp button, felt my self being sucked into a resonating ambience propelled at the speed of mind {(c 2 ) mind}, a softening thud on the ground, a landing in the pre-historic African jungle.

The earliest forms of hominids had ceased to exist, and homo-erectus straddled the African continent which gradually inched itself into a position of finality at a spatial centre on the globe. I discovered that our progenitors found themselves placed in the loftiest paradise on earth; this wetland jungle. Fruits bearing trees everywhere abound and rivers and streams leisurely cut the landscape. What better habitat could these pre-historic men desire. The pristine environment was just right for living, no incentive for discovering agriculture, he simply climbed the tree to pick fruits or dug the ground to uncover tubers. Game ran wild, and he followed in hot pursuit for the tendons which his jaw could hardly resist. Any wonder that bush-meat is still a delicacy to the 20th century Nigerian. His environment encouraged him to rely solely on his instincts, his cranial component mainly occupying space.

I retrieved my micro-plane from the time-capsule, shot a stream of growth-beam on it, “voila !!!” a normal size jet for one appeared. I got in and sped up north to the temperate regions. “Daam, how could anyone survive in the endless land of blinding white and intolerable chill”. I had arrived in a clime in which hail storms battled with unceasing rumblings from the outpouring of volcanic ash, one trying to outwit the other in the contest of de-survival of the humanoid. These shivering humanoids were a pitiable sight, with the rumbling earth beneath their feet and; endless cold and bitter snow threatening to immobilise their joints if they remained static. They could hardly do otherwise but to move. Movement in all its ramifications did they exhibit. “Getting a shelter and a fur, is a pre-occupation of their initial thought processes” I observed, “Over time I’m sure they will get used to thinking”.

Different strokes I guess for different pre-historic folks, I flew back to the time capsule, “enough of these pre-historic reverie”. It is time to go back to my chaotic 20th century.

Countless millenniums had by now gone past and things had changed, but the fatalism of the African ancestors remained with their descendants. Mountains roared, land moved, wild fires ravaged the land while lightening struck some person dead. “It must be the gods that are the cause”, they echoed. “The gods in heaven determine everything-those that should be born, those that shall live and those that will die”.

As I looked around, some thoughts from Lamarck re-echoed in my mind “each individual appears to inherit the traits of his progenitors; such individual is also affected by the environment he is placed and; the inherited traits modulated by the environment are passed on to his descendants”. Well I guess a lot of research still needs to be done in determining the proportionate contribution of genetic antecedents and environmental factors in an individuals psychological and physiological makeup. Nature vs. Nurture you will say.

Some will argue that “though the inherited genetic composition is crucial, an individual requires an enabling environment to actualise his innate tendencies”.

And if the above assertions hold true, it is easy to see why a sizeable proportion of inhabitants of this clime, are more giving into feelings and sentiments than thought; waiting than moving; gaping than reading; noise making than thinking; Miracles (read Magic) than work etc. But all hope is not yet lost, there appears to be a silver lining at the end of the rainbow (to borrow the popular refrain). What is thus required is the generation of an ambience which alters generally preferred tendencies. How we do this, honestly I don’t know, I guess my preferred inclination is to wait on miracles (After all, I have not checked out yet, I’m still a Nigerian).

Following my own advice, I again boarded the time-capsule on a continuing excursion of the pre-historic jungle, trying to uncover the origin of character of the Nigerian.

Returning to the caveman days, in which our hairy ancestor was the lord of the manor. Our over-lording creature had massive expanse of land to himself. His next door neighbour was light-years away. To him his neighbour might as well be on the mars.

I put the time-capsule in the travel-observe mode, trying to do a time-lapse mapping of the evolutionary traits of our ancestors. The pre-historic man word was law, I discovered, at least in his immediate environment. Procreation was his chief occupation. As I moved on, population gradually increased and the land entitlement per individual decreased. With this shrinking universe, laws of individuals were no longer adequate to protect individuals rights. “Heh hen” I have now arrived at an epoch where the laws of one man came in conflict with the laws of another. It is interesting seeing these cavemen slug it out. A thud on an antagonist’s head, the man still remains standing, a blow by the cudgel, the protagonist to the ground only to stand up in the twinkle of an eye (Amos omo Tutuola, I beg yu O, sofly cari my leg, ...I no wear...). This reminds me of our wrestlemania in the twentieth century (I’m sure we still crave for those primordial days).

As population spread, It is curious to note that during this era “Societal norms, values, laws which sought to protect rights of the individuals within a collective was thus born”. But I could still see a lot of disgruntled cavemen. To these early men “Societal norms, values, laws were an aggregation of ideas which the individual holds innately untrue”. Maybe here lies the origin of human hypocrisy; the duality imposed by the conflict of doing for the self on one hand and doing for the commune on the other.

Musing all alone on the capsule on my way back to 20th century Nigeria, “I belief, such societal laws are valid in so far they guaranteed the survival of the collective. Thus, laws are an integral part of human relationship. And these laws and norms are allowed to remain in place as long as there is enabling (read economic) environment that ensures survival of the majority”. But oftentimes, I suppose such enabling environments get suspended and people have no option but a recourse to their repressed primordial instincts (every man for himself, God be the adjudicator).

Maybe this explains why we are witnessing a renaissance of pre-historic times in the jungles of Africa, from Rwanda moving westward to Sierra-Leone and also gliding through our own beloved Nigeria. Now, behold the new era of video clips of atrocious brute force, in which the man that welds the cudgel carries the day. Since most of us have evolved leaving our caveman savageness behind (have we really?, the genocide in Rwanda I’m sure was an illusion) what alternatives are we left with!!. But to run back to our gods for divine explanation for that which we are witnesses. And we wait on our gods for torrents of miracles to shower and reverse that which we are the cause. Well, remember for most (at least in Nigeria), this is the preferred inclination to solving issues.

