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Please Keep The “Faux” Sanctity of Christmas and Santa Claus Alive.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “My Hero.”

My Hero is the parent who struggles to keep the Faux pristine joyfulness of Christmas

When I was young I used to look forward to Christmas like most kids. Growing up my parent never told me or my siblings any of those make-believe stories about Santa and the gifts he brings. But this did not change the fact that I enjoyed the holiday though.  The main reasons I loved Christmas were:

  1. My ever so busy Investment Banker of a Dad was at home for like two weeks and we all got to hang-out with him.
  2. I did not have to go to school.
  3. I got to eat so much food, and all the sweet stuff that my dad was gifted in hampers.
  4. Hmmmm,I am trying to remember the others. Loading…..

You know that brief period in your teens when everyone and everything around you is just stupid and annoying, and you just feel like “What the FUcK is wrong with these people” and you just want to go to be in a different planet and be away from it all. Now I look back at that time and I just wonder “What was I even thinking”….lol. Those are the motions of growing up though, ahhhhh fun time. Ok back to my point, during that period I would watch movies and hear of these parents that tell their children Faux stories to get them all excited about the holiday. I would hear these stories and just think “why don’t these knuckle-heads just grow a pair and tell their kids the truth”. Then, it did not make sense that kids were being lied to, to make them happy.

Like 10 or more year later I am beginning to see reason to the choice of parents and their stories. Right now I work and earn a living for myself. I still live with my parents. When I say I live with my parents I don’t mean like one of those dilapidating co-dependent parent-child relationship that is just bleh! like the one portrayed in the movie “Failure to launch”. (hahahahahaha….I don’t  know I just had a strong need to defend and clarify my status as a parent “co-inhabiter’). I pay my bill all on my own, except I don’t pay rent. Back to the point, now that I am grown I see a different side to Christmas. I see the side which has parents running around and toiling like crazy to keep the innocence and joy of their kids intact. I see people who have to work extra hard this period to make enough money to enable them afford the luxury of a fun and happy holiday for their kids.

I write to you from Nigeria, where the hardship that people go though could not be any clearer. It’s Christmas, and yet you can barely feel it in the atmosphere. People are apprehensive about what the falling price of crude oil will mean for the nation now and for the year to come.  To rephrase Charles Dickens, “It is the best of times; it is the worst of times”. It’s such a bittersweet Christmas for many Nigerians, but they still have to make the family happy.

When I see all of this ugliness that is present, and in which people have to thrive in, I think kids should be allowed to keep their innocence.

#Santa

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Sight As A Burden

“Be Blind To Be Focused”

That was the concluding remark made by Cobhams Asuquo in the speech he gave at the TEDxEuston Conference. To better appreciate this bog post I strongly recommend that you watch this video of Cobhams giving the speech at the event.

VIDEO:

The sense of sight is one of the five most important senses for humans and many other creatures. The human senses are fed by stimuli from the surrounding environment, transmitted via sensory organs of the body. Arguably most of our perceptions about people, places and things are formed largely from the data our brain processes from information received from sensory organs. I could go on about sensory organs and messages but the focus of this piece is on the sense of sight.

While listening to Cobhams speak I could see his visionless eyes roll around in their sockets as his finger stroked the paper with Braille inscriptions placed before him. In that moment the saying “you never know the value of what you have until you lose it” flashed in my mind. As a person with all my sensory organs in relatively good working condition, it dawned on me how easy it is to become jaded about the importance of sight. As he went on with his speech I began to think to myself how different my life would be if I were blind. Would I have graduated? Let alone get a job? Or even be able to write this blog post. It is true that modern technology has done its very best, and still is, in including people of various handicaps into the rest of the society. These days we have blind poets and writers, lame drivers etc. That notwithstanding, I could not help but ponder the implications of what he said. BE BLIND TO BE FOCUSED. Throughout his speech I kept looking out for something, something I am a bit embarrassed to admit. What I was seeking to seeing in him was discontent/jealousy, stemming from the fact that he was in a room with non-blind people, but he spoke with such confidence and vigor that I began to wonder if I was indeed better off with sight.

Back in school we were told things like “keep your eyes on the ball” and many other motivational sentences. But on further inspection of that saying, coupled with the words from Cobhams it’s easy to see that it’s our “Mind” and not our “Eyes” that needs to be on the ball. Every day we walk out of our house, we are pulverized by a slew of stimuli from the outdoors. Various things to see, hear, feel, etc. it is very easy to get distracted. The struggle to stay focused is even harder if you live in a cosmopolitan city like New York, London or even Lagos. A couple of times I have missed my bus stop because I was engrossed in admiring a building or typing away on my iPad or blackberry. Sometimes when I go shopping for just one item, I would emerge from the store with three items, none of which is the one original item I initially went in for or even remotely close. It happens to best of us all the time. So Cobhams might be right after all, you need to be blind to every other thing around you in order that you archive your set goal. Another example is one from a story my dad once told me. One of his senior brothers was on the greedy side and was constantly looking for ways to outmaneuver his friends and siblings to get some of their own things. One day a visitor was on his way out of the house and decided to show generosity towards the kids.  The man gave my dad a big sized coin (I can’t remember the denominations, but shillings and penny were involved) and then gave my uncle a smaller sized coin. I was told that, my uncle, on realizing the difference in sizes began to fight and cry, demanding that he be given a bigger sized coin as well. This was done promptly. But it is important to note that the small sized coin was said to have been worth two times the value of the big coin. Had he been “blind” to the size he would have had gotten more money.

