Category Archives: Diversity

Friendship is not beans!

Some friends are too petty for their own good.

Friend:
You keep malice because a friend didn’t pick or return your calls. You go cold because a friend forgot to use your picture as Profile picture or Dp, on your birthday. I, for instance, forget my own birthday regularly, (I’m now better, with Facebook). You are not happy with a friend because she didn’t show ‘enough’ excitement when ‘it’ happened for you. And so forth…

Please, grow up!
Accept that these things will happen here and there. Accept that they do not define your relationship as friends. If you think they do, it is not friendship; you’re just looking for people to use. It is good to have friends that never miss to pick or return your calls, and friends who mark all the key dates on your calendar, and so on. You may be blessed with a few such friends, but, and don’t get me wrong, these things don’t define friendship. Any (prospective) business associate can do those: keep dates, pick calls, return calls, etc.

Descriptions
Friendship is beyond sheer functionality and utility. Functionality and utility are vital, no doubt, but they are the superstructure, not the foundation, not the bottom-line of friendship. Friendship is in part a deliberate commitment to a person, a commitment sometimes triggered by chemistry or reasoned decision. More, friendship is a chemistry forged and sometimes forced upon our inner beings by forces (of attraction) that are hard to define. It is something like the ‘me’ in me, liking the ‘you’ in you.

Friendship is a connection, first at that inner, deeper level. It then finds expression at the functional level and is envigorated by the externalities of talk, and care, and laughter, and affirmations and gifts and quarrels and sundry such realities. But these externalities do not DEFINE it. They adorn it; yes, they consummate it. But they do not define friendship. Of course, some relationships evolve out of the functionality they offer, maybe due to shared location or vocation or other practical factors. The friends and/or people I happen to call more often are not necessarily my closest friends. It is not as simple as that. Friendship is a bond that is.

If we are friends at the level where it matters most, even if we have been (unavoidably) out of touch for 2 years, we will ‘fit’ — once we meet again. We may be awake till 3 or 4am, updating. It wouldn’t seem odd. Updates will flow from both ends until we are both up to date; then we will go on together from there. A true friend is not the sort of person you want to hold a grudge against for any pronounced length of time, if at all. You kind of adore him. A friend is a burden bearer. A friend sees you as a project that he has to make happen. And he knows you see him as such a project too. That’s why a friend doesn’t dump you because you erred. C’mon!

Generous!
With a friend, you usually will be generous in forgiving, just as you enjoy lavish forgiveness. When issues come up, they are discussed. You may shout at each other and argue, but you’ll do it as friends. Once you’re done shouting, nobody may win. Occasionally, nobody may say a heartfelt sorry. Sorry was not the the main goal anyway. Understanding was. Many times however, one person will see enough to say sorry. Or both parties may apologize for different roles played in the drama. But there is, through all the squabbles, a protected, hallowed  ‘Friends zone’ that the disagreement is not allowed to invade, to ruin. That’s what it means when we say ‘nothing can come between us’.

A friend always enjoys the benefit of the doubt. You make excuses for her. Your first line of reasoning, when she misbehaves usually runs like: “there must be some cogent reason that I don’t yet see, to explain this behaviour. Or, in any case, she may have been mistaken. I know she didn’t set out to offend me”. Your first take is not to assume the worst. That’s not how it works, if it is about a friend. And when you confirm that she was plain silly, you’d forgive, quite naturally, in advance, even before the apologies come.

To paraphrase C.S Lewis — if I remember well enough — a friend will ‘see through your enchantments without being disenchanted’. A friend will know you, but will hold you. A friend will see you, but won’t spill you. You will try to be your best, but a friend will see your flaws. Yet, she won’t floor you. Beautiful as we are, we are imperfect beings too. That’s why we need that relationship that is not defined first by performance and regular appraisals.

I am grateful.

I have friends… A number of them. Not every one my age is so privileged.

I am a friend too.

Are you?

CIVILITY IN THE FACE OF RELIGION: A Proposal

For the records

Any ideology, however sane and robust,  can be abused. Religion is not different. Historically, even Christianity, founded upon the Christ of history — Christ who would rather die than take up arms in self-defense — has been abused by people with evil motives. Apart from teaching us: “love your enemies”, Jesus Christ walked His talk during His arrest, when He restored the ear of a servant of the high priest. Peter, in zeal for his Lord had slashed off the servant’s ear. Rather than praise Peter, Christ rebuked him. How then can anyone go to war, or kill in the name and defense of this Christ? How? But several people have done exactly that, in the history of the church. Shame.

