Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Truth be told this is more like the curse that keeps on cursing or the evil that keeps on... evil-ing but that’s not catchy enough, so that’s what got us to where we are. You reading this and me in my attempt not to be ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. So what is the gift that keeps on giving? Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a mentality, a couple years back I would have said it is mainly in Zambians, a couple weeks back I would have said its mainly Africans but truth be told its world over but the people out there are not important right now, you are, you, the person reading this right now. But let me not delay this any further, let me tell you of ‘the gift that keeps on giving’.

The state of the world can be simply stated as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and it is impressed on the youth that in order to live a happy life you must be one of the rich. This is partly true in that the state of things is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer not that money will get you happiness. This paradox has been happening for millennia yet the system has not changed. Generations have come and gone and yet the system has not changed, it is a system that just keeps on giving, personally I would like it to stop, but that’s just me. It’s a system that has people talking about how if they enter power they will steal, be it money or goods, they will steal. You know the lot, maybe even one or two of you are. The truth is a few brazen people say it but most of us actually do it.

We, especially the youth, look at things that inspire us and we often walk away saying “Yes! That’s what I want to do. I want to bring about change I want to make things better” Fast forward a couple of days and the situation arises that would require you to make that decision that would take you closer to your words but do you take it, nope, nah uh. You do like you have always done. But this is too abstract, I can sense I’m losing you so hows bout an example. Say you have finished watching, lets say Sherlock, the BBC Series, and you see how the protagonist got to the level he is at through serious study and constant observation. You see how he goes about his work with diligence and you think ‘I want to be like that’. Most of us have been there, next comes an assignment, be it in the work place or even in school. A chance for you to ‘be Sherlock’.

We've all imagined being 'A' if not 'The'Mastermind 

A chance to not just give the lecturer the usual answer taken from the internet or a book and paraphrased but one where you bring in your thoughts, your opinions, a chance for you to learn and show what you have learned not just from class but from your research. Problem is that takes up time and you have all your episodes of series to catch up on for the week. Or you have this burning ache to spend time with your girlfriend so you opt for the easy way out, pull out the bare minimum, get your grade and leave.

Granted it could be a passing grade but the point wasn’t just to answer the question but to learn, to put a bit of yourself into your work yet you opted for the easy way out. A lot of situations can be paraphrased into my example, you have already thought of two, at the least. But what is the problem at the end of the day? What has us usually opt for the easy route instead of the route that we know is the best and most profitable? Laziness and fear are the two that I would use as a way of extending the overarching point but the reality is its plain old sin. Yup you read right

No need to sugar coat it. It's the overall problem

Before you lose interest because you don’t want to read my rant about God, allow me a couple more lines. Sin convinces us that we are the center of it all, it’s all about us, what’s important is my happiness, me, me, me. It’s so one dimensional. But if you take a step back from the point that is you, you see a plane and you realize that it’s not just you but a lot of people and factors involved. For example in a school set up. If you simply copy your work and not learn a thing who else suffers. Let’s see… How about the person who teaches. Hours upon hours invested in you trying to not only earn a living but to see the student learn and thrive but no… All you can think about is yourself, what you want. Anyone else perhaps… How about your sponsors, parents or otherwise. They too invest so much in you and there is a reason for that. It’s not free you know. They want to see you become something of note, not and that it is all based on you learning something not copying something but you would rather waste their faith, hope and money. How about your future bosses. I bet they are looking for people who can bring something great, new and spicy to the table, not that person who sits there being average. I could go on with this, I could mention siblings, future dependents, seniors who want to see progress from down below, juniors who want to see someone of note to look up to.

One could argue, what if I am fine with being average. I would say don’t act funny. The only people fine with being average are those who failed at being different and four out of every five who failed at being different can blame laziness and fear. Bringing me, plainly enough to laziness and fear but one last thing on sin. The most awful thing about sin is that it shrouds our vision of the fact that all that we do in terms of negligence is displeasing to God. The most disappointed one when we do not use our all. He gave us all the faculties that could allow us to do and be something different, maybe not great but different, yet we like the man with the one talent bury it. Way to let God down mate.

Way to go mate, keep burying that talent

Laziness and fear have us not pushing to do our best because it either requires us to move out of our comfort zone or fail and we don’t like to do that but then again who does. Remember learning how to walk, how many times did you fall? Yet now you can walk. Wasn’t all that falling worth it? What about learning to ride a bicycle or learning to swim, how many times did you look ridiculous? Yet looking back wasn’t it all worth it? Put your all into your work, go the extra mile. A computer follows a list of commands, even its ingenuity can be narrowed down to a list of commands. You can actually put yourself into your work and produce something beautiful, Wont that be worth it?