After much consideration and thought, I cannot help but concur with Mr. Cobhams on this one. There are many more examples I can give here, but I would just end up with a really long post and nobody wants that. Sometimes we need to “blind” ourselves in order that we get a clearer visual of what our goal ought to be.

STAY BLIND, STAY FOCUSED. 

Fear of The “Ember” Months

September. October. November. December.

To many around the world these months have a religious significance. These months bring forth the spirit of happiness, sharing and celebration. During this segment of the year; from east to west, north to south the world is wrapped in various types of celebratory activities. The Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews celebrate Chanukah / Hanukkah, African Americans in the U.S celebrate Kwanza and Buddhists celebrate Diwali etc. I have also been told that Atheists, although they don’t have a generally known holiday, spend more time with their friends and families during this period. Although these religions vary in the way they carryout festive rituals, there is a common denominator, a common concept. This common denominator is that spirit of sharing and love. It is during this time of year that you can see people of different faiths let go of their prejudices for each other and just relish in the moment. There is gift sharing, family dinners and parties everywhere. In this period Investment Bankers and the likes, take time off their very busy schedules to just be and relax. There is joy and laughter in the air everywhere you go, it is quite infectious.

Down here in Nigeria things aren’t so different. The people here have the same joyful spirit flowing around but it is tainted with a very dark fear. Fear that is embedded in the minds of people regardless of their social or economic place in the society. A fear that grips everyone from the elderly to the young, no one is immune. This fear stems from the fact that these celebratory months have a history of being ravaged by a huge wave of crimes of various types. Car thefts, burglaries, rapes, ritual killings among other despicable acts, skyrocket to such heights relative to other months. The one that quite baffles me is the issue of ritual killings, given the magnitude of church programs in this country; it is quite ironic to see that there is such a high occurrence of fetish activities. The entire country is held spellbound as scores of social deviants perpetuate incredible horror in the country. Parents inflict greater restriction on the mobility of their children while adults abstain from unnecessary outings and activate self-imposed curfews on themselves. No one can really place the particular date when things went arye, but it is quite a terrible situation.

During this period in Nigeria, especially in the month of December, people begin the annual pilgrimage to their hometowns. In Abuja, Lagos and other urban cities people pack their bags, service their cars or buy plane tickets in anticipation of the trip. This yearly pilgrimage is mostly prevalent among the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria. No matter how rich or poor, young or old an Igbo man or woman is in the city, when the month of December rolls around they do not hesitate to answer that home call. They shop for the best dresses, shoes, cars and other personal and household items which they carry along with them to their hometowns, where they can show off to their rural counterparts how successful they have been in the city. There is this pressure everyone carries around with them during this time to try and outdo the next person. At this time of the year markets are extremely crowded with herds of people seeking to grab first before stocks run out. For many, much of the income saved from January is spent in a space of about one week. The cause of the fear lies in this very pronounced culture of trying to outdo the others and be seen in a particular light.

In the book “Discourse on Inequality”, Jean-Jacques Rousseau makes us see that humans have inadvertently turned themselves into slaves of their own wants and desires. I find his writing quite interesting because, he attempts to buttress the true “nature” of man by peeling away all these layers of lies and facades he has coated himself with to seem superior to others. He highlights the danger of this unnatural tendency that man possess to want to alter his true nature, by deceiving, cheating and killing his fellow man to possess material things. In summary Jean-Jacques Rousseau alludes to the fact that, like a vestigial organ, man has rendered his moral sense of judgment useless so as to achieve his selfish objectives and thus has in effect deviated from his real self. Applying Jean-Jacques Rousseau philosophy to the situation at hand, it is quite obvious that this same tendency is very much at play still. Those who perpetuate these reprehensible acts have a desire to seem “successful” to their peers at home, and thus would go to great lengths (even at the expense of lives) to reach their “unnatural” goals.

This year in Nigeria is no different. On my way to the office today, I heard a rather grueling story of rape and extortion. This horrific act took place in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. I don’t have the full details of the story, but this is what I could gather. The story goes like this:

The woman (name withheld), residing in Gwarinpa, on Monday told the police her ordeal. The lady said she boarded a taxi from Gwarinpa to Wuse.

“The driver sprayed air freshener in the cab. I woke up in an uncompleted building naked and messed up. I received an envelope the next day containing a video disk showing how I was raped. The envelope also contained a demand for me to pay 5 million naira (about $31,000) into an account in one of the new generation banks”.  More.