I have been thinking quite seriously (and reading Os Guinness) about religion and our national experiment, one thing that’s come home for me is that, because of the inappropriateness plus impracticability of rigorously regulating religious beliefs/teachings, we must focus more on civic education and the regulation of behaviour. The posture I’m advocating for, sounds like this: “I don’t care what you believe, but because none of us lives in a vacuum, we have to negotiate what is acceptable behaviour, for the sake of our corporate existence as a nation.” Then, we must proceed to teach these negotiated code of conduct in our civic education project.

It is possible. It is workable. Back in the day, “the American way” used to be taught in schools, and to immigrants coming into the USA. The USA is a religiously plural society but they negotiated a way to ensure unity without inhibiting liberty and diversity. There are debates over how well they are doing today in this respect, which is what informed my use of “back in the day” earlier. The point, nevertheless, remains: unity is possible in the face of diversity.

Head-on

The trouble in Nigeria is, we lie too much to ourselves. If you raise the issues that threaten our existence as a nation, you’d be quickly accused and branded as divisive. Yet, the commonality between a people never made them go for a civil war. What binds us together is not the reason we fight. It is differences that drive a wedge between groups of people, if the differences are not discussed with the view of finding a civil agreement. In discussing these differences, there will be need for concessions and sacrifices, because, that is how agreements are negotiated.

In the words of Os Guinness: ‘differences make a difference.’ In our case as Nigeria, we are not just up against differences. We are up against differences, and suspicions, and accusations. Muslims suspect Christians, Christians suspect Muslims. Each accuses the other. When you throw coercive silence into the mix, as has been the case over the years, the result is a nation dancing gleefully on a path of self destruction.

No group of people advanced because they ignored their significant differences. But negotiating differences, and suspicions, and accusations, which is what is required, take a lot of maturity and guts. Sadly, maturity and guts are not our strong points, as a nation. I guess this is why two very irresponsible solutions are usually advocated by many Nigerians.

Away with religion!

On one hand, there are people who say: “let’s get religion out of our clime. Let’s educate our people away from religion, because it is religion that poisons everything.” This view is not only factually wrong and naive, it is ludicrous. Religion, historically speaking, has been a force for enormous good even though it is occasionally hijacked to perpetrate evils. On a balance, it has done more good than whatever evil has been achieved by its mishandlers. Secondly and more importantly, religion will not go away. The attempt to muzzle it out of existence was made in China. Today, that nation has one of the highest Christian population (per country) in the world. Some of the leading figures in our world today are deeply religious people. In a sentence, religion will not go away.

Keep quiet

On the other hand, there are Nigerians who promote coercive silence. Their posture is something like denial. They assume that if we refrain from discussing our differences and suspicions, they will simply go away. Consequently, they spare nothing to brand you an “enemy of progress”, and a heater up of the polity, if you attempt to bring our differences and suspicions up for discussion. What they are occasioning (maybe without realizing) is a situation where the (perceived or alleged) oppressor continues to oppress, and the (perceived or alleged) oppressed continues to be, or to feel oppressed.

You may get me to keep quiet about my suspicions of you but that won’t make those suspicions go away. The suspicions will rather fester and continue to build up till they find a vent in some other ways, ways that will be far more deadly than whatever would have come out of discussing the suspicions and differences and accusations, in the first place. When people are bullied or blackmailed into silence in the face of perceived injustices, they are inadvertently empowered to explode upon the perceived bully, or to self destruct, or to achieve both. Coercive silence is corrosive. Everybody losses.

Balance

The balance is not to banish religion from the horizon, neither is it to demand silence from those with objections to the current state of things. The balance is to let everybody be heard, and provide opportunities for civil engagements over what must be seen as rights, and privileges, and duties — for all. The backbone of a robust republic is an unwavering commitment to the trio of dignity, liberty and equality for all. The terms of our continual coexistence as a nation must be negotiated and agreed upon by all stakeholders and for future/potential stakeholders: Religious and regional.

 

RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE… WE ARE AWARE! – An excerpt 

Now, I’m about to Point Fingers

Truth must be told…

In Nigeria, the North is guiltier of religious intolerance than the South. As I travel around this country, evidences pop-up every so frequently. A few general examples will do for now.

There are still universities (federal and state) in the North, where Christians are denied right to own a place of worship, while Muslims have multiple places, built by the school authorities – many times. There was a case where a school allocates and revokes, and allocates and revokes plots of land for the Christian community. More painful is the fact that the revocations happen when a structure was midway in construction, on an allocated land.

The story is the same for NYSC orientation camps. In some states in the North, Christians are not given a place (to develop) for use as a worship venue. But of course, Muslims are. It is not different with government owned radio and TV stations in parts of the North. There are states where Christians have repeatedly asked to be given slot for religious programming, without success.