At the risk of sounding patronising, it appears that our spiritual abodes are keeping sanity of the jungle dwellers in check. This really makes up for the impossible numbers of psychiatrists that will be required to stem the contagious madness enveloping the jungle. The offering of hallucinatory concoction (that leads to mass amnesia) in the form of religious parables in exchange for cash, thus providing us the delusion of being active as against our actual collective lethargy. The jungle dwellers get born anew, with hearts completely filled with “love of God”, no space left for fellow men. In this era of the cultist, in which membership of a cult ensures the progress of an individual, we should not be surprised by the gravitation towards these pseudo-pious cult. In every path that traverses through the jungle Alleluia choruses now pierce our contemplative solitude.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Heaven’s door and our voices ring.
Crocodile streams our eyes bring.
Ether, vacuous and honeyed,
heathen contagion fills.

Flux of fable, our souls’ bliss.
In lurid worship, convoluted souls.
Mutinous feet enraged in stomps, the floor pulls.
Symphony played by full moon,
swarms of gyrating torsos flow.
Filling our arcane and lewd appetite,
this chow.


Oblivious yell and ground roll,
Gods love, all hands scurry to pull.
Frenetic prayers to the altar,
fingers take to flight.
The others eye, a bequeathed plight.
And all these, Heaven’s pathway,
for all to take.


Magma of madness,
fury flows.
Scathing all, wrecking blows.
Deluge mass of surface affection,
To bread and butter,
hoggish devotion.
Awash the gutters way,
crumbs set sail.
To the muck,
vagrant forage for a meal,
wander and scurry at their feet,
limbs begging low.
This show,
voices of new-day saints bellow.


The other way,
our eyes set to turn.
On our way,
marauders set to burn.
Our pores,
ooze of fattened oil.
The marauder’s sight,
a pig to broil.

Beads of adornment,
our veil of gluttony.
Show for our enterprise we claim,
a tale so phony.
A pot of honey,
we flee to in hurry.
The trampled on our way,
we are all but sorry.
To this hollow,
Our voices howl.


On our knees, to God,
a glut of plea.
Escape our gaol of pious pretence,
Egoism within to flee.
Mercy and miracles,
ourselves alone we seek.
Thy neighbours’ love,
all scramble to kick.
Within mist of stolen treasures,
our refuge lie.
The price of gold,
our wares we sell by a lie.



Random pickings,
the Snipers’ will.
The picked,
part of the bill.
All and all,
targets for guns so deprived.
Behind shackled doors,
hiding and grumbling.
“Heaven’s fault”,
muffled voices mumbling.

And God said to Evangelist “why are you so a hypocrite ?”and he answered “you made me with a free will so”.
“Fela had a free will too, but remained authentic”. I was roused from my dreamy reverie by a loud explosion (not that kind we are by now accustomed to) from a tyre blow out. Back on earth, the sung of the weird one now escapes through my neighbours window. I could clearly make out the words. And need I say more, these words ring true for this moment..

“my people sef fear too much
we fear for di tin we no see
we fear for di air around us

we fear to fight for freedom
we fear to fight for liberty
we fear to fight for justice
we fear to fight for happiness

we always get reason to fear
we no wan die
we no wan wound
we no wan quench
we no wan go
I get one child
mama dey for house
papa dey for house
I wan build house
I don build house
I no wan quench
I wan enjoy
I no wan go...... policeman go slap your face, you no go talk
army man go beat your yansh, you go dey look like donkey....”

In my mind’s eye, that sincere moment in which Patrick Henry addressed the first American Congress associated with the declaration of independence in 1776, cannot help but resurface, and this he said “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains of slavery? For bid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” And here we are, arms folded, waiting to go to heaven, and non of us is willing to die to get there. Even for the sake of the beautiful ones not yet born. Do I hear someone say “the man has died for us; and he shall visit thunder and brimstone on the captors of his flock”. Well if we continue to await the miracles from heaven, without having the courage to follow through with that Godly thought within us all, one day we shall wake up to find, there is not much left to live for.

If the heavens my “new day saints” exist, then I’m sure only one criteria will get anybody there, and that is being authentic. Talking of authenticity, remember, Saint of the Gutters, Mother Theresa.

On a final note, our fears are aptly captured by Lawrence LeShan in his book Alternate Realities and he wrote— “We have always known that there was something wrong. Behind our busyness, behind the working at and worrying about everyday life and our survival from year to year, were the questions: “What does it mean?” “Why are we here and where is here? “Why do we love, fear, hate, kill, protect ourselves, die? “What does being born mean? “What does dying mean? “What is love? “Is there more to the world we see?” Behind our constant activity and our concern about our activities and plans lies a dim unease about these questions and our lack of any answers of which we can be sure.” In our present milieu, I’m sure many will claim to have found definite answers to LeShan questions. The solutions found in the embrace of re-worked religions (or as it is now popularly called by the new adherents—Way of life). I hope they truly have. But I suspect as LeShan puts it “This I will act as if I believe. This I will give my life to, hoping it is the truth. This I will have faith in”
is the way we are. In this enclave religion has always being a tradition. Now, it is also becoming increasingly highly fashionable. The only thing that has changed really, is the level of attendant hypocrisy.
Now is our authentic moment. Let us all seize it, and do that which is right from within, so that our beautiful ones yet unborn would live in a beautiful Nigeria.


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