Lastly, if you have gotten this far I won’t be long. Lord knows you must be tired of me by now. ‘The curse that keeps on cursing’ is that we have had tons of people in generations passed who have only thought of themselves and have done the bare minimum in jobs that they have been given. So many problems faced by society can be traced back to individual negligence somewhere along the ladder. I know everyone might be doing it but whats wrong with you actually getting paid for good work. Getting grades for your good work, you gain more satisfaction than the guy who just copied, maybe not more money but more satisfaction. Satisfaction can be referred to as the little brother of happiness and happiness is the little brother of joy. Let the young person try to be different and maybe they can inspire one or two to be different, who will inspire one or two to be different, that right there would be a true gift that keeps on giving

Saturday, 22 February 2014

I Don’t Hate Nigerians

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a stand-up comedy show by Chris Rock, I’m not a fan of his type of comedy because of the excess use of superlatives commonly called insults or cursing. Anyway in this comedy he was speaking on the subject of racism and he made a statement that at the time I thought was quite bold. He said “Black people are more racist than white people because black people hate black people too”. I giggled at the time and shrugged it off but the words stuck in my head. Over the past couple of days I have been drawn to think over the topic of racism and how it is still prevalent today and upon looking through the mirror of introspection I saw that I have been guilty of quite a bit of prejudice and as much as I would have liked to sugar coat it, I could sense the underlying problem of racism in the cracks. But this requires a bit of background

Black vs White, White vs White, Black vs Black. It's all wrong!

When I arrived at Cyprus International University it took me a while to realize the diversity that was on campus. We had 43 different nationalities represented, now we have somewhere over 50, and in the beginning it was exciting. I got to meet people from Swaziland, I had not met any before even though it is also in southern Africa. I got to meet people from Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan and a lot more and it fascinated me how different we all were. I noticed how Zambians were different from Zimbabweans even though we are neighbors and I met a lot of Nigerians. Of all of these nationalities the two that really fascinated me where the Azeri’s (Azerbaijan) and the Nigerians (Nigeria). They were strong willed, loud and were the most representative of their cultures.

Now diversity will either result in productivity or conflict, seldom do you find middle ground. And thanks to sin in the world conflict is present more often than not. Prejudice and racial issues have their heart in a failure to accept another person’s look, outlook or behavior and to put them below your own. It demeans the other person and elevates your view of yourself and people similar to you. These views get exaggerated in the presence of conflict. And I have seen this first hand on campus in statements such as I just don’t like, and this is me putting it mildly, people from so and so, where so and so is a country or a place. Nigerians suffer from such treatment more so than others, whether they know it or not. And its not even that the problem is them, I firmly believe if it wasn’t the Nigerians it would be some other nationality because the problem at the heart of it all is a failure to accept people who are different from us for who they are and where they come from.

Accept and appreciate the differences

Henry Fielding in his book A History of a Foundling: The story of Tom Jones wrote something that I have carried with me for years since I read the book in high school. He said, “When measuring a man’s actions do not use your own bushels, he might be using a different standard altogether”. Now whereas Fielding was speaking of a man’s intentions toward you and yours I think the phrase can be extended to the complete measuring of people. The world would be a pitiful place if everyone was like us, we enjoy so much from the symphony of diversity that God created around us. We enjoy ranges of color, different animals and plants and even among those animals and plants we see a variation of species and we accept them all. And yet very often we look at another person in terrible light because they are not like us, we accept variety on all things except human beings. It’s a pitiful situation.

Enough of the problem, let’s look at the way forward. We need to learn to accept other people for their differences be it difference in language, dress code, accent or even food and musical interests. If we keep confining ourselves to the small group that make us feel comfortable and understood we will never see all that is out there that we could benefit from and enjoy. We should also seek to learn from one another. I have learnt quite a bit from my friend from Azerbaijan, and yet if you spoke to me three years ago I just knew his country because of playing a game called “country game” at home. I have seen virtue in Nigerians that I have not seen in my own countrymen and it that is just what I have seen from two nationalities, not even the other fifty plus. Note to self, write something about what I have learnt from a number of people just before I graduate. Another thing we should acknowledge is God is infinitely smarter than all of us combined, he knew what he was doing when he made the world with so many diverse people groups, and it’s on us to enjoy the diversity.

Nuff said

Well and good we know the principle, now for the practice and this is the hardest part. Our prejudices will not be thrown aside overnight. It’s a lifelong battle, after all we are not too keen on things that are different from what we are used to. We should be able to go out of our way to talk to different people, there are tons of great people out there, we just need to open our mouths. Occasionally talk to a stranger, you never know who you might bump into and it does not always have to be someone of the opposite sex. There’s more to life than that, trust me. You can occasionally visit people, it never hurt anyone as I said before, there are tons of great people out there. Lastly walking out of your comfort zone every once in a while, it’s good for you