Are these evils present in the South? Yes. But they are the rare exceptions, compared with what goes on in the North.

Progress?

We cannot make progress as a nation until we face the truth and say the truth and demand compliance with truth, especially, from those in our ‘camp’. Christians must do a lot to educate Christians and Muslims must do so much to educate Muslims on this matter.

Together we must all speak up against religiously induced oppression and victimization. We must identify such evil for what it is. We should give it no politically correct tag in a bid to avoid offending some people, people who are violating the basic rights of fellow human beings at that.

I know, some people feel we should not offend the bullies, as if the bullied are not very much Nigerians with rights like the big bullies. Several people have been harassed, and victimized at the hands of religious bullies. They have no voice, many times, because the system to fight their cause is the system that oppresses them. Sometimes, this oppression is not just about individuals. Whole communities have been branded and penciled for oppression because they are predominantly adherents of a particular religion. We are aware.

If we don’t speak up, the dream of building a united big nation will just be that, a dream! When people are made to feel like outsiders and liabilities in their own state, simply because of their religious affiliation, how can they be made to believe in a one Nigeria? How will you convince them to give their best for the good of the nation? How?

Let’s arise, shake off the silly dust of our indifference-to-religious-bullying, and face up to the bullies, whether they are Northerners or Southerners. We must also begin to heal, and to win back the hearts of our oppressed brothers and sisters, wherever they are in the land. Let reparations be made where possible.

It is possible…

If you are aware of cases of religiously motivated oppression, anywhere in Nigeria, speak up. Share your experience.

Problems don’t go away because we pretend they don’t exist. They go when we acknowledge and tackle them.

#StraightFromMyHeart

#onlyTheTruthSetsFree

Ideas for Ideas-engagement

I had a very busy week last week. I should have done the second part of my post “Tuesday — T-shirt and Ageing” last week. I will come back to it. But let’s do this one first.

Trap
If allowed, pride will ruin the best of us.

The more we pursue knowledge, the more deliberate care we must take to keep humble. For there is a calibre of pride that threatens those who go-for knowledge. You know what I mean: The ‘air’ of superiority; the obvious impatience; the condescending mannerism, the subtle disdain that show up when engaging people in discussions, debates, or arguments.

Fact 
If knowledge doesn’t sober you, you aren’t mastering it, you are merely accumulating it. Knowledge is safe only as a servant. Make it your driver and you’ll self-destruct — sooner or later; but surely.

Application
Pride is most evident, with regards to knowledge, in THE WAY we engage/disagree with people when we think we hold a superior position on an issue.

You can disagree graciously while remaining unflinching in your position. There’s a way to do it. Expectedly, the cultivation of this ‘way’ (attitude) is far more difficult than mere collocation of facts and information.

With google search, anyone may pass as omniscient these days. But it takes practiced inner discipline and refinement to hold superior knowledge (real or assumed) yet remain dispositionally courteous and relationally respectful.

Consequences 
When we hold knowledge in pride, we undermine knowledge. When we hold knowledge in pride, we permit people, more, we empower them to disdain (our) knowledge. Because, the ‘way’ we communicate determines people’s receptiveness to what we communicate.

It is offensive, justifiably so, to be proud because of WHAT you know or in HOW you communicate it. People ‘turn off’ from you, if you are proud, no matter what knowledge you’ve got to transmit. That’s why knowledge, truly acquired, should sober its bearer.

Tips
When you engage:
Learn to disagree with views without disrespecting the holder. 
Endeavour to affirm points of agreement, while noting points of dissent. 
Try to respond to expressed views without making personal statements about the one holding the views. 
Be dispassionate. Let the substance of your point do ‘the job’. 
Don’t be quick to label people because of the view they hold, unless you’re sure they self-identify with the label, or unless such label is vital in making your point. 
Again, always always concentrate on the issues, not on dissenters. Always.

Remember
The goal when we engage in conversations, debates and/or arguments is not to ‘bash’ people, neither is it just to win a contest. The goal is not to establish intellectual superiority. ‘Goal is to enhance (mutual) understanding. The goal is to test the logical/contextual rigorousness and veracity of our view(s). The goal is to challenge people’s thinking; and ultimately, to possibly win people. People!

Make it hard for readers/respondents to legitimately dislike you, even when they don’t like your view(s).
Don’t be disagreeable in disagreement.

I am still learning these lessons. I mean I am still trying to internalize them, deliberately practicing them.

In a world of ideas-explosion, what are other ways  to engage civilly while firmly holding and presenting our views?