Imagine the height of inhumanity; as if it wasn’t traumatic enough to rape her, they are demanding a ransom. This is just LUDICROUS!!!. As sad as the story is, the real tragedy is that, before the year runs out, we are going to hear more stories of a similar nature. Some more haunting and horrifying than this. The law enforcement in Nigeria is not as efficient and effective as we would like it to be. So if you are in Nigeria right now or scheduled to be here, please take extreme precaution. Regulation is key, try and limit unnecessary movements. These villains have no aorta of human sympathy and should not be toyed with.

Guest Without A Passport

Daily Post:

The moral of this story is so very important that I have to mention it before any other thing starts. Never go to a family event with a family you just met and also where you do not know the other families. Essentially, Do not go to a family event without you own family, it’s the one of most uncomfortable and awkward positions you can put yourself in. I learned the hard way.

A very new friend of mine invited me to the birthday dinner of a cousin of he’s at a restaurant within working distance of my house. I had misgivings, which were somewhat mollified when he told me that there would be a variety of food and wine, and so I considered. I met my new friend, Dave (I will call him Dave for the sake of anonymity, because no one invites you to a family function so you can go blog how bad it was for you) at a bus stop recently in Victoria Island where we were both stranded. Due to the artificially induced fuel scarcity in the country, finding a bus had become such a chore. We immediately bonded over our mutual disdain of the current political and economic predicament of Nigeria; suffice to say the friendship was an instant hit. Now when I think about it, I wonder how many friendships have germinated from a shared dislike over some political or economic situation, I am guessing a lot, because living in a country like Nigeria, one thing you can count on is for the leaders to always give you something to make your life miserable and thus give its citizens the opportunity to engage in heated debates about them. Eventually Dave and I finally found our way home that evening.

Dave comes from one of those nascent bi-ethnic families in Nigeria. His mum is Yoruba while his dad is Igbo. So unlike me, he had the privileged opportunity to learn two languages. I have always wondered how my life would be like if my parents were from two different tribes, there would be a lot of harmonizing to do but otherwise I think it would have been overly awesome.

The Dinner was to start at 7pm. But as the time drew closer I began to ponder the implications of accepting the invite, given that the only person I knew was dave, in what was going to be the combination of two different families with over twenty people. At 6:30 pm I contemplated calling in sick or just flat out bolting, but I did neither. At 7:10pm I got a text from Dave asking me if I was there already, it was my chance to finally give an excuse and bolt, but I did not and instead I replied “I am on my way”. I reluctantly peeled myself off the living room sofa and headed for the bathroom. At this time I was already 30 minutes late Nigerian style (there is a self-imposed stereotype that Nigerians are always late for events and so you would often hear the phrase “No Nigerian Time”).

At 7:45 I arrived at the venue, thinking I was going to be the last one to come in, but to my surprise I was the first there. Dave and a few of his relatives arrived about 5 minutes after me; we took a couple of pictures before heading in. Upon entering the restaurant I realized with it was a buffet. How wonderful, I would not be subjected to the miserly hands of discontented servers. We moved around seeking for the biggest table to sit everyone else, eventually we found one. (I don’t know why I keep using the word “we”, there was no “We”, there was just “Me” and “them”. They made all the decisions and I just went along like an obedient German Sheppard dog). A few minutes later everyone was present. Dave introduced me to aunties, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, nephew, nieces etc whose names I honestly can’t remember.

They began by catching up with each other, with questions like; “where are you working now?” “how is that is that angry boss of yours?” “Looks like the weight-loss program is beginning to yield results right?” “Dave, where is Ifeoma (his girlfriend)?” etc.  I on the other was just hanging on the sideline, smiling courteously at anyone who made out a few seconds during their own catch-up conversation to make eye contact with me. This “family catch-up” went on for the next grueling 20 minutes. One question led to another and longer responses, I tried to make conversation a couple of times, but their lifespan was shortened by reluctant shot answers. One older lady actually made an attempt to get to know me, she was asking me about my hometown, and the conversation lasted for about 20 seconds until it was cut abruptly by a strong cough from her. It was as if the cough had killed her interest in me. I went back to my former state of awkward solitude.

I felt like a foreigner in a different country without a passport. I became an embodiment of awkward conversations, laughing at unfunny jokes out of courtesy. At some point I began to despise Dave for bringing me to such an event and abandoning me. Because the minute we got in the restaurant, he was engaged by different family members for most of the time.  After what felt like a hundred hours I finally decided I could not stand it anymore. I stood up and pull a lie out of my ass, I told them I had a dental procedure done earlier and that I needed to go home and rest. Dave asked one of his cousins to escort me out, which I thought was weird, but then again I had only just met Dave twice before the Dinner.

Remembering this event just brings up pent-up hate in me, so I am going to end this post here. NEVER GO FOR A STRANGER’S FAMILY EVENT WITHOUT YOUR OWN FAMILY OR FRIENDS.

Thank you for reading.